Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Rituals and Targets

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
thank you for your kind wishes! I am myself again, and happy about that.
The good thing about growing older is, that by now one knows oneself a little bit better - and I do not only know my reactions (and the time they will approximately take to heal - and if I forget I can browse through my more than 150 diaries) but also some measures I can take (or: continue) to find my balance again.
One of these wonderful stabilising tools are rituals.
"It's vital to establish some rituals - automatic but decisive patterns of behavior - at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way",
writes Twyla Tharp in her interesting book "The Creative Habit".
Every morning I light a little candle on my table, and have tiny fresh flowers for the whee little buddha, and I thank the Tao for being alive. A little bowl on the windowsill reminds me to see my day as a beggar's-bowl: wide open, but without knowing (or expecting) what the day will put into it. (And to clear my mind of too many thoughts and concepts, so that - as in the Zen story - "new tea can be filled in that cup without making it overflow by too much tea that's already in it.")

©Brigitta Huegel

                                 I once told you that I do not only eat a rich breakfast, every day, come what may (porridge with wheatgerm on it and blueberries, a boiled egg every day, half a grapefruit and a little bowl of cottage cheese and a mug of strong tea - yes, with sugar - and then a big French bowl of hot milk with an espresso in it) - but that I also greet the day - summer, winter, every day: I step on our balcony (which is large and protected by the glass front behind me and 2 walls beside me, and the floor of the balcony above, and I sip my tea, greet Berlin's skyline silently and then look at my flowers, and feed the birds (in summer only with water). I write in my diary, and then I do my version (more correct: my dear friend Stephen Russell's) version of very quick Tai Chi (that takes about 18 minutes) - and than I hop into the bathroom.
Where I remain a while, because an exact Amy Winehouse eyeliner takes it's time :-)
Then I'm ready for the day.
Yes - I am a lark,  meaning I get up very early.
The only other ritual in the day is much later a meditation (and one of the three sports: weight-lifting, yoga or walking).
If I still feel under the weather, I try to come into contact with nature or beauty:

©Brigitta Huegel

- that's why I have subscriptions for museums and the Botanic Garden and photo-galleries.
I draw (wonderful to bring my mind to rest).
Reading poetry, and then getting into touch with my own creativity works also:

©Brigitta Huegel

I meet people - and talk with them - sometimes with mere strangers who tell me often very interesting things. To satisfy my "wanderlust" in a normal week, I often go by train to a spot I do not know (I have Knut, but I prefer trains to cars when I go on my own).
Sometimes I keep my mouth shut for a while - very invigorating too (for those around me, and myself)...
And the discipline of learning Italian is sometimes like a wonderful "girdle for the brain" - though I might whine and wail that I have forgotten all I learned three days before, and that I will never get fluent in it - I see my plodding progress - and plod on.
And of course - beside my work - there are wonderful people to thank and think of - and letters or mails to send, blogs to read or to write.
You see: I won't get lost in Alice's Pool of Tears.

©Brigitta Huegel

I mean: that would ruin my Amy Winehouse-eyeliner -- than I would have to start drawing it again....
Oh no - I feel better this way, quite centred again.

PS: Before you ask - the dog does not belong to me, I saw it and quickly took a photo.

Friday, 3 April 2015

"...she had wasted all this time being beautiful."

"She did not like her name. It was a mean, small name, with a kind of facetious twist, she thought, about its end like the upward curve of a pugdog's tail. There it was, however. There was no doing anything with it. Wilkins she was and Wilkins she would remain; and though her husband encouraged her to give it on all occasions as Mrs. Mellersh-Wilkins she only did that when he was within earshot, for she thought Mellersh made Wilkins worse, emphasising it in the way Chatsworth on the gate-posts of a villa emphasises the villa. 
   When first he suggested she should add Mellersh she had objected for the above reason, and after a pause - Mellersh was much too prudent to speak except after a pause, during which he presumably was taking a careful mental copy of his coming observation - he said, much displeased, 'But I am not a villa,' and looked at her as he looks who hopes, for perhaps the hundredth time, that he may not have married a fool. " 

You will have recognized it, Dear You: a quote from my annual read of "The Enchanted April" by Elizabeth von Arnim - and of course, though it is quite lovely too, you see at a glance why the film they made of it (and which I watch every year too) cannot transport a quarter of the wit of this novel.
Elizabeth von Arnim was a writer who wrote lots and lots of books - which, at their best, were as entertaining as enlightening (she wrote trash too).

I love all the characters: Mrs. Lotty Wilkins who often "sees" something which later really comes true (we share this virtue); Mrs. Rose Arbuthnot - with the face of a sad madonna - is a bit far from me, as is Mr. Briggs, but the old cranky Mrs. Fisher is wonderful. Till she comes to San Salvatore, she prefers to live in the past.

"Carlyle had had scowled on her; Matthew Arnold had held her on his knee; Tennyson had sonorously rallied her on the length of her pig-tail. (...) 
Indeed, she seemed to think that they also were widows, for on enquiring who the fourth lady was to be, and being told it was a Lady Caroline Dester, she said, 'Is she a widow too?' And on their explaining that she was not, because she had not yet been married, observed with abstracted amiability, 'All in good times.' 
(...) 'Did you know Keats?`eagerly interrupted Mrs. Wilkins. 
Mrs. Fisher, after a pause, said with sub-acid reserve that she had been quite unacquainted with both Keats and Shakespeare. 

But (of course) Lady Caroline Dester is the one I'm most fond of!
She is tired of social life and of men, who all want to possess her, grab her.

(...) she had wasted all this time being beautiful. Presently she wouldn't be beautiful, and then? (...) to become inconspicious, to fade, to grow shabby and dim, would probably be most painful. And once she began, what years and years of it there would be! Imagine (...) having most of one's life at the wrong end. Imagine being old for two or three times as long as being young. Stupid, stupid. Everything was stupid. 
(...) If nobody at San Salvatore had ever heard of her, if for a whole month she could shed herself, get right away from everything connected with herself, be allowed really to forget the clinging and the clogging and all the noise, why, perhaps she might make something of herself after all. She might really think; really clear up her mind; really come to some conclusion. 

 Of course they'll all do - I see it!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

"Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?"

©Brigitta Huegel

Today I have been - for the first time in my life - at a stockholders' meeting. Because: I found a new motto for 2015 in an interview with Juliette Greco, who explained something extraordinary she did by saying: "I don't want to die stupid". 
Nor do I.
So - normally abhorring and avoiding any meeting in my agency if ever I can find an excuse - I accepted my invitation by Daimler for their stockholders' meeting - in Berlin, served on a silver tablet, so to speak.
In the S-Bahn (parking places are rare) I looked around and spotted a couple that looked as if they were going to attend that meeting.
I was right. They were - and they looked like it.
I looked very posh, too, but as ever a bit - different - with black Lagerfeld half-finger kid-leather gloves (very sexy), a wonderful slim rasberry-red jackett, a huge black patent leather bag that Kate Moss had promoted, black denim jeans, and a lot of eye-make-up, as ever. (Come to think of it: THAT , Dating Agencies, is a market to chase potential husbands, much more promising than the macramé courses at adult education centers. Though sorry to say: most of those evidently rich blokes were not the type I prefer - I have a faible for - well: different men. And: I am happily married. AND earn my own money - such a luck).
(Feel forced by a rather previous incident to add a footnote: please: I don't want to have to despatch this post into oblivion too, just because one follower or another doesn't see my winking eye, so:
:-)  :-) :-)  = smiley, smiley, smiley!  
When I went into the big assembly hall, I had the feeling that thus might look the hall of Scientology - I mean: as I think it might look, I've never been there.
Big, big screens on the wall. Very uplifting music. Very beautiful people (in the film, not in the assembly hall - beside of me, of course, and a few young men who might be students of economics, and a few young girls who had to lead people to their seats. Having worked in my student days as translator on fairs and exhibitions, I know how much your face hurts in the evening because of the permanent smile one has to put on (and the hands of old man off), and I learned one very important thing: Never wear new shoes when you are working on a fair - they will kill you...)
In front of the huge screens sat tiny little men (the supervisory board).
7, I counted, but one of those little men was a woman, but I could not identify which... Later, when people - we were always addressed  as "owners" - were allowed to put questions, a female professor asked: "Why is only one women in your supervisory bord? Our aim is to have at least 50% women there". Though I agree with more women being there, I found "at least" a bit disturbing - and very optimistic. And girls, you have to prepare for a hard, tough fight to get there: when I heard what those board members earn in one year - I realized: "I'm in the wrrrong profession". This insight comes a bit late, but maybe they are searching for a woman to fulfill their "Frauenquote".  I will volunteer. And promise to attend to every meeting :-)
Till they ask me: I take the liberty to walk away after half the meeting (oh yes, I had a nice snack, and: oh yes, I voted).
Their new cars: absolutely beautiful. Never owned a Merc myself. (But a beautiful Lancia Beta 2000).
Humming:  Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz. Prefering Janis Joplin, but could only find this:

PS: Oh... I lost by accident all the interesting pictures I took today of the stockholder meeting - all the beautiful cars - from my smartphone - vanished into haze...

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Ss-ss--Summertime Blues...

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 

AGAIN!!! It happened AGAIN! I didn't grasp it - the change to summertime! Though I had your interesting English mnemonic  - "spring" and "fall" in mind.
Yesterday I even got a bit angry thinking (in advance) of it; being an early riser I thought: "Then it will be even earlier when I wake up". To my surprise it wasn't. Hahaha.
My little error in reasoning is why I didn't warn Husband, who had booked a berth in a sleeping car to go to Munich in the night from Saturday to Sunday. (He left from Hildesheim, I was sitting in my haziness in Berlin). But - being a man - it was all clear to him and he left in due time, without any channelling by me :-)
This morning (almost in a hurry - because it was - surprise! - one hour later than expected - but then: it was Sunday) I thought of former times, very far back, once upon a time, when due to the change to summertime I arrived to leave at Heidelberg station in wrong time. Errrgg sorry, shamefully I have to correct: "Twice upon a time..." And did I learn from it? Oh no, not I...
It is the same as with directions, but there I am not alone: my friend Anne - and many women I know - each time walk to the left when we stand in front of a station and our map pretends to direct us to the right. (I even invented a map for women - I mean: if I hold the man-made map upside down, it works... But then came Google-map, so I am still not rich).
Oh - Yes: I am able to learn very complicated words in Italian, as "frigorifero" or "abbassamento in chiave" (sometimes I even suspect that this 'abbassamento in chiave' might be the reason why I can't grasp the right direction) - but maybe, I think, the very reason for my summertime-change-blackout is that I am just utterly unconvinced that summertime change is necessary or helpful... and then I get stubborn... which is so utterly idiotic...(come to think of it: as is that change to summertime).
Alas! you know me, dear friend: I always make the best of it...
So I congratulate myself on being ...
... timeless...

(Though utterly punctual, I have to add - when I have adjusted my watch...)

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Eulogy For A Tree

©Brigitta Huegel

Since we came to live in Berlin, it was there: the tree in the backyard. 
Morning and evening, 
©Brigitta Huegel

winter, spring, summer and autumn. 

©Brigitta Huegel

©Brigitta Huegel

Yesterday I heard the chainsaw screaming in the backyard. Of course Robert Frost's lines sprang into my mind, but nobody listened when I howled "Out, Out!" -

"The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood, (...)

©Brigitta Huegel

I'm not overly sentimental (I hope), and the renter will have had her reasons (two big branches had broken down over the years).

But I will miss it - it was the nicest sight the backyard had to offer.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

"Half she pulled him, half he sank yieldingly..."

©Brigitta Huegel

(Being always quite shocked by the translation Google offers for our Blog texts, I will try to give you a - hopefully - better version done by myself. Assuming that you are not that deeply interested in Berlin's city views and history, I shorten my German post a bit).
"Half she pulled him, half he surrendered..." (as I put it) is a quote from Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe's poem "The Fisherman" - maybe you like Karl Friedrich Curschmann's (18005 - 1841) version better: "half pulled by her and half sinking himself," he translated.  
If you look at Ernst Herter's bronze sculpture - the title is "A Rare Catch" and it was created in 1896. it stands at a little pond bank in Viktoria Park in Berlin-Kreuzberg. . .you see that in his case it might be vice & versa. (I might even call it "Partners in Grime" :-) , because the mermaid and the fisher look both lewed).
So many German poems and short stories deal with mermaids, and all the other inhabitants of water and sea. I also love Oscar Wilde's story "The Fisherman and His Soul" - where the poor infatuated young fisherman tries to get rid of his soul to be able to live with the mermaid. And of course Frederick Leighton's beautiful picture, or Arnold Böcklin's.
There are a lot of interpretations of what the mermaid might be a symbol for - very famous is Carl Gustav Jung's "Archetype" with the devouring part of mother&woman - I would like to discuss it, but two day's ago was "International Woman's Day", and so I follow Hyacinth Bucket's (pronounce: "Bouquet") advice: "Leave it, leave it, leave it..."
The mermaid, not having a soul, is the eternal seductress; brilliantly depicted in Gottfried Keller's poem "Sea Fairy Tale" (again roughly translated by me):

(...) and kissed him the Red from his lips.
Three days she had diverted herself,
On the fourth she let the dead body
Glide out of her arms.
Then she shot up to the sunny light
And looked over to the shore;
With purple she made up her white face
And sang while drawing closer to the shore.

Not the nicest way to see women. (I might even be tempted to talk about Jung's "Shadow" now).
And not a good foundation for love... but to make a sacrifice of one's soul is also not a good option. To open up the heart: YES - let him/her in. To warm the other with one's love: YES. But don't take away the air to breathe, or the water to swim in, the elements which the other person needs to exist (but you don't, and might not even understand) - they should be accepted. How many people sacrifice their friends, their originalities, their aims when the lover just whistles once... One shouldn't: otherness is (and remains) tempting.
Otherwise it might happen that our dear prince of poets, J. W. v. Goethe, hits the nail right on the head again with another line of his poem: "and never was seen again." He speaks of the poor sinking fisherman - but we might take it as a metaphor for one partner devouring the other, wanting the sacrifice of his soul - and I know quite a lot of pairs where just that has happened.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

At the Bottom of the Treacle Well...

©Brigitta Huegel
Dear You,
Yesterday I made a few finger-exercises, wrote a blog post, then went to bed without publishing it - a good idea, as I saw when reading it again in the cool morning light (yes, it was early).
At the moment the morning air often has a very refreshing and cooling effect on my ideas or worries or projects I developed at night.
Normally I sleep through. Not at the moment, though I tried to follow all those well-meant tips from health-gurus for getting the sleep you NEED: the word alone makes me fret - can't sleep worrying about the amounts of sleep I NEED - yes, scientists explored it for the umpteenth time at a university in *** - though to read their simplistic stats MIGHT make me sleepy and drowsy, - better than a cup of Horlicks + the added bonus of Barbara Pym. (I like her - don't misunderstand me - but I find her very soothing too...)
There is a lot of dry humour in her novels - but maybe not everone will see it - as Tom wrote in a comment on my comment on innuendo (my sort of) - he said that maybe Google can't understand it (or were it the English men? Can't remember - but no:  that can't be, as extensive field research by Dear Me showed in clear results: they Do understand. So he must have meant Google).
Being quite chirpy at night, I feel like Lewis Carroll's Dormouse in daytime. Maybe I'm a victim of "spring fever" - is that the medical term - or is it "springtime lethargy"? (Too lethargic to look it up).  Lethargy, I feel, is right here, cuddling me in his soft grips - though spring is still nearing. The air changes: some soft notes lure and purr under the crispy cold in the morning, and the singing of our alpha blackbird is getting even more combating and challenging.
Well - I think I shall publish my blogpost quickly. Now. Otherwise - if I sleep about it over night, the cooling effect of the fresh morning air tomorrow will nipp my Darling Buds of May again.
Well: we only have March. Might go to a Mad Tea-Party. Visit the March Hare.
"You might just as well say," added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, "that 'I breathe when I sleep' is the same thing as 'I sleep when I breathe'!
"It is the same thing with you," said the Hatter, and here the conversation dropped (...) 

PS: "You shouldn't make personal remarks," Alice said with some severity: "it is very rude."
Right she is...