Friday, February 17, 2012

February Spring

Three nights ago I broke my camera. I wish there was a better story to it, but the truth is I just dropped it on the floor. Hard. Specifically, I dropped it on the floor while I was trying to take a picture of the salted brownies I had just made. This felt quite important in the moment, mainly because I was going to show it to my friend Isa to demonstrate that I had successfully completed our favorite recipe even without measuring cups. I got the picture, I lost my camera.

It was a newish camera that I had bought for this year. I spent the next day unable to forgive myself and going to major electronic shops in Berlin trying to find someone who would fix it for a reasonable price, and finish fixing it before I left for Istanbul on Tuesday. As you can imagine, I was not successful. I soon realized that it would be about the same price and much more convenient to get a new one. But in a year where I write down every cent that I spend (literally), ruining a camera due to my own stupidity feels like a big loss.

But then I thought about my photos. I thought about how some people think that if you're always carrying a camera around to take pictures, in some ways, you're missing out on the moment.

The thing is, I think carrying around a camera this year has also helped me to be in the moment. Some of this year is spent talking about names and some of it is spent writing, and some of it is spent eating new food and some of it is spent packing and unpacking, but most of it is spent just looking. There have been so many times this year when all I want to do is turn to someone, and look at them, and know that they too are thinking, "Can you believe what we're seeing right now? Can you believe we're HERE?"

There's no person to turn to, and sometimes that feels really strange. But what I can do, is take a picture and know that I'll have at least have it for myself.

I went to "Media Markt" at Alexanderplatz and I paid the euros. I bought the exact same camera that I had paid for six and a half months earlier. I grimaced, I bit my nails, I wrote down the exact amount in my notebook.

And then I went outside and it was like Berlin had exploded in color.

It was the first day with blue skies in over a week. The temperature had risen and it seemed that the whole city had suddenly run outside. I ripped open the box with my new camera in it and started taking pictures.

"Can you believe what we're seeing right now? Can you believe we're HERE?"

I was there, and I saw it. I was there the February day that Berlin temporarily exploded into spring and I can show you what it looked like.

It looked like this:

The city bloomed into outdoor markets, and people came outside.

A man dressed like a musketeer sold bunches of lavender.

Someone made juice from the inside of an orange.

There were piles of hats for sale on a little brown cart.

There was a lot of graffiti, and menus on chalkboards, and umbrellas in different colors.

People drank beer outside and their hands weren't cold.

There were rivers made of melting ice and birds flying overhead.

There was a woman playing an accordion with a big orange bag.

And a man playing a saxophone with a yellow bicycle that listened.

There were old fashioned red trains in front of tall silver buildings.

There was bright sun on cobblestone streets.

When the sun went down, I decided to go look at some art.

The National gallery.

And then some other kinds of art.

I waited in line and got a ticket to the world premiere of Stephen Elliott's debut film, Cherry, at the Berlinale film festival. The highlights included getting to walk down a red carpet and listen to the cast and crew talk onstage. The down side was that the film itself wasn't very good (if you're curious about the film, I agree with this reviewer, pretty much verbatim:

Some of the cast, writers, director and producers of Cherry.

When I came out of the theater (and off of the red carpet, I might add), spring had ended.

Berlin was getting covered, once again, in thick, wet, white snowflakes.

I was glad I had my camera.


  1. I've been reading your blog since the beginning, and had to manifest myself now to comment on this post. I love it. You express so well the way I often (not always) feel about taking pictures. I know you have to balance *recording* life and *living* life, but there have been so many times I feel like my camera is _helping_ me really see what is around me. I'm being forced to SEE individual moments and take note of them, rather than just letting it all wash over me.

    Thanks for this great post, and all of your thoughtful posts this last year. I love seeing these exotic places through your eyes, and reading your thoughts on names. It all fascinates me. (And, I have Danish heritage too!) :)

  2. Marilyn,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. You are so sweet to write and I'm glad to hear you appreciate what I meant about photography. It's become such an important part of my year away!

    It is great to hear from you and to be reminded I'm not not alone in all of this. I'm thrilled and flattered that you've been enjoying reading. Hopefully you'll get a chance to check out beautiful Copenhagen too sometime (if you haven't already!) It's a great city and it makes it quite easy to be proud of our heritage!