Category Archives: Sabbatical

Trust the earth to hold you

group in savasanaThe best thing I ever heard in a yoga class was this: Trust the earth to hold you. When lying in shavasana, or corpse pose, surely the easiest of all poses, flat on my back in a neutral position, the teacher would utter those words, and when she did I’d feel my bones settle ever so slightly. Only then would I realize I’d been holding myself in as if every molecule in my body needed to be drawn in tight to hold together. I’d see that I’d been resisting gravity, ignoring the fact that the body will hold itself together just fine without my help. And I noticed that when you let go of holding yourself together and sink your bones into your flesh and your flesh into the ground beneath you, you begin to float just a bit, and remarkable things happen.
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Home is

Big+Cherry+Pie+A+La+Mode+by+Mary+Ellen+JohnsonHome is walking off the plane and seeing an attendant with a wheelchair waiting for a passenger and seeing that she is smiling at you and everyone around you for no reason except that she is American and that’s what Americans do when they see human faces, they smile like they know you, and it’s such a big smile you want to laugh at the outrageousness of it but you try not to because you think if you do you might cry instead.

Home is Gita waiting at the curb with her Prius full of empty strawberry crates she used to make hundreds of popsicles for her new business earlier that week and even though the car looks full to the gills she fits you and your daughter and your three suitcases and doesn’t even have to leave the crates on the sidewalk even though she said would if she had to. Continue reading

Mercedes moon

ImageOne late September evening when the family was all in their bedtime routines and the sky had been dark for a few hours, I sat down at my computer to close things up for the day, and when I looked up out the window I saw the most beautiful sight: the bright slip of the moon hanging just above the line of apartment buildings to the north of us, shimmering through the leaves on the treetops. I ran into the girls’ room to urge them to come see it in its half state, just peeking above the buildings, and they hurried to the balcony door to see the moon.

“Look!” I said, “It’s about to set,” as the moon narrowed, as if about to dip under the roofline, out of sight—but no, wait, it was getting brighter again. That didn’t make sense. If the moon goes down, it goes down; it doesn’t come back up again. And rather more typical for the moon to rise than set, isn’t it? The kids shrugged their shoulders and wandered back down the hall in their pajamas, ready for books and bed. I lingered at the window watching the moon glow bright with intensity, then disappear, then return again. I chalked it up to the leaves shuddering in the wind, distorting my view, and turned and left the moon behind. Continue reading

A game of ping pong

IMG_4304“Where are you going?” our young neighbor Annika asked me as I walked alone down the block toward the playground. “To play ping pong,” I replied. She looked puzzled, so I swatted an imaginary ball with an invisible paddle, and she said “Ah! Tisch tennis! Oh, can we go too, Mummy?” she asked, looking up at her mother. Having just returned from an evening walk, her mother said, “No dear, we’re going in now,” and so my neighbors went in and I continued on to join my family at the communal ping pong table in the spielplatz at the end of our street.

There are two tables and they are quite popular, but on this Friday night they were both open, and M and C were already playing. E put on the rollerblades I brought her from the flat, and she rolled around a bit before disappearing into the playground; I sat on the metal gate and waited my turn. Continue reading

What do I know of Beethoven

ImageOur friend Hanna hosted our family for dinner and piano playing the other evening. Not just our family, but also Andrew and Yuri who were visiting us from New York. Hanna is the white-haired professor with saucy red glasses who led us through our visa trials with humor and grace, and we wanted her to meet our old friends from home.

Both Andrew and Yuri had attended conservatory to train in their instruments (French horn, flute) but each later turned to piano as an outlet better suited to home life and occasional practice. They work in fields beyond music and play piano when they can. Hanna is learning piano in her retirement. Continue reading

Making a life here

ImageEvery now and then our family uncovers little signs that each of us are finding our place in Berlin. We’re surprising others as well as ourselves.

This first one happened in the fall. Our tenth grader, S, was leaving school after a long day steeped in German. She was tired and minding her own business when a group of American tourists came across her and asked: “Can you tell us where the nearest subway station is?” Continue reading

Tethered by time

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Image courtesy of The Guardian

I am aware, always, of what time it is in St. Paul. We are seven hours ahead in Berlin. I sit down to work when most of our friends are going to bed; I sometimes post blogs in the middle of their night’s sleep, and am thoroughly into my work day when they are waking up.

I see them blinking awake via chat on Facebook—I don’t mean to, but in my online grazing I can’t help but notice who rises before dawn and who the night owls are. I’m surprised to find a handful of insomniacs among them.

There was a morning last fall when I saw signs of three rowers’ wakefulness before 5 a.m., and imagined them each heading to the river, and could not avoid a sting of rejection knowing I might have joined their quad, were I not here. Continue reading