Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Place

(This was written for an art installation in NYC by and about immigrants.)





The days preceding the flight were filled with preparations. It takes more than a little planning to leave a lifetime behind. This all-engaging busy work softened, delayed and muted just a little, the debilitating nostalgia raging inside me. When I stopped to think about what I was doing it was almost over-whelming. One late night I recalled my arrival as a young man in Manhattan. Soon I was lamenting walks not taken, conversations cut short, opportunities lost. Then I began reliving some of the walks and conversations and opportunities I did manage to realize during a life lived here and I don’t know which of the two imaginings was more difficult to endure.

When I left New York I had to flip a switch in my conscious mind, reject the grip that Manhattan still had on me and direct all my attention, interest and hope toward my new home; a country where I did not speak the language and in which I had never before harbored a notion of living.

We’re good at this we humans, finding ourselves in the arms of a stranger and rationalizing the situation with a hobbled but serviceable justification that allows us to keep moving forward. New York taught me how to love a city. It is an impossible act to follow and I won’t try to imagine a replacement.

“Love the one you’re with” is the Steven Stills lyric and it’s a helpful one. I left New York City for a small town in the Old World and I knew I would be miserable if I didn’t discover something to love about it and I have.

Much more to the point of my life today however, is the small person sleeping down the hall. He speaks this new language as well as his father’s and feels his home here and so therefore will I, and love the place I find. He is hope to me.




Copyright German Diary 2007

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9 Comments:

Blogger d. chedwick bryant said...

when I first started reading your blog I thought HH would be what connected you most to Germany if you stayed long enough for him to interact with German children, which of course he has, he has in some ways become a German child? So the things you will really love about the place will be found in/ by his feelings, experiences, which are very basic and true. Children adapt so easily compared to adults. They see/accept things in a whole other way.
Of course I cannot express this the way I feel it-- but you are there with him, and you get what he is knowing about the place.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I thought this post would be sad when I began reading. But it isn't at all... it bridges the transition you have made. And HH is the anchor that holds you to your new land.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope your love for HH (and his mother...) will be strong enough to get you through your dark hours in this foreign city with its foreign people and foreign language, when you begin to realize that you will never be as much a part of this new world as you were once a part of NYC.
Our love is being put to the test right now, in similar circumstances, and I am afraid that love might not be enough ...

12:36 PM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

dcb & sharon ... since you are both regular (thank you!) visitors here you know that my thoughts about being an expat and living in cologne are for the most part positive ... this piece was prompted by a series of questions in a letter I received from a friend who is creating an art project. family is the thing that matters most to me and wherever we are we will find joy. that said, nyc has and will continue to be a part of me ... and sometimes i get homesick for it ... and when i do, i'm capable of writing something like "place" ...


anon ... it's not all dark and strange here - but love does make the difference. i hope you make it in one piece to the other side of your journey. and thank you for commenting.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous ian said...

Hi,

Just wanted to leave a comment on your latest post, not this one, but there is no link to the comments on that one. Maybe a settings tweak is in order, oder?

8:17 PM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

Ian ... thanks for the note - I have no idea why the comments were off ...

Best,
R

9:05 PM  
Blogger EHDKD said...

Richard, this is one of the most accomplished pieces of writing I have read in a very long time.
You have, in a few lines, put together the thoughts and feelings of the many people that, strangers in a foreign land, fight to build a connection.
Many thanks for this... I wonder how long will it be until I can share that feeling of belonging.
Love
I

8:07 PM  
Blogger MAHIMA said...

love this post. i think blogger should shart a mark your favourite posts system. like you can in flickr, just mark off photos you love as favourites.
this would certainly be one of mine.
already your blog has given me much to think about!

10:00 AM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

Ivan ...

Thank you my brother.


Mahima ...

I'm happy you found your way here - and that you enjoy what you are reading. Thank you for the time and thoughtful comments.

R

12:40 PM  

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