Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Life Update

Friday, February 16th, 2018

I have some exciting news to share with all of you:

I am writing a book.

The first reason I want to tell you this is accountability. Telling you about my idea for a book, which has only existed within the confines of my mind for some years now, is the first step towards holding myself accountable for following through with the completion of my project. If you know about it’s existence, then I am not just letting myself down if I fail to write this book, I am also failing all of you. If I keep it a secret and fail to succeed in bringing my book to life then I am the only one who knows about the horrible creative miscarriage taking place in my mind. As such, then I am the only one to mourn the loss of something that never quite was but will always be with me. So it scares me to share this small and fragile beginning with you. Vulnerability has never been my strength, but this blog has always been for me a space where I can share the things that scare me most. And let me tell you, there is nothing scarier to me than the thought of not being able to bring life to the ideas in my mind. While the pressure created by sharing this information with you is terrifying, I truly believe it is necessary to motivate me. Failure will not be an option.

Additionally, I feel compelled to share this information because I fully believe in the power that words possess. Speaking something aloud or writing down something gives it life, agency, and autonomy to exist. To name a thing is to give it life. Saying that I am writing this book already gives my book more life than it ever had before I wrote these words. So I am going to will my book into being by letting the world know that it will happen.

Finally, I wanted to update you on this current project to inform you as to the reason I have not been posting on my blog. My mind is so full of words, half formed poetry, and stories begging to be born, but I am going to pour all of my creative energy into writing this book for the time being. I will keep posting, but I am hoping to limit the time I spend working on my blog for now in order to help focus my attention on this bigger project.

As for the book itself, I don’t want to be premature with sharing any information or excerpts quite yet, but I will give you the basics to tide you over for a little while. I am writing a psychological thriller that focuses on issues of isolation, survival, and mental illness. I am modeling the setting after the central California coastal farm land that I grew up around and love so dearly. I hope to present to you a novel that walks a thin line between natural and supernatural where the reader and the protagonist must question what is or is not in fact real. I present you with the question that has haunted me since I first began the creation of this novel: if you cannot trust what your own senses are telling you, who or what should you trust to discern reality from illusion?

Wish me luck as I begin this long process and I hope to have more to share with you all soon!

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Remembering Jacob DiNoto

Friday, January 5th, 2018

My heart aches today. I do not know how to put this pain into words, but I will try because there is so much that needs to be said. Death darkened the doorway of a family too young for devastation and took a wonderful man who had only begun living. Jacob Dinoto was my friend, the husband of my best friend, and the father of two incredible daughters I am proud to call my nieces. One year ago today he passed away suddenly and tragically, survived by his wife Mackenzie and his two young girls, one of whom was yet to be born.

In many ways, I fail to find the correct words to describe this feeling because the pain is not my own. I cannot lay claim to this grief even though it tears at my heart and wearies my soul. I know how dreadfully Jacob’s family misses him and the grief of struggling to understand his premature death burdens both his family back in Connecticut and his new family in California. The death of a person so young cannot be justified, especially when they have so much life left to live. But I cannot speak for his family, I cannot speak for Mackenzie or her children, I can only share my memories of Jacob in the hopes that my own struggle to comprehend the incomprehensible may help others facing the same uphill battle. My words cannot be sufficient to encapsulate the pain of Jacob’s death, but I hope they can bring back a piece of the light that Jacob shared with everyone he encountered in life.

When I first met Jacob, honestly, he frightened me. He was dating my best friend who meant the world to me and I would do anything to protect. I did not know him, he was from an entirely different world than mine (or so I thought), he was blunt, intense, and unknown to me. I worried for my dear friend who felt like the closest thing to an angel this world has ever seen, but only because I didn’t realize then what I know now: Jacob was a breathe of light just like her but encased in a different coating.

After I got to know Jacob I realized the truth, that he was an intense man, but only because he loved so fiercely. He loved Mackenzie with an intensity that inspired me. Not only that, but he loved everyone who came into his life with a strength unparalleled. Both he and Mackenzie taught me how to be a good friend by providing a perfect model to follow. Their kindness, generosity, honesty, and genuine passion for the people around them inspired me then and will always motivate me to try to love others with the same ferocity they showed me.

If I can do one thing as an honorary auntie to Jacob’s children, I hope that it is to show his girls the same love both he and Mackenzie showed me.

I want them to know how hilarious and genuine he was in everything he did. Like when he dressed up fancy just to go to different bakeries in San Francisco on the hottest day in the city’s records. Or how we would stay up late into the night discussing conspiracy theories and laughing the night away over games of Scrabble. 

The last time I saw Jacob was his wedding party just short of a week before he passed away. We all had so much fun that night celebrating Jacob and Mackenzie’s love, their future, and their children’s future. Even after the party was over, we spent the night laughing and singing Queen on the karaoke machine. We had so many plans, so many conversations about adventures soon to be had, places we had to visit, and things we were going to do together that would never happen.

The night he died I heard the news while I was sitting in a bar in Berkeley, just a few doors down from where we had once shared drinks. I took the train home like a zombie with tears streaking down my face. I didn’t care who saw me, I don’t even remember walking home from the train station, all I could think of was how could this possibly be?

I sat in my car and cried so hard I got sick. I beat my hands against the steering wheel and the ceiling screaming at how unfair, how impossibly unfair this was to him, to his family, to his wife, his children, and all of the people he would never get to meet. I have never been so angry before in my life than the night I learned Jacob was no longer a part of this world. I was angry at him, at God, at Death for daring to take him, and at everyone else in the world, including myself, for getting to live when someone as desperately in need of living as Jacob, was robbed of his life at only twenty four years old.

I am still mad. I sometimes sit in my car looking at the dents in the steering wheel where my nails cut into it and feel that grief rising up in my throat like bile. Now, however, the anger never lingers long. Because after all of the sadness and the pain, I remember his two little girls. I remember how much he gets to live in them.

When baby Rosemary was born I spent the night with Mackenzie in the hospital and held Rosie all night long. Late that night when Mackenzie was asleep, and it was just me and Rosie awake under the soft light of a hospital TV, I spoke to Jacob. I told him how much Rosie looked like him, especially when she furrowed her eyebrows just like he always did. I told him how his children would always know what an amazing man he was. I told him how much it hurt me that it was me there at the hospital holding his daughter instead of him. I told him how grateful I was that he came into our lives even though he left us too early and how grateful I was that he was able to have two wonderful daughters who would carry a piece of him everywhere they went.

The fact that Jacob never got to meet Rosie breaks my heart beyond what words can express. But I am so grateful to have both her and Bella in my life. Without Jacob, I never would have been so blessed by his amazing children.

This last year has been so incredibly hard, but in so many ways, Mackenzie and Jacob and their children have been the only thing that got me through some of my darkest times. The joy they bring me is ineffable and the love they have taught me will always be in my heart.

Even though it has been a year since Jacob’s death, I feel like I get to see him every day in some small way whenever I get to see his kids. The pain may never fade and my heart breaks for Mackenzie and all of those he left behind, but I am just so incredibly grateful to have ever met him.

I miss you every day my friend, thank you for the gift of your presence, and I hope to show your girls just a little bit of the love I know you would have given them.

If you are interested in donating money to help Mackenzie and her two young children live life after the loss of Jacob feel free to contribute to the GoFundMe page dedicated in his memory: In Memory of Jacob DiNoto

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Silence Awful and Sublime

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
– John Muir

Fewer words ring truer in my mind than John Muir’s transcendental musings on nature, the wilderness of this world, and the triad connection between man, the outdoors, and the universe.

For me, Winter arrives with a contemplation as a companion every year. There is something about snow, the coldness of winter, and the stripping down of life to its raw bones that always leaves me in awe. In many ways I am gladly forced into this state of introspection during this time of year; it is during these times that Muir returns to me again and again as I confront the devastating beauty of the natural world.

Places like this tree tunnel in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near Houghton humble me to my core. Standing beneath the tall pines and snow covered trees listening to their moaning cracks as they sway in the breeze, I feel so small yet emboldened by the proximity to such grandiosity. The creaking song of wind blown trees is the only sound I can hear for miles. Silence reigns supreme when the world is held in Winter’s grasp. The power of this silence is both terrifying and awesome to experience; Muir himself described it as “awful and sublime” to behold.

If you lean in close and rest your ear against the wood grain of the trees the only sounds you hear are the winter winds and an almost inaudible rustling like the sound of exhaled breath coming from every living thing. Like a whisper too soft to fully understand you find yourself leaning closer and closer, desperate to capture its meaning; a whisper that would say

We are the sound of life unwilling to succumb to the conditions of this world. Strip us barren, take our beauty, and leave us barely alive, but still we keep on living for the broken are those that shall never die. 

Listen to the trees, they hold valuable lessons even when they do not bear leaves. Muir was right in so many ways, and especially in his observation that forests provide the fastest gateway to the universe and all of its mysteries. These trees existed long before me and will continue their stationary existence long after I am gone. You can gain no greater perspective in life than that which you can find suspended in the canopies of trees.

“Between every two pine trees there is a door
leading to a new way of life.” 
– John Muir

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Posted in Photos, Thoughts |

Becoming New

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Ever since I can remember I have been coming to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to visit our family compound on the shores of a lake fed by Lake Superior. I never went to summer camp or a sports camp as a child, instead I gathered alongside my numerous cousins, aunts and uncles, and under the amused gaze of my grandparents to run amuck in the forests and swim in the Great Lakes. The sun never seemed to fade on those long summer nights.The memories and experiences I had during those endless summers forever altered who I was and who I would become in ways so numerous that this blog post could never even begin to contain all of them. The shores of Lake Superior will always be my second home, but standing where I have stood many times before on the Sandstone cliffs of Jacobsville as the light from the first day of 2018 fades into shades of soft pink, I realize just how unfamiliar and new familiar places can become.

The emerald shades of Lake Superior have dulled under the snow filled skies and mist rises from the surface of the gently rolling waves like warm breath on a cold winter day. This place feels alive in a way that I have never experienced before this moment. The thin layer of ice forming across the lake is marked by violent fissures where dark water breaks through the pristine whiteness of snow. The segments of ice rise and fall with the water’s movement and I swear I can see and hear the lake breathing steadily as the shards of ice gather and separate like shattered glass.

How many times have my feet stood on the red sands I can barely see beneath the ice? How many rocks sit at the bottom of the lake just out of sight from skipping rock competitions between me and my cousins? How can this possibly be the same place that once felt as familiar as the laughter lines on my face? It baffles me how quickly the old becomes the new when you are willing to inflict change on all that feels normal.

The first day of the new year is almost over and I see just how desperately I need to pull myself from routine and alter the way I see everything that once seemed repetitive to me. There is always something new to discover even in places you have already been. I want to treat all things as if they were new and beautiful because when you wake up each morning with eyes renewed, truly, the world holds surprises you wouldn’t begin to believe.

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Posted in Photos, Thoughts |

Renaissance

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Honestly, I do not know how to begin again. This space was my home for so many years when my words could find no ears to fall upon with quiet urgency. For those who have joined me on my journey either part way or all the way back eight years ago from the very beginning, and for those who are starting today, know this: the last two years my words have been nonexistent. I could name a thousand reasons that left me hesitating with my fingers hovering above a dusty keyboard, but none are sufficient to strip the guilt away from my heart. Writing has always been the life-blood of my being and to halt the progress of pen on paper is to bring my heartbeat to a startling stand still. However, that isn’t even true. It was more gradual than that, there was no jarring day where the words stopped coming, it was a slow, drawn out decay of all that made me, me.

The words never stopped coming, they were always there and still remain within me petrifying on the tip of my tongue and on the edges of mymind. Ossified and neglected, I chose to let my words transform into fossils instead of living breathing beings. I put down the pen and stepped away from the computer screen in pursuit of other things. I am not proud of my choices that drove a wedge between my purpose and empty shiny things. I felt I owed you this honesty, this courtesy of explaining to you why I walked away before anything could become of me. I suppose it was out of fear, fear that my words were not good enough to be consumed by another’s mind and transformed into something entirely new. Or perhaps it was just my attempt to escape what I felt was a fate cemented in time and progressed without me whether I ceased to act or not. Scared of change, I halted everything in the hope that I could also stop the world from spinning along with me. Futility does not even begin to describe the time I spent refusing to write, it was simply nothing. I did nothing, lived nothing, felt nothing, and hoped for nothing.

Nothing is a strange companion and for a time it seemed to suit me just fine, but soon nothing became everything. Everything was all hope, all fear, all anxiety, all sadness, and all paralyzing. Frozen in everything yetliving in nothing.

On the eve of a New Year, I decided to begin chipping away at the fossil of my being and slowly stretch the atrophied muscles of my writer’s mind. I wanted to begin here, with the truth so we could move into something new together without questions to fog our path. I will tell you briefly what became of me with the hopes of elaborating more in writing yet to come in the new year.

These last two years have been the most difficult years of my life thus far. After I returned from my half-year road trip across the country by myself the transition from nomadic wayfarer to stable breadwinner was painfully slow and full of yearning for the open stretches of road and the feeling of standing on the edge of a world that was mine to own. When I finally landed an impressive job at an up-and-coming tech company, got the apartment I always dreamed of with one of my best friends, and moved to San Francisco to live out the life I felt was the epitome of my dreams, it quickly collapsed into an unrecognizable nightmare.

I had two weeks of this perfect life. Two weeks until the world came crashing down around me. To make a long story short, after a sudden and drastic change in my health I was left weak, confused, scared, and without a name for a mysterious illness that plagued me. I spent six long months running from doctor to doctor, test to test, and hospital to hospital trying to find out what was wrong with me until I was tentatively diagnosed with a rare Neurological disorder called Mal de Débarquement Syndrome (MdDS).

By the end of 2016 and partway through 2017 I had lost my fancy job, had to leave my beautiful apartment, and had to move away from the city I had come to love. Most devastating of all, I lost what it felt like to benormal. Severe illness has a way of stripping away everything that is not essential to living. Life is no longer about thriving, it is about surviving. My life became one long series of days spent struggling to get by. In all of this darkness though, my fight to survive illuminated in me the most essential parts of my being. I realized how important writing truly was to me despite having neglected the creative parts of me for so long. I could feel the words pushing up against my sealed lips and the jittering feeling in my finger tips of a story begging to be born. But I found I no longer knew how.

Time does not heal all wounds, but it does normalize the pain of even the most devastating injuries. This last year has been my gradual realization and reclamation of the most important parts of me. I am slowly adjusting to life with my illness and reacquainting myself with the petrified words lodged in my mind. If 2017 was the year of painful loss and slow recovery, then I hope that 2018 is the year of new beginnings for old passions. My resolution for this upcoming year is to undergo my own personal Renaissance. The New Year will be a space not for a new me, but the rebirth of who I was. Will you join me?

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Posted in Photos, Thoughts |

The Weight of Lives I am not Living

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

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One reason I have decided to resurrect my blog is to document my cross country solo road trip. Today I hit the road and won’t find myself back on the West Coast until I have climbed the mountains of Colorado, rolled in the fall leaves of Northern Michigan, put my feet to the pavement of New York City, driven nearly the entire length of the East Coast, let the Atlantic Ocean wash the dirt from my tired feet, sipped a cup of coffee at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, and driven all the way back home. In total, I should be gone for about three months. Just me, my Prius (nicknamed PriPri), vast open expanses of road, and any adventure that finds me along the way.

The main question I have received upon telling people this (after clarifying that yes, I do actually plan on doing this and no, I am not crazy) is WHY?

And this question is not unjustified either, I have asked myself the same thing over and over again as the date of departure creeps closer and closer. I will be the first to admit it, I am terrified. I can make this trip sound so romantic, dreamy, courageous, and many other enviable traits, but the reality is that this is scary; this is going to be extremely hard. There are going to be days I will wish that I had never left home, never gotten out of my bed, never said goodbye to my parents, and never abandoned everything that made me comfortable in life. There is one thing that I know even though the trip has not yet begun: I will never regret this decision.

I could have stayed at my job in the Bay and lived comfortably, but this is the path I have chosen. So to answer the ubiquitous question, which follows me like a shadow wherever I go, I have four things to say.

  1. I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I am not living. This quote from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has resonated in my heart like the rattle of little Oskar’s tambourine since I first read this magnificent book my first year at UC Berkeley. My bones, my body, my mind, and my spirit ache with the weight of not knowing the many paths that my life could lead me down. I plan to go to graduate school and get a doctorate and after that seek a professorship for the rest of my days. While a majority of the people I know are now desperately pursuing a lifelong career, I have found myself unwilling to tie myself to one thing. There are so many things in life I want to do and be that after graduate school I may never get to experience. So I have decided to put real life on hold and go adventure for a while. I do not want to be one thing, I want to be many and I hope to never cease changing in my life. As an English major (aka major book nerd) I have always felt that the most amazing result of reading is that the reader is able to live a thousand different lives through the novels they immerse themselves in throughout their own finite life. I have lived the lives of others both real and imaginary, some more than once, but I have yet to live my own.
  2. Desperately seeking self. Perhaps it is cliche to seek yourself on the open road, or perhaps there is a wisdom in this repetition that proves success. I never feel so inspired than when my wheels are spinning on the pavement and my mind is whirling with thoughts heavily lined with the experiences of yesterday. A solo road trip is obviously a lot of alone time, which both terrifies me and intrigues me with the possibilities of unformed experiences. I have to communicate with me; there is no way around it, no where to run or hide. I am an introspective and introverted person, so this isn’t exactly new to me, but lately I have found myself wrapped around the fingers of others. As time has passed and I have dedicated less time to writing and creating, I have found myself throwing all of my time into others. This is not to say I should not have done this, or that I regret doing this, but I have lost the confidence in being alone that I once had. I have shelved my purpose, my pursuits, and my identity for far too long and traveling alone allows me to be selfish in a way I have not been able to be in a long time. I want to recover the entirety of who I once was and learn how to live a life that is fully mine.
  3. I am a strong young women building my inner independence from the ground (or road) up. Let’s be honest, the main reason people ask me why in the world I would do this is the same reason I have to do this: I am a woman, alone, and the world isn’t always nice to solo women trying to find their place in the world. People ask me, aren’t your parents scared for you? and I can see the real question in their eyes and implied in their words, there is a lot of danger that I am courting just because I am a young woman with no one to watch my back, no one to protect me, no one to stave off the danger of cat calls, rude and greedy eyes, lecherous thoughts of strangers, and the unknown/unpredictable mishaps that could occur on the road. This, however, is the very reason I must go. Yes, I am a woman, yes I can do this on my own. I am capable, strong, independent, cautious, wise, and fear will not hold me back. I am a part of this world and I am going to take part in it. Hiding at home will never change the way the world perceives women. To think that my blog in any way will affect this though is naive and not what I am getting at. What I want this blog to do over the next couple of months is serve as an example that women can do anything. I am just one of many women who has chosen to take to the road alone and just as those women who have served as an example for me, I hope that I can help at least one other woman see that they can do it too. To help show just one person, even if that one person is myself, that it is totally worth it is all I want to achieve.
  4. I am an adventurer and nothing is going to stop me, not even myself. A lot of people see me as someone who is unafraid, outgoing, adventurous, and motivated. In truth, I struggle with all of these things greatly. But still, I must go. Crippled by anxiety, scared, small, often sick, and indecisive, I am horrified by things that are unknown and uncontrollable. But still, I must go. Unable to let go of control and filled to the brim with nervousness, I am unsure about everything I am about to embark on over the next few months. But still, I must go. Why? Why. why. No matter how scared, nervous, chronically in pain, or unsure I am, I am only sure that I must go. Because I am an adventurer; because the road has been calling my name since my mother first introduced me to it six years ago; because I am my own worst enemy and adversaries exist to bring out the best in us; because I am not living my life if I let my fear, anxiety, or illness win. These are the things I know. For some reason my heart picked adventure and I cannot say no, even if the rest of my being is against it.

In some ways, this post is more for me than for you. I am my harshest critic, the one with the most to lose in this, but also the one with the most to gain. I guess you can say this is my manifesto, or simply a reminder for those dark days when all I want to do is give up or cry in a corner. This is my reminder that I can do this, that this is exactly what I want and need, and that no matter where I find myself, I am still me, I am still strong, and I will keep moving.

By the time you read this, I am already gone. Another white streak across the sky, tumbleweed rolling down the road, a stranger in a car window disappearing in the opposite direction. I will see you all again, some sooner rather than later, and hope that you will embark on this journey with me in one form or another.

Ultimately, there are a thousand reasons why I should not go and only one that underlies all of the reasons of why I should: I must. I have told myself a thousand times that I would and now it is hear and there is no backing down. So here I go, down the rabbit hole. Unsure of where it will lead me, this road is the path I have chosen; through all of the exciting loops and digressions, through all the wrong ways and misadventures, through all the new friends and unfriendly strangers, through all the beautiful sights I will see and the empty expanses of nothing, I have chosen this path and now I must follow it to its end.

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Back to the Beginning

Monday, September 14th, 2015

 I want to begin again.

I know I have been gone a long time now but I miss this. I miss the feeling of my fingertips pressed against keys or pushing my pencil to the barren page. I miss having a place to put my words, a place to rest my weary head stirring with mercilessly jumbled thoughts. I miss knowing that I am doing exactly what I was put on this world to do. I have found myself purposeless these last few months, maybe even the last few years of my life and I am the only one to blame.

Thousands of excuses, busy days, hectic life, reorganized priorities, and a ceaselessly transforming sense of self have created a convoluted conundrum that I have self-titled ME. Here I stand six years after I began this blog and I am ashamed of how little I have written. Over the last four years I have found many new titles for myself: UC Berkeley Student, English Major, Jew, Christian, Proud Nerd, Tutor, Employee, World Traveler, Rome Resident, Slackliner, Rugby Player, Slam Poet, Academic Honoree, and finally, UC Berkeley Graduate.

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There are two titles that once meant the world to me that seem to have dropped from this list: Writer and Photographer. While yes, I have done both of these things over the past four years, I set them aside to see what other molds I could occupy, other worlds I could be a part of and inhabit for even a short amount of time. Those two words, writer and photographer, were my entire world and I never thought I could do or be anything else.I have found out two things over these last four years: I was both very wrong and incredibly correct. I have been a so many different things, but I don’t want to be anything else.

My friends who also graduated have been asking themselves and people have been asking me How have I changed in the last four years in college? I have heard a variety of responses; most respond that they have changed radically in unbelievable and unpredictable ways.   Others mildly agree that they have changed, but not necessarily in a world shattering manner that leaves them aghast at how incredibly different they are now than the young freshmen walking under Sather Gate for the first time. I have pitted myself against this question several times and battled with the memories of who I was and who I am now. I have come up with a response that surprised myself: I have not changed at all.

This is not to say that I have not tried new things or had experiences that altered the way I view the world. What I mean by this is that I started at point A of myself, entered college and departed from point A into a million different directions and digressions that led me to very strange and unfamiliar places, which have radically affected me. However, in all of these different circles and loops off of the trajectory I had envisioned when I graduated high school, I have found that the root, the core of what made me me never changed. So, in saying that I have not changed at all, I am not declaring this a negative lack of progression or growth in character. Instead, in discovering this, I have also relearned how much those two titles meant to me because they were absent from my life for so long. I would never take back the things I tried, the hobbies I took up, and the adventures I had into the vast unknown world full of different opportunities, but I did lose an important part of myself as a result.

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I was lost in the craze of a thousand possibilities and the path that had always been so clear to me before was obscured. Like Dante, “Midway upon the journey of our life/ I found myself in a dark wood,/ For the straightforward pathway had been lost” (Canto 1, Inferno). Except I, unlike Dante, had no Virgil to guide me through the perils. But if there is one thing that I have discovered in my wanderings, it is that being lost is the best way to find yourself. Being lost is not necessarily a bad thing; for me, it did mean losing sight of the things that were most important to me, but if I had not put those pursuits on the shelf for as long as I did, I never would have known just how much I needed and loved them. It was only when I found myself lost and without my purpose that I was able to understand just how essential writing was to my entire existence. Writing and digital storytelling through my photography truly is my purpose above all else in the world, without it I am not really me. This is what I have found.

So here I stand, wholly changed, yet exactly the same and ready to begin again.

Welcome back to my strange little world; walk with me, talk with me, cry with me, and learn how to live again with me on this unexpected journey. I am ready to claw my way back to the roots of my being and strip away the atrophied muscles of my mind in order to find the words that have been buzzing in my brain, dormant but living, for the last four years. Join me.

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Awake and Walk

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

My third day in Berlin I was flying solo the whole day and decided to just walk my heart out. So from early in the morning I awoke and set out on foot to walk Berlin, guided by some great recommendations from Maiya.

I began by walking from Kreuzberg where I was staying and wandering back to where I had the tour the previous day in Mitte. I passed many people commuting to work, sitting on park benches drinking at 9am, kids playing in parks, and lots of people of bikes. Everyone seemed to be in some great state of motion, going somewhere, talking with someone, and always moving.IMG_1985 IMG_1986

I went by Check Point Charlie again as I passed from old West to old East.IMG_1989

I even found a fun chocolate store that had massively impressive sculptures made entirely from chocolate including the Brandenburg Gate and several other famous Berlin monuments.IMG_1992

Also one of my favorite things about Berlin is the little street crossing sign guy called Ampelmännchen. They are the traditional and somewhat quirky street crossing signs that always make me smile every time I would see them.

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And what is Germany without a man selling pretzels from his bike?IMG_2015

I revisited Museum Island with hopes to go into the Pergamon Museum but after some confusion and a lot of time lost waiting, I gave up on the idea and continued on with my walking.IMG_2019 IMG_2033 IMG_2037

The area with all the Museums on the island is pretty impressive and quite fun to walk around.IMG_2046 After museum island I headed over towards the TV tower in central Mitte ad then continued on to an old market area.

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From there I wandered up the fun street called Rosenthaler Platz which was lined with adorable parks and shops.

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I took a break in a quirky little coffee shop to dodge the rain and sat in the window for quite some time just enjoying the peaceful atmosphere despite an incident with a dropped cup and a resulting scream from the man who dropped it that was possibly the most German shout I have ever heard. I got another chai latte, keeping with my new found love of Chai Lattes that Berlin has made me addicted to alongside a homemade blueberry scone.IMG_2097 IMG_2100

From there I made a long U-Bahn and S-Bahn trip over to the East Side Gallery where the most famous stretch of the Berlin Wall is, covered in art from contributing painters. It was a little odd honestly. This wall, such an intense piece of history carries such weight, but a majority of the art seemed somewhat foolish and more than a little crude with tourists scribbling their names on every inch they can find. Even the beautiful symbolic artwork was covered over with this ugly scriblles of marked territory that screamed disrespect behind my eyes. It made me sad. There is so much room on these walls for political voicing, room to air out the past and discuss matters of oppression, but in many you cannot see that in what the wall has become.

There really is a lot of beautiful art though, these are a few panels that are my favorites.IMG_2115 IMG_2117 IMG_2129 IMG_2132

This panel was by far my favorite, the intricate detail and the vivid colors interwoven in the black and white. Faces stand out around images if you step back and look at the bigger images, but the small images hold their own beauty and magnificence. IMG_2148 IMG_2155

The way color and the human image are lost but also displayed in this impressive piece really caught the eye and made you look closer to see what there really was to see. IMG_2159 IMG_2181

These couple panels with political statements where also some of my favorites and the thumbs up chained into place was a good example of a piece that held up to its symbolic potential. IMG_2202 IMG_2205

I took a quick break from the wall to hang my feet over the Spree and admire the bridge near by and watch the yellow U-Bahn snake across its upper terrace crossing from one side of Berlin to another as if there had never been a wall at all. IMG_2211

The inscription on one of the last panels of the wall did make me really happy though, despite having been graffitied over mostly by tourists that read

I painted over the wall of shame so freedom is ashamed no more. Inferno ruled too many years until the people chose the light. I put my faith in you Berlin, and give to you my colors bright.

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After the wall I wandered into a nearby area that seems to be home of the alternative scene in Berlin. It was pretty interesting, I wandered past the wall, past the graffiti and along the U-Bahn tracks up into the new area I hadn’t seen before.IMG_2233IMG_2235

A gritty but intriguing place full of people with long colored hair gelled up into spikes, or any other sort of interesting look. I really enjoyed wandering through the rain up and down the streets taking in the local color, feeling the trendiness and alternative atmosphere of the area. IMG_2239

Then after my long day of walking I returned to meet Maiya and we decided to go to a rooftop bar above a huge shopping mall that had the most amazing view of the city and the setting sun. IMG_2250IMG_2259

Over the rooftops of Berlin, we sat in the little garden with benches looking out across Berlin. It was a pretty magical place despite the cold. IMG_2261IMG_2272IMG_2281

The flowers in the garden were really amazing to watch the colors of the setting sun play off of as the light slowly diminished.IMG_2285IMG_2288

Drinks in hand we watched the sun go down in a fantastic array of color. IMG_2297IMG_2300IMG_2308

It was such a fun place to explore and definitely one of my favorite things that I did in Berlin.IMG_2340IMG_2346

 

The way the fast moving clouds blurred over the lights of the city as Berlin became the center of night life that it is so well known for made for some beautiful photos. IMG_2347

The moon was out, shining bright and full above the garden and we left sadly because we never wanted to leave it had been such a magical place at such a magical time of day. It is things like this that make me so unbelievably thankful for being able to have this opportunity to sit on rooftops above Berlin, drinking beer with friends, and watching a city transition between day and night, one life to the next.

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I travel to see cities come alive in a way that photographs or postcards cannot quite capture. There is such a beauty in the cities of the world, each is endlessly different and I cannot wait to see more.

 

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Berlin City Tour and Days of Döner

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

After a lazy morning at Cuccuma getting more cake and chai lattes and a brief freak out in a Pretzel Bar wherein I thought something was wrong with my passport, I headed into Mitte, the center of the city for a free tour. With the Sandeman’s free tour of Berlin, we started at the Brandenburg Gate right in the heart of Berlin. IMG_1760

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We wandered through Mitte in the rain, caught somewhere between sunshine and downpour at all times. After the Gate we went to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews that is a somewhat eerie monumentalization of that the tragedy the Jews of Germany and Europe experienced during World War Two. What at first looks like gravestones of differing height and sizes reveals itself to be the embodiment of the feelings Jews went through in Europe during the Holocaust. You stand amidst the rows of high reaching walls, oppressed by the sheer uniformity and immensity of their structures, each wall reduced to a blank slate, like tombs with no names, that despite their orderliness retain individuality despite the conditions in which they find themselves. It is an interesting memorial, very abstract and left widely open to interpretation, which I think makes for an interesting memorial because whether one likes it or not, it gets people thinking about those who were murdered, remembering, feeling, and trying to understand what happened in that dark time.

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Our tour guide was smart to point out that he thought it was really great how the German people do not try to hide what happened during the Holocaust. What they could have tried to ignore or sweep under the rug as a dark past, they choose instead to monumentalize, to memorialize as an expression of their regret, their grief, and ultimately their humility and displaying past wrong actions. Many countries easily chose to hid or at least not bring to the attention of the world the atrocities they were at least in small part responsible for, so monuments such as this one in Berlin are a great show of regret and humility that makes someone such as myself who is Jewish, grateful for this memorial regardless of what I think it stands for.

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In great contrast, we then went to the place that now stands above the Fuhrer bunker, the place where Hitler and Ava Brown killed themselves at the end of the war when utter defeat was upon them. Now just a simple parking lot, no signs of what once was is made note of, only a little billboard on the street lets you know what once was. The contrast between the memorial to the Murder Jews and the utter lack of note of the Fuhrer bunker is greatly symbolic and interesting to experience.

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After that we continued on our walk around Berlin visiting various sights that once had Nazi buildings on them that do or do not stand any longer, learning about the history of Berlin.

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We saw a small section of the Berlin Wall within the city and heard some incredible stories about the wall and some escape attempts that either succeeded or failed. One of my favorites was a woman who sewed herself into a car seat and then had a person with proper credentials drive her over the border. The saddest attempt we were told about was when two young men attempted to cross the wall midday by jumping from their work building into the Death Strip (the space between the two walls that was left abandoned and open) but when trying to get over the final wall became tangled in the barbed wire and one was shot there while people in the west desperately tried to save him as he slowly bled to death and slid down onto the East side again to be left to die without aid for trying to escape as people in the West listened to his screams just on the other side of the wall. It was a heartbreaking story and crazy to listen to this while looking at the ruined façade of the wall that held so much history, misery, and pain.

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After that we passed Checkpoint Charlie, one of the major crossing points of the wall from East to West that is a clear example of the Capitalist tendencies on one side and the communist side on the other.

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We then wandered into a square with two really amazing churches and a concert hall that made for an impressive space with beautiful architecture.

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Humboldt University was next with the memorial to the book burning done in front of the university in World War Two. This is the university where Maiya is studying in Berlin and it was a beautiful structure right in the center of Berlin.

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After that our last stop on the tour, which when we finished, some friends that I made on the tour and I decided to continue on to Museum Island. I made some really fun Canadian friends who brought a wine skin along on the tour, which was fun because it meant getting to have wine during the tour. We went to Museum Island where we sat out in the grass enjoying the sun and the view of the Berliner Dom. It was a beautiful space I much enjoyed, sandwiched between museums and beautiful buildings and the Spree running on either side of us.

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I went up into the Berliner Dom and enjoyed a view of Berlin right from the center of the city, which was pretty fun. It wasn’t too high up but we got to hear the bells ring and afterwards I laid out in the grass for a long time just listening to them ringIMG_1915 IMG_1916 IMG_1920 IMG_1922 IMG_1928 IMG_1939 IMG_1943 IMG_1947IMG_1952

 

After my inner city adventure I returned to Kreuzberg, my favorite little neighborhood and we decided to go get Doner at the famous Mustafa’s, which had some really incredible food.

 

 

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We ate our doner while walking around, eventually finding ourselves at Viktoriapark which has an amazing waterfall looking up at the spire like monument in the center of the park.

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We sat there until the sun went down, got some ice cream and returned home after a long successful day of adventuring.

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Berlin Life: Markets and Cafes

Friday, May 16th, 2014

I went to bed to the sound of rain and woke up to the sound of church bells ringing. Sunday morning, Mother’s day, my first full day in Berlin.

The two elderly women that Maiya lives with had their families over when we woke up since it was Mother’s Day. It was pretty sad not being able to be with my family on Mother’s Day and just one more reminder of how much I miss home. We all sat together at the kitchen table eating breakfast rolls and drinking coffee. I sat attentively listening to everyone speak German as I sat back and watched, trying to gleam anything from the conversation to no avail. It was still nice to see everyone interacting so happily even if I was outside of it all. I just missed my own family.

After breakfast Maiya and I decided to go to Mauerpark, which is a huge park that on Sundays has an even bigger flea market. After a somewhat disorienting U-Bahn ride for me we arrived in a new cute neighborhood that we wandered through to get to the Park. Once we reached the outside we saw a young woman performing on the sidewalk. Her name was Alice Phoebe Lou and she was fantastic. We sat and listened to her soulful singing for a long time just marveling at how such an amazing voice came from such a tiny person. We were hypnotized by her music, her originally songs, and her cover of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang. We bought her CD, which I honestly didn’t like nearly as much as her live singing but still am pretty obsessed with and haven’t stopped listening to yet. After tearing ourselves away form the entrancing voice of Alice Phoebe Lou, we wandered on past other street performers like some really cool break-dancers until we finally entered the market itself. Stall after stall after stall of all sorts of things to mounted antlers, musical instruments, pipes, clothing, antique kitchen wares, to shoes and knick knacks, it was endless. Oh and also some pretty amazing food. IMG_1600 IMG_1603 IMG_1605 IMG_1613IMG_1607IMG_1616IMG_1617IMG_160910321563_829638643717647_7243128432826486201_oIMG_1620

I am a sucker for markets and it instantly made me love Berlin. Between intermittent down pours of rain we dodged through lake like puddles crossed over with planks of wood from stand to stand taking in the sights.

After a brief but horrifying scare in which I thought I had lost my camera only to realize I had just forgotten that I had put it in my bag already, we decided to get some food. We stopped at a food stall that had potatoes that they put through a ringer making one long spiral cut in the potato so it was all one piece still and then skewering it on a stick to then deep fry it. I got one and it was really and truly amazing. It was so nice to eat it on a cold rainy day while wandering through the market. After that little snack we decided to stop for lunch in the market and got Turkish food, which we ate under the smoky awnings of the food tent. It was colorful, full of spices, and delicious. So incredibly different than all of the food I had gotten so accustomed to eating in Italy.

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Our collective purchases at the end of the day: Alice Phoebe Lou’s CD, Maiya’s Ukulele, earrings for me, a ring made from a fork for Maiya, ad lots of yummy food. We left eh market to enter into the park area again where we climbed the hillside to find a huge expanse of the Berlin wall that overlooked the city of Berlin.

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We sat swinging on some swings with the brief moments of sun shining on our faces. Each pump of my legs bringing me one inch closer t the sun, if you close your eyes it feels like you’re flying. I loved those swings dearly. It was quite a contrast, swinging upward my feet stretched out towards the city and the sun, behind with my legs tucked in and going backwards was the Wall shadowed by rainclouds. It felt like swinging between two worlds, one old one new, one bright one dark.. It was an interesting experience and my first time being near the Berlin Wall.

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After sadly leaving behind our swings, ukulele in hand, we wandered out of the park and down the street to a Tea Bar that is known for its Matcha Green Tea where we sat on a balcony above the shop on little Japanese style seating mats overlooking a courtyard full of armchairs. It was a magical little shop and I really enjoyed sitting there watching people come and go.

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After leaving the shop we returned back to the apartment for a quick break and then went to a nearby coffee shop to do some work. I really love all the cafes in Berlin, they are all so cute and hipster and I just love being able to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee again while working on my laptop. I really dearly missed that. I got a wonderful Chai Latte and a piece of carrot cake and was wonderfully content.

We finished the night by just lying in bed, drinking tea and hot chocolate while watching a movie as it rained outside. It was a good first day, slow, simple, and full of fun discovery of neighborhood life and things that Berliners, like Maiya, get to do every week. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to experience these things, and as different as they are from Rome there is a beauty in the differences that I am so glad I get to experience.

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