Monday, October 11, 2004

Fall Again

I was talking (actually iChatting) with my friend Bob in California a couple of weeks ago, and he opined that it must look rather nice around here. Actually, at that moment, it was still pretty green, and we wound up having a couple of more days of warmish weather, but I remembered one October when a friend was visiting from America and we rented a car, and sort of drove off at random, winding up in F├╝rstenwalde, which, as its name implies, is surrounded by woods. There's definitely a foliage drive to be taken in Brandenburg, the province which surrounds Berlin, and we managed to hit this place at exactly the right time. It was already exotic, what with the stork nests on the church steeples and some bright, newly-restored old buildings, and although I understand that the city is something of a hotbed of neo-nazi activity, it was nice to drive through it.

Fall is when I first got to know Berlin, thanks to Berlin Independence Days, the music conference that (combined with the girlfriend) got me to visit here in the first place. Somehow it always managed to get held around this time of year, and what I got to see of Berlin was cold, grey, and rainy. That's how I thought of the place until I decided to move here and came that May and was shocked to see the streets shaded with large green trees. They're denuded so much of the year that it's easy to forget.

But I see by today's weather forecast that we're due for an overnight low of 30F, which is the first freeze. Some of the trees outside my windows have been turning yellowish, and this ought to accelerate the process of change. Lord knows, my poor basil, yellowish as it is, probably won't survive, and I'm torn between harvesting it all tonight and making some pesto or just letting it die. The one plant that actually got six inches high suddenly shed all of its leaves a couple of nights ago, and I wonder if the stuff is even healthy to eat.

More ominously, this marks the beginning of the next six months, which will be, for all intents and purposes, winter. It won't be long until it's pitch dark at 4pm, not light until just after 9, and all of my friends start to suffer from serious depression. Me, too, actually; with such a short photoperiod, it's hard not to be depressed, especially when what's around you is Berlin. I'm never prepared for how quickly this all comes on, either; just a week or so ago, I was debating whether or not to wear a jacket, or whether to throw on a Levi jacket. Now I know that's too thin, and I use a windbreaker, but even that won't provide protection for very long, and I'm going to have to start wearing the winter coat. And buy some new gloves: I had a marvellous pair I got from Land's End for years, but they disappeared last year, and nothing in the stores here comes close. I have to have gloves: we can let the psychologists debate what damage I inherited from my mother, but it's a stone fact that bad circulation in my hands is one of her gifts to me. Winter is six months of never having warm hands.

There's also something attractive about Berlin's constant penumbral state during this time, the sidewalks and streets always wet and reflecting the lights. Also, cold air magnifies cooking smells, so a Sunday afternoon can be an anthology of approaches to pork roast as you sniff your way down the block. The berries so beloved of the Germans vanish from the shops, but the pumpkins come in, and not just the kind used in that johnny-come-lately holiday which suddenly appeared here a couple of years ago, Halloween. No, these are ugly, lumpy things, cheap at the market, and subject to all kinds of interesting uses, and I'm determined to figure some of them out this year.

What hasn't happened yet is the first super-cold rain. We don't get all that much snow -- perhaps all the water in the rivers and canals here has something to do with that -- but we certainly do get more rain than anyone needs, which is yet another factor in the widespread depression. In fact, the sun is shining now, and I'm feeling bad about sitting at the computer, having done all the work that's due today and, with America not yet awake and at its desks, there's a hole in the middle of the afternoon that just cries for me to head outdoors and do something. And, with what'll be the normal weather starting next week or the week after and continuing through April, it's stupid to waste such nice days.

Maybe I'll take the camera out. Because although the leaves aren't falling from the trees, we've already lost two trees in my neighborhood, the ones in the picture below. For no discernable reason, they were scraped off of their site a few days ago. If the artist did it (I know where there are some more, so I can check), then hey, it's art. If not, it's a mystery. Still, seeing the fragments of paper on the ground did, somehow, seem to be a harbinger of fall. And now it's here.


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