Sunday, August 5, 2018

On falling in love with a place

I've often used the analogy of heartbreak to describe how I felt about leaving Boulder. This might sound melodramatic, but it's been four years and I still think that leaving Colorado was perhaps the only time in my life that I've ever been truly, gut wrenchingly, agonisingly heartbroken. For almost a year after everything was grey, both in a literal and emotional sense. When you're 1,624m above sea level everything is so vivid and vital. In comparison, Brighton was just dull, dirty and damp. That year I played a song by an American band called Railroad Earth on repeat, about a bird that is trapped in a house and desperate to get out. It was the soundtrack to the greyness.

I've gradually made my peace with my home country, but since being in Berlin I've been reflecting on what it means to fall in love with a place again. In my first months here I've tried to embrace this city as only a new lover can, exploring parts of it slowly, savouring the sweet unfamiliarity and the excitement that not only do you not know it yet, but it doesn't know you. (Oh, and you also feel like you need to wear makeup all the time). I'm cautious though, as someone who knows the pain of heartbreak usually is. I don't think anything will ever match the passion and urgency of that first love, but I'm older and wiser now and I'm willing to work towards something that's more practical, more gentle and may stand a better chance of survival in the long run.

The days before I left for Berlin it had been very hot in London and everyone had been sleeping with their windows open. As I was travelling to the airport someone very dear to me messaged me to say that he had woken up that morning to find a black bird on his bedroom floor. She was weak because she had been struggling for so long to escape through the half drawn blinds, but as he raised the blinds and held her up to the window she launched herself out of his hands and flew joyfully away. Out of the house.

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