Tuesday, April 17, 2007


What is happiness, we asked ourselves last night. You didn't laugh much today, he said. You were quiet, you didn't seem very happy. But I was!, I said. I was so glad I didn't have to do anything, just watch you and my mother and my daughter. I am a quiet person, a serious person, I don't giggle all the time. I am also frequently very tired. But neverthelesse: I'm happy.

This is a happy time in my life. Not happy as in I-feel-good-today, but happy in a more general sense. Happy as in content, as in maybe-this-will-turn-out-right-after-all. I never quite know what I want to be when I grow up, but lately, worrying about that has retreated into the background as I enjoy what is here right now: people I love, a job that challenges me, my homesweethome. Difficulties aren't scary obstacles that threaten to shake the foundations of my being. Anxious thoughts about the future come and go. I seem to do things right at work at least part of the time. My daughter only shits her pants but doesn't pee them any more. And I haven't smoked in four days.


The clinic has its own nursery (for plants, I mean). There are two adjoining greenhouses and a big garden full of flowers and vegetables. Patients work there, some very slowly, some seemingly not at all, but the two from my ward who go there every day feel a lot of pride in their work - there's nothing like seeing things grow to make you feel better.

It's a place I have loved to visit from the very beginning. You can wander around the grounds through the grass and the mud, touch the flowers, feel the soft ground underneath your feet, ask for the names of plants, smell lavender and roses. Then you can ask the guy who runs the place to pick you a bunch of flowers, that one and that one and a few more of those over there. I don't have a garden of my own (yet), so this one is a sensuous delight to me, a special treat for a few minutes each week.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Went to pick up my new sofa yesterday, a stylish red thing I bought on ebay. The Lover and I picked it up in Plauen, about a 2 hours' drive from Dresden. The sofa's description had been done very professionally, so I was surprised when the guy who sold it led us to a house where he stores all kinds of junk - and said sofa. He claimed that he had moved in with his girlfriend, now they have two sofas and don't need this one any more... But then again, he seemed to have no idea of how to assemble the sofa, he didn't seem like someone with a girlfriend (although that is, of course, hard to tell), and the sofa looked suspiciously new and unused. I guess it was one of those fallen-off-the-back-of-a-lorry type items on ebay where it's better not to ask too many questions. All I need to know is that the sofa is lovely, can be folded out as a guest bed and can accomodate two people sitting up or lying down.

When I was a child growing up in Western Germany, the names of cities in Eastern Germany had an exotic ring to me:


I knew that they were far away and hard to reach. The farthest away place I knew was Africa, and so I imagined that there were elephants in Jena, palm trees in Plauen, girafes in Weimar and a wide open savanna in Pößneck. We went to visit relatives East of the wall several times, going through frightening broders with mean guards, machine guns and barbed wire - it only contributed to the adventure I associated with the East.

Now that I live here, I am sometimes still disappointed to find that life in these places that once seemed so alluring to me is so very normal, boring even. Plauen was a case in point.

Out of my childhood list of East German cities, Jena is the one place I haven't been to. And maybe I shouldn't go. My mother was born there, and really, I would like to continue imagining it as I used to: an exotic, mysterious, dangerous place just out of my reach.