I’ve been back in Germany for a bit over three weeks (when I started writing this). I had to check my calendar because I truly have no sense of how long it’s been. It sure as heck doesn’t feel like three weeks. It feels more like three months. The odd thing about it is that California seems like a million miles away and a couple of light years. There seem to be two dimensions or planes of existence currently. Not the plane like that awesome Boeing Dreamliner I flew on. No, it’s the mathematical plane that extends in two dimensions infinitely. Up until a year ago I was on the German plane, then last summer I switched to the Californian plane, and now I’ve landed again on the German one.
These planes may be close to each other but they run parallel. They don’t touch. It’s like on that TV show “Stranger Things” about those weird creatures living in the “upside down”? It was about a group of kids in the 80’s who discover these stranger things. My own parallel realities are not so scary and there are no monsters, but there is something similar.
It’s a bit cruel but perhaps a useful brain function that I’m experiencing. Living back in my home in Tübingen things are back to normal. All my friends and family here noticed that I was gone, and I admittedly noticed that they were not on my Californian plane, and it has been wonderful to see them and to reunite. I have been welcomed with open arms and smiling faces. My brain is placing me solidly back on the German plane and blocking me off from my Californian plane. The time there, although it is so close, has taken on a kind of dream-like feeling. I can hardly believe that four weeks ago I was sitting on my sister’s lawn watching the sun set over the dark blue ocean.
It seems utterly impossible that just a few weeks ago I woke up in the small trailer set up behind my her home. I slept so peacefully with the sound of the distant waves. The wooden walls and ceiling gave the tiny place a homey, warm feeling. Stepping out into the driveway I was able to jump on my bright orange Cannondale road bike and ride five minutes to the Morro Strand Campground at the beach and take a short walk on the sand.
Today I woke up and sat on my balcony in the sun and gazed out at the deep greens of the Schindhau Forest. We live at the edge of town and just a few meters away there’s a steep hillside with a dense forest. The lush greens of my other hometown here in Germany have been a warm welcome. Walking up the narrow valley along the Blaulach Creek with my faithful dog Momo is like entering a soothing, warm pool.
The dual plane reality I am living in is strengthened by this stark contrast. On a walk along the beach in Morro Bay I have to protect my eyes from the blinding light, my head and chest from the often forceful and cold wind. The deep blues or sometimes ominous greys of the endless ocean and the dark blue sky are set against the light hues of sand and the golden browns of the hillsides. Back here, the gentle greens dominate my field of view. The summer heat is soothing and comforting. I was surprised upon my return how much I have missed the green here. I guess it won’t take too long before I again miss the browns and blues of California.
The other thing that has made my return easy is the reception of family and friends. First I got to join Joshua and Gaia for a 5-day bike along the Danube River through Bavaria and Austria. I followed their youthful spirit and wild nature. We had our tents and sleeping bags on our bikes and avoiding the “Bougie” campgrounds, simply set up our own camps in meadows or forests along the way. (*I picked up “bougie”, that awesome short for bourgeois from my awesome friends Lisa and Tim in San Luis). We had great talks, went swimming in the giant river and ate super healthy raw vegan.
Arriving back I realized again how many great friends we have here in Tübingen. Right off the bat, we met friends and family for coffee, dinner, beer, pizza and, of course, for a rugged match of German-style football. Everyone is curious about our year abroad and I’m eager to catch up on people’s lives here. Sometimes the questions about my year abroad are funny. Often they revolve around this awful human occupying the White House. To those inquires I can’t do much more than a faint shrug (I would prefer here to use the German “Schulter zucken” which translates literally to twitching your shoulders). Some of the questions are rather off the wall like how we survived the fires because the whole state is burning.
I just realized that the problem is is that my friends here are, of course, on the German plane. Living in California I did not fear falling in a chasm during the coming earthquake, or having to run for my life because the fires are approaching. In fact I did not even fear being eaten up or dragged into the dungeon by the lunatic on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Slowly my two worlds will merge back into one, I am certain. For now life goes on. Today we said goodbye to our Joshua, who is heading back to Israel where he will spend one year volunteering at a Camphill Community in Ber Sheva. It is a community of about 25 special needs people, a big team of volunteers and staff. Joshua is exciting about the challenge. He is motivated to learn Hebrew and, of course, he is happy to be close to his sweetheart Gaia, who is continuing her university program in dance at Hebrew University. Susa, Theresa and I are already planning to visit them this winter. I am so excited to be able to walk down the mysterious lanes of the Arab Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and to swim with the octopus in the Red Sea near Eilat and to float in the dense salt water of the Dead Sea.
Love to everyone. I miss California and all my new and old friends there and my wonderful family.