Jüdisches Museum

At random, today I read a quite good blog post with a familiar photo. I offered to upload one of mine to show why I did not think to walk on the faces in the Jewish Museum in Berlin. All of the design, particularly the half wall, seemed to say not to:Image

The half wall in the photo does end, as it shows, and there was space to step out onto the faces. But it never occurred to me to do such a thing. I was one of two people in the room, and we both stayed carefully, respectfully, back.

I left at closing; I left when they asked me to go. I sat for a while trying to pull myself together in the garden. I took photos of their lush, white roses and tried to hold the experience without attempting to force my thoughts and feelings into a narrative.

Later that night, my wanderings took me to a place with a sign explaining it had been the site of Hitler’s bunker. Today it is an apartment complex, a parking lot, a weeping willow, and a broad lawn with a swing set. Here I did see signs telling me not to walk on but I ignored them. You would never know great evil had happened there. Somehow it seemed right to have only a small footnote. Somehow it seemed right to have normal life continue with children on swings just a few feet from Hitler’s end. Not to forget — never to forget — but not to make for a larger-than-life death, either. Here, too, the white roses thrive.


Berlin is a vibrant city. History tells, but Berlin is focused on the present and future. Contrast to Cologne. There it is a little clearer what Allied bombs did. I have not seen Dresden.


Modernism, Mid-Century and Otherwise

Eichler home

I grew up in a contemporary home, though I was young enough that I did not know that at the time. Until my teen years, home sweet home meant L-shaped, multiple sliding glass doors, skylights, a flowing floor plan, a patio and decks, and odd bits of furniture that could have been at home on the set of Mad Men. As an adult, I realize what was going on: my mom wanted a cozy Victorian, and my dad wanted a science fiction future, so they compromised in the muddle.

My husband and I have moved several times. We enjoyed a home that turns 110 years old this year and outfitted it with custom-made stained glass; we enjoyed living and entertaining in a likeler. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, builder Mr. Eichler hired several architects to design mid-centurary modern homes, of which there are many thousand primarily in California. Several of those architects wandered off at various times and designed similar homes for other builders — much like Eichlers, but not actually from Eichler, hence “likeler.” Steve Jobs famously attributed his interest in design to growing up in an Eichler, and was corrected to having grown up in a likeler instead, in a neighborhood that mixes both side-by-side. It takes some work to tell them apart, unless you become a trifle obsessed with it all. Hypothetically speaking. And when you learn Woz grew up in an Eichler, the achingly beautiful modern home he lived in makes sense.

Woz’s former home

Post-world war II Eichlers were designed for young families of modest means. By the 1970s they were more expansive and upscale, but still solidly targeted to the middle class. Today, particularly in the San Francisco bay area, they are a bit more dear. $1.5 million is not atypical. While I drool over the Eichlers that make it to MLS, it is hard to imagine spending so much for what are often small, dated homes in need of updates.

The good news is it turns out I don’t covet an Eichler in particular. What I am drawn to is interesting ceilings, expansive views, glass, natural and dramatic light, the warmth of hardwood floors, privacy designed in, and the sense that the future can be an improvement upon the past. Passive solar remains a great idea, but update to current materials and solar power, please. Likelers were built in earlier times before climate change. Now we need insulation, which changes the roof concept. Now we need air conditioning, which challenges radiant heating as the only climate control. And of all that lovely glass? Single painful. The bad news is that it is very hard to find newer modern homes for sale, and when I do, they often fetch more than Eichlers. I may never find something that works for us. I keep watching for the house we can make our own home. And that, in itself, is fun.

Reflections on …

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle

Received from a Friend Called Felicity

During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts
(Hollowed out 
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts 
In family ashtrays)
Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches 
Far above and away
From the softening effects
Of civilization;

During that summer –
Which may have never been at all;
But which has become more real 
Than the one that was –
Watermelons ruled.
Thick pink imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues.
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;
And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.

The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly, 
Swallowed reluctantly.

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

John Tobias

John Tobias’ poem about his childhood friend is one of my favorites.

Hello, World

Do we run from monsters or seek to become them? But no matter: that shall be the last I discuss my work here. Rather, I wish to think about hikes yet to come, and home yet to settle into. You come, too.