Just a few days after my last One Quote Response, my family and I headed off to Berlin for new adventures, a living exercise, a pointed practice of living a dream. For several months now, Matteo and and I have been futurecasting, considering what our lives will look like in five, ten, and twenty years. We are clear that we would like to return to Europe for a different pace of life, immersed more actively in travel and the arts as well as community engagement and cultural immersion. We envision opening businesses that create space for tech innovators and artists, particularly those from marginalized communities. We want to be closer to family on the East Coast and in Italy. In Europe, we would have all of that. We want to be able to retire and have a garden, closeness to the sea, the ability to walk and know our neighbors, arts community and practice, ability to still travel easily. Qualities that we are looking for in a home:
rent for a two-bedroom home are lower than our current mortgage (allowing us to rent our home and still have a little income to pay for a new place)
easy public transportation
density of artistic community
density of English speakers
ease of language acquisition (between us we have fluency in English, Spanish, Italian and some familiarity with French, German, and Portuguese, though not enough to maneuver work, schooling, or housing situations)
our own access to language at the professional level
national healthcare system
work options for me
work options for matteo
salary and cost of livign
appeal and possibility for affordable artist residency for future business
educational options for children
political engagement and radical/progressive politics
density of people of color and international community
safety, particularly for folks of African descent
hospitality within the city culture
proximity to a major airport
nonstop flights to Philadelphia or nearby city
proximity to water for water sports
interest in the city
proximity to family within 1, 3, 7 hour drive
proximity to family within 1, 3, 7 hour flight
So we headed to Berlin where Matteo’s company has an office to see how it felt. We rented an incredibly apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, nearby public transportation with tons of cafes and restaurants nearby. I have a friend in Berlin and, through her, I found the Berlin Spoken Word. I learned that the Berlinale was happening while we were there. She also connected me with a babysitter who watched Raffaele one day when I went to a Espresso-Konzert at the Konzerthaus one afternoon; she also watched him so that Matteo and I could go to the Berlinale and have a little date night in the city. Another friend who had studied and researched in Berlin told us about the Rausch Schokoladenhaus, where I ended up visiting 3 times in the two weeks we were there. Because I had lived in Bamberg, we also went for a weekend trip there; my cousin also lives just 1.5 hours away, so I was able to see her after five years since our last time together. The following weekend she came up to Berlin to explore the Jewish Museum, Checkpoint Charlie, Eastside Art Gallery, and other sites.
Besides the touristy things, I had time to read and write and research when baby was asleep. We took walks together in the neighborhood and I used the little German I still remembered. I was able to also engage with other poets in a special performance space (with entrance at only 2 Euro!) It was a magical time.
In short, in Berlin it was easy to imagine what our lives would be like if we moved there someday.
Now we are in Ireland. We just spent a week in Ennistymon, a little town in County Clare, where I was working on my fourth collection of poems. I finished a draft and promptly sent it out to some contests. I need to review it several more times and send it out from there. While we were in Cork, I was on an artist residency. Each evening we had the company of another visiting artist and the musician bookshop keeper who played the bodhrán with Raffaele by the fire. Each night she would turn on the “fairy lights”, a little glass container with lights struck through, much to the wonder of my baby. In the twilight hours, I wrote and through the day I wrote. My little family would take little sojourns out to lunch and Matteo would also take the baby out himself while I wrote. We took a few trips to the Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and Ennis for a concert of Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi (Raffaele did SO well!) And now we are in Cork while I am on another artist residency at The Guesthouse Project near the Shandon Bells. I’ve been coming to Cork for 5 years now and so have made friends within the poetry community, most especially with Paul Casey who founded and runs Ó Bhéal. It’s an incredibly wide-reaching organization with Monday night poetry readings, book projects, a poetry film competition, and a yearly literature festival.
In short, here, too, it is easy to imagine what our lives could be like, the fullness within them.
And so, we find ourselves thinking about how we might build more relationships in the coming years, nurture those relationships by living in these communities for a time each year as our family grows, and putting in the work (like taking language classes and possibly enrolling Raffaele in a German speaking school in the Bay Area) to be prepared to gain and give wherever we land. Ultimately, I want to live in a place where I can connect other writers and artists, where I can teach, where I can offer residencies.
What visioning do you do? Where would you want to live? What do you do and want to do with, to quote Mary Oliver, “With your one wild and precious life?”