The crows outside my window are singing. Or complaining. I can’t quite tell which. They look different from the ones at home, but the comfort they bring to me is the same. Watching them pluck features as they scratch their backs, watching their beaks open a sliver to allow a croak to escape, watching their eyes dart from a blowing leaf to a passing human. Just because these crows have grey bodies rather than the iridescent black figures of the crows back home, they still make me smile and feel a sense of security. For the crows are always there.
That first week after returning to college after my four gap years, I was anxious about returning to a campus that caused so much fear and held so much personal pain for me. The crowds of people in the book store line and in the registrar’s office were overwhelming to me. Even the green lawn of the quad and ancient pine trees that stood solidly in their wooded home weren’t enough to quell my anxiety. I still felt out of place and studied. The historical architecture was looming over me and causing a sensation of being smothered. But as I tried to shut everything out, I heard a croak and then a screech. Allowing my eyes to take in the scene in front of me, there they were: the crows, heads cocked and black eyes glistening. Nothing about their presence made me feel out of place. If anything such a clever and intelligent creature’s close proximity to me allowed me to breathe easier and accept my surroundings with a sigh that echoed their own animalistic caws and feather rufflings.
That night I drunkenly spent the night at your house and was upset with myself the following morning. Not upset because I hadn’t wanted to be next to you when the skies darkened, but because I hadn’t wanted whiskey to be the catalyst. Not that minus the effects of the alcohol I wouldn’t have been lured to the sheets with quotes from J.D. Salinger and Serge Gainsbourg being whispered into my ears; I just would have preferred a less blurry experience. The morning came faster than I though accompanied with a headache and a misplaced shirt. You were already in the kitchen making breakfast and I was attempting to collect myself and not only look, but feel, presentable. I sauntered into the kitchen to sit at your breakfast table by the window. I looked through the glass and set against a Seattle backdrop of grey skies and apartments, crows were sitting on the telephone wires – plucking at each other’s feathers and chattering. You made some comment about how much you love seeing them outside their window and I nodded and smiled knowing that they crows once again brought me a sense of calm through their consistent and dependable presence.
Cut to two months later and an ocean away. I am thrust into surroundings that I was sure would bring anxiety attacks and moments where my breath was not easily found. My temporary room only contains the few photobooth strips that I brought from home and my clothing. The rest is foreign to me: the furniture, the plant in the window, the books arranged on the shelves, the neighbors, even the language. But as I sit at my borrowed desk and contemplate my new surroudings that hopefully will come to feel at home at the end of this five months, I see the crows outside my window. The skies are the stereotypical Berlin grey and the apartment homes look nothing like the ones in the United States: grey, rectangular, and they harken back to a poorer time and a more desolate collective mood. The trees are bare. The cobblestone streets are nothing like the cement sidewalks of home. But the crows. They seem almost to welcome me with their piercing stares and sharp beaks. With this realization my anxiety melts a bit – even if it’s not particularly logical. For the crows are always there.
I may not be packed. The last of my laundry is not quite done. And I haven’t hugged Samo for the last time or ridden Foxie for the last time. Those things that you do hours before you leave, so that the taste and scent of them still linger as you arrive to the airport.
But I am ready. My mind is open to this experience even if my nerves are dreading the 19 hours aboard an airplane. My heart is ready to explore a foreign country on my own without tour guides or American friends. My feet are ready to walk on cobble stone streets - I even bought a new pair of cowboy boots for the occasion: the most practical shoes I own. My eyes are ready to take in the sights and attempt to commit them to memory.
Five months in Berlin. Here I come.
As I sit here and listen to Robyn Hitchcock - who has been fueling a lot of my downtime lately - the gray clouds of the pacific northwest move as quickly as those fake clouds in video games. You almost wonder how you don’t get dizzy with how fast they must be spinning. But aren’t I dizzy? Dizzy with anxiety or disappointment? Either way. I leave for Berlin in 18 days. A 19 hour flight that will take me to a different continent to study in a different language in a different social scenario. I find myself overthinking it, as I do everything: where will I get my morning coffee (or tea), where will I eat dinner, will I have space to cook in my host family’s home, what bars will I go to, will my grasp of the German language improve, can i get a bartending job for a short time, blah blah blah.
Then I have to breathe. Or remind myself to breathe which is something that sometimes escapes my memory. Not that it’s better to hold myself rigid and in a defensive position…just easier and slightly more automatic. So I breathe. And let the reality of the situation wash over me. A new adventure awaits and it will be grand. There is just no other option.
Sitting at the counter and looking out the window onto the grey harbor. The fog has finally lifted and with it a bit of my apathetic attitude that was helping me justify sleeping throughout the day and watching documentaries and bad 90’s films. I’m dressed and ready to go to the barn to visit my Foxie. Her leg injury is still not out of harm’s way. It’s so difficult to treat a horse’s leg injury: she can only be handwalked, groomed, and talked to. Which is not a terrible thing, but I am sure she is bored and restless, just as I get when I am ill and on bed rest.
The details that I need to finalize for my study abroad are piling up. Details. Details. Details. Money exchanges. Bank accounts. Course registration. Details. It’s all terribly exciting. But part of me does wish I could just get there and everything would be taken care of. Unrealistic? Yes. A girl can dream. And dream I do. More during the day than in the midst of slumber. Dreams that sometimes blur with reality. A healthy imagination is important I do believe. Important for one’s mental stability and for the upkeep of one’s passionate nature.
To the barn.