I really wish I’d held off on my ride this morning for a couple of hours so I could have had the joy of being out in this.
North-west Europeans love silver birch, and German painters love it like no other. There’s this park of them along the Berliner Mauerweg, Südpark, a bit east of Dörferblick, where they’re planted so thickly it’s like a German Impressionist riot. I’ve seen at least one painting somewhere this committed to vertical white lines, not going to get carried away and try to find it.
Doing self-preservation riding again, and avoiding Tempelhofer Feld on the weekend. First, finally did the Weserstr. cobbles, which are dead tasty. Then, did the same ride as last week but in the opposite direction, and when I got to a bit after this photo, turned off to Großziethen, ’cos I thought I might find a way up that massive old rubbish hill from last week. Didn’t. Good ride anyway.
It’s been about 2 years since I last got my arse into a studio and did a ballet class. Good reasons for finding other physicalities to entertain myself since then, going deep in cyclocross and riding, enjoying cold and wet and windy work outside. But I missed ballet. I missed the good things of being in a studio doing the work, I missed being there with good teachers and brilliant pianists.
And this week, I’m back working with Isabelle Schad (remotely, of course), and needed something to get me going, something quick and snappy with a variety of intensities and velocities, something to put me in where I needed to be for the work. And I found Het National Ballet are live-streaming a ballet barre. And first day of doing it was wow have I come far from all that, like a memory of being a dancer but watching myself in the mirror (of course I did, it’s ballet training) I was laughing at how I have all these muscles that are very not from dance, and how much and how my body has changed in the last two years. On the third day though, I started to see it all again, physicality waking up and unburying, and yeah, enjoying it so much.
Ernst Meisner is such a cheerful teacher and Rex Lobo is a joy of a pianist. And doing it live, knowing they’re both in the studio as I’m here in my apartment, and there’s hundreds or thousands of other dancers whereever and we’re all doing it together, it’s truly beautiful and reminds me of how dance saved me over and over (and how dance is also a hard bitch, but, yeah, let’s just enjoy the good stuff for one day, eh), and how special dance is, how fundamental moving together is for life.
I don’t want things to ‘return to normal.’ Normal is us living with your fear. Normal is us dying anyway. Normal is a weapon that belongs to you. Normal is what got us here.
There are no contrails in the spring sky.
I was going to do some laps of Tempelhofer Feld today, but remembered last weekend when it was fucking packed. Berlin and all of Germany is facing an Ausgangssperre, a proper curfew and lockdown like Italy, and I didn’t and don’t want to add to the problem by being another person at the old airport, irrespective of how much ‘social distancing’ I’m doing, and I don’t want to be counted among those wankers who’ve never learned responsibility and obligation to community.
So I buggered off south down Hermannstraße, hung a left at the border with Brandenburg and practiced self-preservation along the Berliner Mauerweg. People were out, but mostly in ones and twos, or families, plenty of solo cyclists also. Let’s be clear, quarantine at home is going to kill people and ruin the lives of a whole heap more, people who never come into contact with the virus. “Quarantine without testing is a project of social control that transfers responsibility for sickness from states to individuals” which the governments (city, state, federal, EU) have done such a fucking remarkable job of in their deliberate abnegation of responsibility. This is what happens when crisis necro-capitalism meets a real fucking crisis, one that can’t be bailed out or austerity-ed away or debated or ‘both sides’ or any other bullshit jizzed in our faces by the utterly, utterly ineffectual governments and political parties of all the countries hooked on ‘economic growth’ at the expense of actual, real, long-term caring for community. And by ‘community’ I mean everything, trees, land, birds, the sad canal running through Wedding that I love, and not just people, like we’re magically isolated and atomised from what we are inextricably a part of.
The ride curved north and into a dead tasty headwind, pushing me into one of those trances where I get all aero, breathing endlessly and hard and staying in and with that suffering, burdening myself, remembering Annemiek van Vleuten doing her 100 kilometre solo to win the road world championships, Kasia Niewiadoma, Marianne Vos. It’s good to have women whose level of finding joy in suffering is so far beyond mine. It’s so different from cyclocross, those short gut-churning efforts, the exhausting concentration of technical riding at speed and physically maxed out. This is just sticking at it, over and over, getting comfortable in it until it’s over. Riding until I abrade away some of the anger and fear and sadness.
This photo would have been slightly different but my iPhone battery decided to die. Anyway, it’s just south of Freizeitpark Am Vogelwäldchen, which itself is just south of Gropiusstadt, and looking west at the old Mülldeponie Großziethen. That’s not a hill, that’s a rubbish dump!
In the words of my One True Daddy, Vin Diesel, “I live for this shit.”
Thankfully Tempelhofer Feld wasn’t packed today like an open-air concert as it has been the last couple of days when I went for a ride (and bailed, ’cos fucking Germans not taking shit seriously and making exceptions for themselves the last month is the default, legit scary, and the reason we’re in this mess). I’ve been working the various single tracks on the fields, practicing self-preservation through solitary endurance. I’m a little worried the city is going to go on lockdown, and fuck knows what I’ll do to satisfy my need for high-quality suffering if I can’t ride, also bike is in dire need of new components. Highlights of today though, finding a series of run-ups and drop-offs that I actually went, “Nah, I’m gonna hold on that till I’m more stupid.”
Finishing the year and starting the year doing the work.
2018, I wore a heart rate monitor for all my training, riding, climbing, yoga, whatever. It felt a bit much. 2019, I stuck to riding only. All of which I keep notes of in a training diary in my calendar, ’cos I’m like that. So, 121 rides last year, and 150+ ‘yoga’ (core, strength, stretching, body work type, as well as actual yoga). Less riding than 2018, fewer long rides, virtually no climbing, and other year without doing a ballet or any kind of dance class in a studio, in front of a mirror.
Interesting stuff: The month of May, with almost no going into the red, and plenty of green and blue zones, that was Ramadan. The hole with nothing in it, June and July, that was me having my face peeled off in Spain. The first big ride, in October, was the Women’s 100, and the second was riding the Berliner Mauerweg on Tag der Deutschen Einheit. In retrospect, I can already see in my gappy training that chronic fatigue from a year of over-intensity and stress (surgery was only a part of it) was getting to me, November and half of December is that burnout.
Bike is currently in need of complete rebuild and new components, most of my cycling gear is similarly needing to be retired, but whatever. I keep riding. Every ride has had something in it for me, and it’s been so, so good for my mental and emotional health, as well as keeping my physicality ticking over. And it’s winter, a broken, very much not cold and snowless winter, barely ever below zero, but even that, riding in the cold, wet, dark grot makes me smile.
Landwehrkanal looking well vibrant and geometric on another Neukölln wander with Vass.
A month ago on a Sunday evening I was walking along Sonnenallee with a friend when we were met by a pavement-wide smiling and laughing throng of girls and women in their finest hijabs, one of whom held up a tray full of sweets to me, and me in my ever-so-not-slow-at-all-ness — I could see my brain ticking over into a thought even — went, “O!” and managed a “Ramadan mubarek” while taking one (I’ve told this before). And feeling a little seen by the universe, ’cos that evening I wasn’t really planning on the coming month. And here we are, at the other end.
I rode home yesterday evening after hanging out with Isabelle and got caught in that impressive, drenching storm pushing the cool change across Berlin, like swimming, so much water, like wudu; it kinda felt fitting for the end of the month, even though I still expected another day. And around midnight, I read the new moon had been sighted and played the game of “Are we all doing it on the same day, then?” (no, we’re not, but Germany and Turkey are). So, Eid Mubarek and Ramazan Bayramınız mübarek olsun and schönes Zuckerfest especially to my trans and non-binary and queer and bi sisters and siblings. And to my babaanne, who I never knew but I know we’re connected. And to that girl who gave me that sweet.