on holly, berlin and skipping november
Mum sends pictures of holly lining the tops of paintings and photographs in the house I grew up in. Tiny snowflakes fall from the sky and the cold sets in. Christmas music plays in the shops, lights flicker outside and the giant mechanical teddy bear hugs passersby at the entrance to the Jean Talon market. All of this and I cannot remember the date, cannot wrap my head around how fast the end of year is approaching.
I think it’s because I skipped November. November; notoriously known for defeating me. Turning of the season, people retreating into their private space, a shift from high to low energy, light to dark. Somehow this month would hold onto me and shake me to my core. But not this year. I knew it was coming and did what I could to escape, booking a flight to Berlin, setting my plan in motion.
It had been a long time since I was alone in that way. In and out of sleep across the Atlantic, delirious from jet lag and hunger, people rushing by me in slow motion. The first walk outside my flat to get coffee, milk, butter, bread, and the sky was a deep winter blue, buildings the colours of mini eggs, red and blue neon, and shop windows full of baklava, sheep heads, families around tables. I took a photo on my iPhone and it’s blurry, just like I remember it.
Days passed and I walked and walked. Long mornings between the desk and window sill. Thoughts on movement and people and music and architecture. Sitting at a crowded bar, writing by candlelight with a glass of red wine and I can’t remember the last time I did this. How beautiful to see old friends in new places, walking arm in arm as the last leaves fall from the trees. 3pm coffee in fading light on the side of the canal.
On my last night, I planned to meet a friend for dinner. I was running early and took my time walking through the neighbourhood. Approaching the restaurant, I could hear the most beautiful music, and as I got closer I could see a man in a walker playing a piano on wheels. I took my place, leaning on the corner under a full moon, and began to record him. I am listening to this ten minute recording on repeat as I write this and can remember every moment, every voice, every bicycle that rattled down the street. Tears left my eyes. It was magic. When he finished playing, I thanked him, and mentioned that his music had made me cry. To which he replied– Yes, and under a full moon! We need more tears in the world. More good tears.
The snowflakes are bigger now and a thin layer of white blankets the sidewalks. End of year lists flood my news feeds, and I start to make my own, but instead of music and albums and films and books, it’s filled with moments like the one I just described.
Until next time xx
You can find Tess Roby on Instagram, Twitter, Spotify, and Bandcamp.