Another Bowl of Cherries

The cherries in the bowl above were picked just outside the kitchen window in the back of my apartment in Germany years ago, but for me they have come to symbolize a great deal more than just a pleasing subject for photography. It was during this period of my life that I truly began to open to the world within me, and as I look back now, I can appreciate more fully the true importance of this beginning. While serving as an intelligence specialist in the sleepy little town of Kaiserslautern, I began a series of writings, originally intended to document my experiences during the course of my service in Europe. As the writing progressed, an awareness of the profound changes and events that were shaping my personal life prompted me to examine more closely the “why” of what was happening to me. This concern led not only to a more in-depth analysis of my inner experience, but was also responsible for influencing my interactions with those closest to me.

Having spent most of my tenure with the military in a variety of barracks and military housing, as a senior analyst in my section, I finally became eligible for housing off-base. This arrangement turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences of my service, and I was determined to make the best possible use out of the time. On a quiet street in the suburbs, I was surrounded by the native citizens, and as a German linguist, I was able to communicate well with my landlord and my neighbors. When I would return home at the end of the day, along the short walk from the bus stop, I would often find myself engaged in conversations right out on the street, as many of my neighbors would be leaning out of their front windows and say hello. My presence there was a novelty at first, but when it became apparent that I could converse reasonably well in German, it eventually became an accepted part of life in my neighborhood.

About that same time, a burgeoning interest in 35mm photography had begun to bear fruit (pun intended). With much the same enthusiasm which was manifested in my writing, it was not altogether surprising that my photographs began to reflect the growth and development characterized in the writings. The view out the kitchen window was spectacular when the cherry tree was in full bloom, and I enjoyed many hours in my kitchen, in a variety of ways.

Normally, there’s nothing quite as isolating as the solitude which can result from living alone in a strange city, but in this case, it seemed only to provide just the right degree of solitude as I needed it, and offered plentiful opportunities for socializing and a sense of community as well. The cherries were a little tart, but absolutely stunning in their redness and ripeness as the photo reveals.

There were quiet mornings in the kitchen with my favorite music, and freshly ground German coffee that accompanied me in my moments of solitude, and I doubt seriously if I ever enjoyed morning coffee quite as much as I did while residing there. Writing became an essential aspect of my days, and on this particular morning, after settling down on a rare day off, I decided to attempt to write about what was weighing on my mind and living inside my heart:

“My awareness of a higher level of consciousness becoming available to me has brought me to sense an awakening to a world I can scarcely believe exists within me. My entire being seems to be undergoing a transformation. Although it is subtle in nature, it creeps up on me silently, occasionally stirring me gently into a state of heightened awareness, but still seeming to assimilate itself into my daily waking state. I have become more contemplative, reflecting more often on what is transpiring within me. Urgent matters which used to occupy my mind seem less significant, and every thought becomes a candidate for reevaluation. Though not obsessive, I balance each effort with concern for how it might assist me in achieving an even greater level of consciousness, and in doing so, I continually encounter a curious resistance, as these evaluations often conflict with some of my long-standing attitudes and beliefs.”

After a long day of duty, I would often return home and spend some time after dinner reading and writing in my living room. Living in the United States had always seemed easier by comparison to living overseas. There were no concerns about finding the right way to say what I was thinking, and my familiarity with life in America made me take so much for granted. In Germany, the circumstances were quite different. My knowledge of the language and the culture in which I was living in was very helpful, and it took me some time to really become comfortable sharing my familiarity, but I enjoyed a much more receptive attitude in my interactions whenever I did.

One of my favorite rooms in the apartment was the little greenhouse porch that led out to the back of the apartment where the cherry tree stood. A narrow hallway led to a brightly lit space filled with a variety of plants and flowers that constantly changed throughout the year. I would occasionally tend to the plants when the landlord was away, and enjoyed standing there surrounded by green leaves and colorful plants with the sun streaming through. It was as nearly perfect a place as I could have hoped for, and when I stop to think of all the places I’ve been, this little corner of Germany is near the top of the list.

Living in Germany was one of the most well documented phases of my life, and it was there that many of my documentary habits were formed. The time spent overseas was a bonanza for my writing, and I spent much of the available time I had recording my thoughts and feelings and emotions in a way that led to years of growth and expansion of my skills in expressing them. In the days to come, I hope to share some of those early efforts in my struggle to make sense out of what has been transpiring within me all these years. I hope you will all follow along with me as I explore the path once more.

….more to come….

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6 comments

  1. Jennifer M. Hartsock

    Your cherries look fantastic, as well as your experience living in Germany. Either it be speaking to your neighbors on your way home, or listening to music and sipping coffee in your home, this is an experience that helped you reach a new level of understanding. These episodes in our lives are so important.

    • jjhiii24

      Hey, thanks Jennifer! What is so unfortunate sometimes is that we don’t fully realize just how important these episodes are WHEN we are having them! I knew I was experiencing something important because of the extraordinary nature of the setting, but the perspective of years has given me a whole new appreciation!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting……John H.

  2. Anne Donnelly

    Delicious photos and thoughts John. You are unique. You are so aware of your inner self. I am sure writing has really increased that awareness. I am amazed when I read something I wrote long ago, it transports me right back to that day.

    • jjhiii24

      Hello Anne,

      Writing, when it is constructed deliberately and with purpose, clearly can transport us to a particular moment in time and space, especially when we are the ones who experienced the moment and subsequently composed a written response to it. Part of the challenge of writing is not just to re-create the moment faithfully, but to do so in a way that evokes a sympathetic response in a reader who did not experience it.

      Certain events possess a potent emotional content that compels us to write about them, or we can bring a degree of emotional emphasis to an experience that makes it compelling for us in particular, but no matter what our motivation may be for writing, a keen awareness of what makes us who we are enhances every experience.

      The American author, Washington Irving (1783-1859), once wrote:

      “Some minds seem almost to create themselves, springing up under every disadvantage and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles.” -The Sketch Book , 1819.

      This sounds a lot like a writer’s lot in life…….Thanks for your comment….John H.

  3. Genie

    It seems to me that the heightened awareness may have come from living alone and bonding to the “small things” in life that many people take for granted, like a cup of coffee and the cherry tree and the ever changing green house.
    Perhaps your inner consciousness found safety and solace in enjoying the “ordinary” in a peaceful “extraordinary ” way. Living alone and being in what appears to be the “now” from what you write, is often a catalyst for awakening of the subconscious mind and awakened sensitivity to surroundings.
    Delightful account of your time in Germany and its impact on your psyche.

    • jjhiii24

      Genie,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I hope you will feel the inclination to do so more often as time goes by. Your thoughts are most welcome here.

      Your observations from my recollections of those days faithfully reflect my own feelings regarding the importance of that time in my life, and as I reflect in today’s “now,” I recognize that my years in Germany provided some of the most significant foundational experiences for the active heightening of my awareness. I must admit that my appreciation of the beauty and wonder of those times is far greater in today’s “now,” than they were as I experienced them as a much younger man, but I agree with you that I was bonding with the “small things” in life, and took absolutely nothing for granted in those tumultuous and tender years.

      There is much delight in sharing these recollections with an appreciative reader, and I often find delight in perusing your poems and thoughts on your blog also. It seems to me that if people like you and I can find a way to come together peacefully and with civility, in spite of being thousands of miles apart and worlds removed from each other, that there must be a way propagate this feeling with people everywhere.

      With much admiration and warm regards……John H.

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