thomas m wilson

Places of peace and reflection in Berlin

August 23rd, 2023

As I sat on the grass looking across to the Charlottenburg Palace, I could hear a midsummer woodpecker gently drumming up in the trees somewhere above me. I had left the city’s beat.
I couldn’t work out where this bronze sculpture was from…
Later at the Museum of Decorative Arts I saw another copy and worked out that it is Castor and Pollux, a statue that comes from 1st century AD Rome and is now residing in the Prado in Madrid. This is a porcelain copy. There’s another copy in the V and A in London.
Down a long avenue of fir trees in the Charlottenburg palace gardens you find a Doric Temple. Its a mausoleum to Queen Luise of Prussia. Christian Rauch sculpted her tomb from white marble, and here she lays in the cool shadows and silence, 213 years later.

Why do I linger in places like this? Perhaps this is why…

‘Teach me mortality, frighten me

into the present.  Help me to find

the heft of these days.’

-Jack Gilbert

Another place that you can find mental and spiritual space for peace and reflection is the old Jewish cemetery, and so here I returned this morning.

The German reads: Stronger than death is love.

…two great gods in a vault of starlight

  Play ponderingly at chess; and at the game’s end

  One of the pieces, shaken, falls to the floor

  And runs to the darkest corner; and that piece

  Forgotten there, left motionless, is I….

  Say that I have no name, no gifts, no power,

  Am only one of millions, mostly silent;

  One who came with lips and hands and a heart,

  Looked on beauty, and loved it, and then left it.

  Say that the fates of time and space obscured me,

  Led me a thousand ways to pain, bemused me,

  Wrapped me in ugliness; and like great spiders

  Dispatched me at their leisure…. Well, what then?

  Should I not hear, as I lie down in dust,

  The horns of glory blowing above my burial?

-Conrad Aiken from Tetelestai

…nothing human remains. You are

the earth and air; you are in the beauty of the ocean

And the great streaming triumphs of sundown; you are alive

and well in the tender grass rejoicing

When soft rain falls all night…

-Robinson Jeffers from Hungerfield