All that fits into a suitcase
Little Hans went alone
into the wide world.
Staff and hat suit him well.
He is in high spirits.
Mummy and daddy cry so much,
for they miss their little Hans.
The child considers this
and returns quickly home again.
I remember my parents singing this song to us when we were little (it rhymes in German and sounds much better). Going away from home and family was unthinkable for us. The world out there was unknown and could not be trusted—stay home was the message. When I was in my early twenties I did set off—with a ‘little Hermann’ who had grown tall. Staff and hat suited him well. We did not return, stayed in Australia instead—a very long way from home—a very long way from family and familiar connections. I missed them deeply. This was a wound that often ached.
Recently, I read the line ‘the blessing is next to the wound’. When I began to expand my art practice from ceramics to works on paper and canvas those old wounds were troublesome again. They became the fuel for expression. Images emerged slowly. They needed time. They had their own cumbersome way of being born. They taught me about patience and process—about the nature of serendipity and surprise—to learn to stay open and let them emerge. These were some of the blessings that helped me feel more at home in myself and in my new home.
When I left Germany in my youth and started the journey into the unknown, my suitcase was heavy—full of old things and an unknown future. This time, more than thirty years later, my suitcase is full of images of the inner journey. Still full but so much lighter at the same time.
This exhibition is being organised by my sister and it will be on for two months in an alternative health centre in Kreuzberg. I am glad to be able to take back this small harvest— fruits grown out of a sense of estrangement and separation. That wound was a blessing in the end—it made me go searching and not to take everything for granted.
I found a life here, one I could not have imagined. I found creative and artistic expression. I found friends and much kindness. I found Buddhist-based teachings —teachings of connection and interdependence that over time shift old patterns and views and are transformative.
I’ll be off soon—a bit apprehensive but curious about being immersed for three months ‘back home’.