Eden Recaptured

By Ida Loggert

It was late August and the very last day of real summer, but we didn’t know that then. Yet, maybe a hint of finality lurked in the blue hues of the sky, or in the slowness of the hot air, because me and my flatmate Julia were over-ripe with restlessness. We both had Mondays off back then. I only worked on average three days a week at a call-center, and Julia always worked Saturdays in the secondhand-store, so her weekend was one day behind everyone else’s. On Sundays we tended to be too hungover for longer excursions, so it really must have been a Monday.

Berlin was bustling about its beginning-of-the-week business. From our small balcony we watched people and cars scurry about underneath the still jade-green linden trees of Sonnenallee. We were on the morning's third cup of coffee. The never-ending breakfast was starting to feel like an elastic band stretched to the brink of snapping.

“It’s such a fucking nice day.”

“Totally is.”

“We should, like . . . do something.”

“Totally should.”

There was sun on the balcony until about eleven thirty. I removed my wide brimmed straw hat and enjoyed the last rays that we would get before the rest of them ditched us to hang out on the other side of the building.

“Do you want another coffee?”

“No, not really.” Julia has always been better than me at telling when a good moment is over and it’s time go look for the next one.

“Would be cool to go somewhere new, you know?” I waved away a drowsy wasp that had been buzzing about just out of reach all morning. 

“Yeah, really would.”

Some weeks earlier I’d stumbled upon a tale of lost gardens in the city. In the great archives of the Internet, I’d read about a group of allotment colonies whose owners had been forced to abandon them, as the Autobahn was to sprout a heavy trunk straight across them. However, the city plan for the project had been appealed, and the demolition stopped. The gardens were empty of their wardens, slowly decaying in a realm of legal uncertainty.

We decided to go check them out.

They were located just outside the S-Bahn ring, the great circle of commuting trains that function as a city wall in the minds of the citizens. It was no place we would hang out normally, but it was only a ten-minute bike ride away from where we lived. All that was down there were some huge storage buildings, a junk yard, a dodgy seafood restaurant for truckers, and some sort of convention-center/hotel that surely must have made suicide seem tempting to the desk-job slaves on business trips who stayed there. Amongst all these mostly gray blocks we found a thick pine tree hedge with a fence running along it. There was a gate, but it had a big padlock on it, and there was chipboard tied to it so we couldn't see through. We walked along it, looking for a discrete place to climb the green barrier.

It wasn’t long before we saw the traces of others who had come before us. Someone had cut a hole in the fence. We locked our bikes together and had a look around to make sure no one was watching. Cautious of the sharp edges where the fence had been pruned, we ducked under the prickly branches of the hedge. On the other side we found a paradise grown wild. Rhododendrons and rosebushes were twirling their branches together in a passionate dance next to a small white house whose roof sagged under the weight of all the apples that had hammered down onto it. We started making our way through a labyrinth of hedges and derelict yet quaint houses. Most of the little buildings were emptied, but some still had furniture left, most of it knocked over, by weather and wind, ravers or squatters, I don’t know.

Though the buildings were falling apart, left untended the vegetation boomed. There were plums, pears, raspberries, and probably every sort of apple tree that can grow in Germany. We filled up both our stomachs and backpacks with fruit and lay in the unmowed grass next to a miniature wishing well and a sun-bleached garden gnome.

“This is such a damn good day.”

“Yeah, this place is totally awesome.”

We stayed until the sun left us for the second time that day. Biking home in the twilight, we swore to go back and bring all of our friends. But alas, it was the last day of summer.

 

About nine months later, I found myself rather confounded that I couldn't for the life of me find the massive pine tree hedge. I was looking out over a desolate stretch of land that I had figured was an unused part of the junkyard, when it dawned on me. It was all gone, all the trees and all the bushes. Only a few random walls of the little houses were left standing. The flowers had been squashed under the wheels of heavy machinery.

“So where is it we are going?” Our visitors from Munich were getting a bit impatient, which was understandable, considering the dark clouds piling up above us. The hole in the fence was still there though, so we went through just for the hell of it. Once we where there, we could at least drink the cheap Rosé we’d brought. We sat down on the stumps of some apple trees and tried to explain how wonderful it had all been. Then thunder started growling. Our friends were not impressed, and rightly so, I guess. Our dreams of a free-for-all fruit garden had gone bad. Just like all those apples we'd picked ended up rotting in a plastic bag on the balcony. In the end we just looked silly, babbling on about what had been.

There are many tales about lost realms of wonder: the Cedar Forest, the Garden of the Hesperides, and Tír na nÓg, to name a few. Nobody ever believes us fools who think we’ve been there.

“Eh, come on. Let’s leave.”

“Yeah, sure.”

We had to accept that paradise is more of a place in time than a place in space. This one was gone. It was time to look for the next moment of Eden recaptured.