A plea to look up (aka while walking please put your phone away)

This morning I was taking the dogs on our morning walk and the sky was soooo beautiful that they got a longer walk because I just kept following the sunrise.  Every corner took my breath away along the canal.  We walked along the canal and I oooed and awwwed at these amazing colors….

canal morning.jpg

Lately I have been walking a little earlier and it is still dark. The moon is just beginning to give up the sky for an impending sun but this morning I got to see the morning emerge with the pups.  I took them down and around the block and just a few blocks away from our flat I looked up and gasped….


The picture does not do this moment justice of course.  Just a second before I fumbled my phone out of my pocket to take this pick, it was a full rainbow with reflections on top and bottom….a triple glorious rainbow.  It took my breath away. Lately, I have been trying to not focus on the ugliness of the city in the winter but trying to find a smile here and there and glimpses of beauty and this morning in our hood did not disappoint. Just as I was standing on the corner taking it all in I glimpsed over my shoulder to see a man in a truck parked and looking at his phone. He saw me at the corner and tried to wave me across as he started his truck up again.

I pointed at the sky and smiled broadly.

He honked his horn a little and waved again.

I pointed again.  I said, “It’s a rainbow!”

He looked bewildered and got frustrated that I didn’t cross the street so I did the unthinkable and approached his drivers side window.  He gave me a look like, “what the hell, lady?” but rolled down the window anyway and in my bewilderment I totally forgot my German and said in English, “but it’s a HUGE rainbow!”  He finally looked up and saw it.  He said, “oooohhhhh wooooww.”  We both took a moment and then I waved at him, smiled and went on my merry way grateful for the moment as the rainbow faded.

They are only for a moment and they don’t last long.  He almost missed the whole thing, this light show displayed before us with promise and brightness and something different than gray.  He almost missed the whole thing.  He was busy. He was on his phone. He was trying to get me to hustle.

I haven’t changed my phone to a European number or data since I have moved here. I still have my US number and plan. People ask me why and there are a few reasons…

I like my number. People know my number.  And for a small amount of money I can keep my number and use all of the functions of my phone when I am on wifi.  I can’t just use it when I am out and about unless I am connected and I can’t just mindlessly scroll along while I walk.  And I like that I can’t do that.  It means that all over the city I have to not be on my phone, look up, pay attention to what is happening around me and I am not always available via a phone.  It is kind of a good practice in the world I am finding.

Each day a number of people almost bump into me but I move out of the way because they are so absorbed in scrolling on their phones while they walk. If I were on my phone too, it would be collision central.  And they miss it…the quirky guy dressed all in yellow or the car decked out in Christmas lights….the woman sleeping on the cold ground or the three dogs just hanging out with their owner around the neighborhood…the old man willing to smile and the kiddo who is in awe of the world around them….you miss it if you are absorbed in the phone world.  You miss the rainbows and the moments of awe.  You miss the colors and what could happen next.  You miss the knowing smile of the woman who sees the same thing you do right now.

So here is an appeal to pay attention. To look up.  To put the phone in the pocket to see what might be out there.  It is the appeal to see the sky and notice who is around you.  I know Berlin would be a better place if we all had a little more awareness of the other and the other’s needs in that moment rather than just my needs.

May the rainbow meet you where you are.

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