For some months I kept hearing the sentence “I love you like the sun” in my head, and I had no idea where it came from. I have not listened to any song under that title, nor have I read anything related to it. Depending on the situations, sometimes I hear “and” at the beginning of the sentence, “and I love you like the sun.” Sometimes I hear “but,” “but I love you like the sun.”
The day when I returned to Berlin from the “big China trip,” I was sitting by myself in the Ring Bahn with my suitcase. I held on to it tightly, knowing that it would be the only thing I’d allow myself to possess for the comfort of owning something from an unforgettable trip that had come to an end. A suitcase full of winter clothes, Chinese tea, jet lag, travel-weariness, and the feeling of a soldier who has finally made her way back home. The warm beam of the autumnal sun slipped through the yellow leaves of the trees by the train track, and streamed down from the windows tranquilly and generously. That’s the spirit of the autumnal sun, tranquil and generous. It doesn’t dance jubilantly like a child on one’s face as the summer sun does; it pours over one’s face lavishly but always at an angle, just like how a mother cares for a feverish baby at its bedside, full of kindness. And I heard, “but I love you like the sun.”
The air in Berlin is blue, hence the warm colors in Berlin always seem warmer, the orange oranger. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Berlin was how orange the lights were in the evening. Whenever I walked down the streets in residential areas in Berlin, I’d always look up at the warmly lit windows, which affectionately framed bookshelves, lights, plants, and pale curtains. And occasionally, a host or hostess enwrapped in a yellow aura would enter and exit the frame, claiming their ownership to the orange window and everything that’s framed by it. Around late autumn and early winter, lit stars would start to be hung from the windows, adding more luminance to the orange. But in early autumn, these good old domesticated stars would still be stored away in some boxes in the basement, or behind the cupboard doors, like hibernating fairies waiting to be summoned. Before my trip to China, I beheld a warmly lit window that’s my own in Berlin for the first time. It was orange, but slightly on the dim side, against the blue darkness circling it.
Having gotten off the Ring Bahn, I dragged my suitcase along on the concrete pavement—the sound of the rolling wheels which would blend in so well with the noise of Shenzhen’s streets seemed all of a sudden deafening in our peaceful little street in Wilmersdorf. I looked up to the late afternoon sky. The contours of the apartment buildings and trees were tinted pinkish orange, against the vast blueness of the rest of the sky. And I thought to myself, “I am coming home to an orange window that’s mine, my very own.”
Now what? That’s the question that since then has been hanging from my window like a big bright LED star that stole into the apartment way before Christmas. A question I was secretly anticipating even amidst the chaos of the filmmaking battle. Namely, having fought and returned, now what? It is a question of sustained effort. When a journey, which is only part of the bigger journey of life or in my case a two-year film project, comes to an end, when it is time to pack up one’s luggage and hop onto the next train home, how does one fight against that very peculiar kind of sadness? How does one keep pouring passion into the project that still has a long way to go, into the mundane affairs of everyday life?
I saw it as a sign when the autumnal sun drenched my travel-weary face in the Ring Bahn and I heard “I love you like the sun,” that I must keep loving, consistently, the project that I set out to do, but perhaps from a different angle, just like the sun. I am in the quest for consistent passion.
There are moments in life in which words, pauses, and sentences point us irrevocably to the future, demanding us to sit up and listen, as they reveal to us what could come. It must have been more then ten years ago, I was setting out to climb Mount Fuji with a new group of friends I met during summer school in Tokyo. By the time we started the adventure, we knew each other for only about a month from language classes and some extra curriculum activities. The climb was so difficult, especially for amateur hikers like us that we had to make multiple pauses along the way. Kenji the group leader would announce loudly to the group in Japanese, “Kyūkei!” (“Rest!”), and we would then find the closest stable rocks or flatter ground to sit on, hydrate, and then get ready to start again. I couldn’t recall how many stops we made, but many. But we always managed to get ourselves up, line up so that we wouldn’t lose each other in the crowd, and continue climbing upward.
At one point, even the last faint beams of sunset had vanished, so we needed to take out our torches. The person behind would shed light for the person before. I remembered the moment I stopped and turned around, I saw a mountain covered in streams of light that flowed down the slopes like gleaming water of gold. Above us, there was the Milky Way flowing across the entire sky like a river, as if the universe was reflecting back to us the grandeur of human endeavor. Since that day, I’ve stored that image in the depths of my memories, as if I knew that someday I would have to retrieve from it the missing hints I’d need to carry on.
Right after I came back from China, my writing partner R and I met up for lunch. We hadn’t seen each for a month, but it felt like ages. We were walking down the streets after our lavish Vietnamese meal of Pho soup and curry. She too was working on a big project, a book project that we often referred to as “the marathon.” We exchanged updates of our projects, gave each other a pat on the back, and then moved on to chat about the small things in our lives. As I was still enthusiastically recounting my trip to China to her, she stopped me, and said, “Lei, stop for a second.” She slipped her arm through mine, and continued, “How beautiful is this walk of ours down the street, with the sun shining on us! I want us to remember this moment.” We stopped, breathed in the crisp air of autumn, looked into the distance, and kept on walking. I heard, “and I love you like the sun.”
The question of sustained effort.