These three stories were written by Ian Warner, Florian Ruland and Ela Spalding, for the installation of Ocaso (Sundown) in Humboldthain Park, as part of the collaborative landscape laboratory Desviarios (detours) organized by Paz Ponce.

Glacial Berlin
by Ian Warner

One-hundred-and-fifteen thousand years ago, a long period of cold began, and glacial ice spread south. It reached its maximum extent just south of Berlin 22,000 years ago. Around 11,000 years ago temperatures rose, and the ice slowly – very, very slowly – melted away.

Imagine Berlin for a moment, during the millennia of glacial retreat. Imagine a shelf of ice almost 200m thick, fractured, craggy, stained with algae and tapering down to boggy lowlands flooded by torrents of meltwater in summer.

A broad river has formed at the foot of the ice sheet, flowing from east to west, flushing away all the sediments pushed into place by the ice 10,000 years earlier. Mammoths, woolly rhinoceros and musk ox graze on the raised plains to the east of Humboldthain.

And imagine too, the river banks of this great, frigid, slow-moving body of meltwater. Not as difficult as it might sound. You’re stood close to the north bank of this river right now. If you’ve ever cycled up Prenzlauer Allee, and cursed the incline, then you’re already well acquainted with the north bank. And if you’ve ever freewheeled down Mehringdamm towards the appropriately named Bergmannstraße, then you’ve already celebrated the remnants of this ice-age river. The Panke flows just north of here too: the remnants of a great sub-glacial stream.

When the glaciers retreated, enormous chunks of ice would break off and sink into the soft earth below. Their huge weight pushed them deep into the ground, and later they would be buried by layers of windborne sand and dust. Once fully thawed, thousands of years later, some formed “kettle holes” – what we now know as ponds and lakes. The closest kettle hole is the almost perfectly circular Schäfersee, to the north-north-west, in Reinickendorf.

Green Breath
by Florian Ruland

Breathe in, breathe out. We exhale, you inhale.

We are the plants of this park, the trees and shrubs and herbs, and our companionship goes back longer than you may imagine. It begins roughly 11,000 years ago, when the thick glaciers over today’s Berlin were melting. The bare ground awoke to life again – soil was soon covered with grass from old seeds in the ground and new ones which came by the wind.

The first humans arrived and brought with them grains and nuts. Without your care, walnut and chestnut would not have found their way back into this area and beech and birch would be far less common. You used our wood, seeds and shade and in turn cared for our seedlings, planted groves and forests.

There was a time when your hunger for wood was so overwhelming that by two hundred years ago almost all trees in this area had been cut down. A reconnection with forests and the creation of parks led to our return with new neighbours from other latitudes. The park you are in today was destroyed by war but recreated.
Today the climate is changing again. It will get too hot for some of us, others will stay. With our presence or absence the living conditions for you will also change. Our seeds are in the ground and we are patient.

We exhale, you inhale. Breathe in, breathe out.

Desert, Sea and Ice
by Ela Spalding

A desert, they say, a desert of dunes and sand
with pockets of green sturdy trees and plants,
Where various introduced species,
naturalised by now, find its their time to rise
Our beautiful exotic house plants taking over, running wild!
Mediterranean, semi tropical, sub-Saharan
shifting sensations from corner to corner of town

Helping hands, we might need
Helping hands for the soil to hold
for the trees to regrow
Helping hands for the rains to restore
Helping hands and a sharp mind to understand
how this system actually goes, both above and below

If we were to sleep through the ages,
we could wake up here, overlooking the Sea of Berlin.
The sunlight bouncing off its shining surface,
just a few islands standing, few and far between.
But these trees might not be here,
we’d be lying on the ground. Or would we?

Would we be what we are?
A bug on the wall,
a speckle of dust in the air,
a seed in the soil

An era later, feeling the cold winds making their way
In currents at first, slowly but surely,
building up to a constant blow.
It may be that the time is approaching,
for the ice to spread and restart the wait,
the long
deep time

What will grow when the big thaw comes again?

Ela Spalding is an artist~facilitator and cultural producer exploring the space of art as an elegant conduit to practice and convey expanded notions of ecology and interconnectedness. Her professional background is in film, photography, dance and somatic awareness practices with a keen interest in sound and wellbeing. She combines these influences to invite listening and resonance within and without. She is founder and Creative Director of Estudio Nuboso – a nomadic platform for exchange between art, science, nature and society, tackling environmental issues in different bio-cultural contexts in Panama. She is also a founding member of Archipel Stations Community Radio – a Berlin-based and international, cross-cultural web community radio with live and bandwidth iterations. She lives in Berlin and visits Panama when possible for work and recharging.

Florian Ruland is an ecologist who wrote his doctoral thesis about behavioural changes in novel species communities. Teaching at FU Berlin, he explores artistic rituals of grief for biodiversity loss in order to overcome shock and inertia. He is the co-founder of a startup working on an app to support gender equality in the distribution of care work.

Ian Warner is a graphic designer and writer, based in Berlin. He is the founder of Slab Mag, which gathers his and others writings on the urban imaginary. Recently he instigated the Meltwater Walks, a walking practice and body of research centred around traces of the last ice-age to be found in Berlin.