Approaching the total darkness, 2020
During Berlin's first lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic, when officials were urging citizens not to stray far from home and to limit their contact with others, I went on long walks in Hasenheide, a large park close to my apartment. There I began to notice odd assemblages of branches that, upon closer inspection, were clearly the product of human hands. Some resembled roughly hewn shelters, others were merely clusters of similarly sized branches. Looking for these barely perceptible assemblages became a game as well as a balm in a time marked by boredom and social isolation. As evidence—tangible traces—of the existence of others, they were a comfort. And yet they were also deeply mysterious.

I eventually found a total of twelve such assemblages strewn across Hasenheide's forty-seven hectares. Six appeared to have been completed, three were abandoned mid-construction, and three had been destroyed or had simply collapsed.

I never encountered their makers, so I do not know who made them, or what would impel someone to build such temporary and endearingly flimsy structures. Perhaps they were created innocently, with great care and little thought in the course of play. Perhaps they were symptoms of a darker and more nebulous human impulse to establish control over nature by intervening in it. Or perhaps they were manifestations of a desire for order and safety in the throes of a dystopian moment, when there was briefly a collective feeling that we might be approaching total darkness.