Bathing in the Moor
The key fit. Easier than she thought, it turned in the lock and the door sprang open. The smell of warm wood greeted her; she was welcomed.
The neighbour had offered her the small cabin high up on the mountain. Modest, but complete with all the necessities needed to be comfortable for a couple of days in the Summer.
It was what she had dreamed about: an undisturbed place to reflect, to spin webs both tender and dense that she called poems. Perhaps even write a some stories. Time to wait and see.
As she had opened the windows, the forest flooded into the room. It was as though the pine trees, who would be her only company for a while, had come straight into her room. Powerful guards, without a doubt. Still, she hoped the trees would also remain that way throughout evening and not turn into threatening giants.
This was the dark side of her imagination... Sure, she was thankful for this gift. A good fairy had given it to her in her crib, knowing well that her life was not to be endured without it. Nevertheless, this gift was a double-edged sword and also brought shadows into her existence, made-up ghosts that apparently only she could see which warped the contours of reality.
For that reason she had always passed up the offer from her neighbour before, even though she was nearly addicted to silence. Yet the good neighbour had ensured her that on sunny days, a few hikers always came by, good people who passed by on their way to a small moor lake and who would gladly exchange a few words with her.
As though it had covered itself with a blanket of dark green velvet during the night, the lake slumbered between cotton grass and marsh clover, and only in the late morning did it reveal its lighter undergarment. But as hard as the sun might shine, trying to raise a smile out of it, the lake never showed its full inner life. She understood that well, after all humans were just the same. Not all of them, but some. Perhaps she belonged to them.
Finally she lost her trepidation that had abruptly overwhelmed her and she let herself slide into the dark water. As a good swimmer she felt comfortable in water and after the first night in the cabin, which didn't go badly at all, she enjoyed the swim. She didn't pay attention to how many laps she took, but it must have been nearly noon when she decided to make her way to the shore.
There on the shore stood a stranger; he held out a towel to her. She was surprised. She had brought nothing with her, had ran to the lake only in her swimming suit. So the towel must have been his. Had he come here to swim?
“Feel free to take it and drape it over yourself; I have another with me.”
As she accepted his offer with a smile, she noticed a blanket on the ground on which a small snack had been prepared.
“Would you like to keep me company? It’s just a modest meal: some bread, cheese, the tomatoes I picked earlier today in my garden.”
His voice was deep and warm and really fit his athletic yet not too skinny frame. Grey hair and distinctive facial features let her guess that he was not that young anymore, perhaps around 50, just like her.
Suddenly she realized that she had not yet said anything in return.
“I have no idea how I can thank you. To be so unexpectedly pampered in this way...”
As she made herself comfortable on the blanket, he began to tell her a story: on free days, he would make his way – most of the time – into the mountains and let himself be surprised by whatever happened. No plan, no intention. He simply enjoyed experiencing the moments as they were, in addition to meeting the occasional passer-by.
“And today I watched a lithesome water nymph for a long time who seemed like she just couldn’t part with her lake at all.”
She smiled back at him and pointed over to her cabin:
“I'm spending a couple of days over there and am practising how to be alone. I have always wanted to have more time for myself. However, having too much time, without having many activities to fill up that time, is not so easy.”
“And how is it to share that time with another?” He looked at her hopefully.
“I believe I know what you mean. That is certainly the nicest way of all. Yet two failed relationships have finally led me to become more reserved. Which is not a bad thing. For the first time I am my own partner. I never thought that it could be so thrilling.”
“So you are now living in your cabin like a pious hermit?”
They had to laugh.
“I am not really that pious. As for being a hermit, I don't know. I like to write.”
“So you are a storyteller! Respect! What kind of stories do you write about?”
She thought for a moment.
Again she paused.
“They are momentary snapshots, sketches of a woman who feels her yearning to live, but always stumbles over her own fears and doubts, again and again. The wish and the ability to love, but committed relationships? Perhaps that is the way of our life: a while of happiness together, then alone. It all makes sense, yet still it hurts.”
His eyes had been gazing upon her this whole time; finally he made a gesture over to the nearby moor:
“A lake can do both. Enjoy itself all alone. Then accept a swimmer as a guest as long as she likes.”
He winked at her, rolled up his trousers and took a few steps into the water. Suddenly he turned around with a laugh and splashed her playfully with drops of water.
Translated from German by Shan Wardell