The benefit of an alpine lake
Today I would have taken my group to “mad” (entirely sane) King Ludwig’s fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle. Folks invariably enjoy it, albeit amazed at the tourist swam. Afterward, we sit down to a picnic lunch by a preposterously beautiful alpine lake. Then, if weather and tour member hardiness unite, I lead them on a hike around the lake, through woods where birds nest, leaves shimmy, and the romantic dreams of a boy who didn’t want to be king still echo between the boughs.
We’ve just spent a week in the Netherlands and Germany, with a peek into Austria, all chock full of history, beauty, and northern European flavor. Ahead lies an intense week of Italian energy. And in that afternoon walk, I find the perfect transition.
Halfway through, we pause beside the snowmelt lake, with rarely another person in sight. I gather my people around me and say something like “How are your feet doing? You’ve already walked a lot today, including 345 stairs in the castle, so we’re going to take a 10 minute break.” My mirror neurons soak up their happiness, since a 10 minute break in so beautiful a place is a bounty even without the sore soles.
“But real quick, I have good news, that’s also a bit of a warning.” They’ve usually learned to pay attention to my warnings by this point. “Tomorrow…we’re going to Italy! There’s a reason it’s the top country in Europe for Americans, and I’m looking forward to a great week. But it’s also a very full week. Most people find it much more tiring than this last one.” I watch to see how much this alarms people, especially those who have sat down already.
“So! I’m going to take this 10 minute break, here beside the incredible green of this pure alpine lake, under mountains like those, and soak up the peace.” I let my cheesy enthusiasm build unabashed. “I’m going to nestle a piece of this calm right in here somewhere,” I tap my chest, picking a rib or two to host the feeling, “and when we’re in Florence and the vespas are swirling around me like something out of a Mad Max movie, or I’m craving oxygen on a packed Roman bus, I’m going to be able to come back here and remember that this gorgeous calm place exists too.”
Something like that. A couple people might be too occupied with their instagram photos, and every now and then I suspect someone has turned away so I won’t see their eye roll, but for the most part, people get it. The devout hiker from Utah. The fisherman from Washington. The retiree from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Anybody who knows the deep solace of a natural space, they were probably already doing it before I said a word.
I don’t get to say any of that by the lake today. But I do get to remember it, here, at home, and I can still see the way the water showed me where the wind was playing. Today too we have a solid piece of time behind us, with plenty of effort and strain, and there’s an unknown challenge coming up fast. But here, in this moment, as the Japanese maple tree outside my window manifests the season in its evolution from deep purple through exuberant green and onward towards the russet edges ahead, I feel connected both to this year’s May 12 and those of past (and hopefully future) years. And I can nourish myself with love for all of it.
Have a tranquil day, everybody!