This word writes itself in a cursive flourish across my mind as the water’s swell pulls my body up and down. Rocking me as if a baby in loving arms into a serene dream.
The waves lap at the gentle shore, softly. Quieter still is the breeze, whistling through leaves and the beaks of shorebirds, buzzing with the bees who lovingly rest upon a bed of discarded lettuce.
A few hours earlier, I grabbed a Bavarian sandwich and iced coffee from Rischart before catching the first leg of my trip to Starnberger See. Two train rides later found me waiting for the 975 bus that would take me the rest of the way to the waterfront.
Five minutes passed before turning into ten, then twenty, and I was still waiting. Sweat marked my temples while my hand took a permanent station on my forehead.
With the bus delay breaking the ice, an older German woman began speaking to me, using German, English, and Spanish to communicate.
She told me this bus was always late or never came at all. Yesterday she waited an hour for the 975 to take her four stops. Great.
Passing the time, she told me about how she left her bikini hanging on a big tree she frequents with her friends, noting her lack of concern; it was clear that Bavaria is a place of neighborly trust. A place where you could leave your belongings swinging in the breeze for days, undisturbed. How strange.
Soon our conversation turned to the Bavarian climate. What used to be sunny Summers and white Winters are now hot and humid then snowless. Global warming, this word is universal.
Approaching forty minutes, the bus finally arrived, chock-full of backpack-toating students and the walking stick generation. As we drifted along the sparsely populated road to the lake, my new friend pointed out the small town of Starnberg’s most notable landmarks.
“There is the college, they can walk to the beach in five minutes.”
“There’s the kids pool, there is a sauna inside but the pool has too many kids.”
“There is the castle, Schloss Berg, but be careful- its private.”
At last, we arrived at our stop. The only riders to get off, we took to the quiet path that passed abandoned mansions and dissolved into the water.
As we parted, I wished her luck and took off towards the castle in search of a calm clearing I could claim for the afternoon. The abundant trees arched their growing arms toward each other, enclosing the path in a world of green. Peaking through the leaves, the blue-eyed lake rippled with the rhythm of the wind.
Half a mile into my stroll, the trail opened up to a small field of grass lying just before the rocks that marked the entrance to the cool waters of Starnberger See.
I called it mine, flying my towel in the soft air before giving it rest on a patch of thick grass under a leafy awning. Unwrapping my sandwich, I relished the mustard taste on my tongue, gifting the pickle and tomato to the insects humming a few feet away.
With the insects at bay, I could stretch out and relax, weaving the yarn of my latest crochet project as the Jets sang Cigarettes and Cola in my ear.
It wasn’t long before the promise of cool crystal waves pulled my body from its place under the tree’s shade.
Warm. Starnberger’s waters kissed my knees with the fresh warmth of a cooled coffee. Not quite the same as the sea-side air, but not far from it.
Submerging myself in this embrace, I felt myself let go of a breath of air.
This is why I came.
This is why I came alone.
For this perfect union of bodies.
For this quiet paradise.
If you were here, I would care for these petty grievances.
I would be bothered
by the ants who cross the intersection of my toes.
by the wasps who braid through my golden hair,
thinking the strands stalks in their garden.
I would feel a sting in the lapping water that grips my waist
or recognize the sharp slice of rocks beneath me
realize the eroded edge that challenges my callouses.
I would feel loss as my beloved chalice is lost in the waves,
would swim desperately after its bobbing head,
instead of letting it go.
But you are my grievance, and
you are not here to make me petty.
To juxtapose these small tragedies with your brilliance,
to make me see the rest of the world less perfect than your smile.
Without you, I have these natural perfections, I have myself.
This is my gift. My privilege. My soft comfort.
With you lost, everything else is found.