Tuesday, September 07, 2010

From the notebooks

Leipnizsee, August 21, 2010

The lake is vast and gleaming and improbably perfect, hypernaturally unsymmetrical, banks of reeds clustered just so opposite the shore, like a matt painting waiting for the green-screened hobbits. Germans of all shapes and sizes, every stage of undress, loll around with the superbly civilised nonchalance of unhungry lions watching wildebeeste at a watering hole. There is dirty, gritty sand. We came here through a beech wood. C floats in his green ring and A swims as if his life depended on it, always mistrustful of relaxation. Thoughts of the green-eyed doctor scrape past like underwater driftwood, away into something that happened once.

I'm too hot, and there is not enough shade, and in spite of myself and the startling beauty and the fervently welcome sense that I am Doing Something Today, I gird myself against the hours until I can go home and be in the cool flat and eat toast and tomatoes. Abandoning our shoreside encampment I sit under a tree clustered with bikes on the twiggy, butt-strewn sand and I am not loving it but it is cooler and suddenly I find myself less on edge. Tiny blond boys, browned like the top of a buttercake, dash around naked flexing their paper-crane shoulderblades, bearing their flotation devices aloft or slung around their hips like hunting trophies. Two boys perch on a nine-foot beech stump, its roots stripped to the wind. They lean together confidentially, sharing boyish observations, swinging their feet while the girls in jewelled bikinis below arrange themselves like ikebana, navel piercings catching the sun, pivoting this way and that over carefully braced and rebraced abdominals.

The sun is creeping in to my spot. I decamp to a shady stump near an extraordinary lone silver birch, towering overhead pitched rakishly toward the lake like it's looking for something just around the corner. Its roots clamber down the embankment, toggle-shaped seedheads hanging heavy ten or twelve feet above. A round man with sooty grey chest hair sleeps peacefully naked, with his straw hat over his face and his feet neatly crossed. The breeze picks up. A duck-footed snow of birch seeds floats into my hair. A pair of swimming trunks dries on a bush. A motorcycle helmet perches on a dead bough. The sun pulls over the other side of the lake, patinating the trees, kermit greens and candy-wrapper golds. People swat with ginger respect at wasps and dust the muddy-coloured sand from their calves and soles, shaking out blankets and towels with dracula-cape-snapping flourishes.

A tiny grasshopper sits on my toes and watches the dragonflies with me.

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