Cloud-Tide Rising

October 30, 2016

The Black Forest is an archipelago in a sea of mist. Nearly one thousand meters above Ottenhöfen, I look down at the sea from Hornisgrinde, the highest peak in the northern Schwarzwald. Becalmed, this Sunday sea lies in creamy froth amongst forested islets. Across the white satin sea, another ridge wrinkles the horizon. At an altitude of 1,164 meters, the entire world is an archipelago washed in cloud. The forest is one forest, unfurling roots from the aeries of the Schwarzwald to the redwood steeps of California.

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Amongst mountain aeries, the Black Forest repaints its name. Autumn fire will not kindle in the ink-shadows seeping from the evergreens, however, the forest floor is tufted with purpling heather and tall grasses gold-spun by some Rumpelstiltskin. Only in the spyglass-distance does the Forest wear its proper name. Black tissue paper ridges decoupage the horizon, fanning out like the lamella of a chanterelle.

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For a library-mouse who lives half her life between book covers, it is fantastic and shattering to read such distance. The lines run not from page to page but from ridge to ridge, an epic written not in poet’s meter but in kilometers. Light writes milesaway mountains into my eyes. What mortal word could inscribe such farsight at a touch? Only in the iridescent delirium of opiumdreams could Romantic poets have hoped to compose strophes like light.

In these heights, I become addicted to distance. I crave unscarred horizons and valleys of cloud. I crave wooded ridges like butterfly wings furled out under a quartz-cool sun, their velvet scales dusted with October copper and bronze. With a drop of farsight in my eye, I am a mountain god. I see as trees see, gazing through translucent centuries to a younger forest. Where can I find a phial of this tincture? Who can distill distance in verse as clear as light?

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Perched on a tabletop-stone, I lunch on brown Bauernbrot and butter. Below me, the mountains are neatly pleated, folded blue tissue in the dream-distance and green plush close up. Valleys of grassy muslin line the mountain folds, and here and there, the rhinestone glint of window glass hints at a village. Glazelight lacquers the valleys in afternoonhaze. Lazily drift the mists, drunk on the honeyliquor of October sunshine.

As the cloud-tide rises, nebulous sea frothing up amongst forested islands, I head downmountain to meet it. A green velvet curtain of pine and fir parts before me along the path to Ottenhöfen. Walking in the woods is satin on bareskin, a spoonful of caramel, cool marbles running between my fingers, the grandfather-smell of old books, singing in a hollow hour—it is the naked lupine luxury of being home alone with a whole immortal afternoon.

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Over the valley villages, the sun casts a luster as delicate as blown glass. The forest path is already thick with the dust of shadows. Set between platinum ridges, the sun is a marquise diamond. I could stay in the hills and watch darkness chip away its light—but instead I walk down to Ottenhöfen, and the sun winks out behind the ridge to light other skies.

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