As noon’s bells flood the valley with echoes, I climb the path to Beilstein’s castle ruins. The old stones are mortared in moss and lichen, and mourning doves nest in the windows. At my approach, an augury of blackbirds flutters from the watchtower, scattering across the sky like a handful of ashes.
I follow the path through the forest until the steep slope sheds the trees, leaving the trail bright and bare. The air shimmers with falling blossoms and butterflies. Wildflowers trace the contour of the trail, violets dark as veins and anemones with petals pale and pearly as milk-teeth.
At the crest of the ridge, I look back down the mountain’s spine to the castle ruins far below. Even the butterflies don’t forage this high. The river is a vein of chalcedony between its stony banks. I am so gloriously alone that I dance all the way back down the path, only stopping when I hear music grinding from a picnicker’s boombox on the edge of Beilstein.