Her Mountain

At dawn, Margarete takes me to her mountain. Only cows and barn-cats are awake at this pale hour. Even the daisies still sleep. They nod in the wind, their white-fringed bonnets closed tight. Clouds curdle in the east like new cream. They strain the sunlight that spills through—light as thin and yellow as whey.

In a meadow at the foot of the mountain, blossoms flock the trees like a late April snow. A bolt of pale fire blitzes across the field. It’s a fox running quicker than thought. As Margarete and I climb, music somersaults down the path toward us. It could be a chorus of wind-chimes or a monastery’s prayer-bells or a silver coin dropped down a well, but this morning it is a herd of cows wearing bronze bells. As I near their pasture, the music stops. The cows are statue-still, staring at me. Then, bell by bell, the melody pieces itself back together as the cows bow their heads to graze.

The mountain trail peels away from the alpine pastures to climb through the forest. Under the bower of firs, summer’s colors have not yet woken up. The woods still slumber in shades of grey and blue. Blackberry vines outline the undergrowth, framing vignettes of wild violets and forget-me-nots.

By the time we reach the mountain’s crest, the clouds have clotted up over the sun. Even so, skimmed rays still spill over the northern Alps, melting Austria’s snow. The wind has whipped itself into a frenzy. It chases its own tail through the forest and I can hear it roaring round the peak, circling clockwise.

With the wind at our heels, we hurry back down the mountain, arriving to a kitchen full of Chopin and the smell of freshly brewed coffee. From the terrace, Florian points out the mountain to my parents. This is his family’s Hausberg, he explains—it’s their home-mountain. In mountain-country, everyone has a Hausberg. It’s the peak closest to your kitchen of coffee and Chopin.

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