It’s hard to imagine a more tranquil place than where I am sitting right now. Sitting on the stone portion of a run-down jetty by a lake somewhere in the centre of Poland. I couldn’t point it out on a map if I tried. It’s relatively early in the morning on May 2, a day sandwiched between two public holidays (and ‘Flag Day’), so a lot of people have a long weekend free. I have the whole week, and I need it. People are only just starting to stir, but I’ve been up for a few hours now, having done the dishes from the night before, tidied up a little, made tea and come to sit by the lake with a book.
It’s a beautiful little lake. Nothing too large, perhaps a ten-kilometre circumference, which makes for a cosy atmosphere. This is not the kind of lake that tourists come to in their droves, to occupy hotels and guest rooms at the water’s edge; instead it’s surrounded by what I assume are holiday homes. I can easily imagine some of them to be permanent residences, though. They’re quaint buildings, a mixture of pastel colours and wooden veneers peeking out from among the trees, tall ashes and birches that are regaining their lustre after a long winter. They each have their own jetty; on one there’s a couple of elderly men fishing, on another, more distant jetty two people look as if they are preparing to take a boat out. Above me the sky is overcast, but it’s not too cold. There’s a breeze that keeps the surface of the lake shimmering.
The tranquillity of this place does not come from what I see all around me, though. It comes from what I hear. I close my eyes and in the darkness there, my hearing seems to be heightened.
There is the collective sound of several species of bird; occasional twittering, constant, melodic song, that kind of scratching sound that some birds make, and the sinister cawing of a raven. There’s the sound of dogs barking from all around the lake, sounding something like a canine version of communication in Morse code. If I listen carefully I can hear the croaking of a frog among the rustling reeds off to my left, and the small ‘pop’ of a fish breaking the surface of the water. There’s somebody working on the other side of the lake, his power tools an unnatural disturbance to the natural order of things. There’s a small bird, a sparrow perhaps, crashing through the reeds looking for food. I hear the beating of wings as a pair of what look like gulls or terns rush by, perhaps ten feet above my head. There’s the sound of a pair of ducks launching themselves forward and bathing in the water. The breeze carries sound from the far sides of the lake, too; the elderly gentlemen have been laughing and joking together for a while now, and I can hear every word as if they were standing twenty metres away. There’s a tractor doing the rounds somewhere, and the hum of a generator – that one’s annoying.
I can also hear the sound of my stomach rumbling, and I feel a little cold now, which means it’s time to leave this haven and head inside to see if the others have awakened.
I’m heading back inside feeling incredibly at peace. It really is beautiful here.