I love rain.
Its ability to generate an instantaneously cozier environment, the aesthetic of sitting up against a mighty window, a mug of creamy steaming coffee between two slightly chilled hands, sitting cross legged, shoeless; the patter of the rain against the glass a perfect acoustic companion to the book you have sitting on your lap.
It’s pleasant to be inside and dry when it is raining. As if you get to be an exception to whatever is raging in the outer world; no matter the condition, you get to be untouchable.
For me, way more so than being inside and cozy on a rainy day, the real excitement and adventure comes from being outside, definitively swaddled in the poncho-iest coat in the closet, my fleece-lined rubber boots tied securely bore my ankles enabling my feet to splash in every puddle they can find with no dire consequence.
This past Thursday, in celebration of my Weird Fiction class and Deutschkurs being canceled, I decided to pop over to the Hauptbahnhof in my swankiest adventure gear to see what I could find.
Adventure gear of choice: chunky forest green Scottish beanie, black soft shell over my typical Patagonia blue heathered hoodie, leggings, double paired thick wool socks, rain-buddy Sorell boots. Hammock, of course. Two books: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (R.I.P) and Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Moleskine notebook. Pen. €0,50 avocado from the Turkish market and a bar of 80% dark chocolate. Austrian Pale ale + bottle opener.
The next train would leave in seven minutes destined for Bruck an der Mur; I randomly selected the name of a town which was on the train-stopping-agenda, and to my increasing happiness, to get to “Peggau” would cost me €1,70.
Hop the train, peel the avocado, listen to some “Roo Panes” and thirty-three minutes later find myself stepping out the train door to a beautiful, cozy little tiny town surrounded on all sides by whopping cliffs and forests.
My face curves into a wide smile without my guidence and I give my hammock an excited pat; perfect.
The rain is still coming down in a steady drench, and the bottom layer of whispy grey clouds is whispering between and around the cliffs, hanging in the trees and curling around the mountains, creating the illusion that it is endless.
I decide to turn left as I come out of the little Peggau train station; from that point on, it seems truly as if the Universe took control of the day.
I find myself very shortly in the middle of this reaching pine forest, the soft crunchy earth laden with pine needles and dry from the coverage of the thick trees. I was going to stop here and set up my hammock, but my curiosity gets the better of me when my boots intersected with a faint trail and I decide to follow it out.
It takes me to the base of the cliffs, and breath fails me: cave after cave dots the base, one every 50 meters or so as I continue along the path.
Not the dinky caves that are more just a temporary break in surface area smoothness, but the real exciting caves that, as you peered into it head on, were pitch black with depth and a lack of an end point.
The Universe and the path take me up the mountain, my feet, quite toasty and dry within my boots, sink deep into the wet leaves and scramble along smooth tree roots, the ages of which seem to surpass comprehension.
I hit the lower cloud level and suddenly the world around me becomes wonderfully mysterious. Little whisps of clouds dance around the wet mossy earth that my hands gripped and I have to gingerly step around a multitude of very chill, happy snails and earth worms.
This sense of…pure wild isolation excites me. Every time. This feeling that my presence is not only unique but also welcomed by the trees and forest around me. That the air I am breathing was just produced, and was just produced for my inhalation.
Gratefully, I exhale and hear the trees breathe in as deeply as me.
I scramble my way up for about an hour until I come to another, secondary layering of caves. Thick, rubber-smooth trees surround me.
I take my pick of the two knottiest to set up my hammock, kick off my boots and snuggle into the folds of material. I pop the bottle of Austrian Pale ale and giggling, rock back and forth in the hammock over the side of the hill.
For a while I read Nature but the streading drip of the rain from the leaves of the trees high above alert me to the idea of unsustainable happiness. With only gratitude flowing around my soul, I pull on my boots again and jaunt over to the coziest cave to snuggle in amongst the dry leaves.
I spend about three or four hours oscillating between Nature, Zen, and writing in my Moleskine, the scarf that is tucked around my legs and my chunky knit hat seated safely on my insulating curls keeps me warm in this kind of world.
If one were to peer at the five pages of tiny writing entered into my Moleskine, indubitable confusion would occur. Sporadically interrupting concurrent thoughts are single-word exclaimations such as: Safe! Independent! Free! Love! timelining the emotions and feelings that kept arising from the Nature that whispered around me.
And indeed. I love this kind of isolation. Here, I am not committed to following social protocol. If I’ve got a song stuck in my head, I belt it. If I want to talk musings to myself, I speak with confidence and purpose. If I need to pee, I just yank down my leggings and go.
The time passes and my joints get a bit stiff. Satisfied with this experience, I jump and dance my way down the way I came, no agenda, no plans, no thoughts, just existing.
I ramble into the train station about fifteen minutes after an hourly train back to Graz had come. No matter, I think to myself. I’ve got €2,70 in sole €0,20 coin increments rattling around my pocket. That’s enough for a coffee or beer or something in a cozy pub.
I walk a bit, still splashing in the puddles, and come across “Cafe Andrea” with an illuminated “OPEN”. I open the door and am completely surprised.
It’s a small pub, maybe twice the size of an average living room. There is only one occupied table of five, old gents, and a beautifully plump smiling woman is behind the bar wiping glasses with a microfiber towel. Everyone is laughing; the from-the-gut kind of laughter that crinkles the eyes in such a way as to cause momentary blindness.
The rain has added a secondary level of complete perfection to this scene: the filtered light from the clouds shrouded the pub in a haze of warmth and security.
As I open the door I am greeted with huge smiles and the attention of all. The woman raises her palm in greeting and unleashes a string of Austrian-dialect German, to which I laugh, surprisingly confident and secure in this moment, and sing back: “auf Englisch, bitte?”
This comment unleashes a torrent of room-wide bellows, the older gents slapping each other on the back and echoing “auf Englisch! Auf Englisch!” They gesture for me to tuck in and join their table, and I do with absolute ease.
Their level of english mirrors my level of german to create this beautiful parallelism and nonjudgement. We all introduce ourselves and Andrea–the woman behind the bar–squeezes in next to me, handing me a fresh frosty beer. It tastes amazing paired with my still-pulsing muscles.
For about three hours the seven of us laugh and speak in broken-German/broken-English; they let me practice conjugating schlafen and bear with patience and sneaky grins as I try to remember vocabulary terms.
I definitely learn more German than I have ever learned in a Thursday afternoon Deutschkurs.
Manfred buys my drink for me and I find myself making plans to meet up with the group again on Saturday, same time. With an overwhelming sense of lightness, I skip back to the train station.
When I arrive at the station, my watch reads 20:41 and I compare that to the “20:36” of the train schedule. Before any realizations set in, I look to my left and see the train to Graz barreling down the track, an unfortunate “5 minutes delayed”.
Universe. You cheeky bastard.
I munch on a pretzel for my rainy walk home from the Graz Hbf and after jolly warm shower, make homemade veggie ramen noodle soup and attempt to process the day.
But I can’t, because all that is going around and around in my head is:
What just happened.
Have a hammock adventure as much as possible, friends.
Peace and Blessings,