Last night, on the banks of the Danube, a little beyond Passau, Germany, but firmly in Austria, I looked up.
A few bright stars lit the sky. Unexpected. Unwavering. Undimmed. Their glow picked out the shadows of a few streaked and wispy clouds – marked by their absence of light. It was completely quiet, save for the rustle of the passing river. It was completely still, save for the run of the perambulating river.
The scene hadn’t actually changed over the past half hour, but looking up and around I shifted from inhabiting this tableau to seeing it. The torchlight of stars, illuminating the wide meander of the Danube, the duck paddling past, the dark form of my tent, shone beautiful nature extraordinary.
It struck me that this was the first time since restarting I had really appreciated the beauty surrounding me. For sure, I had seen the lush, rolling, hills of Bavaria, I had seen the lazy curves of the Danube already, been tucked in dense forests – my presence our shared secret. But all of that I had just taken in as if it was to be expected. I was cycling along a river, through Germany, what else did expect to see but pretty nature? There is a gulf of difference between that and drinking in a view, as nourishment itself, recognising that these moments come rarely; that these are the high points of life – unscripted, unadvertised, unbuyable.