September 2020
Back then, in that time that is long gone, while reading a lot of Hesse’s novels, we lived in a village in a house that stood freely and squarely in a valley, completely forgotten, fallen into the mountains. A stream flowed through the valley, and the valley was deep, descending, reaching the peak of its fertility. On the left were olive groves, on the right, vines grew. Everything was high and deep, and the further down the valley went, the warmer it became, and the stream turned into a river, ending in gigantic lakes resembling the seas. Warm air rose, and you could see the air standing between rock walls and church towers, pierced by a powerful light that made everything shine in the colors of things, just like Hodler had painted it.
Mountain landscapes, jungle mountains, a church bell ringing somewhere and carried from a distance. Clear sounds of nature, no city noise, only the sounds of villages. You could hear cows grazing, an orchestra, or at most a Tschingg testing his motorcycle at a bus stop and whistling when a Monica Bellucci passed by. It must have been beautiful to be beautiful in this valley. The villages were cosmopolitan, where you could speak many languages, love one woman, and have one job in your life. What would the world be without the villagers and guardians, without the bus stops and the churches always standing on the slope before the blue of the sky, no matter what?
You couldn’t do anything in this valley unless you knew what to do. Drink wine, eat cheese, occupy yourself with yourself. In the evenings, we sat by the fireplace for a long time, and in the mornings, we lingered for a long time, looking from the warm bed through the open windows and then held on to heavy stones in the stream, letting the spring waters wake us up. It wasn’t ice-cold water, you could survive it, and when the sun shone on the spot where you were lingering, you could even enjoy it. Because of such a stream, we met the butcher of the village one day. I had lost my ring while wading through it, and the butcher owned the only diving mask in the village. We never found the ring, but we got along splendidly.
One afternoon, I helped him slaughter. I was already tired of the sausage before it was done. I had to hold a big sharp butcher knife, and strange thoughts circle you when you have to hold a big sharp butcher knife for a whole afternoon, like in the movies. We cut everything into slices, cut and cut, and cut even more. The butcher handled ten times more pigskin per minute than I did, and in the eternal uniformity of his movements, there was immense poetry. Butchering is a grounding and humbling experience. No matter what car you drive or what house you live in. To think we are just blood and flesh and our longing can be easily passed through a meat grinder and then squeezed into an intestine. The butcher laughed when I told him that.
To repay me for my help, he invited us to dinner at a high-end Ticino wine tavern in the evening. We drove for quite a while up a dark mountain, 45 minutes of nothing but curves. The cottage was operated by his friend, a village-drinking-friendly mountain spirit who lived up there all year and had been struck by lightning twice. He was a very dear man with a big dog, down-to-earth in the mountains, Italian in lifestyle, skilled with truffles and morel mushrooms, and had a whole cellar full of Salorino and unlabelled Grappas. On such a high mountain, you never know. We ate well, drank a lot, and had excellent conversations. The butcher’s friend spoke in a way that revealed the stories he had left out, and his few mistakes added substance to his virtues. I liked his misconceptions better than any truth I knew. Supposedly, his hut is always closed, but people come anyway. Friends who specifically came up the mountain and people for whom helicopter flights are normal. Once, we flew to another mountain for an espresso, and the pilot did stunts along the way.
So the days passed, and our story took the center of the stage. It demanded to be written, for desire craves eternity, and it must be eternal, or it is nothing. Those were the last indescribably beautiful summer days, as only a land between north and south could produce. The leaves danced in the warm wind, and the air was gentle, the wind stirring it, but doing little more. The vines on the slopes were laden, and mushrooms stood in the woods. The landscape was cinematic. Summer loves could linger here calmly into autumn. On our final day, in the evening, I sat at the desk, attempting to transcribe this reality. I organised the lived moments into notes, dividing them into experiences and events. The last light of the day just made its way through the large, open windows into our room. I could glimpse the valley when the curtain wasn’t swaying in the breeze. Outside, under walnut trees, an older couple sat at a table, already immersed in darkness. The sun had already set in another land, but the mountains still glowed, and a warm city shimmered over the lake in the distance. I heard the gravel crunch as they got up to fetch something, and I let myself be provoked by the ice that swayed in their happy glasses. I knew they had come from Zurich.

This is an excerpt from the story ‘DASEIN’ by Konstantin Arnold. Original story written in German. 

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