Solitude on Lake Lucerne, July – 2019

Listen to the audio recording of this post, read by the author. Approx. 3 min.

July 11, 2019 – Lucerne, Switzerland

I noticed all the boats said, “License not Req.” so I handed some money to the young man behind the counter of a small shed and after a brief exchange where he told me that I was to be charged by the hour, I climbed into a boat. It was a small boat with only one real seat for the captain, and a plank that could have fit two people side by side. I think a life jacket was tossed in along with me… but I don’t remember wearing one.

The ferry boats that shuttle people across the lake do not take evasive maneuvers. They seem to travel in straight lines only, maintaining their course no matter what’s in front of them. They do, however, alert you to their presence with a loud horn. They do this repeatedly and from a safe enough distance that there’s plenty of time to get out of the way. As such, there was never any real threat posed to anyone or anything. Outside of my own little life, this being my first time piloting a powered boat was insignificant to the ebb and flow of the world. But it was special to me, and dodging those ferries felt exciting.

I was told where not to go. At least I’m pretty sure I was. Something along the lines of keep closer to the shore than farther, and there was a part where the water opened up to a much more expansive section of the lake. I was told that the waves could make staying dry, and in the boat, difficult. But as soon as I got into that little boat I slammed the throttle and sped away as fast as it would take me.

While you’re piloting away from the city–and I use the word city generously–you’re headed South-East towards Italy, and you have a stunning view of the Alps. They seem to rise up, almost as if from the banks of the lake. Endless layers of them. I imagine it’s enough to make any American jealous. At least it was enough to make someone who grew up in the forests and flat farmlands of New Jersey jealous. I immediately wanted to pack up all the things in my apartment and move there.

After a while, I eased up on the throttle. The hum of the engine faded away. I thought of how many other tourists treated this and all the other boats with the rough indifference one does when we use something we don’t own. Floating, I felt the rise and fall of the water underneath me. I bent my knees playing a game with the lake as I tried to keep my head at the same elevation while the boat pitched and rolled. It was then that I noticed someone else was out there.

Like a statue, he stood tall and motionless. He seemed to be fishing… or maybe praying. Maybe for this man, there’s no difference. Out of respect and some measure of curiosity I settled back into standing. I let the lake go, releasing it from our balancing game. I just stood there. Looking. Watching. Listening. Breathing. Feeling.

There we were. Two statues floating in our own solitude on Lake Lucerne.

The images in this post were made using a Zeiss Ikon ZM with Ilford HP5+ film. The feature image was made using a Mamiya 7 with Fuji Provia 400H, scanned and converted to black and white.

All images were made July 11th, 2019 in Lucerne, Switzerland. The accompanying writing and audio was completed in February, 2024 from original notes

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