This is a photo of Lake Olsina in Southern Bohemia. I can walk here from my Czech house. It’s a very special place for me. It is set in a natural bowl formed by the surrounding hills. One of its attractions is that it is undisturbed. Much of the surrounding forests are in a military zone, which means that it is accessible only at weekends and that building is restricted in the locality.
The lake is man-made – a renaissance fishpond, which is still farmed today. Every other Autumn (in October or November) the sluices are opened and the lake drained. The carp are herded into the nets of the waiting fishermen. My friend Hannah had an old cottage next to the lake and I stayed with her one year, waking at 6 to watch the harvest. Crowds gathered to watch and buy fresh fish. When everyone had gone, it was the turn of the water birds to arrive – gulls of course, but also herons and white egrets.
At other times I have watched the mating dance of crested grebes rising and bowing on the still surface of the lake. In the summer Hannah and I would go swimming in the lake’s now warm waters, with the carp blowing bubbles around us or we would wander into the forest to collect wild mushrooms.
On the day of Hannah’s funeral I came to Olsina and launched a little paper boat on the waters in remembrance of her. In the boat’s prow I set a picture she had painted of a man waving. The boat bobbed in the current before disappearing round a small headland. My farewell said, I returned to my car and drove home. Later when I looked closer at the picture I saw that it was titled “Crossing Lethe.”