Only slightly do I remember the Vltava River. My photographs from Prague were misplaced during the move. But when I think back on my time there, what cuts deepest in memory is an impression by the river: the waves, a darkened hue, writhing out of form; moonlight, omnipotent, yet lacquering more than penetrating; and myself, though hardly there at all, ein Gestalt von Leben und Tod.
At 20, I took myself away from the troubling uncertainty of my life in Brooklyn, and I boarded a plane to Prague, to discover, for the first time, the land of my ancestors. Prior to the visit, I had known nothing of the city, its people, its history, or if I even had any relatives there. But, as I had been told, my last name—Hongach—is of Czech descent. I thought perhaps I may find some security for my life by digging passed the distance of an unknown past and, thereby, God willing, tap the root of some ancient spirit, from which I am.
We were losing our house in Brooklyn and, more than ever, the touching pride of family unity became more and more remote. Now, in retrospect, I figure I left to chase this feeling, a hurting so mysteriously deep, I supposed it may be traced to its origin through cultural lineage; and, by pinning the base, perhaps I believed, I could save us from the loss.
(A statue of a soldier by the Vltava River.
Photo taken from http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/06/03/article-2334990-1A1DDDFD000005DC-418_964x669.jpg)
Both running away and running toward the hypothetical heart of my problem, I was truly quixotic at 20, there in Prague, roaming the city, all day and all night, over and over again. Prague, I discovered, is enchanting. It is a city bleak and shimmering, charming and simple, old and fresh. And as I wandered often late after midnight, my body, enchanted, would sway to a bench on the bank of the Vltava River, with a copy of Rilke’s Brigge as my only companion and my ears infused with the repeated song Is This Happiness? by Lana Del Rey.
I would sit on the bench and let the cool night envelope me. Even with the music playing, I could hear the river speak. Whispering, beckoning, eulogizing. The Vltava had a lot to say, with its lightly tucked cloak of moonlight and its cunning running tongues. I would stay only a few minutes to contemplate and to calm the disquiet.
If it would happen at all, it would feel nice, in a moment, to feel a breeze unwind and ease my frazzled mind. I would realize then, that it was either too late or too early, at that hour in the night, to think about life’s possibilities. It would be at this interim, between night and the coming day, that my quest would resign, neither successful nor failed, but gently and boldly free.
But are you ever really free?
Prague was enchanting, indeed, especially the Vltava River, which taught me that this place was no city to die in.
(To learn more about the Vltava River: http://www.visitvltava.cz/en/the-course-of-the-vltava-river/20/ )
(Here are quotes from Rilke’s The Notebooks from Malte Laurid Brigge : https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/314321-die-aufzeichnungen-des-malte-laurids-brigge)
(To listen to Is This Happiness? by Lana Del Rey, click the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-noXRjAamQ )