An Austrian Oak and a Daydream

Am I Alice, lying dreamily in the meadow and watching the clouds in the sky in the middle of a sea of daisies? She longs for a different world with different rules. Isn’t that what I am doing right now? Am I escaping the current restrictions and dreaming under the old oak tree that the pandemic has come to an end? It worries me, but here in this place I feel comfortable and safe. Maybe the rabbit with the clock will come by soon and take me to wonderland?

Or am I Emma, the protagonist from the Jane Austen novel of the same name? At least I’m lying on the picnic blanket eating a piece of banana bread. It’s even still warm, as we baked it just before the trip. The place is quite romantic. This is my first contact with nature after weeks of being indoors and it feels very good. Now riding a horse through the meadows, that’s what I’m imagining. In a long white dress, with a side saddle of course. Being free and carefree…

We have been lying here for over an hour, staring silently at the sky adorned with a few cumulus clouds and admiring the old oak tree that provides us with shade. My backpack serves as a cushion. It is April, spring has already arrived. The leaves of the tree are lush green and so beautiful. The ramifications of the many branches fascinate me. I trace them like a labyrinth with my outstretched index finger. The sun is strong. It gives energy. It’s been far too long since I’ve been so conscious of nature.

How long, actually? I have no idea. I went forest bathing for the first time in February. In London. A great experience. At that time, the first cases appeared in Italy. On the flight back I had a very oppressive feeling, I constantly disinfected my hands. Nobody had masks back then. Yes, I actually think that February in London was the last time I was really out in nature.

I only notice the sounds of the Danube floodplains. No cars. No people. No television. Just the sound of the forest, the wind and the birds. Ok, now and then I hear him when he changes his lying position. And then it’s quiet again. We just listen to nature and enjoy.

Although I have never been to this place before, I feel a strong connection. I wouldn’t describe myself as esoteric, but this oak tree has done it to me. It makes me happy. It calms me. It grounds me somehow. Sounds strange, but that’s what I’m feeling right now.

He kisses me gently out of my daydream. “Well my princess, shall we walk back?”

You don’t always have to fly miles away for new adventures and special moments. Some oases are right under your nose. You just have to be aware of it. On this day in April 2020, I discovered a new place for myself. So close and yet unknown to me until now. I fell in love with an old oak tree in the Donau-Auen National Park.

Astrid Holzinger is a storyteller from Austria. She is a proud Disney fan and has a background in geography and sustainable development. She writes short stories about life for the platform of She is fascinated by the happiness found in memories. Last year, her debut ‘12 aus of 33‘ got published.

The German word for oak is ‘eiche’. In the distant past, the oak was worshiped as a sacred tree by the Celts, Germans, Greeks and Romans.