Once upon a time, in a city far from here but in a mind very much the same, I needed to move. My edges were fraying, slivers were snatched away by the rude indifference to my person showed by this large city exemplifying cruel contrasts. It stared at me with a blank, grey face. I walked for hours along the embankments, earbuds firmly in, aimless, avoiding eye contact, snarling at beer bottles floating atop the dirty waters. I lurched on corners, waiting impatiently for the no one who would allow me to dash across the road. I stared ahead into darkness as I descended endless escalators into a stuffy, subterranean world where I held myself stubbornly, elbows out. Rage swelled as obnoxious Hummers sped past drunks, past disabled people, past the elderly, none of whose plights I could trust. I screamed Carbon Monoxide alongside my friend as we tramped toward the university, scorning the surroundings that said we shouldn’t be like we were. Anger always flickered behind my eyes, and I had no refuge. It was a rage sloshing against the glass of my body, threatening to spill. Everything piled on top of everything, and then it reached crescendo.
I was deposited in Pskov.
The sun glared down on me, half passing judgment, half conveying a somewhat comforting warmth. The air was clearer. I could breathe. The atmosphere, finally, felt lighter. A few knots in my chest began to unravel.
And then, the Пушкинские Горы (Pushkinskiye Gory, “Pushkin Mountains”). I laughed—these were only hills! But there was no trace of disappointment lacing my amusement. It was green. There was forest. It was simply pleasant. We wandered paths that the poet himself traced, long ago. We stared out at the same views. What a nice place for exile.
A few of us rented bikes from our hotel and went cycling through an invading dusk in the woods. Wisps of mist, magics, hung above us. Rustles among the trees; I saw real hedgehogs in the fog. I was no longer tired. There was no meandering routine spending the hours upon hours. Hopeful flickers of joy glimmered in my throat, once again chattering excitedly, as I marveled at this countryside.
Sometimes, movement is the best catalyst to display the world afresh. Enthusiasm, curiosity, and wonder may tentatively resurface. New views, new air, new ground, a new sky. And any kind of mountains will do.
Tagged: exile, hedgehog in the fog, life, pskov, pushkinskiye gory, restlessness, Russia, Saint Petersburg, travel, writing
LEAH, WHAT YOU SAY IS TRUE AND i AM HAPPY TO SEE YOU LIVING AT THIS LEVEL OF INSIGHT AD COMPASSION .I CAN REMEMBER WHEN I FELT MUCH THE SAME . NOW, AT 88, MY ABILITY TO MOVE IS MORE LIMITED BUT I TRY TO FIND NEW WAYS TO STAY IN TOUCH AND BE CONNECTED. I
FIND SOME OF THE SAME JOY YOU FOUND IN THE RUSSIAN LANDSCAPE IN MY BACKYARD AS I SIT ON MY DECK, UNDER THE SKY, SURROUNDED BY THE NATURAL BEAUTY OF CENTRAL TEXAS.
YOU ARE A GIFTED WRITER. HONE YOU SKILL AND KEEP YOUR EYES AND YOUR HEART OPEN. I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO MEET YOU. WON’T BE LONG NOW. MARY ANNE