Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Back to the Dacha.

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Went out to the dacha yesterday afternoon by bus. I usually take the early morning bus but I had been up all the previous night and simply couldn’t wake up in time to get to the station.

The bus ride up to the village put me to sleep. Sometimes the landscape, which consists of hundreds of small houses and their land parcels, most made of squared logs but some of brick, is interesting; who is growing what, who is early, who is orderly, or if a place is non longer cared for, who has died. But it is too early for any real work and so that war between the bus’ worn out springs and the worn out road had me dreaming.

I hadn’t been up to the dacha that much this winter. Lots of reasons for this. On the practical side it is cold and there is nothing but that small wood stove for heat or cooking. And then there was Anya being born and grandpa being sick. But also there were some hard feelings from last year that sort of took my energy from me as far as gutting it out.

I met one of my neighbors at the station and we gabbed happily for a while, but the conversation lost energy after speaking about what happened with Yasha. So that was another reason I slept on the bus, I guess.

But the first moment of being in my village, especially after having been away for a while is a shock. It’s the quiet that hits you first. It is so still. There are only two paved roads and I live about a quarter mile down an unpaved road away from either. Three my neighbors had gotten on at the next large town and they all wanted to hear about Anya and granddad so I showed pictures. But I didn’t make the walk down our street with them because I had to talk with Vassa and Andre about getting some shit for fertilizer and arranging for the plowing to be done. This was my mission today.

Vassa lives at the start of our street ( I am at the otheer end) in the corner house. Vassa is a hard man. He is about 50, rail thin and smokes cigarettes rolled in newspaper incessantly. I find it hard to speak to Vassa because he is unpleasant to be with and always seems to be on the verge of anger at any given moment. Or on the verge of drinking. But also I wanted to speak to Andre, Vassa’s son, because I had made a deal with Andre about doing this work and Andre had offered me a low price, much lower than Vassa would have agreed to. I was afraid that Vassa would try and renegotiate, or perhaps would be angry over the amount but while we talked, I noticed that he was as nervous talking to me as I was and seemed happy to have Andre handling the deal.

But Andre wasn’t at home. He was working with KolHos (Collective ownership, the state organization that deals with local farming) and would be free after an hour or two. I walked over to the store in the hopes that I could get some bread and butter and maybe a pop but of course it was closed. There is a new lady manning the store, Zina, who had managed the place alone for years had mercifully gone to pension. They told me the store kept better hours now, so I will have to assume that this was a normal day off.

So finally I made my way down the street alone. It was a beautiful day. The sky was clear and the road was dryer than I thought it would be. I stopped and talked to two babushkas (Grandmothers) on the way. You can’t walk down the street without stopping to talk to people. We talked about the weather and I was told that no one had died over the winter. This was good news. But the wells in this upper part of town were dry as usual. The wells at this end of the street are dry and those at my end of the street are full. There is not so much of a grade and so no one knows why this is so. When I got there and looked, I saw that my well was quite full, and the water was only 3 meters or so down. My well always has water except for a few days in the middle of the summer when there is no rain for several weeks. But here they were dry and so the old lady had been having to walk a ways down the road to retrieve water.
“And what can I do?” She asked, “You must live.”

We were agreeing on this philosophical principle when I noticed a huge pig running toward us on the road. He was a great black and white pig, maybe 200 pounds. He looked like an incredibly over fed and shaved sheep dog and he came galloping down the road. He must have gotten loose from his pen because there was another babushka running after him waving her walking stick. You never see this because the pigs live their whole short lives in their pens but this pig seemed so happy to be free. He was smiling. But the baba I was talking to got up and started yell at him and the pig became frightened and ran back in the other direction and back to his pen. I guess this would have been the greatest moment of high adventure in this pig’s life.

I went out on the land before I even open my front door. The ground was still soft from last autumn’s plowing and the snow had left it wet. I walked to far corner to look at the garlic we had planted and sure enough, the orderly little stalks we already coming up, about an inch or two each. New life. I looked at the apple trees but there are no buds yet. They will come.

In the early spring things are very clear and clean. There are no weeds entangling things and obscuring your view. It is easy to visualize what your garden will look like, where things will be.

The house was as I had left it and took a moment to sweep up. The mice had gotten into the podval, a root cellar I guess it might be called, but this is much smaller, just a small bricked in spot under the kitchen floor where the potatoes are stored. They had eaten all of our beets and had started in on some potatoes too. They had also tried chewing through the plastic lids on the bank jars trying to get at the beans and grains, but had not made it through. If we lived her full time we could keep a cat and do more things to stop the mice, but now there was nothing to do but sweep up after them.

I checked out the garage and cleaned up a bit but after an hour or so there was really nothing important to do but to wait until Andre showed up so I sat at the table in the kitchen and did some writing long hand. The dacha in an especially good place for that by the way.

And I think I am going to stop here for today and will go on a bit more for tomorrow. Some of the stuff that is coming is connected to the Yasha story. I am stopping because I have to stop before the internet rates change. I was just too tired to do this writing yesterday. I will try and get to all of this clear in the next while though.

And if some of the photos in recent blogs have disappeared, I think it is because MSN has cancelled them. Thank you for the extra work, Bill. Nothing like a little extra adversity to stimulate creativity, right? I will try to have them back up shortly.

Stay tuned…