Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jetting out of Boston

We lived at home in Boston for just three weeks, and now we are already on a plane and headed for California. Three weeks wasn’t really long enough. We had dinners with our favorite neighbors and another friend or two, we had the fence painted around our roof deck, I was briefly re-integrated with my duties as an active member of a local church congregation, and we saw a lot of Nika.

We really HAD to see a lot of Nika because she was living in our house when we arrived and had no easy means of escape for the first week. We all slept on airbeds on our roof deck until rains swept in and Nika swept out, to share an apartment with a good friend nearby. Pleasantly, the momentum stayed with us and Nika continued to live out of the same closets she first occupied seven months ago when Alla and I left for Belarus.

It’s been a real pleasure to have her around. Just as I enjoy the perspectives of the twenty-something college students I know at the Minsk State Linguistic University, I really enjoy sharing my life with a quasi daughter. She asks questions I wouldn’t have thought to ask, offers opinions I wouldn’t have expected, and reveals a humanity I wouldn’t otherwise know. She’s a good cook, too. We’ve shared numerous meals, some better planned than others, all warm and friendly.

So, why did we rush off to California? We ask ourselves the same question. It seemed like a good idea at the time we planned it, not realizing we’d have this nearly-perfect ready-made slice of family life in Boston. We were rushing toward family, not understanding that we’d have such a sweet opportunity right where we were. I have long advocated the importance of framing any life changes on a move toward something positive rather than a simple escape from something negative, and this illustrates the point. It’s a good thing we’re headed towards people we are eager to see, because we find ourselves heading away from people we are eager to see at the same time.

May life ever be so. May our homes be centers for affections that radiate outward to the larger world.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From long ago

I don’t seem to have changed much, except perhaps by clarification of intentions.

I just came across a tattered yellow scroll I’ve kept with me since the summer after my first or second year of college. It’s a poem of sorts, written by a girl my age whom I met in the park near my grandmother’s house. We started to get to know each other over two or three afternoons, sitting and talking in the park. I don’t remember her name, nor do I remember much about what we discussed. I’m pretty sure we shared some common frustrations about restrictive parents, because I remember telling her parents that she loved them and that they’d all be happier if they trusted her more. I told them this about two or three days after we met, as they picked her up to leave together on a family vacation.

The girl gave me the scroll just before they left. I don’t think we ever knew each other’s addresses nor expected to see each other again. I’m not sure I even knew she liked me in any particular way. We were both idealists, and we just talked a lot, about the way we’d like to live our lives. This was during a time of national idealism, particularly among the youth, and we were reading mystical books and talking freely about what ought to be.

I can't recommend this poem as literature, but I am still touched to read about the impact I apparently had on a person’s life. I’ve been trying ever since to have that sort of impact someplace else.

Lying naked in the dewy grass
alone – with the whole world
everything shimmering
    with sprouts of spring growth
smiling trees and smiling me
flowers and foolishness
bees, birds, butterflies and being –
    Being is beautiful;
leaves and limbs, lonely woods
    and lazy love
¼ and ¼ are only ½
    and nothing at all!
½ and ½ are 1
    and 1 is everything.
But 1 and 1 are 2
    and 2 is forever,
because 2 is sharing
and life demands sharing.
So Spring is where it all begins.
The wind whispers – life, thru the
trees and the grass and me!
and the sun rolls across the sky.
Life is green and yellow, and blue
and all the colors in a rainbow,
it’s a pot of gold.

But living in other days
    is grey
like walking around with a fog bank
    always 1 step ahead and ½ step behind.
And no light comes from above
where only plastic flowers grow.
¼ and ¼ are only ½, and nothing at all…
½ and ½ are 1
    and 1 is everything
but 1 and 1 are 2
    and 2 is a forever
because 2 is sharing
and you have shared – yourself with me.
A touch and a warm glance
    needed ever so much
    and you don’t even know me.
Spring is where all begins
    life is sharing
Thank you for your warmth.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

First impressions of Boston

We returned a week ago, but I've been so busy reading six months' worth of mail, catching up with friends and family, riding my bike and putting stuff away that I haven't managed to write a word all week long.

My first bike ride here proved to be a bit of an eye-opener. As I rode through Boston and Cambridge, I saw people of all colors and styles; Asian, Indian, African, Russian and who-knows-whatian. In Belarus the great preponderance of faces all look pretty similar to each other. Here, variety is pretty much the norm, and I really enjoy that.

I rushed off to the local gourmet grocery store to load up on vegetables I hadn't seen in a few months. In particular, I wanted to eat asparagus and artichokes. I also enjoyed chard, Hass avocados, peas in the pod, lots of fresh corn, shallots, and numerous sights and smells. Yes, we can buy everything here; but it's breathtakingly expensive unless we go downtown on the weekend to buy poor-quality stuff at the open-air market.

I reflected on my willingness to buy expensive produce here in Boston. If you want vegetables, high prices are pretty much just the way it is. In Minsk, as I've already complained, almost everybody sells the same small selection of vegetables, at prices far below the norm for Boston. I am aware of at least one stand at the central market place that features exotic imported produce, and I've never shopped there because I considered their prices outrageous in comparison to "normal" Belarusian prices. Then I complained about my inability to find the variety I wanted. I guess I'd better check out the folks at the fancy stall next time I'm there. I know they have exotic fruits, and if they have exotic vegetables as well I think I'm finally willing to consider paying their prices.