Sunday, May 22, 2005

(From Warsaw): dejeuner sur l’herbe

It’s kind of unfair to use French in my title for this day. I am in Poland after all. I have no great desire to be in France right now. In fact, I have no great desire to be in France at all in this period of time. But I have always had this image that in France, in the summer especially, family and friends congregate outside on Sundays and linger over a dinner that lasts somewhere to the tune of ten hours.

I have no reason to believe that this is solely a French thing, but you can’t fight images readily and besides, French painters have appropriated this title for monumentally significant canvases and so I feel okay stepping on French toes and appropriating it for my own Polish Sunday in the country.

While Oscar and B made their way to Krakow for an early glimpse of the city, I spent the day with old friends in their country home outside Warsaw.

It was another one of those brightest of bright days. The sun shone, the flies buzzed and Basia, Tomek and their daughter Ania served food while Marcin, Wanda and I ate. And ate. And ate. In the midst of this we took a stroll, in much the same way I imagine turn-of-the-century French men and women took walks through fields, with the men throwing jackets over damp spots so that women would not muddy their footware.

Marcin and Tomek did not throw jackets, but nonetheless they were gallant and kind and the whole day reminded me again that I do well with friends when I see them. Distance makes me distrustful and edgy. Proximity creates the warmth and comfort that allow me to close my eyes and exhale.
Ania, in a sea of green Posted by Hello
chlodnik: young beets, cucumber, dill, chives and yogurt over a hard boiled egg Posted by Hello
sharing the path Posted by Hello
meadow walk Posted by Hello
buckwheat, rolled beef, tomatoes and a Polish pickle Posted by Hello
gingerbread treats and plums in chocolate Posted by Hello

(From Warsaw): where Oscar and B experience Poland from within

My traveling companions are fantastic listeners! I am so indulged that I will probably never say another word about my past once I return to Madison. The other day, as we walked past the slummy Warsaw apartment building that used to be my childhood home, I thought about how much easier it is to confront certain realities about then and now when you are in the company of caring people.

Oscar and B push for the detail. They are contemplative travelers, taking detours and long pauses, creating mental chronicles and written texts, precious documents from these amazing bright sunny days.

On a walk past the University of Warsaw they ask if we can wander around campus some and as I open doors for them to buildings and auditoriums that were once my stomping ground some 35 years ago, I am reminded of how little has changed: not only do the rooms look the same, but I feel the same within them. It’s deeply disturbing to know that adolescent angst never quite resolves itself, but instead comes back again and again to remind you how small and imperfect you are in the scheme of things.
UW, but not the Wisconsin one. [Uniwersytet Warszawski] Posted by Hello
On this bright bright Saturday afternoon, we take a local train to the village where my grandparents once lived. The train is packed and the 90 minute ride is like a scene out of a slow-paced movie, where the plot becomes less central and the essence lies in the cinematography.

The sun is relentlessly pushing its way in. Women and children are returning to their villages with purchases made that morning in the city. Others, the town dwellers, are escaping for an afternoon in the country. A child stares at us as we talk quietly in English. Everyone is aware of us, but also of their fellow travelers.

Oscar marvels at the fellowship that exists among these people. People in adverse circumstances, looking out for each other. “In this together” rather than “everyone for him or herself.” People squeeze to make room for a child. They get up and assist a woman who is feeling faint, placing her in a more favorable spot. Others open windows to help create a breeze for her. It is like that here.
the local Posted by Hello
The hike through the countryside takes us right to the core of village life. The forests are filled with sounds of the cuckoo, the villages – with barking dogs. Men drink beer outside the village store, horses pull wagons, children play soccer. So has anything really changed?
farmyard Posted by Hello
a house and a water pump Posted by Hello
a pond with very loud frogs Posted by Hello
the farmer tells me she is one happy horse Posted by Hello
a field of puffs: no Chemlawn here Posted by Hello
the river runs through it Posted by Hello