Saturday, May 28, 2005

(From Warsaw): children

My sister picked me up at the train station and let me loose in Warsaw’s parks. It is my last evening in Poland.

I keep noticing the children. These were my parks too, when I was their age. And where will you be forty, fifty years from now? In Warsaw? Away in some place across the ocean? Where?

You play so hard right now! You do! I played hard too. I splashed and climbed and begged for ice cream cones.

Children. And flowers. And parks. Bring them on, bring on the children, let them play, let them play hard and long.
the joy in feeding a pigeon (of all things) Posted by Hello
on a hot day, in the park Posted by Hello
jumping rocks Posted by Hello
girls with serious thoughts Posted by Hello
a boy with energy Posted by Hello
looking a peacock in the eye Posted by Hello
sweat peas, lilies of the valley, strawberries. Posted by Hello

(From Krakow): Oscar's place

I have a two hour layover in Krakow on my way back to Warsaw. Hot air from Africa is pouring into the main square. I am loaded down with bags. I am undaunted. I have to fix this computer thing. Zakopane fiddled my Dell laptop into a funk.

I go to the place where Oscar faithfully posted during his stay in Krakow. They are saintlier than saints. The computer is fixed (thanks for cooperating, Dell-o-licious!) and I am made richer by a heapin' glassful of black currant juice, two cappucinos and a perfect Polish apple cake.

Life is good.

I only hope I don't miss my train to Warsaw.
returning to a good thing Posted by Hello

(From Zakopane/Krakow): Warm air, warm feelings, broken computer

Okay, my Dell friend. You are so almost dead it’s not funny. You have traveled with me, struggled to keep going in tough times and weird places and now you are fading, fading, on my last day in Poland no less.

And so I cannot write about the bloggers that I spend an evening with last night, I cannot write about my last dinner with my father, I cannot write in any detail about this next 24 hours, where I will have come full circle, traveling from Zakopane, to Krakow, to Warsaw, to Paris and then on Monday – home again.

I’m not mad – I know you are trying to eek out these last words for me, but I do wish you would give it one last effort before I retire you and search for a replacement. Really. I’ve shown you the world, I’ve introduced you to new experiences – it’s time for you to demonstrate some affection and appreciation for my efforts. Okay? OKAY?????

Thank you.

(From Zakopane): Return to Rynias

(on Friday)

Each time I see it, I am overwhelmed. Rynias: it’s not even a village. Just three homes in a hidden valley, at the foot of the Tatras, near the Slovakian border.

Pan Stas and Pani Anna

I have to bribe someone to drive me from Zakopane to the village from where I can begin my hike to visit my aging Rynias highlanders, P. Stas and P. Anna. Easy. People need cash. My driver is a highlander himself. Nie boji sie pani niedzwiedzi (aren’t you afraid of bears)? – he asks. Damn! What I didn’t know wasn’t going to hurt me. Now I find myself listening for bear noises as I walk through the deep forest.

We had a feeling you'd be coming this week!

Such joy to see them! And it’s mutual. I had been here in December, but I had missed Pani Anna, who had gone off for the day to the store. But today both are there – just finishing their drugie sniadanie (second breakfast).

I eat eggs and bread with them as well as her baked sugar cookies, along with a glass of tea. A pang of guilt hits me: I almost did not come. Were it not for my father in Zakopane, I may have neglected this promised visit. [Did I promise? I must have.]

What can I bring you next time?

They have so little! They eat and cook in the little hut, on a wood-burning stove. Their lives do not vary. She has to hike up the mountain and down the other side to get supplies: an hour trek for me, but getting to be two hours each way for her. And so they buy almost nothing.

I bring them sweets and food treats, but this time I feel that maybe I should look for something that would make their lives just that much easier and so I ask – what do you need?

Good scissors for shearing sheep! They show me what they use: paper scissors, cheaply made at that. Once, our uncle found a pair in America, he said they were cheap, and they were wonderful! [Does Menards carry sheep shearing scissors??]

Do all good things come from America?

Yesterday I wore my flowered skirt to church, Pani Anna tells me. The highlanders all dressed in colorful clothing. They sang our old songs. But you know, I bought the skirt in town and they told me it was made in America, not here! And so I paid a fortune for it! After all, it was imported.

Oh, Pani Anna, I don’t think so! You’ve been had! I’m thinking this, but I say nothing. I admire it as she puts it against her middle, the rubber-band waist extending over her hips.

A sad good-bye

I walk with them as they send their sheep out to pasture. I listen to them talk about the absence of mushrooms in the forest, about who died when, about the wheat that will grow in their small field this summer. They don’t complain, they just tell me things, matter of factly, earnestly.

When will you come for a longer spell? When will your husband come? Your daughters? Oh, I cannot be honest now! I cannot say “never.” And so I say, as I always do – soon. Next year maybe. And here comes the promise again: I’ll come next time. Really I will..
Rynias: up past the meadows and down through the forest Posted by Hello
Just around the bend now... Posted by Hello
the final approach: their barn, their kitchen hut, the dog house Posted by Hello
Pani Anna tells me how the year has been Posted by Hello
she keeps chasing them out, they keep returning Posted by Hello
proud of her special holiday skirt Posted by Hello
Pan Stas looks on as I eat their "second breakfast" of bread, eggs and Pani Anna's cookies Posted by Hello
with their 18 sheep Posted by Hello
it's a steep hike through the forest Posted by Hello
a hut marks the top of the mountain separating Rynias from the rest of the world Posted by Hello
the perfect spot to sit and write Posted by Hello
In the village across the mountain, a detail of a typical door Posted by Hello
Pesty Madison neighbors who have been bugging me to use a hand-powered mower, I have an even better idea: how about trading in your mowers for this? Posted by Hello

(From Zakopane): notes and comments

(on Thursday)

Zakopane. It’s like Aspen, Colorado. These days, no true mountain nut would choose it as a place to go to in order to get a whiff of mountain air. But for us older types who were raised to love its magic way back in the fifties and sixties (to say nothing of those who knew it even earlier), this place resonates with a nostalgic beauty. It is a mountain resort perfectly positioned at the foot of the High Tatras – the Alps of Eastern Europe.

I came on a slow moving train. It took four hours to make the 120 kilometer run from Krakow. I needed those four hours. Some people process days and events quickly, off-handedly. I need deliberate processing time. I got it on this local little chugging train. [That night, for the first time in months, I slept without guilt.]

Remember: the sky is brilliant, the air is warm. That backdrop adds to the surreal quality of these days.

I had time for a hike into the mountains before supper. Up high, there is a tea hut in a valley just at the base of one of the peaks and even though it was late (I was to meet my dad for supper that evening) I took a cup of tea, a smoked chunk of sheep cheese and a wedge of home made honey cake to a spot in the rapidly receding sun and had perhaps the most peaceful, nourishing snack ever.

The hike back to Zakopane was remarkable. No, really, I amazed myself. [A hefty amount of bragging is about to ensue.] In stretches where this was at all possible, I ran down the rocky path, jumping over protruding stones much like I imagine a mountain goat would do were she escaping some demons. I thought for the rest of the evening: hey, I am as strong as I have ever been in my life.

Mountains allow you to think in grandiose ways.
a walk in Zakopane Posted by Hello
magnificent, especially in the late afternoon light Posted by Hello
smoked cheese, honey cake Posted by Hello
my next of kin Posted by Hello