Wednesday, December 13, 2006

from outside of Warsaw: over the river, through the woods

I know I am being deliberately teased by the weather. The first day had me convinced that I would have eternal sunshine and a spotless sky for the duration of my Poland visit. The second day it rained. The third day, gentle wisps of cloud made room for periods of sunshine. The fourth day, Tuesday, buckets of wet stuff came down. Depending on where you stood, it fell as rain or snow.

Most would not view this as an opportunity to drive out into the countryside. But most had not been entranced, seeing out the train window endless possibilites of country walks. So it was a little wet outside. So what.

It was not just a little wet. It was hugely wet, foggy, gray. The landscape looked like someone had forgotten to add color to the paintbox. And the traffic moving out of the city was enough to erase any thoughts that this venture would be a breeze.

Oh, we did leave behind the city scapes eventually. Still, was it worth it, for this?

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The one splash of color did make me pull over and take out the camera. A reminder of years when many houses in this region bore traces of folk art. But now, this one stands alone.

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Two and a half hours into our drive, I had the idea that we should find the house my grandparents once inhabited. It is in a village, north east of Warsaw. A dirt road off the main road takes you there. It’s where I spent the first three years of my life and returned to more summers than I can remember.

I turned off the road tentatively. It felt so familiar, there in that forest of red-bark pines. The snow was holding on in pretty clumps of white, as if to let me know that this was not folly, this drive was worth the bother.

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The village looked empty now, but I know it was for weather reasons. That farm house is new! That one was there fifty years ago. My grandfather helped build this meeting hall! My grandmother bought milk and cheese from this farmer.

Ed listened patiently. I know that the details of milk and cheese acquisition could not inspire the same excitement in him, but he’s a tolerant soul and so I continued.

This house was once used as a boy’s orphanage. I hear it’s now a place to send abused or neglected children. And see that store? Oh, it used to be a store. No more store.

One last kilometer and we are in front of it. The one room house that my grandfather bought when my sister and I were born. He added a sunporch. Then an attic. And so it grew and we did too.

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…and that used to be the outhouse, and the cherry tree grew there and the apple orchard was to the side.

You cannot go back, not really. The inside of the house is different, the garden has changed. But you can stand in front of a place and put yourself in the images of your childhood and for a minute, you are taht little, that unknowing.

We looked for a while and then turned back to the city.

No country walk on this day, no city walk either. Not many photos, not much sightseeing. Just one sight, that of a childhood village house, standing there under the flakes of wet snow.

Our last evening in Poland. Ed, my sister and I eat dinner with my oldest friends in Warsaw. It is always like that. I come, they cook, I leave. With a sweet sweet taste of cakes to finish my visit home.

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NOTE: I am traveling today to the southern most part of Italy's big boot. Internet for the next four days will be a challenge. Patience! I will try.