Saturday, March 01, 2014


Can I cheat today, please? A day of few words?  You'll understand, I know you will. My reasons: I couldn't sleep last night. Tossed and turned until 3. Worse, snippets of senseless conversation ran through my head in rapid succession and I had to let it all run its course.

And now, it's nearly midnight again and I'm tired.

It was my last full day in Poland with my sister. I'm off tomorrow. We could have taken it easy, I suppose. It's Chopin's birthday and we could have celebrated it by listening to piano music, reminiscing about days when we ran to listen to the participants in the Chopin Competition play their required pieces.

We didn't do that. We had breakfast:

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And after, we went to the apartment where I lived my teens years and where for the last thirty years my dad lived with his partner.

Nothing changes there and yet, of course, nothing is the same. It is the first time that I am there without my dad and perhaps the strangest thing is that the place is so full of his absence and his presence that it is just so terribly confusing.

My sister, my dad's partner, her brother and I drive out to the country then. There is a family cabin, not too far from Warsaw. The little house has been much neglected in recent years, but it has small elements of a past life and we all want to walk the property now. A property that has been, as the neighbors tell us, ravaged by wild hogs just in the past weeks.

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Wild hogs! How... exotic!

We all go inside. There are stacks of just about anything and everything, all indicating a past presence, maybe a hurried exit. Or a desire to pack up and leave, or maybe a willingness to let things stay, never fully unpacked. Who can tell...

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We walk through the rooms. It's a small place, but I haven't been here for such a long time (being the wild thing that I am, the one that flew off to America) that it all seems strangely of another world. And it's cold, of course. I let the rest poke around inside. I prefer the outdoor world right now. Where the wild hogs roam.

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The little cottage is in a village that boasts mineral springs and vapors in the summer. Thousands of Poles come during the warm season to take in the potent steamy air. They sit, walk, talk, all the while breathing deeply right here. (I took my girls to it once, when they were much much younger. They were skeptical, or amused, but they took in a few deep breaths dutifully. They reemerged cured of all evil bugs  and viruses. Or something.)

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We walked through the spa park, but it is too cold for a real stroll. We detour to the local cafe where I admire the other component of this pre-Lent week of indulgences: fired cookies, dusted with powdered sugar.

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But I choose, instead, my Polish favorite. Just like my grandmother used to make. Dense with poppy seeds:

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My sister and my dad's partner buy pastry to take home. Home. Where is that for you, dear Ocean readers?

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Late afternoon now. My sister and I return to her apartment briefly, to pick up bags that I wont need for the next ten days. Bags that brought things here and will take other things away. My closest friend here in Poland has stepped up to take them from me for now and so my sister and I take the subway (where I look across the car at this very Polish looking scene)...

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...and we meet my friend at yet another of those most wonderful, modern, imaginative, funky cafes of Warsaw.

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It's been so long since I've talked to her! Fifteen months! So we stay a while to catch up on just the basics. But not too long. My sister and I have a date back in the old apartment -- now my dad's partner's home. There, we're served something that apparently originates from a recipe invented by my father. I will make it for you if you ever come to the farmhouse for an evening drink: it's home grown quince basked in vodka. Oh my!

I notice tonight the chair where I would, in the last five years, always find my father sitting. I visited him in the evenings and it is evening now and the scene looks peculiarly familiar.

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So we have this home made drink and then we are guests for dinner -- at a place that my dad loved -- a place of Polish foods, mainly meats, lots of meats, grilled meats, ribs, brats, pig's hoof, blood sausage, you name it. I'm somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of food, but our hosts  are encouraging. It's good with dark bread, cheese, white cheese, or more meat. Cabbage. There's lots of raw cabbage as well. White, red, purple. Cabbage of color!

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Night. I am now at my sister's home again. The radio playes gentle classical music. She is asleep, I am not. I think about what's next. Tomorrow, yes, that. And in the long run and the medium run. Interspersed with thoughts of what was already there, in our past.

And so I guess I failed at keeping Ocean without words. Maybe typing these short snippets will release them and so they wont run in circles in my head again all night long. Maybe.

I'll write briefly from Paris tomorrow. I'm there for just 18 hours. But I will write. It appears that if there is one thing that's for sure, it is this: I will write.