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Breathing the right air

Nothing brings more comfort than a bag of good things to cook, swinging under your arm as you make your way home. Somehow it blots out the rest of the world. In these moments, the entire universe consists of a late afternoon sun, a stray dog and a clump of flowers growing strange and wild in a yard. A hit of basil jumps from my elbows with each swing of the bag, a gift from one of the ladies I buy from the most. I visit markets without intention, just eyes open ready to discover fresh peas, or the first corn. Knowing that these products will disappear as quickly as they present themselves creates a certain form of excitement. Each season offers up this rhythm and without it I might become completely lost.

I think of when we were in Tuscany a month ago, feeling like such a tourist until I wandered out along the highway and found the local vegetable stand. I shoved squash blossoms and tiny tomatoes into a bag, rushing back to our room like I had robbed a bank. I made pasta with them th…

the other side of the window


Looking out the windows for so long, I decided to make something of it. Camera resting on the tripod, left in odd positions that could not describe what flitters of life it captured, I gathered moments together. N does not ask me why anymore. She knows in a general sense what it will be, what it will always be. E is oblivious, lost in a lego castle where all of her dolls are playing at being Rapunzel, where countless wicked women dole out punishment to Spongebob, Natiri and a dark-skinned Bratz doll named Sasha. 

People are plodding through the snow out there, holding hands out there, honking in traffic, looking at the sky. Soon it will be Valentine's Day. My first one with N. Last year we were far too awkward to mention the day or lend it any significance. I think we joked about it a bit. There was no chocolate or flowers, no hard-won restaurant reservation. I am sure I was alone with E that night, probably making chicken soup or doing laundry. 

Some years ago, I was married on Valentine's Day. It was at the courthouse downtown. It was freezing cold. There were a few friends there to witness things, to give us awkward well-wishes. Everyone else had been estranged. My family had no idea what was going on. I was lost then, more than normal. I had traveled so far down a road of self reliance that I believed I needed almost no one around me. I had my old apartment, the windows littered with pennies that looked out on 1st street. I had my guitars, pots and pans and a closet full of fancy shoes. I had watched the towers crumble from those windows, drinking my morning coffee. I mistook the first plane for some kind of gas explosion, thinking ConEd had really screwed up this time. That's the kind of man I was then - trusting, innocent, incapable of imagining what people are capable of. I began to turn sour. I walked the empty streets as sirens and firetrucks rumbled down Houston. Almost everything annoyed me, disturbed the delicate balance of the solitary life I was leading. 

The details are too complex and bizarre to imagine, but I found myself getting married on Valentine's Day about a year later, not far from that empty wound in the earth where the subway trains had just started working again. There were sunny blotches on the walls, in Russian solnechnei zaichiki, or sunny rabbits.  They are supposed to bring luck. Looking back now, out the windows on the riverside in Moscow it is hard to imagine some things being worse, but I am sure they could have been. 

If I look away from the window, I see N and E. 

I see a flower we bought at Ikea for a few rubles, a tiny bulb in some dry earth. Both of us nervous, we watered it every few days. N laughed out loud at the green shoots pushing their way towards the pale winter light. We made bets about what color the flower would be and E won, knowing it would be purple. The flower sits in front of my desk, perfuming the cold air that drifts towards me. 

I go and buy chocolates and roses. Walking in the street I know I am outside the window now, somehow with warm shoes on and something important to take care of. After the blank pause of last year, it has become a new day, a common one, the day many people share in some personal, shared tradition. 

I will make little chocolate cakes, I decide. I will put blueberries inside them if I can find some.



Comments

S Sommer said…
Marco... Happy Valentine's Day.

Yes, certain dates have special meanings, that can change, over time.

Sometimes, it is an accomplishment to forget a date or pass by a date without thinking of an anniversary.

Your flower in the pot is a hyacinth, one of my favorite spring flowers, because of its' rapturous scent. One of the best smells!

Glad to see you here. :-) SS
Hope you found the blueberries! :)
Rabbit blogger said…
Julia, as it turns out, N surprised me with some.
Mely said…
Well, Happy Belated Valentine's for the three of you.
Live is like a wheel of fortune. you never know where will it stop next.

Spring is coming soon.
Mely said…
Happy Belated Valentine's to the three of you!

Spring is coming soon.:)
Such joy for me to come home and find you baking cakes and breathing in the perfume of a home-grown hyacinth. What a year it's been for all of you, M.Happy V Day!
Mother Theresa said…
I just love the way you tell about your life...it's like I can almost see it. I especially like the idea of the sunny rabbits, what an interesting way of seeing things, but I'm sorry they didn't bring you luck. Well, a hyacinth, chocolate cakes with blueberries, and two people you love...now that seems pretty lucky. Happy belated Valentine's Day. :)

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