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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…

tiny epic

They float upwards, drifting past the windows in splotches of afternoon sunlight. For a moment, it can make you feel like everything outside is upside-down, or that a snow globe has replaced the sky. I feel a half-dizzy vertigo if I watch them too long as they drift to the gutter, seeping in the kitchen windows to paint the bottoms of frying pans, the corners of cabinets. These poplar seeds will fly for about three weeks, the result of an ill-conceived attempt to make Moscow greener when Stalin made the country's decisions. 

The romantics and the newcomers think they are magical pronouncing them in shallow irony "to be just like snow, even though winter just went away". As the seeds collect in filthy drifts on dry earth, the rest of us try to ignore them while our noses itch. In truth, most of the pukh (seeds) are females and in a more perfect irony, there are very few males to go around. Each year I am reminded of this, while the women with bare shoulders and stilettos stalk the sidewalks, while hair is flipped from eyes, while asses  twitch, while faces grow long, while men sit in odd groups leering and smoking and spitting on the earth in stained t-shirts and broken sandals. The party boats plow along the river, half-empty with men shouting on microphones to get up and dance. 

This is how summer comes.

E occupies herself with a series of projects, skipping from room to room to visit me, to ask for a bowl of cold cherries, to tell me the names of new characters she is drawing, to rest her head on my shoulder for a minute or two. We are planning to make a little film together, called Picture Day.

I see her face changing, as she grows more confident. We buy her a special pan and spatula that she will learn to make her own eggs with.
"But you will light the stove." She always reminds me.

I have taught her to hold the salt grinder far above her food, so that it spreads a thin, even mist across her entire plate.
She holds it high above her head, stopping to see if I am watching before she cranks it.


There is something inherently epic about living here that I never felt in New York. Maybe it is because I am not from here, but every day brings a series of events that are somehow unsurprising and overwhelming at the same time. I don't know how we ended up with clean white drapes to block out the late sun, or money in the bank, or a history of drawings on the fridge. I don't know how I found a woman to love, who found the same in me. I don't know how E grew out of that pair of jeans, or if the sky will fill with black smoke tomorrow.


liv said…
I always wonder that too. How....did he do that? How.....does he do that?

It must always feel a bit like you are awake and yet dreaming at the same time.

And on the one hand I am so curious and enthralled to see E as she grows and is ever "becoming", but as well, I wish she would stay just like this forever - squeezethebreathoutofyourheart sweet.

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