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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…

Moscow in winter


I have started to ignore the Russian winter entirely. The ground has been thick with snow since early October. I slide on wet ice. I stomp the muck and slush from my boots in front of doorways. The snow falls with measured grace from time to time, but mostly in the middle of night when no one can see it swirling around the street lamps. I forget to draw smiles on the hood of N's car. None of this is real. It is simply outside, and I want to stay in.

When the coat is pulled on, I forget. Hat found behind a door, gloves shoved into the back of a closet, I go out to buy chicken, and milk. In the early darkness, people plod along, many with a cigarette dangling from their fingers. I navigate the hovering parked cars, exhaust choking from their tailpipes. The stores are muddy, desperate, the faces tired and confused. The aisles are re-arranged in one, but there is nothing new on the shelves, just the same dented boxes of juice.

This is Moscow in winter.


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