It’s hard not to notice the sudden influx of lemmings! They come out at night, scurrying and scuttling about through the fields, roads, and sidewalks, master administrators of the heebie-jeebies. They don’t come very close to people, but they do, however, make driving terrifying. A friend drove us home after an invigorating dose of karaoke one night. Our little buggie was winding back and fourth between the lemmings like a speedy downhill skier artfully dodging the flags. The next morning always reveals the lemming-carnage of the previous night; the path is speckled with the victims of less artful dodging.
Admittedly, it gives the city a bit of an eerie feeling. After the pristine, breathtaking beauty of the winter, the spring has brought plagues of lemmings (three years ago, it was plagues of beetles), the snow has melted away to reveal seven months of litter and cigarette butts, and the dirt and dust, no longer tucked away under their snowy quilts, have risen and are seeking vengeance on all of our tender eyes.
In my opinion, this territory isn’t exactly people-friendly! In an odd way, it somewhat reminds me of the birth of St. Petersburg – an unnatural city willed into existence under impossible circumstances. The land is retaliating, sending beetles and lemmings and dust storms to push out the intruders. Yes yes yes, I exaggerate; apocalyptic scenarios are all the rage these days. But nonetheless, there’s something obtrusive about it all, something ever so slightly off-center.
On a livelier note, a few weekends ago it was Easter! The Eastern Orthodox Easter comes a week after the Christian Easter. My friend Natasha invited me to her small village, Talinka, which was just the best.
We arrived and immediately set to baking a preposterous amount of bread goods. Dough after dough was pinched, punched, patted, rolled, twisted, flattened, and fluffed. We beat eggs and sugar together until we produced a new, edible White-out. We made messes that would put preschool kids to shame.
We dyed eggs with water steeped in red onion skins, producing a heavenly burgundy brown hue. The eggs came straight from the family’s chickens, just as the onions came straight from the family’s farm.
We used store-bought dyes, too, adding bursts of flashy color. Then Natasha’s mum put together a dairy disco party of tvorog (kind of like dry cottage cheese), smetana (sour cream), sugar, and one or two raw eggs, and the arsenal of food was ready.
We walked to the church to baptize our foods. We lit candles for our favorite saints (I wanted to light mine for St. Nicholas, the patron saint of travelers, but he was not represented amongst the cache of gold-incrusted icons). The priest splashed water on all the cakes, buns, and eggs, and we walked back, taking long way home, skipping through the village with our heavily-icinged and now holy treats.
We (Natasha, her sister, their four friends, and I) spent about 7 hours in the incredible banya that her father built, tearing apart and devouring dried fish from the river, glugging down Kvas, laughing, sweating, beating each other with birch branches, sloughing off all that could be sloughed off. We finished the night like freshly born babies with very strong fish breath.
The next day consisted of visiting family and breaking eggs (two people knock their boiled eggs together, tip to tip or bum to bum, and whosever egg doesn’t crack is the victor), constantly eating, and running around the forest reciting Pushkin at the top of our lungs. That last bit is not necessarily a typical Easter tradition! 🙂