In the growing heat of the morning, the myriad cries of the birds and almost macabre buzz of bees awakens compartments of my spirit that have long been shut in Moscow. Our dogs, Casper and Poppy, launch themselves at these murmuring 'ýellow jackets' (as I used to call them long ago in America) because they don't know what in the world they are. As I awaken to such visions and harmonies as recall my boyhood, the dogs too, born and bred in Moscow, are learning the ways of country life. They bark at the bees and seem to hold them in awe, as would a person suddenly seeing a maze of helicopters jittering in the sky.
The village is called Bliznatsi, and it is about 20 kilometers away from Varna, Bulgaria, where we recently traded in our apartment on the hill and purchased a house not far from the sea. In this village one finds a mixture of wealthy people — most of them foreigners — whose houses are lofty and bright, — and the Bulgarian locals, many of whom live in tumble-down, ramshackle buildings that, though in considerable disrepair, nevertheless manage to appear sturdy enough. There is a slim paved road leading from the highway that becomes the main street of the village, and which goes down the sloping part of town known as Doran and up the other side which apparently is called Goran.
Something like that. Sort of like Buda and Pest. This is my third day here, and I will go sight-seeing soon enough.
We — my wife, dogs, and I — live very much off the beaten path. And though in reality Varna (400,000 souls) is near, the beach-life is crowded and fulsome in the summer, and — to my delight — a great fitness center nearby awaits my first visit later today — it certainly seems, as I sit outside on the patio and regard the slender clumps of-grass-and-spools-of-dust lane we live on and the magnificent fields beyond, that we have arrived, triumphantly, to the Middle of Nowhere.
In two weeks I will be back in Moscow.
The point of what I am attempting to say today is not to extol, in the usual hackneyed manner, the purifying wonders of rural living as opposed to the soul-blighting gristmill and sinister seductions of the Capitol. A side of me loves (or is addicted to — I haven't figured that part of it out yet) the great mega-city. I am consumed by its incessant possibilities and alternatives, the nano-second complexities of urban wilderness, the tormenting but fascinating juxtaposition on every street of those who have and those who have not, and always, always, always — the fabulous women. (In hard, cold fact, the stories of these women are probably disappointingly similar, and yet, and yet, and yet…not a day goes by in Moscow that I do not see a woman in the metro who generates in me a mighty impulse to follow her out of the station and into the rest of her life — and when she leaves the train a stop or two later, I feel a momentary void as if something precious were irretrievably lost. The stuff of novels I guess.Yet the incredible — though mercifully brief — a moment of yearning seems very real.)
Metropolis: the money is on the table, Do you want it or not??
I did not come to Bliznatsi in order to wash the city from my hands and feet, but rather to rediscover the pagan gods I used to know.
They are appearing. I find them in the gray coverlid of morning mist and in the true country darkness with its unnerving totality — something city dwellers never know. People in the big city forget, little by little, how powerful nature really is. In the city, we live in a vast supermarket full of packaged meat spiked with crimson food-coloring to make it look appetizing. Here in the country, the meat is still on the hoof, and these galloping and thudding creatures do not smell like French cuisine. They smell of the earth. You know, I must be a strange guy, but on those rare occasions that I visit a zoo, it is not as much to see the animals as to smell them. Again, it might be a hearkening back to my childhood when my cousins and I had to cross farmland to get to the shop where we could buy sodas and candy. But those deep, mahogany creatures with their sinewy odors — the heavy fragrance of beasts — must have left their mark. And the only candy I remember is the candy of their breath.
Mostly here in Bliznatsi, the difference that reaches my senses more than in any other way, is the matter of sound. Here, I can't call it Noise. Noise is for the city. Noise is the endless blaring of horns at every traffic light or turning. Noise is the garbage music in the cafes that split my ears when I am trying to think or speak to my friend. Noise is the ungodly Expresso machines that are like a hellish fiddle-bow accompanying the god-awful music. Noise is the thunder of jackhammers digging up the streets.
SOUND is something else out in the country. It is the distant cuckoo and the chortling sparrow, the rasping soliloquy of squawking night-birds, followed by the rambunctious thrashing of morning creatures that sound like a thousand fresh eggs hatching open all at once.
Nature produces a galaxy of sounds (I remember back in Florida, I had parked my car with a girl one night by the side of a pond near the swamp. I was stunned by the cacophony of the swamp-life at night, a fearful symphony telling tales, minute-by-minute, of life and death. Here it seems safer, and, of course, there are no alligators !) It is better than good to know that all of these life-sponsoring creations still exist. I had begun to think they didn't. I guess this is part of the reason Russian people love to visit their dacha in the summer. It is not about "the country is good, the city is bad." It is about restoring your sanity.
I have dim memories of how real butter should taste (not the candle wax on sale in Moscow shops).. And home-made ice cream. And the impossible-to-duplicate apple sauce my great-grandfather used to make from the fallen apples, all of them seemingly full of what we boys called "wormholes." The air of Bliznatsi brings it all back. In the evening, the zephyr is full of such syrup, the oxygen so rich that it makes you dizzy and lethargic the first day you arrive.
Finally, it is great to rediscover the powers of Darkness and Light in their naked truth — so radically different from the garish artificial glow of cities. It is great to see people you've never met before who actually wave to you as they go by in their old trucks or from across the fence. They don't look at you like they think you are going to rob them. Above all, it is simply stupendous not to have to look at people staring ENDLESSLY at their goddamn notebook screens or jabbering on the goddamn phone. Great for the blood pressure.
It is good to be alone.
Alone at night, except for knowing that my gentle wife is sleeping in the bedroom upstairs. Alone, except for my trusty and beloved dogs sitting with me on the porch under the windy stars, silent except for when, like echoes, they return the bark of neighboring dogs. Alone with the glaring bulb-eyes of the owl who lives in the belfry atop the house opposite.
Alone. Silence. Then, like out of a dream comes the baleful howl of the coyotes way out in the forest, their collective voices as soothing as the whistle of a night-train or a driving rain against your window when you are at the edge of sleep. And always the black fields beyond, in their own giant slumber, the pagan night on the cusp of new daylight.
No, I don't hate the city. It will call me back before long with its hushed mistress whisper and shrieking alarm clock. I will return with a suitcase full of trophies from Bulgaria, back to Paveletskaya Station and then again to my Kruschevka, up the flight of five stairs, and back into my world of 'business'", dark and gray..
===Eric Richard Le Roy===