Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To Russia With Love

my own private Idaho

Each time you set out with a plane ticket in hand and your passport in your pocket, surprises await you. Sometimes the surprises greet you at the airport, sometimes the surprises wait for you at the front desk. Sometimes the surprises linger yet longer to reveal themselves to you and may even materialize on the last night of the trip as the most amazing sunset yet. Always there's surprises. You just don't know where. That's why they are surprises.

I grew up in North Idaho. It is beloved to me still and my childhood on Lake Coeur d'Alene, the St. Joe River, Marble Creek and the north fork of the Coeur d'Alene is a golden cherished relic to whom I regularly pay homage and adoration and for which I always, always whisper a thank you as I pass the altar. I have many, many, many memories of hot summer days in the water; walks in the woods after the tamarack turned; of the birches silent in winter, brilliantly leafed in spring. I remember the first time I caught a really big fish, remember how the soft underbelly puckered as I slit the knife in to clean it, and after that how I would always search the waters to see if I could see another big one waiting down there for me. We picked the huckleberries, tramped up and down the hills like billy goats, prized ourselves on spotting the absolute perfect Christmas tree in the snow and frozen air of the winter forest. My own private Idaho.

It was then, an emotional, deeply moving experience to find that very same Idaho again; the Idaho of the Coeur d'Alenes, the Idaho before the woods and the mines shut down, the Idaho of my youth, as I floated down a series of rivers and lakes on my way to Moscow, Russia from where I got on the boat in St. Petersburg. Surprises, indeed.

Russia is the biggest country in the world, covering 10 million square miles and 11 time zones. It has a vast inventory of natural resources that are yet untouched. It has gold, it has silver, it has uranium. Lead and coal; world's biggest oil and gas reserves. Diamonds and platinum. It has the two biggest lakes in Europe, both of which feel more like oceans than lakes when you ride them. Floating the waters of Russia, I saw stand after stand after stand of virgin timber growing right down to the banks of the rivers and lakes. Little, very little, of the waterfronts are developed. It's the Land That Time Forgot. It's Idaho, back in the day.

I saw old, dusty crummy cars parked down near the banks of the river. Dad was standing shin deep in the water, casting with a boy or two and Mom was cooking over an open flame as the other children played nearby. Mom wore a bandanna tied under her chin. How they got that old car down to the river remains a mystery to me. There just aren't many roads in Russia and many in the north are unpaved.

It was not like reliving my childhood and those endless summers; it was like watching them on DVD from a deck chair and remembering so many things you'd forgotten, but so many things you remembered, too. Slapping mosquitoes at dusk just before the campfire. Splashing, swimming and diving for rocks and beer cans. Flat bottomed fishing boats with outboard motors chugging around the lakes. And absolutely nobody but us and the water and the trees, as far as the eye could see.

So this is how it was. Two weeks of it. There was a surprise every single hour we were there.

The 'Kan EWA


Carla said...

Fabulous!!! Sometimes there's nothing like going away and somehow finding a little piece of home.

Inland Empire Girl said...

Welcome home. Your post surprised me. I had a whole different image of Russia in my head. I love the images you created of Idaho in our youth. I remembered some moments I had forgotten. sigh

toadman said...

Oh my....lakes in Russia...please tell me you visited lake Baikal! Did you? Or was it the Caspian Sea? I'll be surprised and shocked if you did either of these. I can only imagine how amazing they were, and eager anticipate pictures...

The Fool said...

Beautiful post, Cheechako. We sometimes travel so far, only to have it bring us home again. It seems that "Mother" Russia nurtured a very healing reminiscence of some dear times for you. You capture it well in this writing. Kudos.

And welcome back!

BurdockBoy said...

Russia has always been one of my destinations since I was a teenager. My plan was to use my environmental degree, learn some Russian, and travel over there on a sort of "clean-up and evaluate the resources" mission. However, I have had many detours in my life. I don't know a lick of Russian, but I do have an environmental studies degree. I'm not in Russia, but I am on a big lake in Idaho. Go figure.

Oh yeah, loved the post.

JBelle said...

hi Carla, It's always startling to find home on a another continent, isn't it? and to find people, no matter what language they speak that are just like you. We don't always get that from media, do we? ;)

hi there Mrs. Roosevelt! You'd know Russia in a second, honest. Both my mother and father are long gone but this experience was so moving, I dreamed about my parents and our family every night and dreamed about my mother again last night. I relived and redreamed picnics, camping trips, dinners, birthday parties and diving and swimming in those wonderful waters. YOU know the ones....;)

Toadster, Probably won't meet your approval but we were on the Baltic Sea, entered Russia over the Bay of Finnland and sailed Lake Ladoga among others. Stay tuned for more. It was all amazing, Toad. Every bit. And I didn't expect it be.

my Lord: I don't recall at the moment of anyone that I have loved that has gone to whom I didn't say it all and say goodbye with great sorrow but with peace. Don't have any regrets. But often as I have sorted and threaded through some of the more tangling, complex challenges that life presents, I wish I could have just one more hour, 10 more minutes, two good laughs with certain individuals that are now gone. Such a dreamer I am and sooo sentimental about people and loving people. So just imagine when this boat sails away from St. Petersberg, having been priviledged and honored to be in the finest art museum in the world, to pop in the DVD so to speak and see my childhood again. I bet it was how people say in near death experiences that their whole life flashes before their eyes. Only this one was in real time and allowed me to weave those two sagas of my life together. Just never saw this one coming. It was intensely pleasurable.

Burdock, my man! Pleasure, to be sure. Dude, you get after that Russian! As their economy grows and develops in the north, where it is non-existent at the moment, they will need experts and experience such as yours. They are, as far as I can see, classically educated and with their oil refineries and chemical factories, they gonna needs some environmental help, and will ask for same, sooner or later. Hopefully sooner. Damn. Now there's a career....

toadman said...

I can't imagine why the Baltic sea wouldn't meet my approval. My approval rating is pretty low.

Looking forward to more pictures and words.

mamaJD said...

Your trip sounded great. Your description of Idaho back in the day sounds familiar. I miss those times. I don't know if I changed along the way or the times have changed, but it does seem different now. My children do not know the pleasures of carefree Idaho afternoons running through the forest, making forts, building dams on the creek until sunset. Just to glimpse again the way it used to be, even if on the other side of the world, is a blessing.

Anonymous said...

this one was in real time and allowed me to weave those two sagas of my life together. Just never saw this one coming. It was intensely pleasurable.

Methinks these phenomena you've described are necessary ingredients to touching the face of God--the ultimate healing, the ultimate integration, uh, I mean re-integration...the return home.

Great reflections. I grokked the whole gestalt. Woof.


PDX Pup said...

I was in Home Depot last night picking up some cleaning supplies, and even though I had no business on that end of the store, I wandered into the lumber section so I could smell the sawdust and freshly cut pieces of wood. I kind of wanted to either grab a book and climb to the highest stack to read, or tag the shopper closest to me and run around the stacks playing until I heard someone yell "Hey you kids! Git off that wood!" Just like the old days.

JBelle said...

Toadster, I'm dredging up the words because they fail me a bit. But I'm working on it!

MamaJ: Those of us who roamed and roved North Idaho are bound by those special days and starry nights when what we looked forward to was the next day where we'd start all over again. I loved Pup's post here because that's one thing she and I share about our childhoods in Idaho, lumberstacks and sawdust. Sometimes you can go back--and you gotta stay open to that.

Your Holiness, I grokked the whole thing, too. Grokked it right up. It was damned good.

Pup, Do you remember the lucky days when there would be fresh sawdust on the floor? :)