Last Thursday morning, our well-clad group headed out of Vytegra and deeper into the heartland. The reason for our journey was a certain poet by the name of Nikolai Klyuev; his birthplace is none other than the unannounced village of . Klyuev's home, large by the standards of its time and place, now acts as the cultural center for the villagers. (I think we determined that the baby blue exterior was not the original color of the home.)
Yet this is not to determine a sketch of a surrendering village. Makachevo is visibly lasting. The women to whom we spoke--the local babushkas and future babushkas (and those future babushkas of even farther-off babushkas…)--expressed an enduring devotion to their Makachevo. A voice from our curious group asked what a favorite part of life in this village was: "Bce!" answered an aged woman in a fast breath. Many of the older residents visit their relocated children/grandchildren and, while doing so, swear to grow homesick for Makachevo by their first or second night away!
Based on our afternoon stay alone, I easily and eagerly trust this sentiment. It is an incredible place to be; it offers a coveted quietude. The frost covering the hay and the snow along the wood deposit nature across the congruous cabins. During our visit to Babushka Tania's, the warmth of her hospitality and of her stove (equally tangible), emitted a naturally contagious feeling of at-home-ness. It didn't hurt that the tea and food--like the atmosphere--were absolutely worth holding onto forever.
This trip has again and again been occasioning realizations about Russia and about ourselves. Andrew and I were discussing it over a lunch a few days ago--mainly, a sort of existential bafflement that underscores each moment of the trip. First, we zoom out of bodies and briefly imagine ourselves as points on a map; next, we invite in the hows, the whats, the whys for questioning (rather, they all come without explicit invitation and startle us); finally, we find no answers. Spring break in provincial Russia challenges the popular search for recognizable meaning in all that we do. Case and point: there is no rhyme or reason to how we all found ourselves on a spontaneous horse-and-sleigh ride through the village. But we sure did and we enjoyed it!