by Anna Shornikova
Sunday, August 9, 2020
We woke up quite early today. It was only 9:45 when I realized that I actually had a good sleep and that Nastya was already awake. I guess it’s the magic influence of the countryside where we are currently staying as guests. Just a few days ago our vacation plans were up in the air because of coronavirus as we wanted to laze about in the sun on the Bulgarian beach. But we changed everything in a couple of minutes and were now completely relaxed in the quiet village of the Yaroslavl region.
We are the three old friends spending our fourth summer in this gorgeous countryside house. The owner of this paradise was Mary and her family, and today was the first day here that we’ve spent completely alone. I knew that Mary also woke up as she had to help her parents and say goodbye to them because they were going back to Moscow for the new work week. Nastya and I settled in the main part of the house called izba, and Mary slept in her own little room just next to us. We all met in the hall to have breakfast.
This morning I understood I felt much more comfortable in a company of friends without adults. Although Mary’s parents were very nice and approachable people, I still felt a certain strain and uneasiness because of them being in charge of all the facilities, our comfort, and meals. Today was peace and quiet of freedom and solitude. We talked a little after the meal and cleaned everything up. By that time we realized that the weather was ideal, even more pleasant than it was yesterday. So, being determined to spend our time as productively as we could, we took our yoga mats and went out on the grass-plot around the house. By the way, the house was the first one on the only street in the village, so the territory partially served as a vegetable garden and as an open lawn with flowers here and there and a tiny pond surrounded by stones and moss in Asian style, carefully made by Mary herself. I remember I was examining thoroughly every fragment of this little piece of Japanese culture while the girls were preparing for the exercise hour.
Remembering the deplorable experience of the previous two days, when we returned from a walk red as lobsters, we put on a lot of sunscreen, regretting that it couldn’t remove the redness on our hands and faces. Today the sun was especially merciless, but it was actually all we needed after self-isolation and some cold days in Moscow. We placed the mats under the shade of the arbour covered with a vine and started our workout. We did some funny circular movements that seemed to me as if we were the witches dancing around the pot with a magic potion… The witches in bikinis as we wanted to get suntanned at any cost. I discovered this advantage of the deserted countryside when Mary’s parents left.
After an hour of tiring exercises, we pulled out two beach beds and one huge hammock to rest and bask in the sun. Mary and I brought books to read and Nastya settled in a hammock with a graphic tablet, it seemed that she was inspired. To tell the truth, I planned to finish reading the book by the end of the week, but today was the first time I opened it here. It was ‘1984’ by George Orwell in English and I was on the second, most positive part. For some time, we were pulled into the discussion of books and the difficulties and benefits of reading a book in its original language. Then for two hours or so I was engrossed in reading. A strange but very pleasant feeling came over me. I caught myself thinking that this comforting silence never bothered or stressed none of us. But although I was really interested in the story of Winston Smith, I was extremely curious about what Nastya was drawing, how she used this technological marvel to produce something really impressive.
At some point, we simultaneously felt that it was time for a change and have dinner. I couldn’t stop myself from asking what Nastya was sketching, so while preparing our meal we discussed art issues and congratulated our fellow artist with a couple of new orders from her followers. After the meal we felt energised and went on our already traditional walk in the fields. It was easy to find a path as the fields were just behind the fence. We didn’t waste time going through the village and headed straight to the meadows.
Until today, I have never pondered over the different types of fields, except for the natural history lessons, of course. But living in the village, you see the diversity and beauty of the landscape. Mary’s village is situated on the plain and only the nearby rural settlement with a suitable name Highland could be identified by a tall pink chapel and seen from all perspectives. We walked along the unmown meadow where grass and numerous flowers were mixed and talked eagerly about this and that. I knew that our every trip was a unique route around the endless plain. Today we turned left and kept going where our feet took us. The meadow was on my right, and on the left I saw a field of gold. The ripe ears of rye or wheat were rustling in the wind. It was fun to think that it was the sound of the waves. We passed the fields, and then I saw something rich and verdant. The grassland was a lush, emerald ocean, and the sky above was sapphire with cotton clouds casting shadows on the ground. Somehow, we came to the edge of the road that was used mainly by field engines. Incidentally, it struck me that there was not a single soul around except our trio.
We stopped to have a rest and decide how to go further through the grassland without a path as we noticed a lonely trailer left not far away. We agreed to make it our reference point and go in search of some kind of a wheel track leading us somewhere into the unknown. Only writing this, I realize how fun and absurd it was trying to find a trodden path in the meadow. In the end, we just crossed the field aslant and faced a field woodland. There we found a path that stretched to the edge of the thick forest. This time the grass was shoulder high, and the heat surrounded us because the sun was still merciless. The forest was our salvation. We hid under the shade of pines and birches. I breathed in this dizzy smell and looked around enjoying my favourite combination of trees. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go further as the path ended abruptly right at the forest border, probably because the cars of mushroom pickers stopped there. We stood for a while listening to the sounds of nature and unanimously decided to take off our shoes. The grass there was so soft that I barely felt slight tingling.
Only then we understood how far we had actually wandered. But we successfully managed to find the lonely trailer, and then our way was easier. Halfway to the house Mary pulled out a portable speaker, and we got acquainted with her musical taste… I remembered that as a child I used to sing children’s songs with my grandfather while walking in the fields, so as all the neighbouring villages heard us. It’s somewhat symbolic that the story repeats itself but with different people, different music, and different fields. Hopefully, nobody heard or saw us today.
As we returned home, it was almost 7 p.m. Mary went to heat up the bath while Nastya and I were preparing for one of the most pleasant parts of the day. We spent quite a lot of time there, relaxing after such an eventful day. I knew that it was already dark outside, but anyway we had to return to the house. I confess that I’m afraid of the darkness, and this prospect frightened me a little. I turned on my phone’s flashlight trying to illuminate our way, but Mary asked me to turn it off. Only because of my will power and faith in my friends I managed to turn it off. We stood still, and I raised my eyes.
Maybe I couldn’t write down all the details of this day and maybe even mixed something up, but these minutes were etched into my memory forever. I was fascinated by the beauty of the night sky. I’ve looked at the stars dozens of times; on the coasts of Italy they were bright and scarce, in my village I could identify some of the constellations. But here the sky was studded with stars. There were thousands of white beads on a dark velvet fabric. But the most amazing thing was the Milky Way that was visible to the naked eye. I remembered all these broadcasts about people who tried to catch the night sky beauty with HD cameras and other expensive equipment. But here I stood looking on this ivory path crossing the sky right above my head even without my glasses.
We returned to the house and had tea while watching a movie on TV. Already in bed, writing in my diary, I felt this magic silence of the countryside that pulled me away from the reality into the dreamland.