The place under the sun
A blue-red sunset, touched bathed in a dense fog, shimmered in front of me on the vast horizon. Only a gentle whisper of wind wove into the wide silence. White patches of several cows standing in the distance on the meadow, melted into one with fog, and the black ones created irregular, moving blots from the distance. The crown of an old tree, whose trunk also disappeared in soaked white, transformed into a huge still bird with a massive beak. Green and gold of the vast fields turned into a cinnabaric of the late sunlight, disappearing behind the long black line of a forest a few kilometers away.
For a long time I was standing, lulled by the present moment, did not hurry to leave it, either towards the future or to memories. I closed unnecessary thoughts and words in the nameless space to enjoy the magic of creation. When the sun disappeared behind the globe, I returned to the time. The twilight began to soak, so unhurriedly I moved towards the house, which we rented with mates for a few days. A short sand path led to it, at the edge of which stood an old wooden hut, fenced in with an old wooden palling. An age willow was attached to it, lending its branches in a place where several rails were missing. Instead of an entrance door, a long white curtain fluttered, creating a bizarre set with lace on the windows, imitating short filingree curtains. A well was covered with colorful acrylic flowers, on a bench, made from one long wooden board, stood several artwork’s frames. The front of the house bowed to the beautiful landscape that I had admired a few minutes before.
"An artist must lives here" my subconscious said loudly.
The view of this cottage, painted in flowery patterns, evoked my desire from a few years ago. I wanted to live in a village in Podlasie*, close to coast of Biebrza river and views like these. The plans did not burn because of the thickness of my wallet. Also, I suggested my family the idea of investing in a piece of land near Biebrza and moving there, but did not share my enthusiasm. "Old trees do not change roots," they said about themselves. So I started to build other visions and make other dreams come true, those that removed the imagination. However, at that time I wanted to change the studio in Warsaw into several old rooms, filled with linen, easels and the smell of oil paints. If I had a choice at that time, perhaps I would immerse myself in the painting world, drawing inspiration from inside of me, to which in the beauty and peace of external reality I would have easier access. In the space-quiet evenings, I would be sitting on a warm stove, writing my memories or reading someone's. I would make sketches of my thoughts and then dress them on canvas in colors and shapes. In the summer season, I would organize open air, kayak trips, invite friends from different corners of the world to my piece of the Earth. This dream time has sprinkled dust with other events and desires.
Every evening during my several days in Dolistowo*, I returned to the same short path and to the same view with which light and color played in different ways. I was just going to admire the bare and hot sun that was touching the top of the forest, when the same magical hut enchanted me again. This time, I saw a woman in the garden, surrounded by colors squeezed onto a palette. I was not surprised by this meeting, rather cheerful that I have a beautiful opportunity to meet a person who lives here. She was sitting on an old wooden chair, against a small canvas, which stood on a modest table. The woman stared at it, which just started her story. I had the impression that an artwork was already being created behind her gaze in the space of her imagination.
-Good evening - I greeted her - When I saw first time this house, I knew right away that an artist lives here. Do you know what you will be painting?
- Good evening - she replied, turning towards me with a smile - my sister comes here the day after tomorrow. I make for her a painting inspired by a painting of Camille Corot.
She looked no more than fifty years old. A slim, low figure emphasized the lightness of her soul. We exchanged a few polite sentences before she got up from the chair and came up to me. A cordial, delicate personality gazed at me from behind her dark eyes. We talked for a few moments and the first sentences involved interesting topics about art, philosophy and life.
At the same time, a few steps from where we met, the day had been turning into a night. I wanted to (manage to see) make it to this pantomime spectacle that the sun gave before it followed the dark line of the forest. As I felt the conversation too short, I proposed a meeting the next day.
- Sure, drop in for tea tomorrow, I'll bake the apple cake. So many apples are in my garden. At last, I ought to make something with them.
- Can we bake it together? - I suggested - And then we'll go for an evening walk. What do you think?
-That is a great idea.
-Perfect. So until tomorrow, Danusia.
-See you tomorrow, Monika.
Strolling in the faint light of dusk, among disappearing shadows of trees, a thought came to my mind: maybe she is me, shaped by my old ideas, from the parallel reality of my desires? If time is non-linear and our thoughts create reality, maybe the situation in which I found myself unexpectedly is their materialised manifestation? Is this the matrix of my old dreams? Thoughts about this meeting remained with me until the end of the day.
When I joined my pals in the late evening, I was present among them more with my body than in spirit.
Next day I met Danusia in a garden orchard, picking apples for the pie. She was moving slowly amid the long warm lines of the afternoon sun, tangled in the blades of grass. The calm in her movements, the poetic atmosphere and the silence of this place, gave me what I came to Podlasie: stopping time.
We greeted each other as if we had known our souls for years. We started our meeting among apple trees, covered with golden rays. For a moment I sat down on a low, wooden stool that stood just below the crown of one of them.
- Wait, I'll take a picture of you - Danusia said, putting on my thighs a bowl full of ripe apples, then grabbed a cell phone and clicked a few photos.
-You know, each of these apple trees symbolize one woman from my family. Do you see this one near the fence? It is the oldest one. This is my mother. While ago stopped giving fruits, I was about to cut it off, but next summer gave fruits again.
I looked at the old tree. Its fragile branches looked like twisted limbs arthritis.
- Although my mother is dead, she is still present in some way - she sighed - Here, these three apple trees bent to each other, are two my sisters and me. It is said that in a place where trees lean towards each other is good energy. Just like these trees, our sisters are still supporting each other. And that apple tree is aunt Marta. Our aunts, who’s roots are here as well, were also supportive together.
- This is a large garden - I stated, looking for a fence surrounding the property.
- It's not everything. Come, I will show you more.
She took me to the front of the house, where the view stretched to the far horizon that I admired every evening. We passed a small wooden table leaning against the wall of the house, where Paolo Cohelo’s book laid on, and on the stool the philosophical considerations of the "Socrates cafe". I am sure that my conversationist spent every free moment in this place, taking energy from the earth and words of the philosophers.
- Do you see the border behind the meadow? The property of my family ends there. It's almost a hectare of land. Sometimes we thought to sell it, but love for this place is too strong. Once a possible buyer contacted us, but nothing came out of the negotiations. A few women from the family, including me, wept right after his phone call. A longing for a place that was still ours was weeping. The next day, we canceled all offers of sale. It is hard to say what we plan to do with this piece of land in the future, but it is with us for now.
We entered inside the hut. At the threshold, I was welcomed by a view of ancient times. In the vestibule on the old wooden table stood a bowl of water from a well in which Danusia was washing dishes. Just behind of an age-old fabric, a ladder's rungs stretched out up to the attic, full of spiderwebs. Behind the vestibule was a kitchen, separated by a high beam sill, breaking unevenly compacted floor. The 80 years old kitchen stove occupied most space there. It was covered with stove lids of various sizes, several smaller pots and a very old kettle, now Danusia, in the past her mother, heats water in. Because it was summertime, the stove’s tiles were cold, however I sat down near to them to warm up my childhood stories.
My grandmother had such an old stove kitchen. One of my earliest memories is the image from inside the stove ash box. For many minutes I observed sparks with patience unknown to a few years old children. I remember my impressions when I looked at the red rain in a black backround, changing color when touched a grey ash. It looked like moving, mysterious pictures to me. I never got bored with this view, intrigued by that these little lights, that were so close to me and I could not touch them. However, I found a different way to check their power. One day I put my slippers into the ash box, to check what happens. I do not remember how long they were lying inside of the box, however, not much remained. My mother, who came later to take me home, did not have a happy face afterwards.
I also remember when my grandfather took me on his knees and hummed, teaching me a song "from an ash tray to a little boy, a wink is blinking ...". So far, I think it is one of the most beautiful songs for children.
I asked Danusia if she could make a fire in the old stove kitchen that evening. I wanted to know how to do it. She agreed. A few hours later, there was a melody of sparkling fire and a metallic clatter of stove lids.
Before the house was wrapped in the warmth from the kitchen, the aroma of boiled apples had already enveloped it. Danusia was mixing fruit in a pot. They were bubbling on the fire of a gas kitchen, which, although old, was still a generation younger than the stove kitchen, so did not fit with the surroundings. At the same time I kneaded a dough, listening to Danusia’s family stories. They were a kind of pretext for further conversations about life, time and passing.
When the apple pie was lying perfectly snuggled in an ancient electric baking pan, Danusia asked if I would like to see the rest of the house.
-With the greatest pleasure - I replied with subdued enthusiasm. Honestly, Ihad thought about it before and could not wait to see it.
Next to the kitchen, from the second entrance, additional to the vestibule, was a modestly furnished room. One side was replaced by the flank of the kitchen stove, so someone who was sleeping in a bed next to it could have nice warm night dreams. The interior was softly illuminated by the southern light, glistening through two windows, decorated with intricately painted white short net curtains, the ones that I first admired from the outside. The shining shapes of sun merged with the warmth of the apricot walls. In the most shaded corner stood an old bookshelf, and behind its glazed small sliding doors, unlike the room, there was a crowd. Books, notes, black and white photographs, as if all the papers in the house took a liking to only this place.
We entered the next room by passing another high wooden portal. After crossing it, I had the impression that I entered the interior of the chapel. In the middle of the blue chamber, a half-meter figurine of the Mother of God stood on the oak table. Her blue-and-white robe created a shadowy contrast with strong sunlight, coming through the window from behind her back into the center of the room. Ascended, surrounded by the shimmering aureole. Only a wardrobe and two beds, covered with thick patterned throws resembled that this is a room and not a sanctuary. Likewise for artworks with secular themes: I guessed that these were Danuta's paintings. While she talked about the house, I was gliding slowly in small steps, watching her artworks.
- Very nice landscape - I said, stopping at a a small watercolor, painted with an open heart. It hung over one of the beds, capturing the view of the beach, struck by the sun in the color of smoked pink, and a boat moored to the shore.
- Who is that? - I asked, turning my attention to the pastel portrait of a little boy.
-This is the boy from my family, whom I told you about. The one who is dead.
From the second room, another door led to the vestibule. We made a circle, heading for the kitchen. The apple pie was not ready yet, so we decided to go outside, especcialy since dusk was approching. A few seconds later we admired the view. A blue gradient from the bottom, turning up into the blackness of the universe, decorated with the first stars. We strolled along the widespread orange streak of the setting sun.
- My neighbors tell me that I live in the most beautiful place under the sun. Often couples in love pass this street next to our cottage to reach romantic views. That is why the inhabitants call it Lover's Avenue. Look at this big tree in the distance. Do you see how its crown forms a bird's shape?
- Yes - I said - I've come here every evening since the day I came here with my pals. It directed his beak to the left and spread its wings, but hesitated whether to fly.
We smiled to each other. Two dark-eyed painters with equally sincere orbs behind which the imagination pulses. We shared a dozen or so age differences and choices that we made in our lives. I am in the world between unconnected stories. She is so embedded in her native land, in one place, among the same people with whom she creates a coherent saga.
Would that be my reality, if my dream from a few years ago would have been realized? Is Danusia me after making other life decisions? It is no coincidence that our paths have crossed somewhere in this tiny North-East Polish village. I had the opportunity to look at my dream realised by someone else. My thoughts, although already outdated, have carved shapes of my dreams in the real world. "How would I feel in such a reality?" I heard this question in my mind again and again. I had the impression that this is not my life script anymore. In this magical corner there is silence, lulled by the sounds of nature. But I know that one day I would hear the cry of my soul, begging for adventure, meeting people, other cultures and languages. A missing for the unknown. Maybe in the future I will find myself in a similar enviroment, but certainly not now.
A few tiny figures flickered on a narrow path, connecting the village with the horizon. It was my mates, who came back from a spectacle prepared by red sun. For years, we planned a trip together somewhere in nature and now we managed to go. However, I did not hurry to join them. I stayed with Danusia. Somewhere in the background of my soul I felt that meeting with her became for me the most important moment of this trip.
A few months after the trip to Dolistowo I found out that in this small village, which I came across quite accidentally, are the roots of some part of my family. To be precise, the roots of my grandfather, the one who took me to his knees and hummed 'From the ash box to a little boy, the wink is blinking'. In a surprising way, history resembles itself, clearly interweaving in the present. I still do not know why I was attracted by this place. Will this cottage, painting nest, and meeting with Danusia be an incentive to return to my ancestors’ place? Time will tell. At least, it is nonlinear. With my limited senses I only see it as linear. But the answers to my questions are already somewhere around the sun. I know one thing, I will definitely visit Dolistowo and Danusia in her picturesque hut.
Podlasie* - Northeastern area in Poland
Dolistowo* - a small village in Podlasie
author: Mo Green (Monika Skarzynska, www.pinkhat.live)