Guest post today, from our budding author, Kerith. Photos courtesy of our budding photographer, Lydia.
Across the street from my house and down a short trail, past concrete blocks and rusty reinforcement cables, nonchalantly flows the polluted creek where I spend my most treasured moments. Once I leave the courtyard of my apartment residence and cross the street a small, quaint dirt pathway leads me along the creek to the bridges spanning it. The creek, which is to my right, drops far below me in a crevice lined with all manner of rubble and contaminated sharp-edged trash, a strong warning to stay a safe distance away. Over time, the trees lining this mini-canyon have yielded to the unseen forces of nature and tilted slowly making them stretch to the other side as if trying to grasp each other’s branches. When in full bloom, these trees create a visually stunning canopy of viridescent colors.
As the creek’s path winds away to the north, all beauty disappears.
A large pipe protrudes from the creek’s bank; what periodically spews forth from this duct of menace gives the creek an ominous red tint splattered with small pools of gasoline. Bottles and food wrappings liter the trail. Weeds and vines do little to cover up the huge, rejected blocks of stone left along the path. Up ahead the bridges loom – one charred and burnt, a remnant of a large fire – and another new, yet still gloomy and dark. No respectable person would come down here where the drunkards, homeless, and an adventurous teenager go.
Approaching the first bridge, the familiar foul smell of rotting food and stale beer washes over me. To my left a train track on the second bridge extends for a seeming eternity towards the city. Along one side of the track, tall bushes rise up spreading out at theirs bases and tapering to points at the tops, which gives the resemblance of huge spearheads. Passing between two of these piked bushes, I end up in front of the burnt bridge. I peek down through the charred railroad ties to the creek that runs below and watch the swirling pools of gasoline. Scrap metal peeks through the mud. Heedless of these dangers, I continue my journey down the support leg, jump, and land on the rocky mud below the bridges. All around me is nothing but rocks, mud, and trash. Dirt coats the trash which looks like more rocks. Nothing grows here; nothing lives here. I am reminded that this deadness is true reality in Russia: the storm of Communism has passed. Joy, hope, peace and love can grow, but is there anything to grow on? The post-communism life here has little or no room for religion; therefore, most care about filling their empty lives and they do so with alcohol and drugs.
The creek does not always stay dry and grotesque; before frost and winter come, the creek rises and flourishes as a small river–until it freezes over. Only in the spring and summer does the creek dry up revealing the rejected rubble that has accumulated over the years. Yet, somehow I can see beauty in it anyway. Confucius once said: “There is beauty in everything, but not all can see it.” One may look at my favorite purlieu and call it ugly; but they do not need to enjoy it. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The common stereotyped favorite getaway usually involves a secluded, beautiful comfortable alcove that either no one knows about or no one frequents. My favorite getaway defies all those expectations, but I enjoy it there because it penetrates beyond the tourist attractions and beyond the glamour and finery. This trash infested, filthy, ugly creek under rusting and half-burnt bridges shows the heart of a broken city. I consider this place a touch of the real Russia.