September 01, 2004

Fall in the Morning, Winter in the Afternoon



Indian Summer, known as babye leto (“Old Wives’ Summer” or “Indian Summer”), is upon us in the village at the end of September. The long leaves of the sorrel plants bordering our lake turn crimson. The grasses in the fields beyond form a backdrop of mild earth tones – yellow, orange, brown. The warm days of babye leto beguile us into thinking summer will remain.

One balmy afternoon I watch spiders fly. Loosening strands from branches and grasses, the spiders wait for a strong wind to seize their web and lift it skyward like a kite. Dozens of spider webs, glistening in the sun, float leisurely over our house, sailing on uncharted courses to destinations unknown. The autumn flight disperses the young spiders. They float on currents of air and are blown tens and even hundreds of miles away. Alighting in a distant tree or bush, a young spider disembarks from its arachnid dirigible and spins a web, then later finds a mate and starts life anew.

Pokrov – the Feast of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin – arrives on October 14. Pokrov is our village’s Patron Saint Day. The celebration, one of the twelve significant Orthodox holidays in the year, was traditionally hosted here, when our Chukhrai was a bustling village before the war, and for some time after. People would flock to Chukhrai from neighboring villages to mark the holiday. Other villages have different Patron Saint Days – the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin was celebrated in the next village of Smelizh, Ivan Kupala (John the Baptist Day) was held in the village of Yamnoye across the river, and so on.


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