Sunday, October 25, 2009

Here Comes the Snow 10/24/09

Here Comes the Snow 10/24/09
Snow, snow, snow
Temp 26F at 9:30 pm and 21F tonight (at least that will stop the snow from melting on the flashing over the windows of the Cabo Room and leaking all over what's left of my dacha.)
Wind northerly (from the north) 10-15 mph

Well, it has started. The snow began Thursday evening and has not stopped for more than a couple of hours at a time since then. We have about 6 inches on the ground and it looks like it will be there 'til May.

I am always (well, maybe not always) reluctant to attribute what my Russian friends say to all Russians, but, oh heck, I guess I will anyway. Siberian Russians hate the snow. There, now all of you experts on the Russian psyche can comment on the blog and tell me what REALLY is the case. That notwithstanding, Russians hate the snow. That seems rather strange since they have so much of it, but here's the story as reported to me by authoritative sources.

To fully explain this, one must consider a broader element of the Russian mind-set. Russians love freedom; not actually the political kind, but the personal kind; the kind that expresses itself in doing what you want when you want where you want and to whom you want. I have written about this in the past. Russians live with the idea that if you can do it; do it! They hate anything that limits that mind-set and find very creative ways to limit, avoid, get around, or otherwise eliminate limits.

This expresses itself in the piles of trash exposed during the spring thaw. If you are through with something, you simply place it as a token of your prior presence in that spot, maybe in the belief that someday someone will build a monument to your having been there. In the meantime, you leave your own marker.

It also expresses itself in dress, fashion in general, but particularly in women's fashion which makes it perfectly reasonable to wear a black evening dress complete with plunging neckline, rhinestone necklace, long rhinestone dangle earrings and 6-inch spike heels to work during the day, or a sequin, glow-in-the-dark red dress with a plunging back past the waist and cowboy boots on the metro at noon. This is a statement of a freedom-loving people.

Well, that all changes with the first sticking snow. The freedom so much enjoyed and so much a part of the Russian soul is curtailed beyond resistance by the icy grip of winter that sets, and demands compliance to, its limitations. I have seen both young men and young women partially disrobe in the warmth of a Metro car to reveal those flashes of independence, a brawny chest, a well-turned thigh, or ample bosom in defiance of winter; still, they will not be controlled. However, winter does cramp one's style and forces everyone to acknowledge nature's power, and they hate it.

Even the babushkas that ply the streets under our window show a palpable air of resistance to the season. I watched one walking from the direction of Kirova (to the right of our building) probably to her house (to our left) with a heavy shopping bag in one hand and a purse in the other. She was bent forward into the westerly wind, long coat flapping around her calves, her knit cap covered with the falling snow, struggling to keep her balance on the slippery, snow-covered sidewalk, but making her way as best she could, undaunted by the circumstances. It was her shopping day and she would not be denied by the weather, although it made the trip more hazardous as a slip and fall on the street could mean a broken leg or hip and probably no one to help her.

Regardless, this hated snow will cover their world for half the year and cannot be denied. There is certainly a beauty to it and we, as Californians, think it is "fun", or at least a new experience, to live in the snow. The Russians fight against winter by showing it that they are undaunted. They make ice sculptures worthy of an art gallery, ice-block slides to delight young and old, a snowboarding hill for the 20-somethings on the left back near the now-silent amusement park, and a plethora of furs that make quite a fashion statement all their own.

The Spirit also plays a part in winter duties. Yuri Gushchin, our mission driver asked me last Monday for the money to buy new snow tires (with metal studs) for President Trejo's car because he wanted president to have the better set and he would take his old set. The tires were bought on Tuesday, installed on Wednesday, and it snowed on Thursday. You can't beat that for timing.

As fate would have it, we just talked to Elder Kolpakov, one of the Zone Leaders, during his nightly call to check on our condition and he mentioned how much he liked the snow. I thought I was going to have to erase this whole posting until Sister Cindy reminded me that he is from Rostov where they have palm trees and almost never much snow. He said, "Yeh, it is like a lot of ice cream on the ground. I love it." Well, he doesn't count as a Siberian Russian so I am going to keep this posting.

As I watched the "babka" walk along below my window, I also thought about how lonely it must be for the old people who have survived the unhealthy life-style, bad water, winters, and all the changes of the last 20 years to now be left alone in a world they don't yet quite understand. The old ways and the old friends are gone and they are left to try and survive another winter. I so wished that I could have run down the stairs and taken her heavy bag down the street with her and just said that I cared; and that God cares. Not only could I not get dressed and down the stairs fast enough, but I don't have the language skills to deliver that message. Maybe one of the Sister missionaries will contact her, . . . or maybe it will have to wait until she hears the message in Paradise. I don't know.

What a country.


Mom/Cindy said...

we do like the snow.

Shannon said...

oh I want to help that lady too! but, someone will help her. Yesterday in church a sister shared a story of how she saw an elderly man with a walker and an manilla envelope (trying to move foward with both items) walking down the street. She had compassion and stopped her car and asked if she could help him. He had spent about 2 hours walking towards the bank. He had made it about 9 blocks. She took him to the bank, helped him in the bank and then drove him home. There are angels everywhere and someone will help that sweet you both!

Bob Steed said...

I have never loved the snow, but I think I could get used to it with that great coat you bought, Doug! And the hats are pretty interesting. I would certainly need one!