Monday, October 26, 2009

The Grand Canyon of Crimea

A cold night in Crimea, a chilling north wind blowing on the way home. Daylight savings time went off this past weekend, so now it is truly dark when I emerge from the library and make my way to the bus stop. By the time I get to my road, the moon is out and all my neighbors are tucked into their houses. I’m glad to be in my little house and out of the wind, even though I still don’t have heat. But I use the PC provided space heater in my bedroom/office/dining room, and I am pretty cozy.
Last weekend, though, the weather was still balmy and beautiful. Sirdar and I had talked about trying to go hiking at a Crimean park called Bolshai Canyon, the “grand canyon” of Crimea. We were unsure if the marshukas actually went there, but we thought we would give it a try. A couple of days later I went over with the map, and Neshet said if the weather was good, then he would drive and we would all go. So that’s what we did, which was a good thing, because when I was there, I realized that the buses don’t go anywhere near it.
Bolshai Canyon is not what you think of when you think of the Grand Canyon in America. It is a deep wooded ravine that follows a tumbling creek climbing up through a steep walled canyon to a beautiful pool, deep enough to swim in. The trees had all turned to their fall colors, the air was warm, and I was with the people I love the most here—Neshet, Lenora, Sirdar and Saphiye. We had a grand time. When we got up to the pool, there were people there, so we scrambled up the steep hillside and perched ourselves somewhat precariously on logs and had a picnic. I had brought bread, cheese, and tomatoes, but they, of course, had brought all kinds of food—a roasted chicken and the wonderful Crimean Tatar break baked over an open fire.
Neshet and Sirdar wanted to try and get to the top of the canyon walls and we tried to follow them, but Lenora just had on slip-on leather shoes and was having too much trouble with her footing. So she didn’t want to go on and Saphiye and I ended up stayed with her. We made our way back down to the creek and hung out at the pool, waiting for them to come back down. It took awhile, but they did eventually show up. Sirdar said they had made it to the top, but it was “pretty scary.”
We followed the trail back out, drove home, and then they invited me over for fish grilled outside over an open fire pit. It was dark by then, the moon was out, and it was just kind of wonderful, standing with them in the back of their house, looking out over the other houses to the distant fields lit by the moon, talking and sharing our lives. How lucky I am to have them in my life.
Here is a poem I want to share with you by Cengiz Dagci, who is a Crimean Tatar writer living in London—

Aren't Crimean

a tree which is

supposed to die,

not to get greener

and not to give

new branches?

Since the day that

lost their

there wasn't any day

passed without

chopping the

of this tree, but

again new branches

came out of its body.

These branches were

not allowed to grow

and were chopped

again. But branches

came out again.

At the end,

this tree is chopped

at its root,

and thrown away

on a lonely, desert

But again new

come out of this body

and get longer and

longer, and they

to the land where

this tree was planted

one thousand years

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