Thursday, July 29, 2010

Swimming in the River

The Aydar. It's not for fly-fishing, it's not Miami Beach or St. Pete Beach, but it's our river!

The Aydar river runs through Starobilsk, winding it's way north and east and southeast through town. It's not the mighty Dnieper, but it's our river. The river basin is noted for its wildflowers and wild life. The water is calm and clear most of the time, mirrroring the trees and vegetation along its banks. In some places gentle mountains, more rolling hills than the peaks of the Rockies, loom on the landscape, reminding us of times when their caves served as homes, a refuge from invaders, and religious sanctuaries. A story runs through these hills, too.

The terrain is not at all like the Montana of Norman Maclean's widely acclaimed best seller, and I'm not sure those two fly-fishing sons of a Presbyterian minister would like it here. But as Maclean's philosophical story concludes (and the Robert Redford movie based on it): "Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it." No matter where we are, this rings true. No matter where we are, we all share in the wonders of nature, and marvel as well at the strengths and frailities of man. It's universal, transcendent.

During the heat wave we’ve had for weeks, our little river beckons, especially at sunset and early evening, my favorite time of day, when the light fascinates. The river is a people's gathering place, a place to fish, picnic, relax, enjoy the beauty of nature, and swim, with lots of different places to wade in the water.

Luba likes the sandy area near the center of town, also the most popular spot for young families and teens. Asha and Sasha like to go further up river, over the bridge (creaky but picturesque) and through wildflower meadows (that remind me of Nantucket) and winding bike paths. Dr. Tonya likes going down river, in biking distance but away from the crowds. Natalia's home is near the river but further north, in Lymon, past camp Sosnovy, a beautiful secluded spot where it's okay to strip down to your underwear or plunge in nude. Loren would love this river almost as much as the Aucilla. Maybe he is hiking along it it now, stopping now and then to take a swim along the way. Who knows? And who knows where this hike would lead?

It would be tragic if anything happened to the Aydar, like the oil spill in the Gulf, and now the one in Lake Michigan. This was why Victoria NGO organized a protest against building a gas station on the river. I'm not sure what the status of this effort is, but I do know that the people of Starobilsk value the river and work hard to conserve its pristine beauty while enjoying its bounty and refreshing waters. Starobilsk is fortunate because a river runs through it.

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