Summer pastoral scene in rural Russia

To visit Russia was a long-delayed dream come true for me. I had wanted to visit since the mid 1970s. In 2008 I joined a working group, that was to convert an old shed into dormitories for a Christian retreat centre. One of my jobs was to creosote high walls on a rickety wooden ladder. Even though I do not relish heights, I did what I was asked to do. Besides, it gave me a panoramic view of the countryside.

rural russia

  • Hesitant, I ascend a home-made wooden ladder,
    creosote log gable ends, spy ship-wrecked shacks,
    marooned in overgrown, tidal grassy plots;
    behind imposing metal gates a hidden harvest:
    profuse produce, fruit & vegetables
    jostle sunflowers flowers for space,
    a passionate palette of cultivated colours.
    In a neighbouring garden, trees shade
    benches & tables, people exchange
    Slavic conversations & picnicked lunch.
    Occasional glances tossed in my direction

    Down car-free, rural Russian country lanes
    children safely cycle, racing each other,
    steering around large, rain-filled potholes.
    Will they later wander hungrily homeward,
    push open squeaky, wooden garden gates,
    welcomed by sour scented, freshly baked bread:
    it’s incense blessing the evening air.

    Beds embrace their sun-warmed, weary limbs,
    adventure-exhausted children slumber,
    observed by kindly Byzantine, iconic angels.
    Heavenly hosts ascend, descend lofty ladders,
    sloppily spilling hope from paint-cans,
    scattering hundredfold signs & wonders:
    gold stars blanket dark, yearning skies,
    drab rural poverty brightened, blessed;
    poignant Byzantine chant thunder-rumbles,
    minor-chord melodies scaffold wondrous words:
    “Behold! I am making all things new!”

    ____________________________________________

    Illustration: KatyaZhu.com

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