We sit inside a lodge near Lake Baikal in Siberia. It is 1990 and all the young people are going off onto a boat, where they will come back and say with a crooked grin, “We had to eat the raw fish lunch.”
Leslie, myself and a few others have stayed behind, feeling a bit ragged in a large hunting lodge, alone, empty time, tired. I have an enormous sore throat. I feel hot red fur going from the back of my throat down to the back of my ankles. Well, yes I do exaggerate. But this is coupled with the fact we are in the middle of nowhere, in the tundra maybe that’s what it’s called.” I will later incur a toe plague which will itch interminably as we wait at the Ulan Ude Airport, and I will be hustled away to some hallway in an inner corridor and a Russian lady with white hat and lab coat will apply green stuff on my entire foot liberally. This green stuff will remain stuck on my whole foot for the length of the full 63 days on tour with a musical group in Siberia,Ukraine, i.e.,Kiev, L’Vov. I was like an aging rock star, no voice, green feet, stuck in the back of the chorus.
In L’Vov, we will hear rumors of a revolution which will turn out to be two arguing forces yelling at one another in a downtown park, and where we have found a coffee place and gorgeous pastries, but that’s another story.
Leslie walks into my room, a large woman, with a very small harmonica. She sits on my camp-type bed and plays, Notes, small, steady and true fall into my heart.
A knock at our door.
We open it, and a doctor whom we met the previous week, on instinct stopped by to visit. He gives me stuff for my throat, and I am agog by the fact that we are so isolated, in a strange city, trees, roads, fish and the vastness of Lake Baikal, and my very unspoken needs are met. It’s like that.
Leslie plays and plays, and I settle into my bed, comforted. She then says, ‘I had a dream last night. We were all knots in a fisherman’s net. When my knot went down because of something I did that was negative or plocha, Russian word for not so hot, bad, I pulled the whole net down a little. Then she said, pausing to pipe out My Old Kentucky Home’s first few bars, “When my knot when up, I also brought up all the knots with me. We are all knots in a fisherman’s net.”
Sore throat and all, those simple words, framed in amber notes of harmonic beauty, stayed in the inner lining of my soul. And that’s the news from Lake Baikal this week, where the fish are full-bodied , the lake is wide and pure, and all the people in the lodge go home deepened and filled with the wonders of humanity.