They say that the Dvina is the soul of Arkhangelsk. And of the things about the city I think are beautiful, the one on which people here agree with me is the Embankment. I went for a walk along the river this evening and found it teeming with the citizens of Arkhangelsk. There were young couples leaning against the wall kissing, old women sitting together on benches, children on bicycles and scooters and rollerblades in front of the eternal flame monument. There were old men gazing pensively into the sky and young hooligans yelling and running around and groups of college students holding hands and avoiding eye contact and young fathers peering incredulously under the hoods of their strollers as they walked alone along the river. There were dads photographing their wives and a whole gang of young guys in black jackets sitting on the playground on the beach drinking beer. There were women with dogs and with children and with boyfriends.
And then there was the river. Further north, closer to the library and the bridge to Solombala, it’s still ice. It’s not the blazing white of winter anymore, but rather a turbulent ice, as multi-colored as the sky above it. It’s steel and grey and white and blue and green and looks like it’s waking up cranky. And then, I rounded a bend to the place where just a few days ago there was a pathway across the river. Today, the sight of open water quickened my heart. I can’t quite explain the hard, explosive emotions that seeing the river like this evokes in me. In some ways, it’s spring, desperate and belated, forcing shoots up through the hard ice of winter and screaming, Run! Dance! Be alive! And in some ways, it’s sadness, to know that the days of skipping out across the frozen water with my neck craned up for the Aurora are over. And in some ways, it’s terror to think that the solid ground that held me up has literally disappeared. Seeing it from the bus window makes me want to get out and run down to the no-longer ice and watch and watch it until the sun sets at 10pm, not to miss a moment of the river’s transformation. It’s fear that time is slipping away.