Content advisory 16+ Walking in the valley this morning with Poppy and Casper, we came across a dead forest dog. They are small creatures and you could not describe them as beautiful -- they seem almost deformed and probably lead lives of great deprivation at certain times of the year. At night, they set up a great plaintive howl in unison, and it seems they are creeping closer to our houses. This is in part because some of the less refined of the village people insist on using strips of the descending land leading to valley and forest as their personal dumping ground. For a starving beast of the woods, rotting food probably sounds tasty on the menu.
But it was a surprise to see this dead animal out in plain view -- it must have been killed by someone ripping along the dirt stretch in a car or on a motorbike after dark, and the animal just happened to get in the way. Good guess how long it will lay there; but it won’t take more than one hot afternoon for a tremendous and sickening stench to rise up out of its carcass and start to drift malignantly across the field. So the sun will defile the corpse before the partisans of sky and wood come to devour it.
The local village authorities will do nothing. They are never in a hurry to get anything done, which is why the grasses and weeds along the narrow footpath I use when walking my dogs have grown up to jungle-like dimensions. In the prodigious morning dew (we go out at 6.30), not even my high Wellington rubber boots can prevent the moisture from soaking me up to my waist and the dogs completely...
What's worse, it is 'tick' season here. Are you familiar with these creepy, miserable, voracious, parasitic motherfuckers? They jump on you and bite into your skin. With long-haired creatures they are especially treacherous. They dig in and start sucking the blood out of their host, namely dogs and cats -- but they will attack people too if they get the chance. We have a neighbor who doesn't properly care for his big German Shepherd (keeps it chained up except for occasional short walks), and this poor dog is tick-infested. The ticks, if left unattended to their vampirish business, will swell up to the size of a human earlobe while still clinging to the animal. It's best to remove them with tweezers, so as to completely grab them by the tentacles. If you just jerk them off the dog, there is a lot of blood and their 'claws' (or whatever you would call these hellish incisors) are still gouging your 'pet'. Our own dogs and cat live in the house, so all day and before bedtime, Liuba and I give them the once-over. I actually picked one off my balls the other night. Honest. You can imagine how happy I was.
Meanwhile, the mosquitoes (another of God's mistakes) hover by the doors and windows, just waiting for a chance to waft into the house and cover you with nibbling kisses... They like to announce themselves by setting off their neat little sirens in your ears right before they clamp down and tear a chunk out your hide. They are blood-suckers too. Amazing how nature, which is not always so wonderful, is full of things that live for the single purpose of sucking the gore out of your veins and gobbling your goddamn hemoglobin...
Well, it is pretty nice, actually, if you can overlook the fact that hot weather plays Ma and Pa to a great many life forms that you won't often run into in places like Omsk. For one thing, there are countless snails (the Brits call them "slugs"). They live in curlicue little shells of a design that a clever souvenir-seller could transform into earrings or decorations for sandals. They like moisture and attach themselves to walls, doors, and gates. Apparently, they are very good for your skin if you have the stomach to attach them to you, as the bodies that emerge from their shells are long, clammy (even meaty in a bizarre sort of way), graceful, and full of protein.
Frogs abound as well. They will come and sit on the patio, paying no heed to the curious dogs. I am fond of them. I am friend to all forms of life that do not try to suck my blood. Meanwhile, the owls have come back and resumed their places in the belfry of the house opposite. On my balcony, the birds chatter and scream from the first hours of the morning, and in the distance comes the tenor monotony of the cuckoo, as regular as a clock.
When the dogs and I emerge from the jungle-path, we climb the bald and broken path up into the hills, sometimes seeing a large, big-eared rabbit who, becoming aware of me and my canine friends, bounds lithely away, sometimes with Pop and Cass in avid but fruitless pursuit. For them, the chase is enough. They are not hunters. They have never caught anything and probably they never will. But they never cease trying. Overhead, a black crow or an eagle will glide and swoop from time to time, ever watchful, and it makes me aware of Nature as a savage banquet, a wilderness-restaurant that is always open, especially at night. Lizards with gorgeous designs -- green and purple -- slither in the grass, and sometimes a snake will be found sunning itself out on the path.
This is a megapolis of a different kind. It is a city not of millions but of billions.
Walking along the paths, one finds mosque after mosque that house the industrious, ever-artful ants. These oval edifices represent the craft of skillful engineers and a workforce beyond counting. The ants are as clever as the ancient Romans in that they build according to a plan that is repeated over and over, and so their grand houses are always circular and resemble a plethora of little coliseums. Sometimes these sand-castles get crushed, and then the ants build them again. Now and then a hard rain will drench them, but the ants persist. They never slack off, and I never bother them. I respect their homes enough to walk around them. Why destroy something for no reason?
So this, then, is a city of a different kind. One hears the blare of birds and not of car horns. Limpid summer flocks that grace the skies like airborne ballerinas -- those are the pretty ones, like the springtime girls in big city parks. The sobs of the nocturnal dogs like lonely people in huge apartment complexes. The watchful predators, the blood-suckers -- just like in a city of humans.
There but for fortune go the dogs and me -- just at the edge of it all, little more involved than the tiny bullets full of people so often mutely floating overhead, leaving trails of alabaster gas. Poppy loves the dark wood, but huge gentle Casper would be no match for it. He has grown too civilized; if abandoned to the forest his would become a bewildered soul. The very idea of his fear, his helplessness, makes me tremble too, for even in the wake of contentious old age, I have saved up the bounty of my mercy like vats of honey. And once in a while -- like the other night when there was a tremendous electric storm which my wife and I and our 'children' watched together from the bedroom balcony -- Nature cries out in full throat and laughs at the people as it flexes its mighty muscles that set off the thunder. We need each other then.
Coming back home, the dogs and I pass between houses. Behind one, yet another hog is being groomed for the slaughter, and the smell of its piled dung is overwhelming -- but in a 'country', not human, way. Across from it there is a vicious-sounding canine who always snarls at us. But suddenly I see four new puppies in its wake. Life is always happening. So I speak gently to the big black and white mother who responds by growling and snarling with renewed force. I guess she will never be my friend.
And then one encounters the human neighbors -- behind fences or standing near their gates. They either smile or stare. Some talk, friendly-like, but I think you don't really ever get to know such people.
That's the thing I am finding out about villages, similar to what I know about cities. In the city the people are made of grease and smoke and the light from their phones. In the village they are made of stone.
Thus, I finish this bog. As I look out the window over the field, I see a grand, green, overgrown bowl, splashed with the red hue of many poppies (the flowers I mean), and listen to the wind that courses through the now-full crowns of the trees.
Out there in that emerald megapolis that leads to the sea, minute by minute, there is birth, death, and Armageddon. All played out under the reptilian sun. No love at all. Only the florid images from which love is imagined and seizes energy. I guess this afternoon, I will take a shovel and go see about that dead forest dog.
===Eric Richard Leroy===