There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
Despite being an English major, I was never adept at memorizing or effortlessly espousing appropriate verse at opportune moments to charm or impress a casual audience. Yet that one line remains embedded in my brain, surfacing at unexpected moments to perfectly contain the feeling that a certain slant of light so exquisitely conveys.
Unlike the inimitable Emily Dickenson, however, the poetic rapture that assails me is not confined to a particular season; today it surprised me during a mundane commute between Chișinău and my village as I sat wedged into a too-small seat (why am I so much larger than the average Moldovan?) listening to a genius mix of Toni Childs while balancing two bags on my origami-ed knees.
Had I not seen this same 20 km stretch of Moldovan countryside at least 30 times in the last two months? Why – suddenly – did the view seem choreographed for pleasure, softly speckled with shoots of infant grass below waving wands of wheat? Lake Ghidici – iridescent blue! Glimpses of moldering concrete blocks and weather-worn factories, transformed into marbled reliefs. Liquid gold melding fragile, newly sprung leaves into pulsing halos around the stark white trunks of birch trees. Rays of sun, frosting, plating, caressing, everything in their path. Sky, sky, sky – freckled with cottony adornments – spreading luxuriously over rolling hills of plowed, darkly fecund earth.
SPRING! This is spring, I think. Never before have I encountered her subtle, enchanting beauty, full force. Southern California, where I’ve lived most of my life, is a study in variations on a theme: sun, sun, wind, a sprinkle of drops, sun, sun, a few paltry clouds, sun, sun, fog, a pathetic mist. Sun, sun, sun. Always, boldly up above, overhead, in charge. Never surreptitious. Hardly ever slanting.
But this was a flirtatious light beckoning me. A hint of warmth to come. A feathering brush of shimmering paint, coating the landscape. Coy. Suggestive. Enticing.
And in that moment, revelation. I had made it, survived the cycle: Summer – stumbling trainee, dazzled with vertigo, wilting in the humidity and overwhelmed by the sheer unexpectedness of where I’d landed; Autumn – falling into routine, struggling with language and a new home, job, roommate, friends; Winter – the loss of all I had tentatively constructed, parsimonious sun begrudgingly meting out fewer and fewer hours of daylight, hibernation, confusion, doubt.
And now Spring. A new beginning, at last, sure and clear. Moldova, clothed in a gown of green and gold, had finally extended a warm welcome, basking in a certain slight of light.
Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.
I give this to you as a great example of that certain slant of light in the countryside and a perfect four-minute container of what life is like in Moldova. I have been to many of these places, met these same kinds of people, danced these dances, sang these songs. Moldova is beginning to grow on me…