Friday, January 8, 2016

Watching Russian Sunsets

I enjoyed a slice of time in St. Petersburg, Russia over the New Year holidays.  On the train home, I was caught in the middle of others’ journeys.  Here is what I saw.

There were three particular Russian couples around me.  All three silver-haired men with much younger looking wives.  Not trophy wives, but younger.

One couple was actively engaged in each other.  Talking.  Smiling.  She was watching everything out the window like she had never been on a train before.  He was talking softly with her.  Precious sunset love.

Another seated in front of me did not even look at each other more than once except when she got up to use the restroom.  And then only because she had to get past him.  Otherwise she slept or looked out the window.  She simply dismissed him out of her path.  The end of the day brought a welcome dark for them.

The final couple shared movies together for the entire four hours.  He was in charge of the sound and the iPad, but they are clearly sharing.  Every once in awhile one or the other would forget their earbuds and comment very loudly about what they are watching.  They would say a few words or laugh together.  Co-conspirators oblivious to the sun or season.

The differences and similarities were interesting to me.  Each gentleman was wearing a suit coat and trousers.  No casual jeans or golf shirts for them.  All three women were wearing nice outfits.  Traveling clothes, my Grandma would call them.  “If you’re traveling, you should look like you’re going somewhere.” These people clearly followed that adage. 

I know this sense of style and carriage is very Russian, especially for the older generation.  Still, it catches me by surprise all of the time.  It takes me back to a more formal day when relationships seemed to carry more weight.  I want to respect the longevity of their love based on their appearance, but history is exposed in their movements.

I would guess the women to be in their 50s or 60s, maybe.  It’s hard to tell with the dyed hair, but their skin and style make me guess older than younger.  The men all look to be 70 something, again judging by hair and style.  I could be wrong, but that is my guess.

Their body language and physical connections tell the story of their relationships.  Regardless of life season, their love, or lack of, is evident.

The happiest man was probably the oldest.  He was the one sitting across the aisle from me.  He was clearly the kindest, the most engaged in the world around him.  I’m not saying this because he went out of his way to help me when no one else would at the start of our trip, but because of something I saw in his eyes.  It was a sense of wonder, of reaching out, of living that emanated from him.  His face was kind, his eyes smiled, he owned a gentle voice.  The woman with him was similar.  The sense of wonder in her constant tourist picture taking.  The pleasant tap of her fingers along his arm.  Peacefully the sun is setting on their journey together. 

I see the three relationships as three potential outcomes, three degrees of potential.  Those who invested in each other, those who shared laughter and those who lived separate lives beside each other.  I want to make some grand comparison between Russia and America here.  I would like to share some deep Bible revelation from this epiphany moment.  Rather, I’ll let you do that on your own. 

As for me, I’m just watching from the outside through a writer’s eyes.