Singing&Dancing Away…

This is the week of Nationwide Latvian Song and Dance Celebration back home and while dipping my toes in the Black Sea in Bulgaria, I do miss that speckled buzz of so many different patterns and tones. Miss being right in the middle of it, going with the flow and feeling that a bit special wave. So, this post came together naturally and – like my blogging friend Gunta said – about memories that are almost a century old… ♪♫♫♪

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Latvians are a small, grumpy nation that lives at the Baltic Sea (the last time I checked it was still in Europe) and once in 5 years quite many of them get together to celebrate singing and dancing. Just to be clear – we do sing and dance more often than that (daily humming and working on the right moves in the shower counts, too), yet in a different way, of course. By “quite many” I mean around 41 000, not an insignificant number for such a small country, wouldn’t you agree? The young and old ones, the well tanned and the pale ones (who definitely will have some more color in the end of the week as well)…from towns, cities and the country-side…all their roads lead to Riga, the capital. That is where in the first week of July they make the Latvian Song and Dance Festival happen. Not to get deep in the historical side of the story, I just want to mention it all started in 1873 and this year we have the 25th Song and the 15th Dance festival. I believe, this very moment while I am happily typing away, the participants have already had their breakfast in school dormitories all across Riga, have been “packed” in buses and brought to the rehearsal places. It is fun and quite wild week – have been there, done that and must admit I feel certain sadness not being a part of the colorful and vital crowd this year. A tiny piece of the puzzle that has been worked on step by step whole year and finally is about to be put together looking in its best. And yes, it is a bit difficult to explain where exactly all the positive vibes come from but they are very present…somewhere among the lyrics of songs and dance steps, air matresses and sleeping bags, bright patterns of costumes and garlands, sleepless nights, the old pine – trees around the estrade and the feeling of sharing something unique. It is in the air…maybe a bit elusive, indefinable but so powerful and alive.

There’re many concerts and different singing&dancing events during the week but on the last day – the 2 most important ones every participant is looking forward to: the big festive parade through the main streets of Riga (usually taking some 4-5 hours no matter what the weather is) and the culmination of the festival – the grand closing concert. You know…standing on the steps of the big estrade and singing my heart out together with thousands of others…it does feel special. Special to be right where I belong – at home. Even if only once in 5 years.

*All the photos are from internet this time, not mine*

Tips Up And Tight Lines!

To tell you the truth, for me fishing is a Latvian thing. As Latvian as choral singing, four month winters and the biggest Summer Solstice celebration in the world, the Līgo. I am sure there are people from different corners of the world who could come up with plenty reasons why fishing belongs to their nation. Yet right here right now allow me to stick to my presumption and tell my story, wandering down memory lane. This story is not about the professional fishermen for whom fishing has been a daily job through generations. It is about the other kind that has much more to do with whenever there’ s the “inner call”  for it. 

As far as I can remember, my grandfather and my father have always loved fishing. You know…that “men thing” where a couple of relatives/friends get together right before the sun comes up on Saturday or Sunday (might be both if the passion for fishing is VERY strong) morning to disappear to some lake or the sea for several hours. And then return happy, relaxed and with whatever they have managed to wangle out of the water. Spring, summer, autumn, also winter – the weather never really mattered as long as the  purpose was clear. All those fishing rods, hooks, sinkers, hand tying “flies” and preparing baits. The rubber hip boots. Fishermen stories, that touch of specific humour with the saltiness of the water and sharpness of the wind. Slightly amusing when it got to the almost puerile but harmless boasting which was good for the spirit. 

I can’ t say I have “inherited” the gene of loving this spare-time activity (somehow I am a bit reluctant to call it  “just a hobby” though many might actually not see the difference and I don’ t blame them) but my ancestors have no reason to worry – it’ s covered by my brother. I have to admit I was lucky enough to often be a part of those weekend fishing trips, therefore even today I would be able to put a bait on a hook and cast it in the water. With the same grace and elegance of playing the piano, by the way. My father and his friends remember I did have much patience for my age, was a quick learner and, most importantly, never broke any of the fishing rods entrusted to me. You can always find something to do out in nature, especially being a child with quite a bit of imagination and meeting such a variety of people around. And overall it was precious time spent together with my father and grandfather. Today I would call it very Zen, too.

One of my father’ s most colourful fishing memories is when once being out at a lake enjoying scenery, silence and fishing, he suddenly heard the USSR anthem sang in full voice from the opposite shore. Imagine his surprise when a bit later he found out it was his own daughter, demonstrating her singing abilities after being asked “And what do you sing in choir these days?” by some other people fishing nearby. “Other people” turned out to be the Communist party secretary from the capital with his comrades from Moscow. A bit of an odd situation to be in, especially for my father, a man with his opinions very far from the Communist ones, in the middle of the 1980’ s in Soviet Latvia. My grandfather, who used to be a true believer (sorry, I am not a big fan of the word “patriot”) in the independence of Latvia (but unfortunately passed away few years before it was restored in 1991) found it very amusing to say the least, knowing there were completely different kinds of songs in my “repertoire” taught by him that might have raised a couple of questions for my parents if not gotten them into serious trouble.

The philosophy behind the fishing process…yes – is the pursuit of an idea… Either  fly fishing in a stream, ice fishing on a frozen lake for hours or casting nets in the sea. It is never about what you catch but what catches you, isn’ t it? “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”/J.Buchan/

P.S: Some videos you might enjoy:

The Old Man And The Sea

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

Peculiarities Of The National Fishing (Russian: Особенности Hациональной Pыбалки)

A River Runs Through It