Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

I contemplated the muddy waters of the Potomac
The wrinkles the wind blew
I felt the vacuum
The emptiness within
And wondered whether
A soul could fill a torn envelope
Whether the tears could mend
Again and whether so many patches on life
hardened the heart
Or whether it was about to give up
Leave Die Live a little longer
But how much more can a little longer be
Before the end.

December 25, 2014

© Sarah Diligenti

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What's In A Name?

I am standing at the cashier counter in my favorite shop, Red Orchard, Wildwood Manor, Bethesda (The place is a real heaven on earth for unique gifts.) With the new Square system, the owner asks me if I want my receipt emailed to me, to which I heartily agree: the fewer trees we cut the better; the less BPA on credit card receipts, even better!

Upon hearing my last name “Diligenti”, he asked: “Does it mean the same as in English: “diligent”?” “Absolutely! It comes from the Latin: diligentia, ae…. Which means “haste”.” “And are you “diligent”?” “As a matter of fact, I am.”  Then I said: “It is my maiden name. Because you see, with my married name, I had too much trouble. It is rather difficult to carry around the last name: “Pickup”. You do not know all that I had to endure!” “Your husband’s name is Pickup?” “Yes! A British name… So imagine me on the phone and being asked to spell my name, and I usually say: “Pickup, just like the truck.” At this time, he and his wife started to giggle….

So I went on: “20 years ago, going to the dry cleaners or the photographer’s, whenever they asked for my name and I replied “pickup”, they would say: “yes, we know you are here to pick up stuff, but what is your last name?” My adrenaline usually went up at this stage. But the worst part happened when I went to renew my driving-license. I asked for my maiden name to be added next to my married name. This woman berated me for 30 minutes, telling me I should be ashamed of myself for not wanting my husband’s name, that a wife should always be proud of her husband’s name, and so on and so forth… I tersely replied to her that if she had been called a pickup, she would probably want to change her name too. Especially considering that one time when, after hearing my last name, a guy asked me how would I like to be picked up?” 

By this stage, the owner of Red Orchard and his wife were laughing out loud. I added: “And when I had to go to the main MVA for a car tag a few years later, they asked me for my ID and then told me it was not good… The woman at the driving-license renewal booth had hated me so much for not just using my husband’s name that she had NOT put the three digital numbers along my throat on the picture ID! So for a few years I was unaware that I was driving around with a totally not legit ID!” “OMG! She did not!!! You should have filed a complaint!” “Well, she was looking like she was way over 70 at the time so I gathered she had probably retired, but I must say after all these years I am still wondering what’s in a name that people react so strongly… But at least it does make for an entertaining story…”

Little do they know that my maiden name itself had been the butt of many a joke when I was growing up in France…

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Surviving in the Siberian Wilderness for 70 Years (Full Length)

The incredible story of Agafia Lykov and the Lykov family, in the Siberian taiga, 150 miles South of the city of Akaban.
The Lykovs voluntarily disappeared out of the known world in between 1936 and 1942, at a time of tumult in the former USSR: Stalin's purges and the Nazi invasion that ended with USSR's participation in World War 2 and the Cold War.
The Lykovs had been fleeing East since 1653. They are "Old-Believers", Orthodox deemed heretics by Alexey Romanov (the first tsar of the dynasty) and Patriarch Nikon who wanted to reform the Orthodox Church by returning to the Greek texts, whose many translations since the Baptism of Kievian Rus in 988, had suffered many incoherences. Alexey and then his son, Peter the Great, persecuted the Old Believers, boyars and peasants alike, at best forcing them into exile or cutting their sacred long beards, at worst executing them.
The Lykovs fled East like many other Old-Believers, and eventually disappeared in the taiga to be found again totally unexpectedly by geologists in... 1978. In 1982, a journalist from the Komsomolskaya Pravda, the late Vassili Peskov, started to write a few articles about the two surviving members of the family: Karp Ossipovitch and his daughter Agafia. The mother, Akulina, had died back in 1961, the result of a famine and of self-sacrifice to ensure the survial of her four children. The two sons, Dmitri and Savvine and the other daughter, Natalia, died between 1978 and 1981, and to this day one does not know whether it was the encounter with the geologists and therefore the potential exposure to unknown microbes that may have precipitated their demise, like what happened to the Native-Americans when they first met the White Explorers.
Karp Ossipovitch died of old age in his 80s and his daughter, Agafia, is now 70. She still lives in the wilderness, but she has made concessions to "the century". One of the earlier geologists who helped her family, Erofei, now a victim of post-sovietization and a leg amputee, lives on the estate with her. Relationships between the two friends are not as amiable as they were when Erofei was a foreman, as the documentary reveals.
Vassili Peskov fell sick in 2010 and died in 2013. His articles were compiled into 2 books, Lost in the Taiga and News from Agafia, covering 1982 -his first visit to the hermitage- to 2009. I highly recommend reading them, even before watching the 2013 documentary. I am not sure what to make of Agafia's surprising revelations regarding Erofei's behavior, especially in the light of all he had done for her before joining her in the taiga as an amputee. Is Agafia telling the truth or is she not?
A full review of the two books appear, in French, on my other blog:  Exercices de Plume: