Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Eso’s Chronicles 288 / 1  
A Civilization of  Persecution
© Eso A.B.  (A new series of blogs)
All comments appearing within brackets [ ] are editorial in origin.


I live in a deserted countryside and a deserted country. Curious as it may be, ‘deserts’ are an evaluation that attest to a way (my way) of looking at things that has little to do with our day. (A friend just sent me a picture of her two Zen teachers in Mexico, who obviously are ‘nice’ Americans.)

How do I tell that I live in a desert?

There are a lot of things that point to it.

The word ‘sokle’ (the ‘o’ pronounced as in oak) has now been changed to the word ‘lot’. The ‘lot’ can be seen by looking off to the side of the road and taking note of a feature that stands in a field of grass or grain—a clump of trees that forms a square. Somewhere in the middle of the clump of trees may be seen the ruin of what was once a house or a barn.

That is all that is left of the ‘sokle’, a peculiar word not well known even among my own countrymen, the Latvians. Nevertheless, the sokle bespeaks of their original home, the wood.

Once upon a time, this whole countryside was covered by a wood. I imagine that there were no roads then, but paths, or what the natives called ‘takas’, a word that derives from the word for moving along—teceht, tek—just as water does. (The original entry into the wood was not by land paths, but by water paths; and early settlements were along river sides and the lakes the flowed into.) Perhaps an English derivative of it is the word for ‘tackle’, in the sense of moving fast and seizing an object in the sense of ‘getting there’.
Roads, more or less as we know them today, came with the arrival of the horse. Trees were felled along the path (taka) to make it wide enough to let a horse with a wagon pass.

That was in the days when the entire area of ancient Livonia, out of which in later years the countries of Estonia and Latvia were to be carved, were covered by wood. If you wanted to go west, you had to walk through the wood and try to remember which direction the sun set the evening before.

In those far off days, the most desirable direction to go was south or up river, the Dvina [Daugava (? perhaps our local version of the Danube) or (with the help of verbal paradolia—Jaunava (Virgin)]. This was because the weather south was warmer and life there easier. Therefore, adventurous spirits usually paddled up river, then portaged to the great rivers flowing south . The Volga, for example. My paternal grandmother’s maiden name is Yuryahn, the equivalent of which==after a long search on the map—I found on the far south east coast of the Caspitan Sea, now part of Iran—Gorgan . Who knows how long ago the family came up the Volga and arrived in Livonia? Today all genetic remnants of the source are that the women’s hair turns into tiny dark curls at their temples.

In any event, a ‘sokle’ was a spot in the forest, often somewhat elevated from the rest of the surrounding ground, which was cleared of trees. Another desirable feature was a brook or a natural well nearby.

The cleared trees were then used to build a simple dwelling resembling what the American Indians call a ‘tepee’. The tepee was then walled with animal skins, perhaps daubed with clay. In later years the tepee became a simple log house .

The ground around the tepee was cleared of roots, the roots were burned, and the ashes were thrown about a small plot that we call a garden. The garden then received some precious seeds: wild onions, carrots, anything that was edible and sprouted easily. If clay vessels were scarce, the first harvest of mushrooms and berries was dried, strung on grasses, and hung along the tepee’s ‘wall’ and eaten during inclement weather or winter months. Teas of raspberry and wild strawberries were similarly preserved. I am reluctant to call my forebears ‘hunters’ as has become common among anthropologists today, because their occupation was more than likely that of herders. A herder tends to be attached with sentient ties to his-her animals and will kill them only under emergency conditions and treat the ‘kill’ as a sacrifice.

Over hundreds of years of time, the ‘sokle’ was joined by others, and gradually the wood became populated by many people. If and when someone brought in a new seed of an easily grown edible, such as cucumbers or pumpkins, these were soon added to the garden. Another prized garden item was the apple tree and the currant shrub. In the course of time, hollow tree stumps that housed wild bees were added to the dwelling place. This is also when the favourite tree that was planted and grew around a ‘sokle’ became the linden tree. Besides the linden blossoms being used by bees to gather honey, the bark of the linden was soft and could be bent and woven into rough sandals.

When I was a child, I lived at a farm that belonged to my aunt. It had a curious name: “Soklehni”. As far as I know, no one knew what the name meant. I discovered its meaning only when I was grown up, asked around  and looked it up in a dictionary. This is where I found the word ‘sokle’; the other half of the word, re: ‘lehni’ in the Latvian language means ‘slow’.

This makes one think that whoever first cut the ‘sokle’ (thick spruce woods still surrounded the farm house, which by my time was also surrounded by fields) and named it “Soklehni”, he=she did so because one had to work the soil diligently in order to gain a decent harvest. The root ‘sok’ for ‘sokas’ (it means==is coming along) may also be at the root of the word ‘soc’ of ‘society’.

Today, most of the wood in northwestern Latvia is being cut down and sold to cover debt to the banks, so that the 50% of native Latvians who remain in the country, may remain and reseed their country rather than become economic refugees to England or elsewhere.

Saw Cross

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