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Someone I met in Vilnius suggested I take a drive down to the Belarus border.  To hear him tell it, people can be seen just across the other side, and a lot of them apparently ride around in horse-drawn carts with hangdog expressions on their faces.  It seemed a shame to get so close to Belarus and not at least take a peek over.  I’m not sure what seeing mopey people riding on hay-carts would have done for me, but I was interested all the same.

A tree, some fog and 2000 meters are all that stand between me and Belarus.

On the way down, I had to contend with a fog so thick that I had flashbacks to when I stared into the mist for hours in Khor Virap, Armenia, trying in vain to catch a glimpse of Mt Ararat over on the Turkish side.  Straight south from Trakai, the bumpy road steadily worsened, and for a while was entirely unpaved gravel.  I wasn’t exactly flying along, and when I got to a bridge near Verseka I chanced to pull over at one of the most peaceful spots I have ever experienced.

Several years ago, during a brief visit to the west coast, I was driving along Highway 1 south of Monterey when I saw the Big Sur mountain range for the first time.  This was in May, a time when the hills out there are still an Irishman’s dream of lush green, the day was sun-warmed and the view somehow made continued driving seem utterly pointless.  I got out, shut the car off and sat in the cool breeze.  It was early in the day during the work-week, so the road maintained a respectful silence behind me as I sat staring out at the amazing vista.

California coastline looking north, about 15 miles south of Monterey.

The Verseka bridge in the southern Lithuanian forest had an eerily similar effect on me as I was cruising along in the gloom.  I had spent the previous 45 minutes or so passing battalions upon battalions of gray alder trees on either side of the road, when suddenly a bridge came into view, with an opening on either side of it.  I don’t know exactly why, but the last thing I wanted to do was to continue on driving past.  Some call it ‘gut instinct’, others some type of sense, and I am certain there are a variety of other names for the little voice in one’s ear.  I heeded mine and pulled over.

Natural synchronicity

I walked to the rusty bridge, climbed up to a perch and sat looking out over the peaceful river for some length of time.  I remember clearly thinking about how tranquil the setting was.  For a while I snapped pictures which I chased with murmured wishes that at least some of them would turn out presentable.  Once I put the camera down is when the confusing part happened.  I sat there for quite a stretch, as my watch and the vehicle’s clock would later confirm.  Somehow, although it was a chilly day, the stillness around me settled into me as well.  Not a single vehicle or pedestrian came through.  Not one.  My mind just seemed to have switched off, and I just was.

At some point, something – probably the damp chill – brought me out of my reverie and pulled everything back into focus.  I clambered off of the bridge and shivered my way back to the car.  I couldn’t tell you what happened back at the bridge, and I have no great revelations to put out here for your reading consumption.  But I drove on with the thought (no, with the conviction) that something important had occurred, all the same.  I wonder when this episode will make sense, although I am certain that at some point it will.

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