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Natallia Meleshkevich >>

Natallia Meleshkevich

The Lilies And The Legends

The forest surrounded Saint Lake like a fortress. The narrow white-sand road led me through the trees to the lake’s only access. The tranquility it revealed was mesmerizing on the sunny days and perplexing on the stormy ones. The lipid mirror reflected only beautiful objects like the trees that brimmed the shores, the lazy clouds and the sun on its never ending trip to the horizon. When I would swim to the middle of the lake, turn on my back, spread my arms wide and cover my ears with water, I would immerse myself into the near existential experience of my body being dissolved. My pounding heartbeat would be the only sound in the universe. No longer would I hear birds or the wind caught up in the tops of the trees. Gradually, the voices in my head would vanish, leaving me alone in this perfectly liquid moment. So I would just float there, pretending to be one of those tree leafs that made it to the middle of the lake, rivetingly studying the sky, and meanwhile comparing myself to the plane trails in the blue sphere, neither being very natural in appearance though somehow not too disruptive to the general scenery.
      Amused by this thought and starting to feel the chill of the perfectly clear water, I would decide to make a round. On the left side of this marvel was a little lagoon with lilies. In order to approach them, I had to tolerate the very unpleasant, very primary nature experience of water plants intrusively brushing against my skin and some substantive slimy snake-like objects wrapping around my legs. But I would swim there, shivering at the guards’ encounter, partially because nobody else does that, and partially because I wanted to see the lilies in their most natural and untouched way. Their petals would be fresh and frosty, and some crazy bug would buzz around them, attracted by their fragrance. The waves I made approaching them would compel the lilies to move their flat round-shaped leaves, and the dazzling legion of the sun’s shimmer would throng around, scattered on the surface that was dark just moments ago.
      From time to time I would allow myself to wonder what lies underneath the lilies in the deep dark water. There was a legend about how Saint Lake appeared. Centuries ago, a church was there, hidden deep in the woods and natural springs were coming out of the earth all around it. Then there was war in the land, and one day, as invaders approached, the church descended and covered itself with the springs’ waters so it could not be found and desecrated.
Our land has a long history with invaders. Belarussians were a great nation at one time, able to protect its land for centuries, until we were conquered by Russia, a neighboring empire hungry for new territories. The proud part of our nation’s history, our freedom, as well as centuries of resistance and bloodshed, is little known now even to the Belarussians. Our whole history was re-written and a mantra of historical brotherly nations replaced it. In time, people believed the mantra and this is how our history, language and legends were buried under the murky waters of the communistic past.
      I was never able to accept the loss. Having grown up as an atheist I had the hardest time believing any legends but I still searched for things to keep me afloat. And I kept going to the lake that bestowed such a gift to me. Looking back, I understand that knowing the legend made me more aware, made me more attentive, added something sanctifying about the whole experience.
      The place felt completely different at night than during the day. On the sunny days the bright sun, lucid white sand and chirping birds would make the lake sing light-hearted songs about life, light and joy. At night, it was a hymn to solemnity. The place that was a playground for the children of earth was now an untamed territory of plants and bushes revealing themselves in the bounty of wet smells, freshness, and crispness. The night would reinstate the lake’s savage nature, sweeping off the memory of the day, like a woman taking makeup off in front of a candle-lit mirror, quiet and somber. Dark tree silhouettes would reach up to the distant sky that had lost its benevolence, and the stars would take their place in constellations that have meaning only to humans. The reflection of these stars in the water would be a precise print of a celestial body on earth. The darkness of the lake and night felt as a tangible whole; placed in it, I would become part of it as well. I would step into the velvety water, always warmer at night, and gradually find myself immersed into the silky darkness, sliding in this unwrinkled warmth, wrapping myself in it. The air would be filled with the fierce sense of space and suddenly I would feel more freedom than I knew what to do with.

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Natallia Meleshkevich comes from a middle-sized city in a middle-sized country, the names of which do not mean much to most Minnesotans. Not being satisfied with the middle in anything, however, and searching for new paths to explore, Natallia found herself at home in the Midwest. Always appreciating good irony, Natallia grew to like Minnesota a lot. Holding a degree in political science from Belarusian State University in Minsk, Natallia left her native Belarusian language to learn creative writing in English at Metropolitan State University.