February 24, 2012 § 4 Comments
Valery V. Petrovskiy
I first heard and memorized a tune in my early childhood when an old Chuvash woman was mumbling a song as she limped her way home. She was singing an age-old monotonous song. There were only three words: Hey-ara, hey-ara, hey-ara.
Then it rang like a travelling song, moving from door to door. But I also heard the tune at the table, and then it was a drinking song. The charm of it is that the words can be easily learned: Hey-ara, hey-ara, hey-ara. Nevertheless it is rather difficult to discern the melody, there is none. The tune changes during travel: when driving by the woods the tune fades and slows down. The melody unfolds itself again when a man sings it as he goes into the fields, there it spreads out widely and overflows the horizon. When riding down a ravine the song stumbles along together with the horse as syllable and stride are shortened.
How could I keep the song in my memory? One has to be born with it. Or you have to drive in a sledge in a winter night, a child wrapped up in a sheepskin coat, your father next to you. In spite of the dark your father is not frightened. He is singing the primeval roundelay: Hey-ara, hey-ara, hey-ara… And you are not scared beside him though you cannot see anything but a solitary star overhead.
Driven not by a horse obedient to your father holding the reins but by the drawling tune of the song, you are hauled after the prolonged note, monotonous as a snowbound country road, as dreary as the evening with the blind moon howling down: hey-ara, hey-ara, hey-ara…
Maybe your father is afraid, but he fears neither beast nor man, is only afraid to be all alone in the wintry fields. And then he is howling the mantra, filling it with deep-throated consonants coming from the very depths of his lungs. It makes his soul vibrate, then makes it expand and swirl with his horse, then with the road, and now with a distant forest, and then the tune covers the entire snow field, endless as life itself.
So whenever I hear the everlasting Hey-ara tune, it makes me startle and then recall all that had never happened to me.
The name of the old Chuvash woman was Pavel-Ahram after her husband Pavel, who did not come back from the battle fields of World War II. And yet she was so alive and bright.
Valery lives in Russia at a remote village by the Volga River.
Image: Grass and Light, by Stephen Martin