Day Twenty-Three: Crumbling Ruins and the Will of Man
Hi guys! I'm taking a short holiday from of my summer internship in England for a trip to visit my family in Latvia. Here's a snippet from our trip to an ex-Soviet campground along the Baltic Sea.
Life by the Spirit
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
Kūldīga, Latvia — I can hear soldiers in the tree line. The deep rumbling of Russian syllables carve into the sandy hillside, as empty and cool as the stone fortresses that lay in ruins along the shore. Salt water covers the traces of gunpowder that haunt the ghostly cement walls, deeply saturating the clear cerulean sea.
It’s a peppy Tuesday in Latvia’s little seaside town of Kūldīga. The sun highlights titanium and sienna hues in the tumbling waves, and the sand is warm under my feet. Firework sparks of laughter burn holes in the beach as my cousins and I stash our shoes in the bushes.
Kūldīga’s Soviet Military port was in full swing 25 years ago. Where dilapidated bunkers now lay half-buried in the sea, hundreds of Russian soldiers used to patrol the shoreline in watch of enemy troops. The oblique foundations that now sink into the sand used to house spinning guns that could sink entire ships.
Now the only sign of life is a small, sun-soaked cafe with a dozen pastries and a 2-item lunch menu: sausages with cabbage or sausages in bread.
I opt for a carrot pastry.
I climb over the crumbly forts trying to comprehend all they stand for. Dandelions grow wishes on silver stalks that creep from the cracks, and I am overtaken with wonder. The only litter among the fallen bricks is a rusted light bulb. I hold it up to see the waves through it’s tiny steel wires. The ocean has washed Kūldīga of it’s past. But are pasts erasable?
Why do people do the things they do?
Artists flock to Kūldīga from all over the world. It’s written that the environment is a singular reflection of the interaction between Russian military elegance and Soviet militarism. The contrast is inspiring, but also quite sobering.
I walk with my uncle and oldest cousin, Jonathan, dark passageways in the hillside while the girls sat in the sand. The somber rubble sparks conversation amongst us — the topic moves from the will of man to the purpose of choices we make.
You’d never know by looking at the rubble that it was manned by machine guns in such recent years. For many American kids that grow up the way I did, those ruins are confined to the imagined darkness of centuries past.
Today was a great reminder for me of the fierce cycle of history: of the seasons for everything. Today we play and muse over the creativity that laps the Latvian shoreline, but not yesterday.
Is it fair to delight in that wonder? Some say no.
But is that not letting evil win?
Let the artists muse. Let the children delight in the clear water. Let the sea wash away the dark past, and pocket the light bulb that ties man to its story. For good, for horrific, for humanity, for art.