My native city is always dear to me no matter what the season is. Arkhangelsk is located in the northwest part of Russia on the Northern Dvina River, near where it empties into the White Sea. It is close to the Arctic Circle.
The Northern Dvina is covered with ice five months each year. Winter is usually severe. City dwellers move very quickly from one place to another and the city streets become deserted. During this time Mister Frost is a host in the city. He covers windows with his beautiful ice painting and dresses all the trees in fluffy snow clothing. He also prickles cheeks, noses and freezes breathe. He gets into throats and makes it difficult to breathe the cold, prickly air. It is so nice to get into a warm house after walking outside and slowly thaw cheeks, nose and hands with a cup of hot tea. During winter the sun dances along the horizon and quickly disappears.
Spring comes with sunshine that cheerfully sparkles on snow-drifts, but it is still cold in March. Everything around comes to life again: birds begin chirping, children make snow men and their moms hang laundry outside to dry. Later, in April, snow-drifts subside and change their color from white to grey. They begin to run with thousands of streams and then turn into puddles, which cars and trucks splash onto careless pedestrians. May is a turning point when all the trees let out their tiny green leaves and the Northern Dvina frees itself from its ice armor, carrying broken ice-floes to the White Sea. Bird trees and Lilac bushes blossom with white and purple flowers, and fill the city with their incredible, sweet fragrance. The people hope that summer will soon arrive. However, Mother-nature very often surprises them with unexpected snow that melts the next day.
A northern summer is stunning for its “white nights,” when a scarlet sphere of the sun only touches the horizon and rises again. July is usually a delightful and hot reward: no more warm clothing, weekends on the beach, bicycle riding, or boating out to the nearest island for a picnic. Ships and boats of all kinds fill the Northern Dvina and the view of yachts with white sails sliding across the river attracts local artists. July also brings mosquitoes, which are quite annoying. August is a busy month for gathering berries and mushrooms in the woods surrounding the city.
Finally, the fall strikes all trees in the city and unexpectedly paints their green crowns with different shades of yellow colors. The row of the slender birches, growing along the steep bank of the river, has a honey melon color at this time. Aspens around the house carry crimson-gold crowns and old, wise poplars, the oldest inhabitants of the Central Park, have changed their green clothes for amber-colored ones. Under the light breeze leaves begin their slow swirling down to the earth, marked by crusty frozen puddles. Janitors sweep them together into large heaps for cremation. When leaves are burned the city’s crisp air is filled with an unforgettable smell, whirling away into the fathomless, pale-blue sky. The north’s stern nature and the harsh climate have a great impact on the people living in Arkhangelsk. They harden them outside and make their hearts open and warm.