I say I go to the lighthouse, while the lighthouse I've never even been to. I go to the opposite side of the Daugava river, where a long quay ends with nothing but a pile of scattered concrete blocks and a small lantern post. It is not even the lighthouse that I seek when I go there, so why even call it that?
One of the best routes to get there is to take the very usual (for me) trolley bus no. 17, then cross a block and wait for a rare bus no. 24 that takes an hour to get there. Many would consider this hour wasted, but how, tell me, could you waste an hour riding in a comfortable seat and reading a book you took for the occasion or even merely listening to your favorite tracks?
I would always fantasize about waiting for the first real snow, preferably if snowfall began sometime in the day or to be more precise, in the afternoon. My university classes would only end around 4 pm, so by the time I got out, the pavement would be white, but not too snowed on so I would take a bus to the town centre and catch the no. 24. There, among people possibly upset by the now definite arrival of winter days, I would watch as the snow falls on my city and covers any imperfection it might have. It does have enough of them, Fells even likening it to a ghost town sometimes - all run down as soon as you leave the toy-neat old city. While I might agree with her, I love it still, and it hurts me when almost everyone I know tells me it's no match for the cities they've visited, like London, Stockholm, Vienna, Rome. Of course Riga is not New York or even anything like it. You only need compare the population numbers to know this. How can you not love it though?
There I would be, the bus taking roads I barely remember through the part of town I don't reach while on any of my long walks or while meeting people, until it would reach a crossroads painfully familiar. It is the same crossroads we would always turn right on when we went to the beach on Grandpa's old car. It's accumulator got stolen, and Grandpa must not drive because of his meds, and Grandma who would be in the back seat because I'd get queasy and need the front, is no longer with us. The no. 24 approaches that crossroads from the other side and turns left. Soon, we are on the outskirts of Mezhapark, a place I like and will perhaps mention some more times, but not now. It remains on the right as we turn further left to Sarkandaugava and the bridge turn there. At this point of the way, I always take special care to notice the golf fields on the banks of whatever lake or river we drive by. Something tells me that if I really did get on that bus on the first snowy day, I would see an empty golf field covered by snow, and like this looking exactly the same as any other field. Would I see it as a small tragicomedy of life and the seasons? Perhaps. Or maybe it would only make me sad, despite how I love winter and do not have anything at all to do with golf. Change does that to a person who pays too much attention to what's outside the windows, doesn't it?
From here on, I would trace the turn Grandpa would take to reach Jurmala and say goodbye to childhood memories, as the bus would once again turn left, and not right like Grandpa. I would be bored for the next 20 minutes. The districts we'd drive through I've never been on foot in in my life, the people there seem foreign to me - a kind of foreign you are not interested in. They would leave the bus and get on the bus, and now would be the time to stare blankly out the window and scroll through music tracks in search of something I could mentally sing along to.
I would probably miss the moment the bus would leave the road through block house streets and enter a green - now probably mostly black, brown and snow-white - street where private houses would proudly sit. This would attract my attention away from my phone, as I would try to see and take mental note of every house on at least one side of the road. Never know when you'll see some elements of a dream home and get a chance to plunge deeper into nostalgia. What nostalgia though? Only if there's something as a nostalgia for the future. As in, missing events that might not ever happen but you can for a fleeting moment imagine happening to you. How wonderfully the mind works, I would think as my imagination would process each and every house under two seconds, issuing a statement to my mouth whether or not I like each separate building and whether it's a home or not. The mouth would proceed to smile or remain calm on it's own accord. How can people not read my face? I feel as though everything gets there. Maybe I'm wrong.
From this street (and a stop I almost surely remember being there) and another stop at the next bigger road we'd turn to, the bus would most possibly be empty except for me and under ten other people. There isn't much to see beyond this point on the route. There are some sea cargo customs buildings, a forest on the right, a couple blocks of houses again. Who would reach the last stop? Me and perhaps one or two other people.
The last stop is a strange thing. When I first got there, I was stunned and could not believe my eyes. You ride down an alley of sorts with some rural-looking houses on one side when all of a sudden the bus turns into a small circular asphalted place. There isn't a bench, just a post with departure times and that's it. It's surrounded with trees and looks perfectly like a big circle of nothing within a circle of trees.
In winter, I suppose, the trees would be mostly bare by the time the snow fell, and I would climb out of the bus to a circle of dead trees, adding some more sad notes to the chorus of sad thoughts in my head.
A sidenote, I seem to remember this route clearly even though I've only gone it three times one summer. Must be that it means a lot. Probably one of the most meaningful routes in my life.
Leaving the cooling bus at the strange end stop, I would pull my bag back over my shoulders and keep going forward. Unbeknownst to me, the bus would have taken me all the way from the city centre to one of it's borders, namely, the sea. I would walk past another private house and turn left once more - observe how most turns were left ones. There, I would walk right past an old bomb shelter with it's doors sealed forever and down a street with a single shop only offering booze, ice cream and chips and looking more like a public toilet than an actual shop. What I would see next would be a ridiculously neat house with all outer space sorted out and covered with plants, rock formations and disgusting statues. A couple security cameras would be overseeing the garden - probably to protect it from envious neighbors who'd love to wreck the gingerbread decorum overnight. Some more houses, and I would find myself at a dead end. To the right would be a huge shield stating that beyond this point was some nature reserve territory and that no cars were allowed beyond this point. I would turn right there, and follow a deserted road. On both sides for some time would be low fields covered with swamp greens that would probably be covered with snow by that time. The road would twist left and then lead me out into the open, showing, just to the left of me, the Daugava river mouth.
Have I ever fulfilled this fantasy of mine? No. I would walk down the paved road over the sand-filled dunes, eyes glued to the river's blue green waters flowing by me with extra might, and admire the work of god as much as the work of man on these shores. This paved road would branch out toward what I always believed either a meteorology or ship's surveying station, the other branch kept going. From a higher shore it would cross a shallow beach - had I turned right there and followed the line of sea green hitting the golden sands for four kilometers straight, I would reach the place I went so often to growing up. Only the river was on the right. The paved road quickly turned here, with a small crack in between, into a thick slab followed by another thick slab on top of concrete blocks. The road was ruddy brown from here on, because the slabs contained steel and the waves, I supposed, would cover this road at times and make it rust.
When I was little, me and Grandpa would take long walks along the shore. As I got older, I each time got closer to reaching a marker along the way - a ship wreckage sticking out of water a mere 200 meters away from the shore somewhere mid-distance. It could be seen all the way from where we usually set up our spot. So, after reaching it one time, I was rewarded by the sight of a cruise ship entering Daugava river. It seemed enormous, gliding over the beach and shining it's white paint in the sun. Not thinking at all, I demanded us to go where it was…
The road up to the end of the quay would have higher borders on the right, and a plunge down to concrete block chaos on the left. It continued to rise out of the sea. Beloved by fishermen, it would have at least two of them sitting not far from one another and waiting for something to catch the bait. I never stopped to look, however their presence was symbolic to me. A symbol of some occurrences happening all the time. I wonder if they'd still be there in winter.
I would reach the end of the quay. Seagulls would probably be around somewhere, crying their special tragic cries and gliding effortlessly through the sky. I would walk slowly, watching my step and watching the snow. At the end I would look at the other side I never really visited, look to the other side and think of my childhood.
My troubles would be there with me, however, in the face of what I would be witnessing, they would not seem like much. Snowfall on the sea. The waters all around turned a colder slate color, perhaps. The lead clouds with snow, the way they always look.
I wonder if snowfall wouldn't increase while I stood there, no music, no movement, gazing at the scenery until my toes would feel frozen, the bag would resume bothering me again and my thoughts of immaterial, great things would dissipate in the wind. I would look around once more, sigh deeply, and access internet to know how long it would be for the next bus to pick me up at the stop. Based on that, I would either go at a half-jog or wander around for a time before slowly walking back to that circle.
When snow would fall, every sound would be hushed. Me walking alone down the road would probably give me an odd sense of being the only person in this miniature dimension. Despite the cold and the possible hunger I would be feeling, I would once again, as I do in moments like these, wish to exist trapped in this moment for days on end. Forever maybe. I would walk back where I came from, bracing myself for a hungry hour on the bus and the long tired way back home. Surely I would recall the times I visited this place when it was warm and welcoming.
How me and two other girls rode the same bus and got stuck in a traffic jam in day heat only to arrive to Daugavgriva around 5pm when it got colder. We'd lain down on the sand and talked, revealing our skin to the mild sun and a cool breeze, The sand was warm to lie on, but cool to the touch. Bird slipped on a stone on our way back and her pretty red plaid dress got covered in algae. Us washing it, laughing hysterically. Her complaining about the wet dress and us singing to Rammstein and AC/DC while we walked to catch the bus. Hunger while waiting for the bus to reach city centre again. Me showing Bird a track on my phone as we rode the bus to our homes. One of the best afternoons/evenings I had.
Coming only for an hour or so with Peter. His fascination with various critters we found on the path, my irritation at mosquitoes all around and our mutual horror when we heard a mosquito chorus, only possibly likened to a distant screeching of car brakes, right next to where the road crossed the forest. Him being fascinated by the whole thing. Us waving to a passenger ship going by and getting waved back at. Peter's polaroid glasses tinting everything a perfect blue. Him smoking while I sat on the concrete right under the lantern, doodling nonsense. Going for a stroll on the beach. My fascination with the beach here never having more than ten people and there being an empty beach territory from there on out. Seashell treasures just beyond the waves and the sands singing. Walking back, running even to make it in time for the bus.
That one time I came on my own, not wanting to stay home. I walked the whole 4 km to the pier in July heat, not taking my shirt off so not to receive sunburns. Fishermen greeting me amicably as though we were old friends. Spending hours on the quay watching ships go by and writing about the day. Thinking. Staring at the sky and the seagulls. Making up the whole 'going there during first snowfall' fantasy. Sighing and heading back all the 4 km. Walking in the sand is hard, by the way.
Walking there several times with Grandpa, only to reach the end of the quay barefoot, complaining about the road's roughness, and coming back after almost a couple hours to Grandma, who would scold him for letting me drag him there and treat me with some more sun screen mixed with sand on my skin, and some food.
Hungry and tired, I might feel my eyes water on the bus back in snowfall. But it would be fine. I would have a warm hood to hide under. Somehow, all those times became one-time occurrences, embedding themselves forever in my heart and my memory.
A catastrophic sense of loss would sweep over me. In the end, we're very selfish. We do not miss simply people as they were. We miss the times we had with them. I would conclude, I believe, that there is nothing at all wrong with that. Nothing at all.
Snow would fall. The bus would roar and make many turns I would no longer observe. I would be perfectly miserable, yet elated, having another unforgettable experience to recall forever. One only my own.