My Mother

By Tiana Leonard

My mother was born in Crimea in 1906, the youngest of six children in a family of German Mennonites. The Mennonites were a pacifist Christian sect whose communities moved around Europe trying to escape conscription. Catherine the Great invited them to settle in Russia in the hope that they could teach the Russian peasants their farming practices. But my grandfather was an unsuccessful farmer. Each place he settled, locusts or drought brought disaster to his crops. When he finally gave up farming and started a mill in Pavlovsk, a town on the Don River in Ukraine, he became prosperous immediately. My mother was four then, and, until the collapse of the monarchy, the family lived a comfortable life although my mother barely survived a series of childhood diseases – diphtheria, whopping cough, and a episode of scarlet fever that left her deaf in one ear.
The family became Russian subjects and my grandfather was even elected to the Duma-the city council. Since there was no Mennonite colony in Pavlovsk, my mother went to a Russian school. She spoke German at home and grew up bilingual and multicultural. Her mother cooked German, Tatar, and Ukrainian dishes like meat Borscht with Peroshki and sour cream. They celebrated Christmas with German cookies and Russian Orthodox Easter with smoked fish, caviar, Sernya Paschka and Kulich. She read James Fennimore Cooper, Dickens, Balzac, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. Continue reading

My Best Friend

By Tiana Leonard

On summer mornings in Peterborough the insistent whine of the sprayer would start our morning ritual. Our bare feet squishing in the dew soaked grass, Deedie and I would gorge on mulberries from the tree outside our bedroom. Later, still barefoot, we would walk down between the apple orchards to get the mail, eating wild raspberries and blackberries and playing in the sawdust piles remaining from the New Hampshire hurricane of ‘38. Continue reading

Water, Water Everywhere

By Ellie Levin

When I think of summer I dream of boating and swimming and lazy days in Maine sitting on a terrace gazing at the sound at Fireside, Falmouth, with so many sailboats looking like white birds resting; I also think of the artificial lake, glassy calm, blue-grey, or mud colored other days, fed by cold springs, in Forestburgh, New York. This summer I added the canals of Amsterdam and the Amstel River. My photographs are of the water of the Amstel in its many moods. In one image it is green and rippled on one side of trays of floating gardens. And on the other side, a delicate blue, made of many colors like an impressionist painting. Continue reading