My Prima Donna Swamp Princess: 29. INTERLUDE

  • 2006-06-07
Admittedly, I was relieved to be back behind the wheel of my rented Golf. I felt that only the compact vehicle could contain the princess' passion 's and prevent my fragile heart from bursting. After Arva's near full-frontal assault on the Gate of Dawn, I was convinced she was a loose cannon, but one that needed to be thoroughly cleansed (if not plugged up and mothballed entirely). The woman was truly on a messianic mission, and would apparently stop at nothing. How did she survive a month without me in Klaipeda?

You see, medieval Arva believed she could somehow turn back time and lay the foundation for a quasi-pre-Christian pagan Baltic revival, a time of mead, flowers, choral melodies and towering oak trees. She wanted to spread the gospel according to Perkunas, to lead the masses of world-weary Balts (or whom she thought were world-weary) to their own Walden Pond. To the princess, progress was a sham, a wasting away of traditional values. (Now that I write these words, I realize I should've whisked Arva off to Pennsylvania and let her hang with the Amish for a couple weeks. Maybe that would've imbued some sense into her.) Modern Balts, she told me in the Vilnius cafe while we were eating kibinai, were bewitched by a poisoned hybrid mentality: they were obsessed with Occidental faith in civilization's progress, yet shackled by an Eastern obsequiousness. They were too timid to change their own destiny. No, choose their own destiny.

"They lay prostrate on an alter of this EU," she said, "though they have no clue where it will take them." She scoffed. "We used to fight foreign influence, now they invite it in through the front door."
Recalling the gray economy, I added, "While they continue to cheat the system through the back door."
"Well, thank Perkunas for that," she said.
"No, thank Homo sovieticus," I said. "Comes with years of training in a communist economy."
This gave the princess pause. "I suppose you're right about that. At least that is all in the past." She shook her head. "Did people actually think they could establish a Marxist society? Amazing… Leave it to a Russian to take seriously what a third-rate German philosopher said."

I laughed. Despite being dead for five centuries, the princess had a good command of wit. She must've been a blast during her prime 's around 1425, that is.
But therein, I think, is the irony. Arva mocked mankind's recent attempts to create a utopian society 's what pundits now decry as the 20th century's single greatest evil 's yet at the same time she was driven by her own utopian vision. A vision harkening back to an era when all Balts lived in the forest and bathed in pristine lakes. When honey flowed thick, song echoed across the hills, and the gods were as fallible as their creations.

I write this interlude as a way of rummaging through and organizing my own scrambled thoughts. Because the princess story's eventually became mine. At least in my brief life, it's not everyday that you pull a 500-year-old aristocrat from the bottom of a swamp, and when you eventually do, the experience transforms you thoroughly. (Imagine a member of King Arthur's court suddenly appearing in the home of a Connecticut Yankee. Travel back in time, and you're a genius; but travel forward, and you're the town idiot. The difference is enormous.) Anyhow, the more you get to know the person you save, the more attached you become. An unfamiliar but pleasant symbiosis develops, and, well, first thing you know, you want the person to succeed.
Ultimately, I believe the princess, who claimed to have taken part in an assassination plot against Jogaila not long before he died of natural causes, better than anyone else understood what it meant to be a Balt. Though she never said it in those words, she too knew this to be true, and her mission naturally flowed from this presumption.

For my part, I couldn't help feeling myself swayed by her logic, as ridiculously naive as it was. After all, once upon a time the Balts had something to offer the world; now they were just soaking up blindly what others offered. Seeing this must have broken the princess' heart. And I, old fool, loathed to watch that happen. Before I knew it, I was doing everything to help, and protect, my swamp princess.