A life less ordinary is the only way to live
I cannot live a quiet life. I always have to come up with new projects and exciting dreams. I’m not interested in following routines.
If I find myself slipping into complacency, I don’t like myself. The more difficult the task the more excitement and happiness I experience.
Why am I this way? I think it is because of the passion my parents had for their work.
My father was a geologist and five months of the year he spent “in the field”.
He was looking for iron ore deposits to feed the factories of Soviet Russia during its industrialisation.
He roamed the remote Siberian shores of Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world, collecting samples, and during my summer school break I travelled with him.
We camped for months beside the icy blue waters where local shamans beat drums to honour the spirits of nature, and at night the constellations shimmered on the brittle edge of space.
I was awed by his determination and unfailing optimism. It was a grand puzzle scattered over an endless, unknown land and he pursued the solution with a vigour and fearlessness that never failed. After years, he hit the mother lode.
It was a grand adventure and, as a young girl, I learnt to never give up.
We accepted hardship without complaint because we believed in the goal, tantalisingly beyond our reach yet offering clues that my father’s keen scientific mind arranged into a treasure map that led us ever onward.
Summer on these expeditions took us outside the boundaries of ordinary life into a wild realm of rare birds and animals and the empty vastness of the taiga.
One achingly clear day, the sun was overhead and the lake stretched to the horizon like an inland sea.
We came to a huge rock, shaped like a crouching giant, and my father turned to me and explained how this stone appeared here, its entire ancient geologic history, and his eyes shone with love.
Then I knew what it was to have your work be your life’s passion, your companion through both suffering and delight.
My mother, a chemistry professor, got up very early every morning and wrote dissertations, books and articles.
Then she cooked us breakfast and ran to take a bus to the university to give her lectures.
In the evening before going to bed, I always saw her head bowed low above her desk reading in the dim light of a lamp.
Her focus on her research covered her like a beautiful blanket.
“Mom, you must go to bed, it is late,” I often begged her. “Not now, I have to finish this, it is important,” she always replied with a smile.
I still don’t understand how she did everything around the house and her work at the same time.
We didn’t have a washing machine, dishwasher, microwave or even a blender.
She opened the doors of our home to almost everyone.
Our apartment was always full of people; students, graduate students, colleagues, relatives, friends.
The first question to the incoming guest was “Are you hungry? Would you like a cup of tea?”
This was the rule, especially during the bitter Siberian winter.
My parents hosted scientists from many countries who came to the conferences in Irkutsk. There were never enough chairs and we had to borrow them from our neighbours. Mom liked to set up a beautiful table.
For these occasions, we took out prized heirlooms from my Polish grandmother, Felizata.
To our guests’ astonishment, there were white tablecloths, linen napkins and crystal wine glasses that shone brightly under the light of an ancient chandelier.
Russian proverbs were written in the Old Slavic language on each knife.
I remember, “Whoever gets up early, God gives to him.”
My mother took that to heart.
The guests discussed all kinds of exotic topics.
I sat silently and absorbed everything they said like a sponge.
It was my window to another world and, along with the classic books that I read, I created foreign landscapes in my mind.
Those worlds were very different from our grey and harsh Soviet reality.
I began to dream of travel and to see myself far away.
My father has been gone for many years, exploring where I cannot follow, and my mother lives in San Francisco.
She is in her eighties, still giving lectures and writing her discoveries late into the night.
Their fascination with this marvellous world never wavered.
I travel through life on the wave of their enthusiasm, and their passion is a beacon for my dreams.
• Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at: www.ninalondon.com
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