Once upon a time, I lived in a land far, far away. A land of fairy tales populated by peasants and kings, bears and wolves, composers and poets. A land filled with beautiful things: lacquer boxes with miniature paintings, Orenburg shawls, intricate samovars, khokhloma kitchenware, matryoshkas, faberge eggs, and gzhel. In this magical land, I had a magical romance. Or maybe it wasn’t so magical but only felt like it was because I was in my early twenties and still believed love was the most important force in the world and still believed in its power to strike down all adversity and sorrow. But then I became too old for fairy tales and my Russian prince and I and our 12 gzhel statues moved to America where we were commoners with common lives and common problems that love could not vanquish. And then we didn’t have love anymore and so we parted ways. The gzhel cow, the gzhel pig, and all their fragile blue and white friends were relegated to a storage bin, packed away with the other memories of a life gone by, or perhaps a life that never was, to be pulled out and examined once or twice a year when nostalgia for the emotional intensity and naivete of young adulthood grew unbearable. But as time marched on, those ancient images and emotions were no longer strong enough to push through the haze of present day concerns, and the value in toting physical representations of memories from place to place was lost. It was then that the gzhel barnyard animals met their tragic end in a dumpster in a grimy alley in Denver, Colorado, far from their snowy origins. Except one. A rooster. The rooster refused to be tossed aside. He scratched and clung on, crowing for attention, urging my former self to allow one piece of who she was to remain, no matter how far down in the bin he had to be and no matter how much other detritus hid his existence. Just don’t let go. There’s more to come.
Cue the Laura Ingalls Wilder house. I now live in what used to be a two-room pioneer cabin that was expanded (slightly) over the last 160 years. I may not be a Russian princess anymore, but I’m happy to trade in the aristocracy for the intrepid pioneer women of the American west. And my cabin may be in the middle of town and have all the modern amenities, but it’s not as if I ever lived in the Winter Palace or Peterhof either. You have to have a little imagination, which is easy to do in a house where everything is a little off-kilter. One of the best features is a three-season porch that used to be the chicken coop, which is perhaps why the owner decided the house needs to be decorated with chickens. Chicken valances, chicken statues, chicken mirrors, chicken linens, even a chicken lamp ugly enough to make the leg lamp look classy. My gzhel rooster is quite at home here, as am I.