Amphibious Trilogies

Tethering

The passage of goods, the passage of freighters, the passage towards being tethered to the shore of the Northern Dvina River. The passage of time. These Amanda and I watch as the gentle pulse of the river entrances us on our second evening in the city. The river our opening, an entranceway. Entrance-entrance.

We are sitting in the floating restaurant Paratov in a small quay beside the river, right over from the Northern Maritime Museum. The museum’s iridescent awnings shelter its windows onto the river, Blue plastic eyelids over the concrete structure on dry land stare unblinkingly back at us.

Summer is in full force in Arkhangelsk and this evening is specially lit as if for the movement performance that unfolds before as two tugs go about an elaborate dance of manoeuvering a large ship to shore. A little upstream is another large one, seemingly adrift in the current, sailing almost horizontally towards us.

Clouds muster on the horizon to the west, broodily suggesting rain and then a rainbow appears and shortly afterwards its paler double shimmers in the stormy sky.

The pair of tugs nudge and pull at the ship, moving back wards and forwards, ropes now taught, then slack as they shift the work backwards and forwards so that the ship slides gradually towards the quay. Cars pull up to watch, diners interrupt their meal to look out over the restaurant’s terrace, a cyclist arrives, and does a slow wobbly balancing act as he watches the push-pull play.

The flow of the water, the rumbling work of the tug at the rear suddenly churning up froth, rope now taut. Pace, precision, and the water continues to flow on by.

The summer evening light changes as the rain gathers across the expanse of water and the opposite bank is suddenly vibrant green, nearer now. Where ice only recently covered this entire expanse of sandy land and streaming water, there are luminous trees just visible to the naked eye across this passage of mooring and motion.

Gradually the passage of light, a key partner to this dramaturgy, too changes. We begin to walk back towards our hotel, and see where we have been sitting, our vantage point over the docking. As we walk slowly beside this massive waterway that for centuries has been central to the economy of north western Russia, navigable deep inland, a barge moves gradually along the river course.

Only later as I upload the image do I notice more fully the two circular concrete ornaments that mark out the passage – across the water and beyond – pillars to the movement of goods and people together.

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