Drops Dripped

There is a scene after rain in War and Peace that Tolstoy describes by writing, "капли капали." (Pronounced roughly, "KAHP-lee KAHP-a-lee.") The most literal translation is, "Drops dripped." Some translators have felt perhaps that the sentence didn't say enough and sometimes change it to say that trees or branches were dripping.

But I think Tolstoy was trying to capture a different feeling - it wasn't just trees, it was everything...drops dripped, from unseen origins to unseen and subtle splashes. I think that's what he meant to convey, because that's exactly what happens after a rainstorm, or in springtime, especially after a long and icey winter. And while the alliteration in English also works nicely to describe the feeling, I really like the musicality of the Russian. капли капали.

The first time I heard that sound, though I didn't know the Russian onomatopeia then to go with it, was in Rexburg, Idaho, where the streets had been packed in snow six inches higher than usual for six months or more, the first winter I went to college there. One morning in early spring when winter was about to make us all crazy, I took my journal out onto the front balcony to write and soak up what little sun we could feel. It was an odd and exhilarating feeling to feel 50 or 60 degrees of sunshine on my face and hands and bare feet but look around and see that most everything was still covered with snow and ice. Then I listened, and I heard it: drops dripping. Rivulets trickling under the cracking ice in the parking lot. The sound of sun dissolving winter. Melting. That was one of my favorite sensory experiences ever.

I walked outside today and again, though the sun wasn't quite that warm, all the same, капли капали - that was the sound, if I listened hard enough over cars and footsteps on the city streets. Things are melting, dripping, breaking up, cracking through, running down...

My reason for going out today was a call from David shortly after he left to walk to work. "You've got to take your camera out and get pictures of the icicles on the building down the street! One of them is seriously six feet long. It reached all the way from the roof to the balcony below it! The temperatures must have been just right yesterday for icicles like that. And all the icicles next to it are evenly spaced, like a curtain coming down from the eaves."

I like that my husband notices things like that and calls to share. Of course, he noticed them today because someone yelled at him about not walking under a building with icicles like that (a true and serious fear of Kievans, we've discovered), but still...

I went out and snapped a few photos. They are not the best photographic effort, but the icicles were pretty amazing - most of them at least an inch or two around at the roofline and tapering so gradually into such long frozen spears. Plus, it was just nice to mark that spring and winter are having their last battle before the months of sunshine: spring makes drips drop, while winter works more slowly now to thwart their thaw.


In a less poetic sidenote, you can't help but notice the construction of these buildings, can you, Uncle Scott? It never ceases to amaze me.

And for added interest: when spring first started happening this year, the sidewalks (which are often impassable because of cars and more recently because of plowed drifts) started being blocked and marked by ribbons tied to stakes. I could not figure out what it was about. But it's a sign all natives know, and they will be sure to tell you about it if you dare to walk within the ribbon: Falling ice.

Those icicles come sliding off the corrugated metal once enough water has slickened things ups for them on the roof, and crash! They are on the sidewalk, or your head, or through your shoulder blades. David says that three to five people die in Kiev every year from such a thing. So yield to the stakes and ribbon. And whatever you do, don't let your children cross under them. What kind of a parent are you, anyway? I love that people say that out loud to people they don't even know. Hey, my kids are their kids. It's awesome.


Anonymous said...

It's Friday, and that means that the Fifth Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up - and you're on it!

Here is the link:


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Gypsy Girl said...

So I guess we need to live though winters like these to really appreciate the sunshine and warmth, right? There is something truly hopeful and beautiful about this time of year that you just can't experience in Arizona. Maybe that's why I'm here right now? :)

Andrea said...

Those are awesome icicles. love it. And love drops dripped.
I also went to Ricks. Good times!