Toya took me to the birch trees north of Ulaanbaatar today. There’s a lodge up there and several yurts. It’s Tuesday so no one was there. Part of my lesson was discerning the menu at the lodge restaurant.
Those ducks have bad character, Toya said. They are always chasing me.
Toya had Chanel products in her car for a friend. She’s quite fond of the fermented mare’s milk they make in the countryside, and also of boiled head of sheep or goat. She has my favorite laugh in the world.
It’s hard to describe the change of spirit I feel when I smell country air again. There’s an underlying quality to it, some scent that wilderness no matter the world region has in common, something under the scent. I had forgotten the love affair with birches I’d had in Russia. Their trunks really are a startling white, and autumnal birch leaves spin yellow eyeburns out of sunlight. Against the chill sapphire of sky on one of the first nippy days since I arrived, the birch forest offered up the most spectacular shade of amber. Toya tells me that Russians and Mongolians say birches cry.