Pastel mansions line the sedate cobblestone streets of the neighborhoods between the Tauride Palace in Saint Petersburg and the Smolny Institute—pink stone, peach stucco, robin’s egg blue, and fourteen different colors of marble. It’s like walking through a candy store of architectural wonders, pillow mints and lemon drops. A summer storm lashed through an hour ago, and heavy-hanging clouds still skim the rooftops. Despite the murk, flower beds burst with pinwheel petunias and begonias in cherry red. A planter of marigolds flaunts its depth of amber and burnt orange blossoms as if it were the most exotic and distinctive flower on earth, not the banal window box staple that anybody can grow, no matter how ungifted or negligent.
These are marigolds to end all marigolds.
Purple lilacs can’t compete, nor can true blue pansies. Although marigolds can never be purple or blue, this seems beside the point when they lift their amber clusters skyward in an intensity of orange. Nestled in a bed of lacy foliage, they seem to represent their species as none has ever done before.
A hundred years ago of course there were marigolds here in beds, in edgings.
During that summer of 1917 some optimistic soul planted them, watered them, dead-headed them with never a thought nor an inkling of the stampede of boot soles that would crush the petals against the cobbles.
The revolution began in Saint Petersburg and, if I am tracing a path flower bed by flower bed between the Tauride Palace and the Smolny Institute, I am walking its route.
Sick of tyranny, the people turned to anarchy.
Sick of anarchy, they pitched in with the proletariat rank and file.
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