Giving no explanation to anybody, I ordered the crew to moor the
motor boat not far from the place where a year ago I had had a
meeting with the old men. I got to the village by a small motorboat.
I gave orders to the captain of the motor boat to proceed with the
commercial route further on up the river.
My hope was to find those old men with the help of local people, to
see the Ringing Cedar with my own eyes and discuss the manner of its
delivery to the motor ship. Having fastened my motorboat to a stone,
I planned to walk to the nearest house. However, I noticed a lonely
woman standing on a hillside and I made up my mind to talk to her.
The woman was wearing an old quilted jacket and a long skirt. High
rubber galoshes were on her feet. They were the kind the great
majority of the local population wear in the far Northern regions.
She wore a shawl that covered her forehead and neck. It was
difficult to tell her age.
I said “Hello”, and asked her about the two men I had met there the
“You were talking to my grandpa and great grandpa last year,
Vladimir”, answered the woman.
I was astonished: her voice was young, her articulation was very
distinct, she was on familiar terms with me, using “thou” instead of
“you”. Moreover, she had called me by my name. I could not remember
the names of the old men and the bottom line was that I was not sure
whether I had ever heard their name or told them mine. I thought for
a while and then concluded that evidently, I had told them my name
if she knew it.
Therefore, I decided to follow her example and be on
familiar terms with her too.
“And what is your name?”, I asked.
“Anastasia”, was the answer.
She stretched out her hand, the palm
facing down, as if waiting for a kiss. This kind of gesture for a
village woman dressed in a quilted jacket and galoshes, standing on
a deserted bank and trying to behave as if she was a lady of
society, made me laugh. I shook her hand but I did not kiss it.
Anastasia gave an embarrassed smile and suggested I go with her to
the taiga where her family lived.
“Although, you know, it is necessary to walk for twenty five
kilometers. Does that disturb you?”
“Well, sure it's pretty far away. Will you be able to show me the
“Do you know everything about it? Will you tell me?”
“I'll tell you what I know”.
“Well, then let's go”.
While we were walking Anastasia told me that their family lived in
the cedar forest for many generations.
According to her, her
forefathers had been living there for thousands and thousands of
years. They don't get in direct contact with the people of our
civilization very often. These contacts take place far away from the
places of their own dwelling but happen when they come to where
larger settlements pretend to be hunters or residents of other
Anastasia herself has visited two large cities: Tomsk and Moscow.
She stayed there only for a day. She did not even spend a night
there. The aim of the other trips was to see with her own eyes
whether her visualizations about the way of life of modern city
dwellers were correct. By selling berries and dry mushrooms she
managed to get clothes and money for her trips.
One local woman gave
Anastasia her own passport for this purpose.
She did not share her granddads' idea of giving the Ringing cedar to
many people. When I asked her “Why?”, she said that its pieces could
get to good as well as to bad people and, as she believed, the
greater portion of it would get to negative persons.
that finally it would bring more harm than good. The main thing to
do, according to her, would be to help good people who are leading
society towards the light, not into a dead end. If one were to try
to help everybody, the imbalance between good and evil would remain
the same or it could even get worse. After my meeting with the old
men, I had managed to look through popular science literature and
some historical and scientific works, which related the unusual
properties of the cedar tree.
That was why I was trying to get to
the root of the matter Anastasia was talking about. I wanted to
learn more about the way of life of the people of the cedar forest.
I was thinking it over again and again, then I tried to visualize
it. I tried to compare them with the Lykovs, the family well known
to many readers of Komsomolskaya pravda.
V. Peskova, a reporter on
this newspaper published a series of articles under the headline:
Taiga's Dead End.
It was about the family which lived for a long
time in the taiga. My impression about the Likovs was that they knew
how to live in peace with nature but they were absolutely ignorant
in their knowledge and understanding of modern civilized life and it
actually ruined them when they got in contact with it.
In this case the situation was quite different. Anastasia impressed
me with her perfect knowledge of our civilized life and even more,
with something else which was not quite clear to me yet! She was
discussing with ease our urban life as if she knew it perfectly
We had walked deep into the forest for about five kilometers, when
she suddenly took off her quilted jacket, shawl, long skirt and put
it into a hollow tree and only a short light dress was left on her.
I was astonished by what I saw. If I believed in miracles I would
categorize it as a miraculous transformation, a kind of
metamorphosis. I was facing a very young woman with long golden hair
and a splendid shape. Her beauty was extraordinary.
She was an
exceptional model. It was hard to imagine anybody who could possibly
compete with her among the winners of the most prestigious beauty
contests. Also, as it was revealed later on, her intellect was
extremely sharp, too.
Absolutely everything was appealing about her
and she was full of charm.
“Are you tired?”, she said, “Do you want
to have a rest?”
We sat down right on the grass and I had an opportunity to examine
her face closer: no cosmetics at all, very regular features, well
treated, perfect skin. These had nothing in common with the skin of
common people of the Siberian remote places. She had large, kind
gray eyes and smiling lips. Though she was wearing a light short
dress, it looked rather like a night-dress.
There was the impression that she did not feel cold and it was not
higher than 12-15 degrees Celsius. I decided to have a snack and
took a sandwich and a flat bottle of cognac out of my bag. I offered
a drink to Anastasia but she refused it. While I was enjoying my
meal she stretched out on the grass as if exposing herself to the
caressing sun rays. These being reflected from her turned up palms,
were illuminating golden light. She was almost half naked. That
woman was delightful!
I examined her thinking to myself:
“Well, why do women through out
history always try to strip themselves without limitations. They
show their legs, then breasts, then all of them together using low
cut and mini dresses? Do they try their best to attract everybody's
attention? 'Hello! Look at me! Look how wonderful I am, how open and
What else can a man do? If he resists the temptation of
the flesh it appears that he is holding a woman in low esteem. If he
is attracted to her it appears that he is breaking the law given by
I asked her how she was not afraid to be alone in the forest.
have nothing to be afraid of here”, was the answer.
“I wonder, how would you defend yourself if you happen to come
across two or three men, let's say geologists or hunters?”, I asked.
She did not say a word, just smiled back.
I thought to myself,
“How could this young beauty, with
extraordinary seductive abilities not feel scared of anything or
Then, you would never imagine what happened next! Even the
memory of it brings back uncomfortable feelings. I put my arms
around her shoulders and pulled her to me gently, giving her a hug.
She did not resist much though one could feel that her resilient
body was very strong. I did nothing else.
The last thing I remember,
before losing consciousness, were her words:
“Don't do it, calm
And yet before I did it, I remember perfectly well that I was
terror-stricken. It was an unrealized fear, the kind one can
experience in childhood when home alone and everything scares you.
When I regained my consciousness, she was in front of me standing on
her knees. Her hand was on my chest and with another one she was
waving to somebody, who was somewhere above, as if expressing a
negative answer. Who surrounded us invisibly? She was trying to show
someone that nothing wrong had happened to her.
into my eyes.
“Calm down, everything is over already”.
“But what was it?”, I asked.
“Harmony's unreceptiveness of your attitude regarding me, I mean the
desire which came to you for me. Later on you will make it out
“What does it have to do with some kind of harmony? It
was you who started to resist”.
“That's right, me too. I did not welcome it It was not pleasant for
I sat down, pulled my bag closer to me.
“Unbelievable! Look at her! 'She did not welcome it Unpleasant...'
Ha! You, women, the only thing you are all after is to seduce a man.
You show your legs, expose your breasts, walk on spiked heels,
though they are uncomfortable but still you wear them. You twist all
of your private parts and as soon as it comes too close to the
point... You start to talk like this: 'Ah! I don't need it, I am not
that kind of woman. What do you take me for?' Hypocrites! That's
what you are! Now, look at yourself why have you taken your upper
clothes off? It is not hot at all. Then you stretched yourself, got
quiet and even more, you were smiling that way...”.
“First of all I am not comfortable wearing any kind of clothes. I
put it on only when I come out of the forest to meet people, just to
look like everybody. And I laid down in the sun to rest not to
disturb you while you were enjoying your meal”, she said.
“Oh, yeah! You did not want to disturb me... But you did disturb
“Of course, any woman would like to attract a man's attention, but
not only to her legs and breasts. It is desirable that the right
one, who is the only one in the world for her, could see much more
than her physical body and would not pass her by”.
“But right now, right here nobody was passing by! Or what is that
'much more' that one has to sec if right in the foreground the legs
are sticking out? Somehow you women are illogical!”
“Yes, you are right, to my great regret, it comes out exactly as you
say... Shall we go, Vladimir? Have you finished your meal? Have you
had a rest?”
A thought crossed my mind,
“Should I go further on with
such kind of a lady philosopher?”
Though I said,
“All right, let's
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