Book 3. The Space of Love (1998)
A new morning — a new life
I woke in the morning. I felt in such an extraordinarily good mood that I just lay there thinking I’d better not budge for the time being, lest the good mood suddenly vanish. What kind of a night did I have, anyway? And why did I get the impression in the morning that over the past night my whole body and consciousness were literally bathed in love? By the light of day it became clear to me why I had felt neither too cold nor too hot during the night. I was lying immersed in dry grasses and flowers, which gave off a pleasant warmth and aroma.
Readers often ask how Anastasia keeps from freezing in the wintertime, during the cruel Siberian frosts, but it’s really all so simple: if you bury yourself in a haystack, there are no frosts to fear. Granted, she has some sort of alternative source of warmth, given that she can walk about semi-nude even when it’s +5 out and doesn’t get cold. She even goes swimming then and doesn’t give so much as a shiver when she comes out of the water.
I continued to lie there in the bliss of my dried grasses and thought about how the morning breaking meant a new day had come, and I got the impression as though a new life were beginning. I thought if only this were the way it could be every morning, then in one lifetime one could live a thousand ages, as it were, and each age would be as magnificent as this morning. But how does one make each new day turn out as magnificent as this morning?
I didn’t get up until I heard Anastasia’s cheerful voice calling out to me:
“God surely gives to him who rises early”
I crawled out of my splendid night-time lodgings. Anastasia was already standing right up there at the entrance. Her golden hair was woven into a braid, which was tied with grasses at the end, like a bow Her new hairdo looked very nice on her.
“Let’s go to the lake — you can wash yourself and get dressed,” Anastasia proposed, tossing her braid coquettishly to the front.
Well, now, women are women after all, I thought, and said to her aloud:
“That’s a very pretty braid you have, Anastasia.”
“Pretty, eh? Very, very pretty?” she laughed, as she twirled around.
We ran to the lake. There on the shore, over some branches, were hanging my shirt, trousers, undershirt — in sum, everything I had taken off the night before. I felt them, and they were dry already.
“How did you manage to dry them so quickly?”
“I gave them some help,” Anastasia replied. “I put them on myself and ran about a little wearing your clothes, and they dried out very quickly Now you will be able to put them on after your dip in the lake.”
‘And are you going to be taking a dip, too?”
“I have already done everything I need to to greet the day”
Before I went into the water, Anastasia rubbed my body down with some sort of paste made from grass. And when I plunged in, the water all around me began to sizzle and my body smarted a little, but when I came out, I felt really refreshed. As though the pores of my skin were starting to breathe with great intensity all by themselves, each one taking in air individually My overall breathing was free and easy
Just as she had done the night before, Anastasia, ever cheerful and playful, began once more to rub the moisture off my body with her hands. As she was rubbing my back, I suddenly felt something hot unexpectedly spurt down my spine. It happened once, then again — I turned about sharply and there she was, squeezing her breast with both hands, aiming a stream of warm breast milk right into my face, then from the other breast a stream of milk spurted onto my chest. And then she let loose with a fast rub up and down my body, accompanied by a roar of laughter.
“What are you doing that for?” I asked, when I had recovered from my surprise.
“Because! Because!” guffawed Anastasia, as she handed me my shirt and trousers. They too did not smell the way they did before, and I noticed this as soon as I put them on. Then I said to Anastasia, in a serious tone:
“Okay I’ve done everything as you wished. Now let me see our son.”
“Fine. We shall go. Only, please, Vladimir, do not try to approach him right off. Watch him for a while at first, try to understand him.”
“Fine, I’ll watch, okay! And I’ll understand.”
We went back to the glade which was now so familiar to me. When we reached the bushes at the edge of the glade Anastasia said:
“Let us sit here quietly and watch: he will be waking up now and you will see him.”
Beside a tree at the edge of the glade the bear was lying on her side, but I couldn’t see any baby I was getting more and more excited, and my heart started beating strangely.
“Where is he?” I asked Anastasia with bated breath.
“Look more closely” she replied. “Look, you can see his little head and feet sticking out from under the bear’s paw. That is where he sleeps, in her groin. It is soft and warm there, and she keeps her paw on top of him — not pressing down, but just to provide a little covering.”
And I saw the scene. The boy’s tiny body was resting in a cradle of thick bear fur, in the huge beast’s groin, under her slightly raised front paw The bear was lying on her side without stirring, turning only her head from side to side as she looked around. The wee little legs wiggled in the thick fur, at which point the bear raised her paw a little more.
The baby was waking up. When he moved his arm, the bear raised her paw. When his arm dropped back to his side, she lowered her paw a little. Only her paw and head moved. There was not a stir from the rest of her body
“How can she lie like that without stirring? Isn’t it uncomfort-able to maintain that one position the whole time?” I asked.
“She can lie like that without stirring for a long, long time. And it is not hard for her at all. She is just so thrilled when he crawls into his little bed. And now she has started to take herself very seriously She has a sense of responsibility When the time approached to start a family, she did not even let her intended mate come near her. That is not too good. But when our son grows a little, she will allow her mate to approach her again.”
As I listened to Anastasia I couldn’t take my eyes off my son — I watched as the little feet once again wiggled beneath the bear’s huge paw. Then the paw went up in the air.
The baby moved his arms and legs, stretched himself, raised his head, then all at once stopped moving.
“Why did he stop moving? Is he going to go back to sleep?” I asked Anastasia.
“Look more closely, he is going piddle. The bear did not manage to let him down to the ground on time, or perhaps she did not want to — she really spoils him, you know.”
The little fountain kept trickling onto the bear’s fur. Like the boy, she too had stopped moving — even her head and
her paw — until the fountain had ceased its trickle. Then the bear began to turn over onto her other side, and the baby slid down to the ground.
“All right. You see, she thinks he will go on to do his Number Two, our little Man,” Anastasia said cheerfully
The tiny human body lay on the grass, tensing its abdomen muscles in preparation for his ‘Number Two’, while above it hovered the enormous bear. It seemed as though the bear was helping the baby along with her rumbling sounds, as if going through a similar preparation herself. The boy turned over on his stomach, started moving his arms and crawling across the grass on all fours. His little bottom had got dirty from his pooping. The bear went over to him and lapped his tiny bottom with her enormous tongue, wiping off the poop, just like a nanny She gave the boy a push with her tongue, and he plopped on his tummy, but got up again on all fours and went on crawling. The bear followed him and gave his bottom still another lapping, even though it was already clean by now.
“What do you think, Vladimir? Do you think she would be able to take off his dirty diapers or underpants and put new ones on?” Anastasia asked quietly.
“Okay, okay!” I responded, also in a whisper. “I get it.”
The boy turned over onto his back, and when the bear persisted in lapping his thighs, he made a nimble move and his little hand latched on to the fur on the bear’s muzzle.
In response to what looked to be insignificant movements by the boy’s hand, the bear proceeded to rest her huge head on the ground at his feet. He grabbed hold of her muzzle, reached up with his other hand and started climbing up the bear’s head.
“Where on earth is he going?” I queried.
“To the bear’s eyes,” responded Anastasia. “Her eyes sparkle. They fascinate him, and he always wants to touch them.”
The boy lay on his tummy on the bear’s muzzle and looked at one of her eyes. He then tried touching it with his finger, but all at once her eye snapped shut. The boy’s finger poked at her eyelid. After waiting a little while longer and still not seeing any spariding eye, the boy began climbing down from the bear’s muzzle, then crawled a little way across the grass, and stopped to look at something on the ground. The bear got up and roared twice.
“She’s calling the wolf. She needs to clean herself up and have something to eat. Now you will see how they have a friendly conversation amongst themselves,” Anastasia commented.
A few moments later the she-wolf appeared at the edge of the glade. The bear did not show any signs of welcoming her presence, but greeted her with a threatening roar. The wolf’s own behaviour was far from friendly. She surveyed the whole glade. She pranced a bit around the edge, lay down, then took a big leap and lay down again, as though ready to pounce.
“What kind of friendly conversation do you call that?!” I asked. “Why did the bear call her, and then roar at her like that? And the wolf seems pretty threatening herself!”
“That is the way they talk with each other. The bear stopped the wolf with her roar to make sure everything was in order with her. To check that she was not sick with anything, that it was not dangerous to let her approach a child of Man, that she was strong enough to defend him. The wolf showed that she was completely prepared. She showed it by her actions, not with words. You saw how she walked past and jumped pretty high.”
Indeed, the bear, after observing the wolf, calmly shuffled off out of the glade. The wolf lay down on the grass not far from the little one. The baby kept staring at something for a while longer, feeling the grass. Then he noticed the wolf and crawled toward her. As he approached, he began feeling her
muzzle with his hands, stroking her teeth with his finger, pat-ting her tongue. The wolf lapped his face, at which point little Vladimir crawled onto her stomach, felt the wolf’s nipples, sucked his hand all over and screwed his face into a frown.
“Time for our son to eat,” Anastasia began speaking again. “But he is not yet so hungry that he will drink the wolf’s milk. I am going to leave you for a little bit, while you sit here at the edge of the glade. If he sees you and is interested, he will crawl over to you. Only do not pick him up yourself. He is already a Man, even if small in appearance. He will not understand meaningless cooing sounds. Besides, violence may result if you try to pick him up against his will. He will not understand that. Even if you do it with good intentions, but without his permission, you will make a bad impression on him.”
“Right,” I said. “I shall not try to pick him up. I’ll just sit here like this. But the wolf — she won’t touch me?”
“With the scent you have now, she will not touch you.”
Anastasia clapped her thigh twice. The wolf got up, turning her head in Anastasia’s direction. Then, after a glance at the baby, who had started playing again with some kind of bug, she ran over to Anastasia.
Anastasia came up very near to me. She summoned the wolf to approach closer, then gestured to her to lie down.
“Can I stroke her, to finally make friends with her?” I suggested.
“She will not appreciate any condescending familiarity on your part. She understands everything and will not touch you, but she will not tolerate any display of superiority,” Anastasia replied. She sent the wolf back out into the glade and ran off to tend to some affairs of her own, promising to return shortly.
I emerged from behind the bushes, where Anastasia and I had hid ourselves to observe the scene taking place in the
glade. I came out and sat down on the grass about ten metres2 from little Vladimir. I sat there that way for about fifteen minutes. He didn’t pay the slightest attention to me. I thought that as long as I continued sitting quietly he would never pay any attention to me. And so I gave a couple of clicks with my tongue.
The little one turned his head and looked at me. My son! My very own son had his eyes fixed on me with fascination, and I was excitedly looking at him. I could even feel a flush all through my body from the excitement.
I had the urge to run and take his little body into my arms, squeeze him and press him against my chest. But Anastasia’s request and (more significantly) the presence of the wolf held me back.
And then my little son began slowly crawling toward me. He kept his eyes fixed on me all the while he was crawling. My heart started beating so loud in my chest that I could hear it — what was it beating like that for? Maybe it would frighten the little one away, it was pounding so.
But he kept crawling and crawling, and again something in the grass caught his eye, and he began poking around after a little bug. Then he began to examine something crawling along his arm. At this point he was three metres away My little son had stopped short in his crawling only three metres away from me!
All over some bug. And what kind of world was out there in the grass, what kind of life had taken his fancy so? What kind of order or rules do they have in the forest anyway? Here’s this little boy with his very own father right in front of him, and he’s more interested in some kind of bug! That’s not the way it should be. The child should know that his father is more important than a bug.
"ten metres — approximately equivalent to 33 feet.
All at once the little one looked up again in my direction, showed me a toothless smile, and quickly started crawling again, more nimbly than before. I was all prepared to pick him up, but then noticed that he kept on crawling right past me, not paying any attention to me.
I looked around and saw Anastasia standing all smiles behind me, a little to one side. She sat down and put her hand on the ground, palm upturned. The boy smiled and climbed up to his mother’s breast. Anastasia didn’t pick him up, but ever so gently helped him climb up, ever so gently helped him reach her breast. Now he was already in her arms, clapping his tiny hands against the exposed breast and smiling at Anastasia. Then, after feeling and stroking her nipple, he closed his lips tight about it and began sucking on the supple breast. Anastasia in the meantime just gave one look at me, putting her finger to her lips to let me know I should keep quiet. I sat there the whole time without uttering a word while she fed our son.
It seemed as though all during the feeding Anastasia was totally oblivious to my presence. Indeed, she did not seem to be aware of the world around her at all. The whole time she concentrated her gaze on our son. And it also seemed as though they were somehow communicating with each other. This impression came from the fact that after sucking for quite awhile the baby would suddenly stop, turn away from the nipple and look into Anastasia’s face. Sometimes he would be smiling, at other times his face had a serious expression. Then he became very still and slept for a while in his mother’s arms. When he awoke, his face once again broke into a smile, and Anastasia sat him on the palm of her hand, supporting his back.
Their faces were very close together, and the baby would feel Anastasia’s face with his hands, and press his cheek against hers. Then he spied me once again. And once more he fell still for a while, staring at me in fascination.
All at once he reached out his little hand toward me, inched his body forward in my direction and uttered the sound eh. Involuntarily I reached out my hands to him, and at that point Anastasia handed him over to me.
Here I was holding in my arms the tiny body of my very own son — the son I had so greatly desired! Everything else in the world vanished into oblivion. And I had the strong urge to do something for him. The baby felt my face, pressed his lips against it. Then he recoiled with a frown, apparently feeling the prickles on my unshaven face. After that — I don’t know how it happened, but I got an uncontrollable urge to kiss his warm little cheek. And I resolved to kiss him! But instead of a kiss I somehow ended up giving his cheek two quick laps, the way the wolf did.
The boy recoiled from me and began batting his eyelids in amazement. Anastasia’s loud trills of laughter filled the glade. The baby at once reached out his little hands toward her and started laughing too, squirming in my arms. I realised he was asking to be released. My son was leaving me. Obedient to his will and the established rules of communication here, I carefully put him down on the grass. He immediately crawled over to Anastasia. She jumped up with a laugh, ran around me and sat down on the other side of me, very close. Whereupon the little one turned around and with a big smile crawled over to the two of us. He climbed into Anastasia’s arms and once more began to feel my face.
This is how I first communicated with my son.