Book 4. Co-creation (1999)
The old man at the dolmen
Three years ago I went to the northern Caucasus to write the first chapters about the dolmens, which people now flock to visit in an unending stream. But back then very few bothered to come and see these edifices of our ancient forebears. I would make frequent visits — on my own — to the dolmen situated on a property belonging to a farmer by the name of Stanislav Bambakov in the settlement of Pshada, in the Ge- lendzhik district. And each time I went, there was old Bambakov at the dolmen. He always showed up unexpectedly, wearing a patched shirt and carrying a jar of honey from his apiary.
The elderly man was tall, lean and very agile. He had acquired his land only recently, at the beginning of perestroika,2 and gave the impression he was most anxious to get everything set up on it as quickly as possible. He built himself a small house and a shed for his beehives, along with farm buildings made of various scrap materials. He started putting in an orchard and digging a small pond, thinking to coax forth a water spring, but he ran into a layer of rock.
In addition, old Bambakov was very attentive to the dolmen. He would sweep all around it. He also took the rocks he found in the field beside the dolmen and put them in a pile.
He told me that these rocks had been brought here manually from other places, and pointed out how different they were from other rocks in the vicinity People had made them into a mound, he said, and erected the dolmen on top.
The old man’s farmstead stood off to one side, away from the settlement and the main road. Most of the time he worked it all by himself. I wondered whether he realised how pointless his efforts were. There was no way he could set up his farmstead, work the land and build himself a regular modern house. But even if a miracle should happen and he should succeed in beautifying the surrounding land and establishing his farmstead, he would still hardly have cause for rejoicing. Everybody’s children were running off to the cities. Indeed, this old man’s son had set himself up with his wife in Moscow, where he’d become a civil servant.
Didn’t the old man realise how pointless his efforts were? They weren’t of any use to anyone, even the children. Their father would no doubt have to die with a heavy heart, knowing that his farmstead would go to ruin. Knowing that everything would grow over with wild grasses, and his bees would swarm out. And the dolmen standing so awkwardly in the middle of his field would once again get covered in garbage. He ought to have taken it easy in his advanced years, while here he was working his heart out from morning ’til night, always digging or building something like a possessed man.
One time I arrived at the dolmen well after dark. The path leading to it was lit by the light of the moon. Silence reigned — the only sound was the rustle of leaves in the breeze. I stopped a few steps short of the trees growing around the dolmen.
There sitting on a rock next to the dolmen’s portico was the old man. I recognised his gaunt figure at once. Usually agile and cheerful, he sat there without so much as a stir. He
appeared to be weeping. Then he got up and began pacing
back and forth near the portico with his usual quick gait. Then he stopped abruptly, turned toward the dolmen and gave an affirmative wave of his hand. I realised that Bamba- kov was communicating with the dolmen, having a conversation with it.
I turned and headed back to the settlement, endeavouring to tread as softly as I could. Along the way I fell to wondering how this old fellow, already in his twilight years, could possibly be helped by the dolmen, no matter how strong or wise a spirit it possessed. How indeed?! Surely not just through communicating like that? Wisdom.! Wisdom is something you need when you’re young. What good is it when you’re old? Who needs it? Who’s going to listen to speeches of wisdom, if even one’s own children are a million miles away?
Then a year and a half later, during one of my regular visits to Gelendzhik, I once again set out for the dolmen on old Bambakov’s property. I already knew that Stanislav Bamba- kov had died. And I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be seeing this cheerful, stalwart old fellow again. And I was sorry that I wouldn’t have the chance to taste any more honey from his apiary But what worried me the most was the prospect of seeing garbage around the dolmen and the whole place in a state of ruin. However...
The lane leading from the main road to the farmstead, it turned out, was freshly swept. Just before the path turned off that led to the dolmen, there among the trees stood wooden tables with benches around, even a beautiful gazebo. Along the lane, neatly marked off by whitened stones, were growing green cypress saplings. Lights burned in the windows of the little house, as well as outside, on a lamp-post.
His son! Old Bambakov’s son, Sergei Stanislavovich Bam- bakov, had left Moscow, quit his job and moved with his wife and son here to his father’s farmstead.
Sergei and I sat at one of the tables underneath the trees...
“My father rang me in Moscow, asked me to come. I came, looked around, and brought my family,” recounted Sergei. ‘And I started working here with my dad. Such a joy it turned out to be, working alongside him. And when he died, there was no way I could leave this place.”
“No regrets moving here from Moscow?”
“No regrets, and my wife has no regrets either. I thank my father every day for this. We feel a lot more at home here.”
“Have you got some facilities in — running water for instance?”
“Facilities... well, you see the outhouse there — that’s something my father fixed up before he died. No, I’m talking about feeling at home in a different way. You know, feeling better inside, more satisfied.”
‘And what about work?”
“We’ve got our fill of work. There’s the new orchard to tend to, and looking after the apiary. I’m still not a hundred percent knowledgeable about working with bees. Too bad my father’s skill didn’t rub off on me.
“More and more people are coming to the dolmen, and every day we greet the touring coaches. The wife’s always glad to help out. My father asked me to keep on greeting people, and I greet them. I’ve set up a little coach stop, I want to bring in running water. But they keep harassing us over taxes. Right now we don’t really have enough to get by. At least we can be thankful that the head of the local administration can give us a little help.”
I told Sergei about what Anastasia had said about land, about the lots, and remembering parents, and he responded:
“You know, she’s right! She’s a hundred percent right! My father died, and yet it seems as though I talk with him every day — sometimes we argue, even. And he’s becoming closer and closer to me — it’s as though he never died.”
“What d’you mean? How can you talk with him? The way mediums do — you hear voices?”
“Of course not. It’s much simpler than that. You see that crater over there? He was searching for water and stumbled across a layer of rock. I was going to fill in that crater and put another table with benches in its place. And then I thought to myself: What have you done here, dear old dad? Той didn’t think things through. Now I’ve got extra work to do, and there’s so much on my plate already. Only the rains came, and water gushed down from the mountain and filled the crater, and it stayed — the water level stayed up for several months. A little pond formed. And I thought: Jolly good, dad! That crater of yours is good for something after all! And now I see there’s so many other things he thought of here, I’m still trying to figure them all out.”
“Can you tell me how he managed to get you to come here, Sergei, all the way from Moscow? What words did he use?” ‘As far as I can recall, he used very simple words. Ordinary words. I only remember that his words gave me some kind of feelings and desires I’d never had before... and here I am. Thank you, dad.r
What words did old Bambakov learn when he communicated with the dolmen? What wisdom did he learn to make his son come back to him? And come back to him for good! Pity they buried him in the cemetery, and not on his own land, like Anastasia said. And I began to be even a bit envious of Sergei — his father found, or created for him, his own piece of his Motherland. Will I ever have mine? Will others have theirs? Bambakov has it good. It would be good for everyone to be able to stand on their own piece of their Motherland!