Book 2. Ringing cedars of Russia (1997)
Who’s to blame?
Once when Anastasia was trying to explain something to me about lifestyles and faith, but couldn’t find suitable, under-standable words — which she no doubt very much wanted to find — a curious incident took place.
Anastasia quickly turned to face the ringing cedar, pressing the palms of her hands against its trunk. But then something inexplicable began happening to her. Lifting up her head and addressing either the cedar or Someone way up high, all at once she started speaking passionately and with concentrated attention in a combination of words and sounds.
She was evidently trying to show or explain something, or plead for something. From time to time her monologue seemed to be infused with tones of persistent demanding. The resonant ring of the cedar increased in volume. Its ray became brighter and thicker. And then Anastasia demanded sharply:
“Answer me! Answer! Explain! Give it to me, give it to me!” she said, shaking her head and even stamping her bare feet.
All at once the pale glow of the ringing cedar’s tree-top became focused into a ray, and the ray suddenly broke off from the cedar and flew upward and dissolved into thin air. But at this point another ray appeared, coming down to the cedar from above. It seemed to consist of a bluish mist or cloud.
The needles of the cedar, pointing downward, were illu-minated with similar misty rays, almost unnoticeable. And these rays pointed toward Anastasia, but didn’t touch her — they seemed to disappear and dissolve in the air. And when
she insistently stamped her feet and even slapped the ringing cedar’s huge trunk with the palms of her hands, the glowing needles began stirring and their rays joined to form a single Ray of bluish mist. It aimed itself downward toward Anastasia, but didn’t touch her. The Ray dissolved in the air, literally dissolved — at about a metre away from Anastasia at first, then at just half that distance.
I suddenly recalled with horror how Anastasia’s parents had perished — very likely from just such a Ray
Anastasia continued her stubborn pleading and demand-ing, much like a spoilt child insisting on some desired favour from its parents. And suddenly the Ray made a dash for her, as it were, illuminating her whole body like a flashbulb.
A cloud first formed around Anastasia and then began dissipating, ever so slowly. The ray from the Cedar dissolved, the rays from the needles were extinguished. The cloud around Anastasia continued to dissipate. It was either entering into her or dissolving in space.
Now radiant with a joyous smile, she turned and took a step in my direction. Then she stopped and began staring past me at something beyond. I turned around to see Anastasia’s grandfather and great-grandfather coming into the glade. The tall, grey-bearded great-grandfather walked slowly, just ahead of his son. He was leaning on a stick that looked something like a shepherd’s staff. Upon reaching my position, he stopped and fixed his gaze on me, as though staring into empty space. I couldn’t even tell whether he actually saw me or not. Great-Grandfather stood silently for a moment. Then, after bowing ever so slightly, without uttering so much as a word of greeting, he headed over to Anastasia.
Even though Grandfather was a bit of a fiissbudget, he was a very simple man. His whole demeanour pointed to a most kind and cheerful fellow. As he approached the spot where I was standing, he at once stopped and offered me a simple shake of his hand. He started to say something, but I can’t recollect exactly what he said. For some reason both of us felt our attention and concern suddenly drawn to what was going on at the base of the cedar.
Great-Grandfather had stopped just a metre from Anas-tasia. They stood there for a while, silently staring at each other. Anastasia was standing before the bearded old man, her hands lowered to a vertical position, as though she were a schoolgirl or university applicant being confronted by a strict examiner. She looked like a child caught being naughty, and her anxiety was most evident.
The tense silence which had come over the scene was broken by the deep, clear, velvety tones of Great-Grandfather’s voice. He did not say hello to Anastasia but proceeded at once to a stern questioning, every word slowly and distinctly pronounced:
“Who can make an appeal directly to Him without going through the light and rhythm that have been bestowed upon us?” Whereupon Anastasia responded without hesitation: ‘Any Man can make an appeal to Him. From time imme-morial He Himself has taken great pleasure in talking with Man. And this is what He wills right now.”
‘Are all paths outlined by Him in advance?” Great-Grand-father continued. ‘Are there many Earth-dwellers capable of discerning them? Are you capable of seeing these paths?” “Tes. I have seen what has been outlined for mankind. I have seen how future events are dependent on the conscious awareness of those who are living today”
“Have His Sons and their enlightened followers who have perceived His Spirit, done enough to bring enlightenment to those living in the flesh?”
“They have done and are doing everything, not even taking thought for their own life. They have borne witness to the truth and are still bearing witness.”
“Can one who has seen the truth have any doubt about His intellect, kindness and magnificence of Spirit?”
“He has no equals! He is One! But He does wish to com-municate. He wants people to understand and love Him as He loves.”
“In communicating with Him, is it permissible to be inso-lent and demanding?”
“He has given a particle of His Spirit and Mind to everyone living on the Earth. And if a small particle — His particle — in Man, does not agree with what is generally accepted, that means He — and I mean He — is not satisfied with everything as it has been outlined for the future. He is reflecting on it. Could one term His reflections insolence?”
“Who is permitted to hasten the pace of His reflections?”
“Only the One who gives permission.”
‘And just what are you asking for?”
“I am asking how to give understanding to those who do not understand, how to inculcate feeling in those who do not feel.”
“Has the lot of those who fail to perceive Truth been determined?”
“The lot of those who fail to perceive Truth has been de-termined. But who is to blame for the lack of acceptance of truth — the one who does not accept the truth or the one from whom he receives it?”
“What? You mean, you...” Great-Grandfather said in agi-tation, and then fell silent.
He stood silently for a while, looking at Anastasia. Then, with the help of his staff-like cane, he got down on one knee and took Anastasia’s hand. Inclining his silvery-grey head toward her, he kissed her hand and said:
Anastasia herself at once knelt down before her great-grandfather, and exclaimed with excitement and surprise:
“What do you mean, Grandpakins, treating me like a child? I’m grown up now.”
Then she put her arms around his shoulders, snuggled her head against his beard-covered chest and held still. I knew she was listening to his heartbeat. That was something she had loved ever since her childhood.
The oldster continued kneeling, one hand resting on his cane, the other stroking Anastasia’s golden hair.
Grandfather got excited, and rushed over to his father and granddaughter who were both still kneeling. He began strutting around them, throwing up his arms in some bewilderment. Then all of a sudden he too got down on his knees and embraced them both...
Grandfather was the first to rise to his feet. He then helped his father up. Great-Grandfather was still staring intently at Anastasia. Then he slowly turned around and started walking off. Grandfather in the meantime started muttering away, though it wasn’t clear whether he was addressing anyone in particular: ‘All the same, they’re all spoiling her. Even He spoils her. Dear me, just look at where she’s got to! She pokes her nose in wherever she feels like it. There’s nobody to teach her a lesson. Who will now help the dachniks? Who, I say?!”
Great-Grandfather stopped in his tracks. He slowly turned around and said distinctly, in his deep velvety voice:
“Granddaughter dear, follow the dictates of your heart and soul. I myself shall help you with the dachniks.”
Turning away once again, the majestic greybeard started on his way out of the glade.
“Do you see what I mean? — they’re all spoiling her,” Grandfather broke in again.
Picking up a short switch, he strutted over to Anastasia. Waving the switch about his head, he threatened: “I’m going to teach her a lesson, right now!”
“Oh, oh!” Anastasia threw up her hands in feigned fright. Then she gave a laugh and ran off, trying to elude her pursuing grandfather.
“So, she’s even taken it into her head to run away from me. As iff couldn’t catch up!” he muttered under his breath.
With unaccustomed ease and speed he intensified his pursuit. Anastasia ran laughing, weaving her way across the glade. And while Grandfather did not relax his pace, he was still unable to catch up to her.
Suddenly Grandfather gasped and sat down, grasping his leg. Anastasia quicldy turned about, her face full of concern. She ran over to her grandfather and held out her hands to him. And all at once she stopped. Her infectious peals of laughter filled the glade. I paid particular attention to her grandfather’s pose and realised the source of her mirth.
Grandfather was squatting down on one leg, holding his other leg out in front, not touching the ground. And here he was stroking the very leg he was squatting on, as though it had been injured. He had outsmarted Anastasia, but she was not deceived.
As it turned out later, she was supposed to have noticed right off the comic discrepancy in his pose. While Anastasia was laughing, Grandfather managed to seize her by the arm. He raised his switch and gave her a light spanking, like a child. Anastasia squealed, trying to pretend it was painful. And in spite of the endless laughter she was trying so hard to restrain, Grandfather put his arms around her shoulders and said:
‘АД, right, that’s enough. Don’t cry You’ve learnt your lesson? You’ve got what was coming to you. You’ll be more obedient in future.
“Listen, I’ve started training the eagle. It may be old, but it is still strong and remembers many things. And here she’s insolently poking her nose into everything.”
“Grandpakins! My dear, sweet Grandpakins! The eagle! That means you already know about the baby?!”
“The star, don’t forget!...”
Anastasia didn’t let her grandfather finish. Putting her arms around his waist, she lifted him off the ground and spun him around. When she returned him safely to the ground, Grandfather staggered a bit, and said, trying to appear strict: “So that’s the way you treat your elders? You see what I mean — you’re spoilt!” And, continuing to wave the switch, he hurried to catch up with his father. As he reached the trees at the edge of the glade, Anastasia called after him:
“Thank you, Grandpakins, for the eagle. Thank you very much!”
Grandfather turned around and looked at her.
“Only just be, my dear child... please remember to be more — ” His voice was too gentle. Breaking off his sentence, he added with a bit more severity:
“Watch out, or else...”
And he disappeared into the forest.