The House in the Wood

By Lyubov Anderson

Instructor’s note: Don’t skip this story set in the Siberian Taiga.

It had been ten long years since I last visited my grandparents’ house. Eventually, I made up my mind to take a trip to the house, which was located in a small village named Lenovo near Krasnoyarsk in the cold land of Siberia.

I took a bus, the only means of transportation at that time, which was an old, small, green-colored vehicle and whose route was through the world’s largest forest, Taiga. The roads were extremely rough and I felt every bump in my lower back. The air conditioning on the bus was out on this hot summer day, but it did not bother me a bit because I was enjoying the picturesque scenery of Mother Nature through a widely-opened window. I was fascinated by the magic patter of Taiga’s endless forest with green pines, light blue spruces and cedars trees mixed with golden-brown and dark red leaves of birches and maples. The forest stretches across the entire Yenisei River which is often referred to by Russian folks as the “Sleeping Beauty.”

As we approached the village, the silhouettes of the houses popped up on the horizon and I felt very anxious when I caught a glimpse of my grandparents’ house. You would never notice that old, small, blue (color of hope), wooded building secluded in the wild forest, unless you are a local.

The dusty bus dropped me in front of a deserted, crumbling, but still welcoming and charming to me, elderly house surrounded by tall pine and cedars trees. The large shuttered windows were framed in breathtakingly handcrafted ornaments, which are not only majestically decorated but also convey a visible sign of something invisible. In this case it was a symbol of Russian Handicrafts.

As I struggled to open the heavy wooded front door with a rusted key, my hands shook and my entire body was covered with a cold sweat; the door finally gave in with a loud crunch, and I entered into the house. I was dipped into the dark; the feeling of complacency overwhelmed me. The smell of mold and rotted berries had replaced the fragrances I knew from my youth: burnt pine wood, cooking potato pancakes, dry leaves and grass, mixed with the scent of Calypso orchid and Lady’s slipper.

I realized that the house had not changed a bit, except now touched by time, the furniture, walls and ceilings were covered with a big layer of dust. The focal part of the house was a strikingly impressive aged fireplace made of black and white stone-bricks. In the past I had a wonderful time relaxing on the tan-colored squishy sofa, close to the fire. I was mesmerized by the fire’s power and beauty while enjoying a cup of hot tea, with honey and raspberry, at the same time as listening to my Grandfather’s inspiring stories about his days as a Forest Ranger.

To the opposite side of the fireplace there was an old, grey easy-chair in the corner. It was my grandfather’s favorite one. He used to sit on this chair, getting warm in front of fireplace, or just reading a book with a hawk on his shoulder and two white and grey colored wolf cubs laying close to his feet. He would tell us a lot of captivating stories about animals which he had freed from poachers’ traps and how he had been looking after those animals, preparing them for the wildlife again. His words, ” I don’t believe in hell, but if I did, I would have thought that it had been filled with people who were cruel to animals,” reflected on my mind. He had a vivid and plain explanation about animal’s feelings:” An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”

The tarnished walls of the living room were partially covered with paintings of different art styles from landscape art to spectacularly creative pieces of famous Russian painters, Isaac Levitan and Ivan Aivazovsky. Floor-standing Craft Lamps with notably beautiful abazhure gave a cozy look to the room. In the further corner of the room, I came across a rusty cube-shaped box which happened to be my grandpa suitcase. I was worried all the time, when he was taking his “Magic Box” with ranger’s necessary items and double-barreled shotgun to do his ranger’s duty. I was concerned that wild animals may harm my grandfather, but he always comforted me: “Please do not worry, be wary of humans, but not the animals.”

From the living room, I went to his small inviting bedroom which had a gargantuan wooded gloomy bookshelf filled with lots of books about animals, nature and Siberian wildlife. My attention was drawn by the yellowish item hidden between the books. I got very emotional, because that item turned out to be the grandpa’s old photo album. He called this album “The Book of ‘Stories the Life’” since every single picture in the album carried out great memories. This album is a very important and dear item I have left from my grandpa, who was callously gunned down by poachers while attempting to save some baby bear cubs. It was then I understood the meaning of the words he used to say:”be wary of humans”.

Sadly, the blue house of hope is no longer there. The village was abandoned, and now only memories are left in my mind. I cherish every single one of them.

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