Just before dusk, in the glade behind her house,Vasilisa stepped out into an awesome dream: leaf-longing, the whispers of a thousand covert tongues, a sky-ful of candles gleaming.
She paused between willows and the alders, the birchlings and the poplars, and leaned into the rough bark of a black spruce. Its stalwart spine rose reassuringly to her touch.
She had heard a tale that once in the land of Murom, near the town of Lazarevo, a woman had ground the bark of birch trees into flour, and baked bread from it in order to feed her neighbors during a famine.
If I were one of those birch-trees, Vasilisa thought, I would want to feed as many as possible.
Cavalier gusts of wind tossed the gilded ladies to and fro tirelessly, dancing their dresses to the ground in a patient and persistent tango.
Vasilisa lifted a leaf from the ground and traced the symmetry of its veins. It occurred to her that the outline of the leaf resembled the bright cupola of a village church.
Between the lines she envisioned the fractal shapes of braided rivers and branching twigs - tokens of the very Tree of Life itself.
She closed her eyes, and listened with unnamed senses for the flickering of her fiery heart - and so it was that she sank unseen roots deeply into the cool and rocky earth, and extended her hands upwards as branches until she was as kindled as the surrounding forest.
While thus enchanted and transfixed, behind closed eyelids she spied dancing forms akin to diatoms, showers of golden sparks, and a small glimmering porthole of light that came and went, rippling and changing colors as does the Aurora Borealis on a moonless evening in December.
The faces of men and women appeared and disappeared as holograms in her inner sight. She felt them pass through her, a flickering silent cinema. She began to doubt whether there were any real boundary between her and them.
When a troubling thought came knocking at her forehead, she sent it careening down in the direction of her chest to be swallowed in a whirling galaxy --
But then other forms appeared, and with them, her voice gave strange calls of accompaniment. She purred; she sang as the whales and dolphins do; she neighed with horses galloping far off; she crooned with the song of birds familiar and unfamiliar, and she was not sure, but it may have been that her last cry belonged to the lyre-bird, or the bird of paradise. And afterwards she flew or ran--she hardly knew which-- back to her hut, and lifted the latch.
When she laid herself down to sleep, she continued to feel the accompaniment of the presence of all the beings of the forest, the essence of the animals of the earth and sky, and of all those clothed in human form, until it settled upon her like a warm coverlet.
And settling a breath within her heart she rested there in thankfulness, "Ah--Beloved!" -- flame within flame.