Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Do You See Me, Do I See You?

We did indeed return to the village. Sergei had been informed of our interest, but we could not negotiate with him over the phone, we needed to come and talk to him in person. He proved to be a very likeable and level-headed man, with twinkling blue eyes in a sun-tanned face, but he was asking way too much for his house and plot of land, which also sported a banya (a Russian sauna for taking a steam bath and washing clothes) and a well-equipped tool shed with wood-cutting lathe. This was more than we were bargaining for and put the property way out of our price range.

A Russian banya

The weather had turned and there was rain, so we accepted (I very reluctantly at first) Cleo’s invitation to stay with them. Timothy and Cleo were full of ideas about how to pursue our dream of a house in the country and the web they were spinning around us kept drawing us in.

After many heart-to-heart talks around the kitchen table, not only sipping on aromatic tea to wash down spoonfuls of honey, but also enjoying other homemade victuals (fresh vegetables and berries from the garden, fresh milk and curds from the cow), I began to see Cleo as a mentor, as the woman friend I had so long been seeking, someone I could confide in and who “saw” me, saw me as I really was, or so I thought. I felt I had found the woman older than me in spiritual years who could gently guide me and nurture me in my ongoing evolution. A wise woman with profound spiritual insight, much more profound than my own, who might take my hand and say, “you are doing just fine, my daughter.”

Again Steps to Knowledge harkens to me and shows me the folly of my ways. Step 19. Today I Wish To See: The desire to see is like the desire to know. It too requires a refinement of your mind’s faculties. To see with clear vision means you are not seeing with preference. It means that you are able to perceive that which is actually occurring rather than that which you wish to see. There is something actually occurring beyond your wishes. This is very true. The desire to see, then, is the desire to see a greater truth. This requires a greater honesty and a greater openness of mind.

There was no “refinement of my mind’s faculties” in the way I saw Cleo. I was not “seeing her with clear vision” since I was “seeing her with preference.” I was seeing her the way I wished to see her rather than the way she actually was. I was not seeing with “the desire to see a greater truth.” So I was caught in the web of delusion.

At the time, however, I was excited to have the opportunity to talk of things spiritual and open up some of my inner secrets. I wanted to talk more and perhaps I was too candid. I was often puzzled by the fact that after I shared some personal experience, Cleo would reciprocate by going into some lengthy narration about people she knew or had heard about, people I did not know and so was not particularly interested in hearing about. Nor was I able to find a connection between what I had shared and what Cleo was telling me in response. But I listened as attentively as I could, feeling there must be some reason she was telling me, some message I was supposed to glean. So I pushed aside my puzzlement and held on to the moments when Cleo’s light, wide eyes would feast on me as though seeing into my very soul and wrap me in what I thought was a warm shawl of acknowledgement and rapport.

Regretfully, at the time, our week stay with Timothy and Cleo brought nothing but a series of disappointments as far as making progress on pursuing our dream was concerned. Our ambitions had since been reduced from buying a house to renting a plot of land. Ivan and I walked around the village, viewing what was available, and made several trips to see the regional authorities and work out what we might do. Although the price was much lower, well within the range we could afford, the headaches were much greater. And we kept running into the problem of not being able to talk to the right person at the right time. The bureaucrats we wanted to see had the tenacious habit of closing their doors and leaving on vacation just as we were approaching to talk to them, or their hours for receiving ordinary mortals were on the one day of the week that eluded us.

We had to discard two of the plots we initially thought would be perfect options.

This one was supposedly too close to the church.

And this one was outside the village limits and only meant for farming, not for building a place to live.

The summer was ending, we had to get back to Moscow. But we did not leave entirely empty-handed. At the end of our stay, we had found another plot of land we felt suited us and I wrote an application for it (I wanted it to be officially registered in my name). Timothy would hand it in for us the next time he traveled to the town where the administration office was located.

This plot was further away from the lake, on the other side of the main road that ran through the village. We would only be able to see the lake if we built a house tall enough.

So we left the village once more, but this time with unfinished business and the expectation that we would return. This place kept drawing us back. There was obviously still something for me to learn.

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