The Story About Worldly-Wise
How one little hero secretly conquered the Porzhenka
In memory of geologists Vyacheslav and Victoria Kulikov
I remember how I lost control that evening. The smell of sausage coming from the bag of those passers-by was irresistible. It made me spring to my feet and follow them. I walked for a long time after them until I slipped through the door and into their apartment. I saw a woman fling up her hands and her elderly parents come out. And then they were discussing something among themselves. Next thing I remember is how I found myself being washed in their bath. I hate water. I felt wet and terrified. I whined and tried to break free and they wagged their fingers at me. And then they gave me sausage. I ate it almost without chewing.

"He's a Briard. He seems good-natured and remarkably worldly-wise for such a beautiful dog," said the elderly man, my new owner.

A nice name he's given me, I thought. Worldly-wise sounds good.

My new owners seem weird. Their place is jam-packed with books and stones. Yes, you heard me right, stones! Vyacheslav Stepanovich and Victoria Vladimirovna Kulikov are geologists. They explore the earth and its subsoil assets and they go on expeditions. Their daughter – the woman who let me in – is a geologist, too.

I was insanely curious about everything. Whenever the Kulikovs had students, I would lie under the table and listen attentively. One thing was clear: my new owners were brilliant minds and respected scientists. They discovered a point where the drainage basins of the Atlantic Ocean, the Arctic Ocean and the Caspian Sea came together. Their current task is to locate the natural boundary between two regions – Fennoscandia and the Russian Plain. What I learned from their evening talks was that the boundary ran across the Kenozero National Park.

Things took a more disturbing course when one of the students said to me:

"Are you a fast swimmer? If not, you'd better become one. You're going on an expedition across Kenozero. The Porzhenka River is as fast and cold as a mountain stream, and the canyons there can be deeper than in Wild West films – as deep as eighty meters."

… When two months later I and my geologists were riding on a bus, me guarding their backpacks, I was very worried. What was that mysterious river going to be like? Why would they have to go to see this Porzhenka? Restless people they are, my new owners. I would have opted for a cozy TV watching area if I were their age, but they like going camping in the woods.

What a difficult endeavor that expedition turned out to be! Paved road gave way to forest path and then paths disappeared altogether. My owners, however, felt great all the way through, talking science to their students and taking their time to admire the beauty of the lakes and forests.

"The geological history of the Kenozero National Park dates back to more than 3,540 million years ago," said Vyacheslav Stepanovich. "Here converge two geological formations – the Baltic Shield, which is known to appear about three billion years ago, and the Russian Platform, which is 280 to 370 million years old."

Victoria Vladimirovna continued by telling about the Porzhenka River:

"Notably, this beautiful and difficult-to-access river is only 8 kilometers long and has a small gradient. This, however, didn't prevent it from making its way through the morainic ridges, limestone and dolomites of the Carbonic Period. Its bed was once the bottom of a warmer sea, and there are outcrops of clay, sand, dolomite, limestone, and dozens of minerals in the lower reaches of the Porzhenka. We'll make a stop at the canyon to look for the remains of the marine life. We might be lucky and find a cave."

The students were all ears as I was running around merrily, not really knowing what they talked about.

And then the trees parted. I looked and froze in awe. Underneath my paws was a huge canyon, its stormy river roaring and winding below and its rocks so white and mighty that it took my breath away.

I couldn't help howling. I howled at the top of my voice until night fell, unable to handle the impact of my awe and that great beauty.

At night, lying by the fire, I listened to my owners telling the students about how they went on expeditions in the Soviet years, how they studied and defended their theses, how they met and travelled all over Russian North, and how they took their beloved daughter with them.

"What can humans learn from nature?" one student asked excitedly. "Nature is blind. Natural selection is cruel. Only the strongest survive, leaving the smart and the decent behind."

"Take this impassable river, for example. It had been patient enough to make its way through all these stones. Nature teaches us to accept the world as it is, to be patient workers and keep hope," replied my owners. "It is strong personality that makes a man, not strong fist. Even our shaggy friend knows it's true. He'd been in the streets long enough before he finally found his home."

Not sure I remember exactly how they put it, but I surely got the point.

When embers died and everyone went to sleep, an unknown force rose inside me. Suddenly, having torn through thorns and rocks, I found myself being swung and carried away by ice-cold torrent. My paws came to life and I rushed to the shore desperately, overwhelmed with fear and overjoyed with delight. Once on shore, I climbed up the hill and ran around the cold fire for a long time. Alas, there was no one there to see my triumph, no one to praise me, for no one knew that it was me, a dog with the fear of water, who had heroically conquered the Porzhenka.

Instead of afterword:

In the autumn of 2020, Vyacheslav Stepanovich Kulikov passed away. His spouse, Victoria Vladimirovna, followed him twenty days later. They are a treasured memory to their students. Their scientific works and discoveries will be remembered in the area of Kenozero, which they loved so much and had unveiled many mysteries of.

On one of web fiction sites, there is an unfinished story by Victoria Kulikova about a family of geologists and their faithful friend – the shaggy Briard they adopted. In memory of the two great scientists and two great personalities, this story now has an ending, a little sad one, and yet inspiring.