Today was the day. It was the day I had traveled to Estonia to experience.
I couldn’t eat and I hadn’t slept much. What sleep had come had brought dreams of the children. They needed me, and then I awoke.
Disoriented, without enough coffee, I set off to a salon to have my hair done. I had noticed, Estonian women seem to take especial care of their hair, and I didn’t want to appear a complete disgrace for Silvia’s sake.
I was anxious, nervous, not knowing custom. I arrived for the service too early, for fear of losing my way.
The ceremony begins… but I remain incapable of writing about it at the moment. My experience is far too powerful within myself to make language possible; I am not a journalist and writing does not come easily. Raw emotion a poor communicator with word. I find time is needed to temper the song of birds trilling to the words of poetry in a language I cannot understand or the glint of a ceremonial sword beneath the wavering shadows cast by evergreens, above the remains of Henrik Visnapuu, returned.
After the burial, I am invited to the Celebration of Life for Henrik Visnapuu. I feel deeply honored.
I want to phone my husband, my friends, I want to tell them how happy I am that Silvia’s final gesture in the burial of Henrik Visnapuu is complete. I want to give them a glimpse into how much I am learning from people eager to share, or attempt to describe the photographs I am seeing. I have had dinner with famous photographers, and sat with my favorite contemporary authors talking with them about their work, but this experience is different, vastly so. I am experiencing all of this for myself, but also for someone else, for Silvia. The run of emotions is strong, being felt two-fold.
When it is time to leave, I feel a tearing in space – the space in which I can communicate about Silvia and Visnapuu with others, without explanation as to whom or why.
Reluctance. Definitive moments are difficult to release. I may never again be so surrounded.
Quickly upon leaving, I realize I don’t know where I am. I have been driven to a place of celebration. I have no connection to the internet and even if I did, I don’t know the address. I take a photograph of the sky in jest – I am here, and nowhere, and everywhere at the same time. Thankfully, I quickly find a bus stop, and unexpectedly the bus ride becomes a part of the story.
I am so happy – so happy I would prefer to be skipping down the street, even though I am in a most reserved and taciturn country. I sit on the bus, trying not to smile or tap my toe or seem otherwise out of place, when a woman, an old woman with the most beautiful lines of age upon her face, sits down next to me. I hold my emotion for a few stops before it burst from me. Do you speak English?
She says no, as do many, but it is modesty and perhaps a certain amount of struggle, surely. I only speak English, so I am without comparison, but I continue. I ask her, if she knows of the writer Henrik Visnapuu, and in a brief glimmer of what I was holding inside – that shear joy I could barely contain – she looks at me, really looks at me, and tells me the story of her father; a father who loved history, and who shared with her the work of Henrik Visnapuu.
My stop comes too quickly and I step off the bus thinking of how Silvia had saved a precious part of Estonian literary culture for that beautiful woman on the bus and that I have been able to be a part of an historic moment when Visnapuu was returned to his country. Thinking of how a little village in Vermont, a little blue house down the street from where I live, held documents that were precious not only to the woman on the bus, and the woman who styled my hair this morning, and the young women in the cafe I spoke to a few days past, but all the people I had met this afternoon as well as the whole of Estonia.
The news of Henrik Visnapuu’s ceremony has, of course, already hit the networks as a country celebrates his return. Perhaps, I will have nothing new to add to his remembrance. I will surely try to describe my experience. But for tonight, I will rest remembering the woman on the bus who shared my exuberance in remembering Henrik Visnapuu: her joy, my joy, in his return. May his memory live long in the hearts of his people. He will so, in mine.
News stories as have appeared in Postimees and Eesti Päevahlet