Visiting Helme

The clouds billow in from the west like puppets on strings, their shapes fantastical as if drawn from a child’s imagination. We follow a field of yellowing rye down a narrow dirt road. Grass grows between the wheel wells, and bachelor’s buttons scatter blue along its side. We stop a short distance from a copse of trees and the ruins of a small homestead to visit the stone that stands alone, engraved with the name Henrik Visnapuu.

In Tallinn, I witnessed his final burial. In the south, I have come to the place of his birth, Helme. From Tartu my eyes have been fixed on the passing landscape as I head into the countryside of Visnapuu’s childhood memoir, Päike ja Jõge (The Sun and the River).

Across my window, move the images Visnappu wrote. Childhood revisited in a DP camp after the war: a world forever lost. In an East Harlem flat, it’s the sound of a typewriter. Silvia’s memories return to my window. Refugees, without return.

In front of the stone, by a field of rye, finches curtsy in flight, and bees hum in the lindens. I do not read the words, but I feel the landscape, vibrantly alive, a place called childhood. A place called home.

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