IT WAS A SUNNY COOL DAY and Rapla seemed almost too peaceful, just like heaven, if heaven really is a place where nothing happens. I stood outside a shopping center, buying some Greek strawberries to bring to the healer or ravitseja Ivika. The doors opened and shut, motorcyclists arrived and departed with a dream-like lull. Always departed, because who really stays in Rapla? It’s a remote place. Its people are so proud that Kristiina Ehin and Vaiko Eplik are from here, but it doesn’t surprise me. Rapla is beyond the grasp of the real. People from such a town have no choice but to turn within.
Ivika’s home is down a dusty dirt road. When I arrived, two strange older country gentlemen stood in its garden eyeing the foreigner from beneath the apple trees and I felt immediately that I had entered into new territory. The woman herself met me at the door, a country woman with long black hair and the epicanthal fold, skin that comes down over the corners of the eyes that connects the Estonians with kindred peoples in the east, traversing the ice to Alaska, down the spine of the Americas to Peru. The Estonians are only Europeans in part, of this I am now certain. They know other things.
“Your problem,” Ivika announced to me in her room in Estonian, “is that you are trying to be someone else.”
Of this I had no doubt, yet it was reassuring to hear it again in the country people’s language.
“Once you relieve yourself of this contradiction, all of your health problems will fall away.”
Ivika stood before shelves of Orthodox Christian icons and other symbols and for a moment I thought of what the good monks of Mount Athos in Greece, or Pope Francis himself might think of me, a supposed Christian, submitting to the care of country healer. Yet Rapla felt so far away from Greece’s sun-kissed chapels. There, Christianity seemed to grow naturally out of the rocky Mediterranean soils. Here, it was still a foreign import, imposed by sword or staff. Among the maarahwas, the Estonian country people, especially, Christianity still feels a little out of context. What could any of it mean to an apple orchard or a golden field of rapeseed? It has felt far away for me too as my mind succumbed to the Estonian way of thinking, much the same way that I silently intuit its grammar and even make mistakes in English when I tell someone to “put the door closed” — pane uks kinni — instead of to “close the door.” My dreams seem more profound here in Estonia, my longings, urges, and desires more meaningful, all connected to something the locals chatter on about called “energy.”
Energy. This is the crux of the matter: to have one’s energy cleared. Hence, people turn to healers like Ivika.
I wasn’t there for a miracle cure or a quick fix though, and I didn’t want her to tell me my future. I went there because I saw a tiny white spot at the end of a tunnel. I sensed that by liaising with her I might get closer to where I needed to be. It does take courage to accept that though. It takes the courage to surrender to her presence. It takes courage to abandon your defenses and let her understand you. You have to be willing.
When Ivika began to speak, her eyes became as distant and as hazy as two far-off islands. She spoke and I suddenly understood what aspect of my life was in focus. She kept talking about my daughters, but she didn’t specify which one, so I had to determine to whom she was referring. It was a fun kind of game. Rewarding. Her observations were so precise though that I had to laugh, a heavy chuckle that wouldn’t go away. I stared up at a poster on the wall of a lake in Alaska, with mountains around it, and I imagined that I was on the shores of this lake, and that every bear in the Alaskan mountains could hear my laugh. “You are really smart,” I told her.
She was still somewhere else.
“You are stuck between two lives, and are afraid to come out of the old one,” said Ivika. “But don’t worry about the others. They have their own lives too and will grow into them. You won’t lose your connections with them.”
At the end of our meeting, I tugged the box of Greek strawberries nervously from my bag. There are all kinds of Estonian social customs to which I am still oblivious. Sometimes it is rude not to give a gift upon visiting someone, sometimes it is unnecessary, which might as well be rude. Estonians don’t care for unnecessary things.
When Ivika saw the strawberries, she squinted at me ruefully and I was afraid I had offended her. Who wants to be on the bad side of a healer? “You like to be liked, don’t you?” said Ivika with her hands on her hips. “But you don’t need to be liked! You need to love yourself first!” Then she accepted my gift and even laughed and gave me a hug. It was such a good feeling and I felt that she was a friend. Whether the experience could be called real or surreal was immaterial. What was important was that I felt like I had gotten somewhere.