They say that things happens in threes. I’ve not counted my life experiences yet, but I am wondering if I should start. I often tilt at the ledge of superstition, and I believe this has more to do with the family traditions that fell through the cracks of loss and destruction that came with WWII. My mom’s family, Polish, came to Canada in the late fifties. There weren’t many of them. My grandmother, her mother (my great-grandmother). My grandfather, his brother chose to go to the US to serve in the Army because he was so grateful for the American liberation. Well, when I grew up, I only had my babcha, great-grandmother, until I was about the age of three–she was ninety-six and lived in a world much different to mine–she lived through two world wars, economic depression, and cold winters that did not involve Canada Goose coats. My dziadek, grandfather, died three days after my birth.
So, although my family was quite religious, I did not inherit their need and love for it. Instead, I inherited their spirituality. My dziadek was a great man. I inherited the belief in his ever-lasting love for my mother and, also, for me. The belief in enduring love is something that defines my religion. So, enshrined in a sort of independent religiousness, I’ve been superstitious in weird ways. I knock on wood. I fear breaking mirrors. I believe that a Baba Yaga lives under our stairs–this is a belief I’ve held from childhood. I saw her there, in tattered rags, waiting to clutch at my feet as I ran from the dark basement to the light. Indeed, my ideas about the Baba Yaga were deeply informed by the children’s book, Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood.
The Baba Yaga is a witch from slavic folklore. When I was younger, I was terrified of her. But, as I grew older, I came to change my feelings. Perhaps, because my ideas about women have changed since I was little. Usually old women, aka witches, are the ones we fear in fairy stories. Old and woman put together entangles a complicated web of ideas about age, the value of women, and their combined negative value as they age. I like to live near forests because I think the Baba Yaga is there to protect me now. I’ve learnt about the bad and scary things, and now it is time to be protected.
I suppose this is in a loose sense, because I have made my laptop unusable and now my phone has decided that holding a charge is not something it wishes to do. So, there are two not so good things. And, even though it is a massive inconvenience, I am clinging to this belief that there is something good in the world, just waiting to catch.
There are moments when I feel trapped, but I also recognize the deep, tangible goodness in my life. I think that when you can recognize the warmth and kindness of a person and pet, you feel like a small seed ready to grow, even when the Baba Yaga clutches at your pattering youthful feet. Run towards the light, dear friends, for you’ll meet the Baba Yaga there–she will still be old and decrepit, but she is full of a life you dismissed before out of fear. Nurture that. Nurture that, indeed.
Life comes in threes, as Oedipus reminds us in his answer to the Sphinx’s question: “What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?” Oedipus answered: “Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs and; in old age, he uses a ‘walking’ stick”. Oedipus was the first to answer the riddle correctly and, having heard Oedipus’ answer, the Sphinx allowed him to carry on forward.
And, so we carry on forward.
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