Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winterlight and Baba Yaga

Last night was a winter night full of mystery, magic and myth. Perhaps I shouldn't have been in the woods after dark, or perhaps this was a journey meant for me.

I met Baba Yaga in the woods last night, and escaped with my life.

It was the bridge, hung on either side with chandeliers, at the edge of the forest that drew me in.

The chandeliers tinkled with revolving layers of brass keys. Keys to what? I should have asked.

Once through the gate, two sisters appeared on the path to set me on a perilous journey to find their stepsister Vasilissa the Beautiful. Two years ago, they had sent her deep into the woods to find Baba Yaga to get a candle for their fire. Vasilissa, alas, never returned. They told me it was up to me to find Baba Yaga’s hut and bring back the candle.

It was a journey that took me deep into the night woods. I was warned I would meet three horsemen on the way. Each would have words I must abide.

When I thought the stars had abandoned the sky and darkness was complete, I met a white knight who sang to me of courage.

I took heart and carried on with the light of a late-rising moon.

The forest began to change and open up a little. I heard wings rush overhead. There I met a red horseman who warned me to stay the path.

I drank some water and resolutely stayed the path, even as it turned down into a valley filled with underbrush that scratched my face and caught my hair. Late into the night as I stumbled over fallen trees, the black horseman appeared. He offered me a choice of paths - one seemed dark and straight and one light and arching.

So I chose. At first all was quiet. Then it began to look treacherous as the crust of snow cracked behind and ahead of me. Dire warnings hung from the trees, threatening dangers ahead.

Strange shadows of forest creatures danced on the wall of the far cliff. I could hear a flute in tremolo in the distance.

The forest began to glow. The branches began to brush against each other at the tree tops.

I pushed on. The flute rose again and a hut that seemed to be made of glass appeared in a small clearing.

I went closer.

It was perched on chicken legs and the snow was freshly disturbed all around it.

All was quiet. The flute had stopped. I peered inside the door. Vasilissa the Beautiful was there, holding a light. She smiled at me. She said it was a light for the true of heart that she had won from Baba Yaga.

As I turned away, my skin prickled. Baba Yaga stood off to the side of the hut, her eyes gleamed in the dark. Although she was old and cracked and bent, there was a fierceness in her glare. I swallowed and then asked her if I could bring a candle back to Vasilissa's stepsisters.

Baba Yaga contineud to stare. Finally, she said that while I had showed courage in coming this far to seek a candle, alas, it would only burn for those who were pure of heart. Therefore the cruel stepsisters would remain in darkness.

I turned to go and the path illuminated before me. I hurried as fast as I could. As I passed the place on the path where the stepsisters waited, I explained to them what Baba Yaga said. They screeched and ran to their hut with red eyes. I hurried on.

As I left the forest I saw a golden light dancing up ahead. I went closer. Kind strangers offered a me a heated chocolate drink to warm my hands and heart.

Their light looked both old and new. I asked them what it was. They told me, it was a Winterlight. They are always here at this time of year, we just have to brave the cold to find them.


If you want to experience a winter adventure, I am sure your city has many offerings to take the chill away. Who knows what treats you will find once you are out there. :-)


jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

This is SO cool! I love the chandelier with all the keys...would like to make a mobile like that for the garden, but where to find the castoff keys, that's the question. You've given me a new project to think about. Very clever festival...never been to Edmonton in the winter, but have friends there, so maybe one day...

Anonymous said...

Such a telling, evocative tale. Beautifully told and beautifully illustrated.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Oh, wow! This has to be one of the coolest things EVER on this planet! What an amazing, magical adventure - thank you SO MUCH for sharing this with us all! Your photos added to the tale, and I love the chandelier with the keys as well - what a fun idea. Love the Winterlights. Love it all!

miss m said...

It's not often you see a house on chicken legs !
What a fabulous adventure and hats off to Winterlight for putting it together. How wonderfully enchanting !

sweet bay said...

What a whimsical and fascinating adventure! I loved the narration and the pictures.

Teza said...

This truly was a magical experience..... what a gorgeous way to pass the winter.... winterlight, who would have ever guessed at its existence. Fabulous narration and photographs. This would make a wonderful picturebook!

Rebecca @ In The Garden said...

Beautiful, magical post!! Wish I was there. :)

The Garden Ms. S said...

Jodi: I absolutely loved those rotating chandeliers as well! They would be perfect in a garden. If you know someone with a store, maybe ask them to put a big jar on their counter asking for old keys.

Edith: Thank you, I am so glad you enjoyed it. I loved the experience. :)

TGHT: (Debi!) We have some great artists in this city, and with a little support they can do anything. We are the home of small, wildly creative theatre here. The designers of this did an incredible job. It was thrilling!

miss m: They just started this festival last year and there was a lot of talk that you will never get people out in the cold – well, we proved them wrong. People were out in droves, all bundled up, drinking hot chocolate and laughing. I loved it!

Sweetbay: Thank you. It was a great adventure. My hat (toque!) is off to the organizers.

Teza: It was magical. The City is supporting this fledgling festival and the creative types are giving it all they’ve got. I wrote a letter to the editor of our local broadsheet, praising the quality of the event. I want more. :)

Rebecca: You and your children would have loved it. There were families with babies and toddlers in sleds, people on snowshoes and , back at the Winterlight camp, lots of free hot chocolate, ice slides etc. – all illuminated with beautiful light installations. It was very close to my house but I felt transported to the world of the snow queen.

Kiki said...

Wonderful post..brilliant..and beautiful!Enchantment is alive!

Anna said...

Glad that you escaped the clutches of the evil Baba Yaga and that you are now safe and snug at home. What a great way to spend a dark winter's evening. I am not sure whether we have any similar events in the UK. Must find out. If we don't there's definitely a gap in the market :)

Deborah at Kilbourne Grove said...

Amazing! Sounds like you had a wonderful time.

Adrian said...

I thought I had entered the wrong blog for a moment...

Great story and evocative photos - it seems you had a dervishly good night.

The Garden Ms. S said...

Kiki: Enchantment is indeed alive! Many thanks to the creative people who put together this magic.

Anna: I think art and nature are the perfect blend! I go to the outdoor Shakespeare in the Park every summer and Mother Nature always adds her own drama to the scenes.

Deborah: I think it was very well received by everyone. We all gushed a little as we came out of the woods. :)

Adrian: It was more fun than I even hoped. I first saw this event advertised before Christmas, so over the holidays I got some illustrated books on Russian Folktales out of the library, got some grand music with a Baba Yaga theme and rented one awful movie on the topic to get a feel for the mythology. Nothing could have prepared me for the sense of fun, though. The two evil stepsisters were a riot, “Yella” (who yelled when she talked) and “Brad” (who had much facial hair) :-)

GardenJoy4Me said...

Ms. S ! This was wonderful girl !!
I love the thought of candles and chandeliers and that moon ? what can beat that for mysterious light ? Was there anything in the hot chocolate to make it even more fun ? LOL
Lovely lovely ! post .. I would love to join in with you there !

Linda S. said...

A magical post, I was drawn in to the story & your photos illustrated it well!! What a fun evening!

The Garden Ms. S said...

Joy: Wasn't the sky fabulous? There was a low, thin cloud cover that reflected the city lights and glowed orange. Oh, and all I'm saying about the hot chocolate is that it was delicious! :)

Linda: I'm glad you enjoyed the tale of my exploits in the forest - it was magical!

Liisa said...

Ms. S,
What a magical adventure, and such a creative way to bring some color to winter. The colorful lights casting shadows in the snow add such beauty to the wintry scene. I too love that chandelier laden with keys.

The Garden Ms. S said...

Liisa: Welcome! Isn't that chandelier great?

I have posted your blog on on my "zone 4 and cooler' blogroll - I hope you don't mind! I will eventually create a blogroll for all the other great blogs I love, but for now, for my own reference, I am trying to gather northern gardeners in one quick access place.

btw: I love Vermont! Went on a campong trip through new England when I was a teenager and just loved your green, rolling state!

ruthie said...

wow, what an adventure, and i looove the way you tell it, i felt as though i was almost there. thank you for sharing it with such delicious images too and that chandelier!!!

Andrea said...

Hi i am new here, just followed your comment somewhere. Those are very beautiful ways to present photos and have a story too. Lovely. can be published in print! I have friends in Edmonton, in fact she is coming over this month. I heared last year you had -37degrees. If you need some brightening colors i am inviting you to visit my site, lol, thanks.