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When time almost stops

June 6, 2007

Nature has imagination. It houses
many exotic plants and creatures.

qslsunset.jpg

When I lived in California, the matter I missed most about Finland was summer. For a country with a strong migrant past, summer is a ritual where relatives get together from distant lands after many months, possibly years, of separation.

Like many children, I also got acquainted with Finnish culture thanks to those unforgettable summers I spent with my grandparents in Finland’s countryside.

Summer has now arrived in these Nordic latitudes. Even if one of the most awaited seasons by some Finns has made its debut for millions of years, it appears to still hesitate slightly before orchestrating nature into its wonderful balancing act, when time screeches to a near halt in these parts.

The hesitancy by nature is understandable. When seasons change in such far-flung regions of the globe it isn’t a light matter – it’s a revolution. There is, however, a lull, or no-man’s-land of spring and summer, where everything is quiet for a moment. Nature catches its breath and then with fury changes everything.

It’s all a spectacular feat: leaves budding, lilies rising to the lake’s surface, airborne dragonflies and butterflies painting the air with pesky mosquitoes. There are also the spruces, firs and disorganized islands of birches peppered with a few mountain ashes and alders, which are very talkative in summer.

Amid such overflowing and radiant beauty it’s not a coincidence to find one’s soul basking in the lush undergrowth.

Summer is such a magical and sacred period in that only good things are supposed to happen. The personality of the Finns change during this short season: Some say that in summer we are more pleasant, while in winter more reserved.

Although it’s always dangerous to make national-character generalities, Finns have learned the painful way that wars should never be waged in summer. We can debate the myriad of reasons why Finland went to war against the former Soviet Union in June 1941.

Some agree, however, that going to battle in the summer of 1941 was a bad omen. Despite the initial success of the Finnish army at the onset of the conflict, the impact of what Finnish historians call the Continuation War (1941-44) was far-reaching and affected generations of Finns.

Who knows, matters in post-war Finland could have been different if the war would have started in autumn or winter. We learned a valuable lesson, though: war should never upset summer.

This is — in my opinion — why most Finns loathe wars.

Keeping in touch

When I was a child and spent summers in the woods of eastern Finland, I would regularly pay visits to people who lived near our summerhouse.

On one of these journeys I met Eeva Kilpi, a well-known Finnish writer. It was friendship at first sight. I believe one reason why we have always been so close is because we are displaced people.

Kilpi was a child when she was forced to abandon her home in Hiitola on the Karelian Isthmus, a strip of land ceded to the after the end of the war.

Even if we spoke about trivial matters on that first meeting, our hearts were busily in conversation about the pain of losing a home because of war or migration.

There were other interesting people I met in the woods of eastern Finland as well. Such people were always kind and never made me feel like an outsider, even if I was from a faraway place called Hollywood, California.

I felt these people were content and even envied them a little because they lived amid such beautiful landscapes.

During nine months of the year, most of the trees I saw in Los Angeles were well behaved and stood at attention in straight lines next to stoic buildings; the only bodies of water I saw then were man-made reservoirs and swimming pools.

Part of this beautiful scenery I am enjoying now will soon give way like a lover to autumn and then it’ll be winter all over again, another magic season when darkness and silence are so thick that you can almost lean against them.

As you know, winter is cold in these parts and the snow may want to tuck you into bed. When this happens, you normally awake in spring by singing birds atop of budding trees.

It is that time of the year like now when we rejoice the coming of summer.

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