Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Maid In Finland

Sometimes in summer I find myself missing Finland like crazy; the quiet streets basking in never-fading light, the clamoring of seagulls at the public market by our quiet inland sea, the rattling of old green and gold street cars as you're trying to bike in front of them on cobblestone streets...The scent of lilacs in the garden in the morning...

The shadows of sailboats against the old harbor. Sun glinting off the golden onion cupolas of the Russian Orthodox cathedral. Clusters of small islands on the lake, dotted with with blue smoke from so many saunas. The sound of oars on water as fishing nets are dribbled in behind the boat. Swimming at the public pool, the smell of chlorine and juice-boxes and sandwiches.

 
 
 Walking home on the shore at midnight, the ocean as calm as a mirror. Eating small, whole fish from a paper wrapper on the market place. Fields of wildflowers undulating in the silence of midsummer's night. A cuckoo calling out from the pine woods.

Fields of lilies of the valley blossoming out of the mossy ground in the woods. Jumping out of a rowboat onto the swaying dock. The smell of fresh birch branches wafting out of the sauna. Season's first potatoes with butter and picked herring and dill weed. Magpies flying in the yard.  Sun on the old stone buildings. Kids skipping rope.
 
 
The city's parks brimming with people, the narrow strip of grass between two busy roads littered with summer dresses, striped shirts, children running in primary colors. The colors of everyone's summer clothes in fact, bold, bright, as though they had just newly hatched from their drab winter cocoons.  
 
 
 
 An antipodean friend once remarked on how suddenly, in spring and summer, beautiful girls appear everywhere in Finland. "Where are they all winter?" He wondered, eyes trailing after this green summer frock, radiant smile, or shorts-clad bottom. An age-old Scandinavian mystery. 
And while we're on the topic of the Finnish summer girl, Kesäneito: I have to say, whatever charms she may lack in winter she receives thousand fold in the few brief summer months. She wears flowers, birds, green, red, yellow, clogs, dancing shoes, goes bare foot. 
 
She goes to folk dances in old industrial neighborhoods and hundred-year-old halls, she walks home through the empty streets at dawn, when the sun is up but the city looks deserted, she sun bathes on the rocky cliffs of inland islands and bikes around small towns. 
 
 
 There is something utterly magical about Scandinavia in the summer and lately I've been living it vicariously trough this blog. It might seem funny to experience your national identity so strongly through clothes, but as I've opined time and time again, clothes to me are personal expression and cultural markers, a language, and that in spite the globalization of our dressing there is still such a thing as national style. The Finnish Kesäneito is only in her true element in The Land of Nightless Nights.
 Sometimes I miss being her.

16 comments:

  1. Thank you for this beautiful post, and the great link. I'm missing the Swedish summer so much this year. It's so magical to watch the sun set half-way and rise again an hour or two later.
    And I totally agree with you about local style. It used to surprise me, when I first started to travel, that style really is still local. The difference between Toronto, Stockholm and Berlin, to take some random examples, is quite big and I love it! Although every once in a while I see someone walking around in Toronto and I think 'they must be Swedish' - a sign of the influence of international style blogs perhaps ;)

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  2. aw. i don't think anyone has a doubt that you ARE her, sweet girl. but i felt homesick just from the photos, yearning for something my life is not. i clicked the link and even translated the pages to english...which, amusingly enough, didn't make her writing any more clear. but it was worth it for the eye candy. some of the photos and summer pastimes remind me of maine, so in that way i think i've got a close inkling of how you're feeling. xo

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  3. I'm in the midst of planning a two week trip in early September and you definitely have me dreaming of Finland... "The Land of Nightless Nights" - I love that!

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  4. Each of us has in us that part intrinsic and common to our countrypeople only borne from birth and life there I think. And I think we only consider that part and miss it once we've been away for a long time...and then we want to feel togetherness with others that also have that part. I felt it when I lived in Australia, I missed knowing that I was amidst that commonality - and when I went home, I could breathe a sigh of relief in feeling that there was some sameness to me, a kind of understanding that couldn't be emulated anywhere else. ANYWAY as I have a tendancy to do in the blogworld I've just talked all about me. Hope this is a fleeting little sadness. My husband has a couple of Finnish friends on fbook from his exchange student years, and there is a classy casualness to their dress that I have no hope in hell of copying. xo

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  5. I can really relate to Alaska with this post. Beautiful writing.

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  6. I know how you feel. I left Finland in mid-June (my latest trip), just when the weather got nice enough to enjoy torikahvit. There is something about Finland in the summertime, something truly magical. I was hoping that our move to Finland would take place in the early summer, but now it looks to be mid-August. Luckily I have a soft spot for the darkening late summer nights, the scent of apple season, and rapujuhlat as well.

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  7. so so pretty! wish i could read her blog.i thrifted a lovely purple/pink marimekko 60s dress the other day and the bust is a bit small but i don't care, it's my find of the summer and I'll happily wear it! xo m

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  8. This is so beautiful. I must check out that blog! I feel like I somehow miss Finland, too, though I've never lived there ~ perhaps I am missing it for my ancestors who came here. They must have felt such longing for their homeland and sometimes I wonder if that feeling is echoing in me...someday I'll have to visit!

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  9. you're still her. i feel lucky enough that you brought your sunlight child spirit to these shores.

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  10. I found this blog really interesting and it is also very nice clothes. On your photos you looked very relax and too much comfortable in wearing a beautiful women’s clothes like there. One of my biggest dream also is to go there in Finland it was beautiful scenery.

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  11. beautiful words to match beautiful pictures! even if you think you're not her anymore, you ARE to all of us!

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  12. thank you for this wonderful daydream. (-:

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  13. You have a lovely blog and lovely style! Thank you for this post, I feel honored that you used my pictures! Really beautiful writing.

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  14. Wow... so so pretty :) Great inspriations as well

    becks
    http://fabulous-junk.blogspot.com

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  15. Its amazing where we find ourselves in the world. That you should come away so far from your roots only to make your own loving home with your Bear and your island. Your island looks a little like something from a Tove Jansen story, as do you. Wherever you go you carry finland, you are like an ambassador of finish beauty that emanates both from within and without. I can imagine you missing there. I miss places too, sometimes I wistfully look away in one direction or another remembering some nice breezey sunny day.
    When I was a wee 19 years old, I went to Vancouver and the islands, I travelled about a little, and loved Salt Spring. When I was leaving there I cried thinking I would never go back, cause it felt like it was so far from home, the farthest I had ever been from Ireland, it all felt very dramatic; )

    I think we must be tracing maps of lives as we travel about, maybe our own past lives, and the places that really capture your heart are old homes.

    xx E
    I am so giddy with excitement, I have internet again at home and can catch up with you and the other gorgeous blogs about here.

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  16. I remember her, she stole my heart, I LOVE your description of those days. Now you're just a different kind of magic, not to mention way more travel accessible, which is good <3

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