Sunday, February 28, 2016

Visiting Finland--Looking to Summer

early summer, southern Finland
early summer,  southern Finland
It is early spring here on the Front Range of Colorado: warm days interspersed with snow showers. The lawns are turning green. We watch warily for big snow storms.

One of the marvels of our modern world is the ability to communicate around the world. I still cherish the first time I exchanged email observations of the weather with Finland, within minutes, across half the globe. We take that for granted now. But it is amazing. In northern Colorado, I'm enjoying the beginning of spring, but in northern Europe, it is still winter. I have webcams that I watch in Finland, and today they show snow cover.

flowers, Helsinki
summer flowers, Helsinki
Guillermo Norrmann, from subtropical northern Argentina, remarked to me "In summer in the temperate zone, the flowers are so very abundant!" Since the temperate growing season is only a few months long, temperate plants must all flower quickly. This produces a grand display, although we residents tend to take it for granted. The intense summer bloom is even more marked in Finland, where the growing season is shorter than here in Colorado.

A few flowers, Helsinki
Wildflowers too must grow quickly, flower and mature their seeds within a couple months.
wildflowers, Finland
Field of wildflowers, Finland
My involvement with Finland began in 1964. Miittu von Essen Pettersson came as an exchange student during my senior year in high school.

One of our English assignments was to write a poem. Horrified at the idea of attempting poetry for an English class among native English speakers, Miittu negotiated a change in the assignment, to translate a Finnish poem. The poem she chose was"The Spring of the Esplanade" (Esplanaadin kevāt by Uuno Kailas). It celebrates spring. One line stuck with me for more than half a century:

"I am, brothers, without any reasons, indecently happy"

Haven't you felt that way on a spring day?

Esplenade, Helsinki
Helsinki fountain
Fountain, Esplenade, Helsinki
Here's the rest of the poem, in Miittu's translation:

I am, brothers, without any reasons, 
indecently happy.

In the middle of the market place,
near the fountain, just a moment ago
I smiled quite inadvertently
to the beauty of a mermaid.
(A mummy then looked at me 
And sailed away.)

To the trees by the streets
come buds, birds, and the songs of the birds.
And the bells of the Chapel ring.

And from the eyes of all the people
Pan peers, the young and greedy Pan.

I am, brothers, without any reasons,
indecently happy.

(See Google's images for Esplanade Park, Helsinki too.)

Esplanade, Helsinki
In Finland, even in the south, the day length goes from nearly complete darkness at midwinter to almost no darkness in midsummer, making the seasonal change even more dramatic. I hadn't been north of Michigan when I went to Finland in June of 1969. Miittu's family set up a cot for me in a spare room with a lot of windows. At 2 am, I awoke: sunlight was pouring in on me, "as if it was 10 am," I wrote home. I had never imagined such a thing.

In the long summer days, of course you are irresistably drawn outdoors. To walk in the city as seen above. Street parties and festivals abound.

Or to swim or sail on enticing Finnish lakes. There are many lakes, gloriously beautiful, an easy drive from the cities.


sailboats, Finland

Or to hike in the silence of the pine forests, scuffling through the fallen pine needles, smelling their fragrance.

forest, Finland

If you are lucky, you'll hear the call of a cuckoo or a thrush nightingale ring through the still of the forest. They too must seize the moment, quickly mate and lay their eggs during the brief northern summer.

forest, Finland

The exuberant celebration of summer in high latitude places is compelling. For birds, for plants and for people. 

The days lengthen. 


Comments and corrections welcome.

Kathy Keeler

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