Tuesday, June 5, 2012

End of the World

Thanks to the miracle of modern travel, I awoke to 3 a.m. bright sun in Orivesi, Finland.
Fin-land— end of the land, like Finesterra in northwest Spain. But the real name is Suomi, which means swamp land. Not as flattering. From the car window, I see more lakes than swamps, endless chains of them. Not dissimilar to Minnesota (land of 10,000 lakes) and no wonder that Finns and Swedes and Norwegians gravitated to Garrison Keilor’s land in their migration patterns.

There also seems to be a parallel with the stoic, taciturn, people-of-few words folks that inhabit Lake Wobegon. (Well, except for the younger generation of Finnish Orff teachers, who are simply crazy in the best way.) My host told me of how one night on a lone country road, she followed a turtle crossing the road with her headlights until she dipped her car over into a ditch. As luck would have it, a police car happened to be driving by and was able to help her out. Apparently, they never once asked her what happened. That would have been unnecessary prying. Meanwhile, people you meet in California are sharing their issues about their mother seconds after the first handshake—or rather, hug.

I spent my first jet-lagged morning wrestling with an internet connection that wouldn’t let me load my blog, then tried to do my electronic report cards with a password that wouldn’t work and then tried to comfort myself with Solitaire games that I repeatedly lost. Roundly defeated by small things, I felt my anger and frustration rising. The poet Rilke has a beautiful line: “When we win, it’s with small things and the winning itself makes us small.” How much more so when we lose!!

Finally had the good sense to get the hell out of the room and wander aimlessly out into the wide world, vaguely looking for a place to take out my handwritten journal and write myself around the corner of a bad mood. Started on a road turned to dirt path with lakes on either side and finally plunked myself down on a little bridge over a stream. An older man comes by on his bike and checks his fishing line tied to the bridge. We have an old-fashioned exchange of gestures to illuminate our mutually unintelligible languages and he rides off fishless. Now there is nothing but the buzz of bees amidst the yellow dandelions, distant bird chirps, the flutter of butterflies, open fields newly-planted leading to stands of birch trees. I lie down on the clumped earth and look into the puff-clouded sky, listening to the music of it all. Part of my jet-lagged body is still hovering somewhere over Paris, looking to re-unite with its lost transported half. Perhaps the buzz in my head is the body’s electro-magnetic radar signaling, “I’m over here!”

Tomorrow the classes start and I’ll be back in my own peculiar version of sacred spaces created by the invitation to play, sing and dance. But for now, to lie on the dirt-fragrant ground without a plug in sight or a class plan in my head is another piece of heaven. Kiitos, Finland!

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