It was a splendid evening in Finland. The first course over, the final hugs and goodbyes being said, off I went to a teacher’s home for dinner. A lovely, rambling big house with a swing made from birch log, chickens in the barn, a flourishing garden, a grand piano in the living room with a tuba nearby— and of course, the mandatory Finnish sauna. After a brief house and grounds tour (and taking turns on the swing), the ladies went to the sauna while the gents strolled the neighborhood. Past the lilac bushes with their mere 5-day bloom, the neighbor with three Siberian huskies who showed us the dogsled she uses in the winter, walking while swatting the mosquitoes that come with the summer’s joys. And then our turn for the sauna, complete with drinking special local beer, whipping ourselves and each other with leafy birch branches and diving into the cold pool in-between sessions. My bravado in all three earned me the title of “True Finn.”
Then we joined the ladies for a remarkable soup made from local mushrooms picked by our hosts. Apparently it’s poisonous raw, but delicious and safe when cooked. From soup to Indian cuisine exquisitely prepared and lovingly served. Convivial conversation about art and culture and education— warm and intelligent, with healthy doses of laughter. Then a tuba-piano duet with the teenage daughter, followed by a jazz piano lesson with one of the guests who didn’t believe I could make her sound good while improvising and took me up on a bet (she lost—she sounded good!). Having just written about wanting to hear the piano played from underneath, I crawled under while another teacher played. It was splendiferous— a unique musical experience! (Note to self: have your kids at school do the same at the end of class someday while you play.)
By the time we pulled ourselves away from such an enjoyable evening, it was 1:45 in the morning. The sky seemed somewhat light and I was told that it was already heading toward sunrise. I had missed the half hour of dark that comes ‘round midnight. (Hmm. New verse to the Monk song?) Another 2 am bedtime and decided to use the mask someone gave me. Apparently it worked! Didn’t arise until 9:30 in the morning. Time enough to prepare my next class on World Music scheduled to start at 1 pm.
In my fourth full day in Finland, I think the rest of my body has finally arrived and minus jet-lag, feeling more wholly myself and yet more able to enjoy this marvelous land and its people. My next bucket list goal is to come for a week or so (no more!) in the dead of winter and experience the opposite end of the dark/light spectrum. But first, three days of travel ahead to Bali, Japan, the Phillipine, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bulgaria, Spain, Ireland, Ghana, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua and beyond. No hotels, passports, airline tickets required. Just fly everywhere on the wings of the sounds of xylophones, drums, bells and whistles.
Air cleared by a thunderstorm, heart opening wider from the hospitality of the real True Finns and the unqualified joy of doing the work I was born to do, this happy traveler signs off with a song in his heart. In multiple languages, of course.