08.01.11 – Finland obviously does not have exclusive rights to the winter season and all the changes that come with it. The Earth tilts and takes many of us along for the ride, some further than others. Here’s a “3 Pix and a Post”, guest post, from my like-minded friend Dave Treece who has a keen eye and a creative view on the winter season from his home in Michigan.
About the same time you were leaving the States to begin your new life in Finland, I was moving into something of a different venue, too. Most of my life I’ve lived in neighborhoods with neighborhood people all around, or in buildings with buildings’ people all around. But in August last summer, an opportunity presented itself that would put me where I am now, well outside the city limits with very few neighbors, and in a building to myself: the finished upper level of an actual, gambrel roofed barn.
It has been a pleasant adjustment for the most part. There are a few inconveniences, and some modern amenities I’m learning to forego. I no longer own a television set, since cable is not available out here and satellite dishes just don’t look right to me. There’s no city water, just hard water coming out of the ground, and sometimes the pump makes funny noises at random hours of the day and night. I need to feed salt to the water softener so my clothes don’t break in half when they come out of the dryer… But I love it.
The sky at night is clear enough to see things I haven’t seen since I was a small town boy. Sitting on the broad, elevated deck at the east end of the barn, there’s an almost perfect moonrise, I see the Pleiades, shooting stars, and on very clear, dark nights, I can see the banded arm of the Milky Way itself, arcing across the backdrop of infinity from horizon to horizon. I hear distant trains in the dark instead of sirens and other urban undercurrents that I used to absorb automatically into my subconscious mind where it wouldn’t be such a distraction.
I can recall in late August how the sweet corn tasted after snapping off a couple of ears right from the field a few dozen yards from the barn, and the incredible flavor of each mouthful after less than three minutes from stalk to stove. I remember looking out the big west window of the barn and imagining those golden-haired fields gone, asleep for the winter, picturing in my mind the dustorm-like windblown snow sweeping over the wide landscape.
Now, in January, I look out that same window, or march across those same fields wearing layers of warm clothes, insulated boots, scarves, and yes, my trusty Pitkät Kalsarit. In my mind’s eye I try to imagine the frozen, snow-covered mud transformed into shining, golden-haired fields of bounty, the scent of blossoms in the air and warm, humid sunshine making sweat trickle down my face, and the explosion of life springing from the lifeless earth of winter. It’s a ways off yet, but I know it’s coming, and when it does it will be right on time. Until then, the Michigan winter will stake its claim on the land, and not without a fanfare of its own here on the 43rd parallel.