Finlândia

Finland by Diego Pansani

I

In Finland I learn fast

about the extremes:

I arrive in summer

but winter stalks us all

in the double windows

in the fireplaces

in electric heating, gas,

in the saunas

in the Ukrainians holding children to cross the lane

in the thick clothes hanging on hangers

in heavy boots in the hall

in Rikka’s eyes, green and phosphorescent,

Like the aurora borealis.

II

In Finland I learn fast that

The poem is always within the poetry.

Runo, Runous.

III

In Finland I don’t usually think

a lot about my immobility

in old age or on my right leg

every day more crestfallen:

Elderly people in Finland are elegantly abandoned

and almost all of them have a kind of old age scooter.

IV

It’s Sunday in Finland

and I get drunk on the porch.

The birds have already come into the yard.

and the neighbor across the street collects the clothes.

Her steps are slow and steady. Like the sun here.

It’s Sunday in Finland

and I already visited the cemetery

that looks like a big bonsai.

An old woman was trimming some gnarled branches in her memory vault:

a son, a mother, a great love, who knows.

Maybe there is a good place to work in Finland,

practice the language of silence daily.

And dig the earth to replenish it with flowers

what the spirits chew from our ancestors. Or theirs.

It’s Sunday in Finland

and Pedro sends me a kind of tale

about a metaphysical ball

that scares the birds.

if he were here

surely we would be at the lake

swimming with the ducks.

– There’s a lot of duck shit here, man.

Then we would make a poem about it

And we would call it Sunday in Finland.

In the end, that’s all we have left.

V

And everything is fine

As long as I still have one more Sahti

And a stupid will

Of flying.

Setembro, 2022.

Sysmä on mielentila

Kuulokkeiden akku oli tyhjä. Istuin bussissa ja tuijotin ohikiitävää maisemaa, kunnes edessä oli Matkabaari. Raahasin laukkuani ylämäkeen. Villa Sarkian eteisessä oli vastassa mustavaatteinen nuori nainen, joka sanoi tervetuloa.

Suomen kesä oli ulkona kauneimmillaan. Minulla oli romaanikäsiksessäni kaksi isoa ongelmaa, joihin piti keksiä ratkaisu. Katsoin illat amerikkalaisia motivaatiovideoita ja imin ajatuksia päähenkilön päähän. 

Pizzeria Fantasiaan tuli mies ruskeissa kumisaappaissa, sillä oli anteeksipyytävä askel. Minä en jaksanut syödä pizzastani kuin puolet. Naapuripöydän helleasuinen seurue puhui sysmäläisiä asioita.

Residenssin kolmas vieras, kanadalainen runoileva dj, järjesti leffaillan. Katsoimme elokuvan inuiiteista, se oli jotain niin erilaista että huimasi. Päähenkilön pakomatka juosten alastomana yli hyisen grönlantilaisjäätikön jäi mieleen.

Harmonikkamuseo meni kiinni, mutta opastus ei lakannut. Oli erilaisia harmonikkoja erilaisilta tehtailta, itsetehtyjäkin joista eräässä näppäimet juustosta. Oli naisten harmonikkoja ja harmonikankorjauspöytiä, urkuharmonikka ja huuliharppuja ja niin edelleen. Kierroksen jälkeen korvissa soi.

Vierailin talossa, jossa asui nainen joka tuli Villa Sarkiaan ja jäi sille tielleen. 

Leirintäalueen minigolfrata oli roskainen. Istuimme terassilla ja trubaduuri soitti suomalaista musiikkia. Kanadalainen säpsähti, kun koko terassillinen ihmisiä alkoi laulaa mukana ruudun takaa tyttöni katsoo vain.

Vietimme residenssissä kansainvälisen runoillan, kanadalainen tarjoili teetä hienoista posliinikupeista. Minäkin luin tekstejäni, vaikken varsinaisesti runoilija olekaan.

Kun suljin residenssin oven takanani, minulla oli vastaus niihin kahteen romaanikäsiksen isoon kysymykseen ja teoksen ensimmäinen versio siis valmis. Lisäksi pääni oli nyrjähtänyt sysmäläiseen asentoon, jossa ei ole ruuhkaa.

Anna Maria Mäki

Lätäkkö

Rinkka painoi hartioita, mutta matkaa bussiasemalta ei ollut pitkästi. Ohi harmonikkamuseon, ohi kirjaston. Pian olin jälleen keltaisessa huoneessa, jonka seiniin olin ennenkin liimannut tarralappusia siinä toivossa, että ne järjestäisivät itsensä uudella tavalla. 

Aloin purkaa reppua; jumppakuminauha, pikkuruinen suolapurkki, kolme kirjaa. Repun pohjalla lojui se tärkein.

Sitä kuvitteli pakanneensa mukaansa valtameren ja huomasi, että repusta valui pieni kurainen lätäkkö, jonka ääreen piti kumartua katsoakseen rikkonaista kuvaansa sen väräjävästä pinnasta. 

Ensimmäiset päivät etsin tarpeistoa. Ensin kiertelin taloa kaivurin toivossa, lopulta olin valmis tyytymään edes pieneen lasten hiekkalapioon, jolla olisin voinut alkaa lätäkköäni laajentaa. Työkaluja ei kuitenkaan löytynyt, vaikka avasin jokaisen oven ja oven takana olevan oven. Vaikka lämmitin saunan aamutuimaan, kiersin Suvisaaren ja Ohrasaaren. 

Lopulta päätin alkaa hommiin, haroin lätäköstä paljain käsin edes hieman juomakelpoista vettä ja talletin sen vanhaan suolakurkkupurkkiin. Pakotin kurkusta alas maanpohjan makuisen huikan. 

– Sameaa, totesin. 

Aloin siivilöidä vettä, lasketella sitä yhä uudelleen läpi marmorimurskeen, kvartsihiekan, tiimalasin hienon hiekan. Ruopata vesitilkalle allasta, kaivaa kuoppaa, laajentaa hitaasti reunoilta. Kynnenaluset mustina kaavin mutaista maata ja käsistä sekoittui aina lisää likaa jo hieman kirkastuneeseen veteen.

Joka toinen päivä olin varma, että tein kaivuutyötäni aivan turhaan. Lopulta minulla olisi vain pohjaton kuoppa ja tyhjä kurkkupurkki. Joka toinen päivä juoksin. Juostessani näin metsän varjoisat kohdat, joissa kasvoi lunta, kuulin tikan kaikuvan koputuksen, tunsin omien askelten kuminan maanpohjassa, ja palasin siivilöimään vettä varmana siitä, että se vielä kirkastuisi.

Äkkiä ajattomalta tuntuvassa tilassa aika otti salavihkaisesti kissapedon loikan sillä aikaa, kun huolettomasti kävelin ostamaan jäätelön ja raukein askelin kiertelin kyläteitä sitä syödessäni.

Palatessani keltaiseen huoneeseen, ymmärsin että lähes kaikki siivilöintihiekka oli valahtanut tiimalasin alakerrokseen. Epätoivon vimmalla aloin raadella kuopan pohjaa. Huusin ja kynsin, revin ja raastoin. Äkkiä maan alta alkoi pulputa vettä. Se ei suihkunnut paineella tai edes virrannut vuolaasti, mutta yhtä kaikki jotain kirkasta tihkui soran seasta. Hitaasti kuoppa alkoi täyttyä ja kun kaadoin siihen siivilöimäni vesitilkan, oli minulla vihdoin pienen pieni, mutta kirkasvetinen lammikko.

Kun oli aika pakata lampi rinkkaan ja kävellä rivakasti päivän ainoaan lähtevään bussiin, tuntui reppu kevyemmältä, sitä oli helpompi kantaa. 

Tuuli Kanervankallio, toukokuu 2022

Getting back there

In my first week in Sysmä, I sleep for seventy hours. I notice nature makes the exact right amount of noise. I notice: wind in the spruces, a family or crew or gang of seagulls nesting in the theatre’s roof, the smaller, chirpier birds, and this is the exactly right amount of noise for me not to be distracted by either silence or a specific sound. I take a walk on the small almost-island of Ohrasaari on my first day, upon arrival, a dense little bulk of forest on the outskirts of the department store, on the edge of the river, there’s still patches of snow on the paths inwards. They are glittery, confined and sprinkled with dry fir needles to look like Christmas-wrap. Where the sun touches it a couple of steps closer to the water, the ground is warm enough to lie down on it. I almost fall asleep, but don’t. I am more tired these days than I have been in a long while, but there’s time here.  

By the end of the day I notice a thing I will later call the phone-buzzing factory. I don’t know it’s a factory yet. After fifty of my seventy hours of sleep I notice the “looming cold” I’d been writing about in my notebook on my first night is a Covid-infection.

The sky was slowly darkening when we flew into Helsinki, I could still see the bigger patches of snow in the landscape, the coast, the infrequency of houses on the outskirts, last lights at almost eleven pm, I don’t think I have truly been alone in the past twelve months, I don’t think I truly remembered days this long. The flight attendant hands me blueberry juice in a paper cup. I nibble at its rim until it softens, as I always have been. I’ve been calling myself exhausted for some time now. When we hit the ground and get off the plane everything is blue. I understand no words safe for those addressed directly to me. I take a bus the next day, then another, one of my headphones is broken, so I listen to early 10s indie, note down how vegetation and architecture grow around oceans because the coastal region reminds me of the Baltic in Germany where my grandparents live, I might be wrong about all of this, the population decreases with each change of vehicles, I text my friend Hendrik from the second bus and he teaches me words via WhatsApp.  

During the last two years, I had grown a bit defiant towards things that I know do me good: walks, writing, unoccupied time, vegetables and movement, to name only a few. That’s different here because nobody watches or cares or wants me to deliver at anything else I might need my writing and walking and exercise for, as a tool for functioning. So I resume walks. I share Villa Sarkia with Tuuli and find out the meaning of her name by accident, in a German book about linguistic theory I brought from home. We take turns in having a good day for writing and a bad one. There is a sound like a buzzing smartphone, audible all over town at all times, numb and steady. On one of my walks I find out it comes from a factory. I had been reading Roberto Bolaño’s „The Savage Detectives“ before coming to Finland. All the characters are poets and on some to all levels malfunctioning and so touchingly sweet and lost and want to get rid of themselves and come to Villa Sarkia still very much stirred up by all their semi-fictional existences. I wonder who’s been here before. We have all been alone for a while, we have all been so strangely tired for a while, everyone around me has seemed so silently determined for a while, had disappeared somewhat into outcomes. I had forgotten how it hurts, sometimes, for everyone I know, I had forgotten how personal this becomes, how everyone I know takes walks, circles the phone-buzzing factory for hours and stares at paper and stares at their hands and nibbles their fingernails soft until they get up and leave, check for the town outside and make plans: I will go on a trip soon, I will check out the Petfood-and-Shoe-Shop next to the bookstore soon, I will check out the Finnish Accordion Museum soon, once I’ve finished this page, this poem,  done my dues, how there is never enough of all the time in the world even though you miss home and you bore and you have written a couple of really nice poems, actually, and seen four different brown hares or the same brown hare four different times, and you sleep only eight hours per night now and feel refreshed when you wake, but you have not walked the entirety of that hiking trail you discovered one of your first evenings and decided to get back to when it is not getting dark.

On my last day I skim the guestbook for entries in languages I understand, and get stuck. Today, one month after leaving, I dreamt of a version of those four weeks in which I didn’t write but only roamed the area, discovered its every inch. There was a weird hotel by a lake a huge group of writers and I went to. I couldn’t find my room because I couldn’t find the stairs that led to it. It has been spring for the entirety of my stay. I want to meet everyone from the guestbook, talk to the people who came here in winter. There’s plants growing on my balkony now, a motorcycle down on the street, I switched my phone to silent mode but keep it in view.

Josefine Berkholz, Mai 2022

locks unlocked

when i arrive, the house is unlocked. one can just enter. i do, i have permission to. i am the first one, the house is vast, the rooms are lit by the dark yellow afternoon sun. i circle around the two floors, go up and down and up again several times before i am able to decide (“first one gets to choose”) which of the three bedrooms will be mine for the next four weeks.

soon i will learn that the door to this particular room is the only one that you actually cannot lock, even if you want to. when a arrives, she chooses the bedroom next to mine. she will not use her lock either, will always leave her door just a tiny bit open.

the house has good spirits, we agree, any demons will be appeased here, i think. and indeed, during the first night i have what seems to be a nightmare, from which i awake though with a feeling of defiant unafraidness unknown to me so far (“it’s a really safe place”).

we remain a and c, there is no b, but not like a lack, not like a gap in a formula or series. we inhabit the house as if it was made for two, not just, but exactly. during the days we split the floors naturally, sharing stories when we meet in between. during the nights we abandon the ground floor and the basement, retreat to sleep in our bedrooms, locks unlocked.

there is an air of abundance in this house, around this place, an abundance which i know is about to create a lack, in a time afterwards. i realise this while i am still here, that’s why i consciously indulge.

it’s the small things, the ordinary ones, finnish normalities. the white and pastel paint that makes everything, even the floors, more welcoming, and you, stepping onto them, carrying yourself in a lighter posture.

outside the snow is high, but it’s so dense that you don’t sink in when walking on it. the locals are walking over the frozen surface of the lake. after easter it’s 16 degrees, the lake’s surface is melting at the edges. there’s a sense of farewell as the sunlight is getting more forceful, farewell to winter, farewell to my notion of the north. there are still people walking on the ice. the mere sight of it makes me uneasy. they must know, i try to consol myself, they must have done it their whole lives.

snow avalanches are sliding down the villa’s roof in gentle rumbles. sounds of an emerging spring. a faint notion of potential violence soon forgotten (“it’s a really safe place”), less abstract but similarly subdued as the danger implied by the fire exit stairs on the outside of the building.

commonplace places, places you pass. an abandoned house that still has a desk in it, a travel bar that marks the stop of the only bus, a closed book store that will be opened just for you. the shop owner is also a farmer, he gives a discount (“because you’re also in the book field”). things that grow on you, things you find. in a kirpputori, one of many. arabia cups and blazers (“freeze them to kill bedbugs”), books, a set of small mirrors, that will make the zipper of your suitcase almost burst. in the end though one and all can only comply with abundance.

is this why there are so many closets in the villa, so much space behind doors. is it secrecy or mere utility. a cupboard above the sink to leave the dishes drain, out of sight but never far.

open questions. also like, what was the man thinking who walked through the villa’s garden in the middle of a snowstorm with a briefcase in his hand. why did he return with a single rose in his other hand, leaving another set of footsteps in front of our kitchen window. did he take a shortcut in order not to freeze the flower.

or, is the weather the only thing erratic around here. shoveling snow with a body full of itching mosquito bites, watching the first snowdrops grow from below the last snowflakes.

the squirrel living under the villa’s roof has a clear routine. the janitor identifies it just by its habits (“i don’t know the name, let me show you a picture”). it (“orava”) wakes us every day with bumping morning jumps. the customs of the seagulls flying across the garden however remain a mystery to me.

one day my lock does lock. the keys i had deemed useless are safely stored behind the door. a dials a number, says some sentences. we are sitting on the floor midway between our rooms. ten minutes later we are found by a person who effortlessly reopens the door and disappears again. we had not even started waiting.

Cornelia Hülmbauer, April 2022

2-26. maaliskuuta 2022

4.3.2022 (toinen kokonainen päivä)

Kiitos Sysmän uimahalli hiukan liian matalasta altaasta vesijuoksulle. Oli pakko pysähtyä, kauhoa altaan mittaa käsin ja jaloin (ja huomata uimatekniikkansa puutteellisuus.)

6.3.2022 (oltuani paikallani 3 kokonaista päivää ja yhden puolikkaan)

Päivämäärät ja viikonpäivät ovat jo menettäneet merkityksensä, rytmi syntyy sisäsyntyisesti eikä paineen kautta. Kaikista paras asia on huomata, ettei tarvitse pakottaa itseään töiden ääreen. 

Kaipaisin enemmän tälläistä tilaa tekemiselle ja olemiselle. Paineettomuutta. Vapautta valita.  

Olen iloinen havainnosta, että tunnistan tarpeen tehdä ja toimia, kirjoittaa.

20.3.2022 (oltuani paikallani 18 päivää)

Olen oppinut, ettei ranskassa ole mäyriä ja että ranskalaisille opetetaan Duolingossa suomen kielestä hyvin aikaisin sanat ”undulaatti” ja ”velho”.

Katsonut päivä päivältä kasvavaa ruoholänttiä ja jäätynyttä maata. 

Kirjoittanut asioista kuten: valo, naistaiteilijuus, unohdetut lapset, työn merkitys.

”On tartuttava toimeen rautahansikkain”, kirjoittaa Elin Danielson-Gambogi kirjeessään ystävilleen pitkän ”huonon jakson” jälkeen. Kirjoitan Elinistä kertovan kuunnelmatekstin toisen version Sysmässä ollessani. Oma työ tuntuu enemmän näppylähanskaiselta ja nahkarukkasmaiselta, kuin rautahansikkaiselta. 

26.3.2022 (oltuani paikallani 24 päivää)

Tulin, näin, olin, luin, kirjoitin, kuuntelin, puhuin. 

Pitkiä aikoja yksin tehdessä unohtaa sen, että joskus tekee ihan hyvää myös kertoa muille ääneen, mitä on tekemässä. Se voi olla ratkaisu moneen asiaan, muuhunkin kuin kirjoittamiseen.

Näin naakan, harakan, tali- tai sinitiaisen. Toiseksi viimeisenä päivänä mustarastaan! Oravankin. 

Kiitos Sysmä, Nuoren voiman liitto ja toverit Sarkiassa eli Jenna ja Haydée.

Kiitos maaliskuusta.

Iira Halttunen

Rusakko ja kello

;

Näyttämö.

Esirippu nousee. Kuuluu veden lorina, suihkun virtaava vesi, ja se kuinka vesi osuu kaakelilattiaan. 

Spotti syttyy. Sen keltainen valo lankeaa viistosti näyttämölle. Säteet kimaltavat vedessä; näyttämöön on upotettu allas. Altaan takana on rivissä viisi suihkua ja suihkuverhokehikkoa. Yksi niistä on kiinni, vesihöyrypilvi on suljetun tilan kattona. Kaakeliseinällä suihkujen vieressä on puinen vanha seinäkello. Se näyttää 06.04 – tai 18.04, ajat näyttäytyvät siinä saman lailla. Kello on pysähtynyt siihen aikaan, aamun ja illan hetkeen.

Allas. Aaltojen välit tihenevät, kuuluu vedenliike. Pimeydestä ui Kirjoittaja näkyviin. Näyttää kuin hän olisi heittäytynyt veden syleilyyn, kelluisi vedessä, antaisi sen kannatella itseään. Näyn ei pidä antaa huijata: Kirjoittaja joutuu polskimaan ja pitämään itsensä pinnalla, ettei hukkuisi. Vesi on haaleaa. Hänen kehonsa ei pysty lämmittämään uima-altaan verran vettä, joten keho on viilentynyt vedenlämpöiseksi. Kirjoittaja ui eteenpäin kasvot kohti kattoa. Silmät kiinni.

Suihkusta kuuluu laulua. Pesuvesi laskee suihkukaivoon. Karvat ja saippua kietoutuvat toisiinsa, eivät pääse ritilän läpi. Veteen sekoittuu punaista. Aluksi se on vain pieni punainen juova, mutta lopulta viemäriin valuva vesi on kokonaan tummanpunaista ja paksua. Suihkuverho avataan. Suihkussa ollut mies kävelee pois näyttämöltä pysyen tuntemattomana. Jotain jää hänen jälkeensä. Nyljetty rusakko makaa kuolleena suihkun alla, vesipisarat tippuvat sen aukinaiselle silmälle. Sen ruho ei enää tutise. Sen vatsa on avattu, ja veri lähtee sen kehosta kuin pakolaiset lähtevät tuhoutuneista kodeistaan; vailla suuntaa odottaen että jokin voima vie eteenpäin. Rusakon ympärillä on karvatuppoja, ne ajelehtivat suihkukaivolle punaisen veden mukana, tukkivat viemärin kokonaan. 

Vesi löytää aina uuden reitin. Se lähtee valumaan kohti allasta. Punainen kastautuu altaaseen, ja loput karvatupot seuraavat perässä. Virta kuljettaa karvatuppoja mukanaan. Kirjoittajan kulmat rypistyvät, kun hän kuulee ryystävän äänen. Rhjyyrhjyy. Ääni on voimakas, sekatempoinen, häiritsevä. Liian häiritsevä. Märät hiukset liimautuvat niskaan Kirjoittajan noustessa pystyasentoon, hänen etsiessä katseellaan äänenlähdettä. Karvatupot ovat tukkineet altaan suodattimen. Allas on likaantunut verestä. Kirjoittaja ui suodattimen luo. Hän sekoittaa liikkeellään veren veteen niin että vedestä tulee vaaleanpunaista. Kirjoittaja kerää karvatupot yhdeksi isoksi tupoksi ja nostaa sen altaan reunakivelle. Vesi kulkee jälleen suodattimesta sisään, alkaa puhdistaa allasta. Kirjoittaja lähtee uimaan takaisin paikalleen kuin hän voisi palata hetkeen ilman, että se olisi uusi ja erilainen kuin aikaisempi.

Mutta vaikka hän polskii ja polskii, tuntuu kuin hän ei liikkuisi lainkaan eteenpäin. Kirjoittaja vilkaisee taakseen kummissaan ja näkee suodattimen imevän vettä niin kovaa, että virtaviivat näkyvät vedenpinnassa syvinä uurteina. Kirjoittajan silmät laajenevat. Hän alkaa kroolata virtaa vastaan, mutta virta on voimakkaampi. Se alkaa vetää Kirjoittajaa kohti suodatinta. Virranveto aiheuttaa varpaissa suonenvetoja, tuntuu suoristavan sisäiset ristivedot, kääntävän ne virran mukaisiksi. Kirjoittajan jalan osuessa suodattimeen hän luulee olevansa turvassa. Mutta suodatin imee niin lujaa, että Kirjoittajan varpaat, jalka, nilkka, sääret, polvet, reidet ja niin edelleen hajoavat pieniksi hiukkasiksi, liukenevat veteen ja menevät suodattimesta läpi. Kirjoittaja ei ehdi edes huudahtaa ennen kuin on kadonnut kokonaan.

Uimahallien suihkuissa on aina ajastinnappi, jota painetaan jotta vesi virtaisi. Nappi nousee ylös, suihkuvesi lakkaa valumasta. Allas tyhjenee verestä ja vedestä. Näyttämölle jää vain kuollut rusakko ja puinen seinäkello. Molemmat ovat pysähtyneet tiettyyn aikaan eri aikoina, jatkavat siinä olemista.

Esirippu lasketaan.

Kirjoittanut Jenna Viro.

Villa Sarkia, maaliskuu 2022.

Surrounded in Finnish is Ympärillä

I have never been surrounded by

So many books I couldn’t read

Surrounded in Finnish is ympärillä

Hopeless is there anything 

I’ll be able to understand

A few appear here and there

They could easily fit under one arm

The more I look around

The more they reveal themselves

I will never have time to read them all

I open one and read:

« He returns to bed

There is possibly

Someone there »

My Stay at Villa Sarkia

My stay at Villa Sarkia was of the solitary kind. Thankfully, I thrive in solitude. And so does my work. 

A heavy blanket of snow (not to mention a global pandemic) kept the town of Sysmä at an arm’s length. Inapproachable. Desolate. It wasn’t a question of not feeling welcome but of not knowing where the people that might welcome you were hiding out. But as a fellow Scandinavian, I knew. At home.

I’m the last person to condemn anyone for a need to hibernate. I understand. That’s why I’m here. 

Time passes at a different pace in Villa Sarkia. You look down at the page in front of you for a moment, and when you look up again three hours have passed. The next time you look up, daylight has slipped away and you go for a walk in the dusk, letting the snow shine for you. 

It wasn’t until two days before my departure I had company at Villa Sarkia. And so, I got to pass the torch. I had reassurance that Villa Sarkia will indeed live on after I’m gone. Villa Sarkia isn’t a product of my imagination, but the sort of place that exists as long as it is inhabited.

That’s a comfort. Because that means I can return someday. 

Randi Lindholm Hansen 27.2.2022

The snow is different here.

A blog post. A blog post. A blog post?

Now what, in the devil’s many names, does one put in a blog post?

The morning of my penultimate full day in Villa Sarkia is moments from dawning as I sit down in my room to ponder that question. My windows are too caked with frost to see outside, but having returned from my first cigarette of the day a handful of minutes or two ago, I know that Sysmä is still covered in snow, though the snowfall ceased some time yesterday evening. The snow is different here. This observation has crossed my mind often over the past four weeks; I have shared it with friends, shared it with family, shared it on Facebook, even. Ever since I first thought it, it has seemed somehow important, this curious, putatively innocuous nugget of Finland trivia: the snow is different here. Why does this feel so relevant? What does it reveal, beyond the circumstance it describes? And most importantly: is it blog-worthy?

What to put in a blog post? I have written stories—short, novella, novel-length; I have written stage plays, seen them gain in reality and independence as they came alive in the interplay of director and ensemble; I have written poems, though I’m not much good at it; I have written diaries, and e-mails, and letters, and essays and theses and synopses; I have written social media posts, mostly to promote my work and assert myself as an artist in these trying, hybrid, digital times, though I consider social media to be both tedious and dubious—worrisome, at the least, and superfluous at best. Out of these genres, the last would be most akin to a blog post, I presume: they’re online, they’re “posts,” they’re fiercely public, they’re by definition self-centred to some extent. But if I went about it the way I would a Facebook entry, it wouldn’t be much fun: the rules of effective social media posts are nebulous to me, but it seems obvious that there are rules, possibly too many of them, and too much of their successful implementation removed from the writer’s creative control. Maybe I’m going at this the wrong way. I probably shouldn’t be asking, “What is a blog post?”; should ask instead: what have I got to say?

Which brings me back to that sentence which has kept recurring to me, kept looping from the relaxed ebb and flow that my thoughts have become here in Villa Sarkia, kept rising to the surface of the cool, bright, tranquil river in my head to surprise me with its ongoing perceived properness and succinct clarity: the snow is different here. Because it really is.

Is it?

Different how? Different why? Different from what? Questions that sound every bit as simple and harmless as the original observation. Here’s an answer: it’s different from snow back home in Austria, probably due to differing climate conditions, in that thick flakes are rare even in heavy snowfall, each individual flake looking much like a tiny crystal or shard of glass instead—diamond dust, indeed—and the resulting blankets of snow scintillate in the sunlight, twinkle like a spangled sky at night. “It sparkles like excited stars, silly from a joke the moon told” is how I put it on Facebook … and here I was thinking I had no knack for poetry. (Is that poetic? I seem interminably unable to wrap my head around the category.)

And all of that looks both exhaustive enough and rudimentarily pretty, like there couldn’t possibly be more to say on the subject. Like no more should be said on the subject—less would have been preferable, even—for as we all know (or at least have been told repeatedly), brevity and concision are the writer’s friends and objectives; only amateurs lose themselves in verbiage. But exhaustive and pretty though it may be—it just doesn’t cut it. There’s something missing. There’s more to the snow’s otherness than what can be said about it descriptively, or explained factually. It isn’t just prettier, and it’s not just the atmosphere (climatic or otherwise). The residency has taught me serenity, has returned fluidity and ease and quiet to my agitated brain, and for that lesson I am ineffably grateful; but maybe it’s time to stir that mellow stream once more, to turn a placid pool into a bubbling soup, and the soup into ink; to sharpen the mind, sharpen the pen, and stand in the river to look at something in particular, as long as it takes, instead of going with the flow and taking in whatever comes along.

So I will look at the snow, and look at myself, and ask: what does that mean, that the snow is different here? What does it mean to me? (A blog post is supposed to be personal, no?)

I return to that first shot at an answer above, that the snow here is different from that at home, and I stop and think, and I ask myself: when was the last time I noticed, really noticed, the snow back home? Looked closely, paid attention to it? I love snow—have loved it all my life, as far as I recall—but that doesn’t guarantee that I’ve been mindful of it. When something beloved returns whether one embraces it or not, it can become commonplace, a matter-of-fact. One might still love it, but one forgets to appreciate it. Before Sysmä, when was the last time I truly appreciated snow? What am I comparing this new snow to? A fact? a memory? a distant memory?

A complete fabrication?

In recent years, it hasn’t snowed all that often in my little corner of Austria, or when it did snow, then not for very long. Things change, as we know; sometimes irretrievably, and sometimes for the worse. Maybe that is why the snow’s otherness strikes me as so impressive, so crucial, at this place and time in my life: it brings home the message, in tiptoed curvatures of thought, that change is inevitable. On some level, we’re all aware of this, and usually I don’t mind—embrace it, even. But maybe comparing the present snow to something I cannot quite fathom—comparing it and finding a bewildering unspecificity, a vague lack, in the position of the second “comparee”—I am reminded that sometimes, change means loss of something one didn’t want to let go. That change is perpetually in motion, and it won’t stop no matter how politely you might ask it to.

But knowing this—that things change, everywhere, constantly: how do I know that snow here, around Villa Sarkia, is always the way it is now? Maybe the snow is different not just from snow in Vienna, but from last year’s snow in Sysmä; maybe this is the first time snow here behaves the way it does now, and not knowing it, I have fallen into the traveller’s trap of associating everything I see and experience with the country I’m visiting, inducing from a particular observation to a general rule, when I can have no idea if that rule really exists or not. What a shameful fallacy! Does “the snow is different here” not just evoke my exposure to change, my “thrownness” into the world, then, but also my foolishness in the face of it? Does it reveal how narrow my mind is at its core, when—as a writer who has devoted almost a decade of his life to a philosophical education—I like to think that, whatever else I may be, narrowminded I am not?

So maybe the reason why I keep revisiting that sentence is that, as much as it imposes itself on me, I can have no idea if it is accurate. What are my frames of reference? A frightfully brittle memory of a generalised idea of what snow once looked and felt like to me, or even “is supposed” to look and feel like, in a world according to my frightfully limited perspective … and another illicit generalisation induced from a series of observations made over a very short amount of time that is very specific to one location and one month in one year? Is it okay, is it in any way feasible or tolerable, to work from that and arrive at the conclusion: the snow is different here?

… why, yes. I suppose it is. I suppose what I’m forgetting, or have been ignoring in my eagerness to be precise, critical, and extensive (so sorry for the length!), is that no matter if the thought is true or not, it is a thought of mine. And it hasn’t “imposed” itself on me so much as it just rings a little louder, and clearer, and truer, than the other notions chortling in the stream. And, perhaps most importantly: until I sat down to stare at the sentence, to debate it as though it (or I) were trying to make a point, it had always been accompanied by nothing but pleasure. It had been a joyful thought, merry, happy, giddy. I think—I choose that—I will let it be that again.

I suppose the sentence even contains all of the above, all that verbose speculation and (let’s be honest here) quite pointless elaboration; holds all of it, says all of it, “verdichtet” all of it. I suppose brevity is sovereign, a multitude of words but a sign of insecurity or narcissism, or both. So that should be my blog post, then—I will write nothing but the words: the snow is different here. Let the reader draw their own conclusions, the way good writers do. Chances are their conclusions will be more interesting than my preludious cogitations …

But that wouldn’t be enough, then, would it? Why? Because I’m a writer. I write. I tell stories. That is what I do. Consider this the story of how I decided that my blog post should contain nothing but that sentence, and how it ended up the blog post’s title instead. The story does have quite a bit to offer! Childlike wonder—at a weather phenomenon that seems both mundane and mystical; quasi-philosophical contemplation of a shyly metaphysical tinge (Finland’s snow, or Sysmä’s snow, or this point-in-time’s snow, or none of the above?); an excess of aesthetics, moulded into logical shape; twists, as my attempt to organise my thought process pulls me in various directions at once and makes a mockery of the very idea of the attempt; and even romance: mine and the snow’s love story is one for the ages. Perhaps it isn’t the most riveting material I ever produced … but it is sincere; sincere, and necessary. I can think of no better way to trace how important my time in Villa Sarkia was to me. How unique in the context of my personal history, how filled with marvels and deliberation, with freedom to think and do as I see fit, with writing, writing, writing, and with snow, snow, snow.

While I’ve been writing this, night has turned to day, and for an hour or two the horizon was a peaceful pink. Pink used to be my least favourite colour, but that was before I saw the Finnish dawn. There’s pink dawns in Austria, too, but still—still … it isn’t just the snow that’s different. The colours in the December sky over Sysmä are intriguing. A blue so clear and bright—so blue—you’d think the sky was frozen … and winter pink, a colour I’m not sure I knew existed. Winter morning pink—December’s Pink, Rising Sky’s Pink, Rose of the Heavens—which might possibly count among my favourite colours now. Time will tell; time, and the eyes I bring back to Austria, which I hope have permanently recovered—and not just re-encountered—the ability to observe.

Thomas Kodnar, 26.12.2021 (happy birthday, brother!)