Friday, 16 August 2013

The Rose-Coloured Hours


Up, north of the Arctic Circle where the land is a carpet of blueberry and rock, where old forests grow tall and spindly, and where summer is one long day, we hiked through valleys and forests, over fells and past lakes.



Other than the whining of mosquitoes, it is an eerily silent place, and the sky feels somehow larger sitting atop the ancient, worn down mountains or hovering over the bog lands and watery valleys.  Only on our second day's walk was the silence broken by curlews singing in the high branches of some mountain-top trees.



Our little folding map showed places with names given to them by Sami people with meanings such as 'witch fell', 'sacrifice ridge', and 'holy baptism lake', a sort of shorthand that helped the stories of the land overlap our experience of it.



The forests had two sorts of paths: the paths made and used by people and reindeer, and the far more numerous paths created by millions and millions of ants. Ant hills taller than a person were everywhere. They were usually old enough to be partially covered in well-established low-growing plants, and had paths leading to and from in all directions, as wide as a single-person footpath, and running dark with the bodies of rushing ants.



So we scrabbled up rocky fells where sometimes the rocks carried wavy imprints of the bottom of the sea, and we said our 'hei's and 'terve's ('hi's and 'hello's) to the few and far-flung hikers we passed. And we felt a little sheepish in our regular clothes and shoes, which suddenly seemed inappropriate when met with hiking gear.



But mostly we were alone in these delicate forests. And sometimes, dreaming and walking, it was as though we had wandered into the folklore illustrations of Ivan Bilibin.



As we walked, we gathered the wild blueberries which were starting to ripen. Everywhere not covered by stone, there were blueberry bushes huddled next to the earth.



After a few hours of walking we came to the wooden cabin where we would spend the night. There was also a sauna, a sheltered place to have a cooking fire, and a well, and...



... mushrooms growing, and violets, and cloudberries, and more blueberries....



... but best of all, there was a whole lake and a little dock with steps leading down into the water!



It was one-thirty in the morning before we looked at our watches and realized that the reason we were feeling so hungry was because we had forgotten to eat dinner, since it was still light out. A little later, the sky started to change colour.



Running from the sauna to the lake, in a sort of over-hot daze, everything was tinted with the luminous pink of a sunset where the sun would not set.  Though I was too busy swimming then to take a photo, I remember the green of the plants glowing against rose and tangerine and cool blues, the way some paintings from around the end of the nineteenth century glowed.



From the water we were able to see mist crawling across the water at eye-level. We watched it form at the edges of the lake and creep out across the still waters.



Luckily, this strange, prolonged moment of sunset-sunrise lasted so long that we were able to swim, sauna, build up a fire and cook some food over it, and still get some photos. (Though, I fear we missed capturing the most beautiful moments of it.)












And then, finally, with a little fire dancing in the cabin stove and the nighttime cold and daytime sun, we drew the curtains against the light and went to sleep.



In the morning, combing my hair on the cabin's porch, I was passed by a tall reindeer ambling down to the lake. (Not the little one in the photo above. We met later in the woods.)



How lovely it would be to spend a whole year or more in this enchanted place!


18 comments:

  1. Oh, Jodi, how very magical and beautiful! I am very envious that you made it so far north, where I have not, even over several trips in several decades. All our time was always spent visiting numerous family scattered about further south. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with such gorgeous photos and words.

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  2. I'm glad you liked it Marja-Leena. We were really lucky to get up there. Really the only reason we managed it is because the Finnish Rail was having a crazy summer sale on tickets to the north. I get the feeling that more people tend to visit Lapland during winter to ski under the aurora borealis (which sounds lovely too). It looked like most everyone else on the train was a northerner taking advantage of the low prices to visit the cities down south. It was so lovely to be there in summer time though! I hope you get up there too sometime soon!!

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  3. That was simply stunning. Thank you.

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  4. Thrilling, enchanting, spell binding, magical, transforming....and I saw only the photos and reading of impressionist words....so I can somewhat imagine how you are doing.

    Thank you a million times for sharing! I will read this again and again....

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    1. So glad you enjoyed reading and looking! It really was an incredible experience visiting up there, but also very homey feeling... as woods and lakes and mosquitoes (and, strangely, even saunas) are what all of my childhood summers were made of.
      Thanks so much for your sweet words!

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  5. Lovely, thank you so much for posting this.

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    1. You're very welcome, and thanks for stopping by!

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  6. What a lovely blog you have. I love Ivan Bilibin too! One of my best flea market finds was one of his fairytale books. I live in scandinavia too, but not as far up north as the arctic circle. *Love Sara*

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    1. What a lucky find!

      I was just visiting Finland actually, though I think it must be a wonderful place to live. These days I'm living in the north of Scotland, which is still a long way south of where those pictures were taken. :)

      And I only mention it because of your name, but just last night I saw a Spanish film about Snow White, but it was set in the 1920s and the dwarfs were matadors. Have you seen it?

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  7. what a gorgeous, gorgeous place and poetic post! and i listened to the birds as i read, and then went on to discover ivan bilibin's works... fantastic, thank you so much!
    ps, i have never heard of ant hills so big! wow!!

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    1. You're welcome!!
      I would have posted a photo of the anthills, but the only one has me standing in it for scale and it's a horrible photo. Ants had started crawling up my legs as I stood waiting for the photo to be taken, and I started to wonder if they were a friendly sort of ant, or a angry, biting sort... so I looked pretty unhappy. But I think they may have been a friendly sort, after all.

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    2. i can't believe you stood in it!! thank goodness they turned out to be non-violent :D

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    3. Oh, ha ha! I meant standing in the photo, not the anthill. I just stood beside it, but there were ants everywhere so even a few feet from it seemed like dangerous ground.

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  8. Wow. Fantastic post. Thank you for sharing. You've taken me to a place I needed to see. Lucky me!

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    1. Thank you so much, and very glad you enjoyed it!

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  9. Oi! Ended up here don't-know-from-where, and found images from a place called home (although I'm not from the north).. Was so good too see a glimpse of the nordic summer! Thank you, a Finn in Cape Town

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    1. Welcome! Glad you stopped by, I'll have to head over to your place and see if I can get a look at spring!

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