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!