After an early cup of coffee in the Neste Oil filling station, where we were nicely welcomed by nearly a dozen villagers, Eeva left me alone in a rented 32 square meter apartment in the empty middle of Posio and she took off for the twelve hours drive back to South Finland (my publisher once told me that writers often don’t have a driving licence, so, Eeva, here’s my excuse).
I went for a walk as the clouds played with the sun, letting its light through but only rarely showing a glimpse of its weakened body. Although there have been many days with full sun and nights with stars and northern lights, I will always remember Posio as a place where clouds sweep low over the lakes and marshes, as in an attempt to erase everything, or to cover life in eternity. More than once I got the impression that the more north clouds drift, the heavier they become, just like thoughts and dreams and all that.
Last week’s snow had disappeared during the night. The path towards Kirintövaara was now covered by putrefying grasses, burning red like Lemminkäinen’s beard, and the half-light intensified all the colours of the marshes. I breathed an indistinct smell of wetness, scents of an eternal nowhere.
As I strolled through the wilderness, I did not meet any people, I saw no more animals than a couple of ravens that flew over the emptiness and cried for time to pass by. I didn’t really search for it, but I found an intense loneliness today. I think that I had expected it, but not yet on my first day of the months that I will spend here on my own. I did not fear this loneliness, because it was, in a way, the reason to be here. For a writer, loneliness can be the wellspring of creativity.
I climbed the old ski-jump of Kotivaara that looks out to the north. The wooden tower has not been used for many years. Its stairs are nearly rotten, and as I reached its platform, I felt the wooden construction slowly moving by the force of the wind. There I stood, watching out over the desolate land behind God’s back, where Ultima Thule starts.
Soon, the loneliness started to work on me. Thoughts appeared silently but they disappeared before I could grab them. All I had to do was to listen to the wind and focus on the dancing moves of the ski-jump. New ideas arose, some of them merely touched me, but others shook my shoulders and took my breath. Were I to have a pen that could instantly write down the stream of thoughts, a book or two would have been produced today.
I pondered on how many great ideas must have risen in billions of minds, and how many of those have stayed there, in the mind, dead as thoughts are dead as long as they remain just thoughts. For a moment I thought that I understood why these thoughts and ideas remained dead – out of fear – but a minute later I rejected the hypothesis. A new breeze blew and pulled the wooden ski-jump tower and then I thought of other things. To whom do people relate themselves?, I thought. City men find friends among the similar; writers’ friends are writers, doctors spend their time with doctors, runners with other runners and the truck driver parks his truck between other trucks. In a village, the doctor’s neighbour can be an old and cheerless widow and on the other side of the street lives a farmer. In a village, the social sphere of influence includes everyone; villagers relate themselves to all other villagers.
Many more thoughts came up, but I will not reveal them – not yet. Just like a brook, a thought needs time and place to magnify, before it is great enough to debouch into the sea of all these other thoughts, ideas and confessions.
I went down the rotten steps of the ski-jump, down the snowless skiing route where wood chips muted my footstep and I turned to the road that took me home. In the 32 square meters apartment I played Einaudi and I burned a candle and in the midst of it, the loneliness suddenly turned into a grey sadness. There I sat, with melancholic wordless music that I had brought up north. Even the poetry that I had brought with me (Ted Hughes’s The Hawk in the Rain, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and a couple of Dutch poets) did not include anything that could cheer me, as I had chosen them thematically: the few things that I had brought with me up North were all to promote loneliness.