13 helmikuuta 2024

Why I can’t stop coming back to Finland


Dr Seuss famously said: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." I decided I didn't have to choose either and could do both.

So, I’m sadly and gladly writing this at the end of a five-week stay in Finland. It’s my third time here, and I hope it won’t be my last. Many things draw me here. There are tangible aspects like my dear friend Tuula and the beautiful, soul-enriching, laughter-infused hospitality I have received from her and her husband, Timo. Then there’s Finland's natural beauty. The palette of colours in the northern skies, the fluffy snow blankets wrapping the trees, and the fresh, clear Nordic air.

Oh, and then there's the saunas. My biggest apprehension about returning home is the distinct lack of them. I keep telling myself that I've coped before, and I'm sure I'll adjust in time, but it feels like a daunting prospect right now.

Each trip seems to bring a new experience. Two years ago, it was my first smoke sauna and ice hole. Whoa, chilly! This time, it was my initiation into the enlivening world of a vihta spanking. Se oli hyvä!

Of course, sauna bathing carries a physical appeal through its calming vitality and peaceful exhilaration. But there is something deeper that I find much more challenging to describe. In fact, for many of the things that draw my soul to Finland, words seem woefully inadequate. It’s not what a sauna does; it’s what it represents. The mysterious magic that exists between the lines.

I felt this magic on my first trip in August 2018 when the HSP Association invited me to join and speak/perform at a gathering in Oulu. I was only here for two nights but quickly felt at home. From the moment I was greeted at the airport, I felt accepted. I can't overstate how meaningful that was for me during a particularly turbulent and emotionally painful season in my life. So, I will be forever grateful for the event and the unconditional welcome from everyone I met during the weekend. It was very special to finally meet members of my online Haven community, who, until then, I had only known as digital pen pals.

The concert I played in the evening sits in my soul’s memory with delicious poignancy. It was a transcendent experience for me when I connected with something special. It was such a joy to perform my songs in a room of highly sensitive people and enjoy our shared human language of music together.

It was also helpful to be warned ahead of the event that if a Finnish person is staring at you like they want to kill you when you’re talking, it probably means they are happily enjoying what you’re saying. Now, this might have been a lie to make me feel better about myself. Either way, it was also a helpful confidence booster in a Q&A session when I looked out at a sea of faces looking at me with what I would otherwise have perceived as contempt. It told me that the Finnish are my kind of people. It is liberating to feel like it’s ok to remain quiet, to slow down, and pause for thought. It was a delight to be part of.

Returning to this trip, I’ve seen some change during the past five weeks. The most notable is the length of the days. When we reached Äkäslompolo in mid-January, the sun skirted the horizon for about three hours. That was fascinating to me. I loved it. Especially the pastel colours that turned the skies into unreal landscapes. I had to pinch myself several times to check if I wasn't dreaming. How much I will miss the kahvi ja laskiaispulla, runebergintorttu, takkamakkara, mustikkapiirakka...

I am taking another piece of Finland home in me as I end another wonderful trip. I'll be back, maybe for an autumn in Finland. See you then!

Andy Mort, UK


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