As summer brings a delightful fresh approach to Boston, people finally can find relief in the warmth of balmy weather after going through the harshest winter in the history. The weather is gently reminding me of my last summer in Lahti-Finland where I have been calling home for four years.
Lahti is visually stunning during summer. Greening every single leaf. Coloring every single flower. The light-filled cobblestone passageways are surrounded by ethereal herbaceous perennials. The central lake resembles a patchwork of mirrors reflecting the white-blue hues of summer skies and the greenish embankment encircling the reservoir. The glaring sun above is scattering crystal diamonds across the limpid water. The harmonious combination of genuine colors draws a haunting picture of majestic nature. Among tranquil sidewalks, sitting rustic benches and elderly couples who are hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, looking out over the sun-soaked lake. Several young couples are relaxing and sunbathing on the lakeside beaches while swans basked in the warm sunlight. Near and far away walking a batch of people in bright flowery outfits that rather spices up the radiant background. Likewise, the aroma of adjacent lovely coffee shops and food vendors will be an ideal treat for your senses, and you will be serenaded with music by talented street performers. The whole scenery speaks out peace and happiness. Arctic summer is as fabulous as Cockaigne. (1)
On my way to school, I usually biked through verdant, sun-drenched woods upon little hills. Hearing trees singing in the wind, I had my head in the clouds; imagined my twenty-something self as a young forest: fresh and full of sap. I had started developing a hunger to see Europe since I was in my early teens. Setting foot on Finland, I saw snow for the first time; touched it with my bare hands. Being overwhelmed by the breathtaking in-white scenery covering ancient and romantic places I kept dreaming about, I was about to burst into a million tiny bubbles of joy. Of all my fondest memories, I owe heartfelt thanks to my dear host family, especially my "äiti" who has always made me feel at home. "Äiti" in Finnish means mama. The Finnish, in short, is candid, yet gracious inside. My "äiti" is an ordinary Finnish woman, a grace-energized widow and a loving mother. Despite the most hardship she has encountered, she still rises forward with courage and hope. She is my greatest source of inspiration. We frequently shared heaps of fun talking about life, love and relationship while immersing ourselves in the spirit of Finnish saunas.
And one prominent event that cannot be omitted when mentioning about striking Finnish Summers is Juhannus or Midsummer. It is the most iconic natural phenomena of Finland when the day is longest; the sun is at its highest and the blurred boundary between dusk and dawn creates a faint glow in the sky. As Juhannus just in the rearview window, my news feed is flooded with Midsummer Eve photos and updates. In an instant, my memory perked up vividly the famous Finnish Tongue Twister about Juhannus: "Kokko, kokkoo kokkoo koko kokko! - Koko kokkoko? - Koko kokko. Kokkookko?" (2) that my friends back there had repeatedly tried to teach me. "Kokko" - Huge Midsummer Bonfires are traditionally part of Finnish Midsummer Celebrations. They are ceremoniously lit on the lakeshores all over Finland on Midsummer Eve. Saunas are warmed up, BBQ grills are prepared, and families stay up most of the night...
Am I too greedy to have many homes in my heart? On the spur of the moment, when all the memories of sunny days conjured me up, drove me to scribble those lines; I couldn't help but stir up the tides and tides of emotions. I am truly blessed for all that had come those days. Every single time, when I get off the bus, look back and say "Thank you" to the driver (3), I realize how well Finland has trained me. The inevitable passage of time is a great reminder that with all the change in the world, although I am no longer young, no longer innocent, and no longer careless; the dexterity, mature, motivated person I became is predominantly composed of those people, places and experiences I have observed. It is Finland convincing me that Santa Claus (4) will always send presents for those who keep dreaming and embracing life. It is "End-land" (5) that once you leave, you will endlessly long to return...
(1) Cockaigne, originally a French word, is an imaginary land of luxury, mythic and idleness.
(2) Meaning "Kokko (a surname), gather up the whole bonfire! - The entire bonfire? - The entire bonfire. Now will you gather it up?"
(3) Finns commonly say "Kiitos" (which means "Thank you" in English) to the driver before leaving the bus.
(4) Finland is widely known as the hometown of Santa Claus
(5) In French, "Finlande" literally means "End-land" ("Fin" means "end").