It’s Sunday night and I’m leaving. The boat hits the dock and my dad lifts my sport bag from the boat. Hugs to both my parents, then I’m on the road and they stay starting the boat’s engine. When crossing an enormous bridge (there used to be a ferry boat for years crossing this water, but it was too slow for today’s people), I take one last look at the place which holds a permanent place in my heart: the archipelago. Soon I’ll be back in Helsinki, stitching some badges on to my overalls and later on opening bottles of bubbly with my Uni friends. Shouldn’t that make me happy instead of wistful? Why is it getting harder every year to leave my island place behind?
I have been spending time in the Finnish archipelago since I was a kid. No, actually, since I was a baby. My mother used to put pillows into a large sauna pail and put us in to the middle (with life vests of course), so then if the tiny motorboat would hit waves, babies would roll on the floor, happily asleep and unharmed. I’ve spent many a Vappu in our old place on an island, spraying the colorful Vappu spray all over the yard in dramatic wars with my brothers (of course afterwards our mom would hand us some rakes and tell us to clean everything up). I never missed Helsinki there, life was simple and fun, but also different: no running water, electricity, indoor toilets and the next contact to people 30 minutes by boat, with surprising storms making things interesting. I learned new things every day and sometimes I feel like that even though school was for learning, the life in the archipelago offered me some real education. I learned to disentangle fishing nets, chop wood, make a fire, gut fish… I also learned why roaches die if you put them to ponds full of rainwater, and how to make bows out of willow (all skills and facts which I find very useful even today).
When I hit puberty, all I wanted to do was to get out of the cottage. I wanted to go to Helsinki, drink warm beer in Kaivopuisto and sleep late. The only thing I did find interesting was learning how to drive the motorboat, although I couldn’t care less about studying the beacons (and yes, I had to learn them eventually). The cottage felt so small, the world was somewhere out in the nights of the city, in the wild eyes of a boy I had only kissed once, glistening in the bottom of a cider bottle.
But something changed. Now when I drive with my dad to a place where the sea opens and we kill the engine, let the boat ride calmly on the grey waves and stare at the reddening sky in the horizon, I find myself thinking, “This is it. This is everything I need”. What happened? I thought I wouldn’t come here voluntarily, or at least would want to get the hell out as soon as possible. Now I find myself saying that I think I could stay here for Vappu, or for a week. Or for a month.
I think it’s got something to do with the perspective.
As a kid, the most important thing was to do things new to me, to find new trees to make huts to, to find new rocks to climb and make new cool weapons from wood. (I always thought my brother’s wooden axe was the coolest). But now I miss the stability. See, even though many things change in my life in the city, new courses every period, new challenges at work, some people disappearing and new ones appearing, the archipelago stays the same. I miss the rocks that stay same, the trees that don’t seem to grow taller and the sea that has the ever-lasting rhythm of its own, shifting in ceaseless motion. When climbing to our backyard rock and staring at the horizon, my own life seems so positively insignificant and all the major problems seem to get less serious. What does it matter what grade I get from my proseminar paper or if my hair need some dyeing? The screeching seagulls don’t care about my make-up, the warm sand doesn’t require manicure.
I hope that this never changes.