With a touch of sadness, I watched
the skyline of Helsinki fade into the distance. From the air, the city is even more beautiful … dotted with so much green space, surrounded by forests and water, a lovely city center with its newish cobbly streets, charming cafés and the outdoor ‘Kauppatori” where Sarah, Aliana, Margaret, Jennifer and I savoured so many baskets of delicious sweet sun ripened strawberries, raspberries, garden peas, cherries, not to mention Finnish crepes!
We had walked past the iconic green and white Helsinki Lutheran church many times. It sits perched on a hillside looking down at the cobbly streets of city center below. On the last few days on my own, I opted to climb the steps one afternoon hoping to catch some quiet meditative time. Given its decorative attractive outer appearance, I was surprised to see how unadorned the interior was. A simple, calm, restful church inside ….. white washed walls, a very basic altar, few statues. A quiet place of refuge, prayer or worship. I wonder if being of Finnish heritage has anything to do with my own growing need and appreciation for a peaceful life based on more simplistic principles? …. did I learn it somewhere, was it passed down from my parents, or just a natural personality based evolution?
Finland, once shrouded in the mystery of my long forgotten roots, reemerges as a living breathing reality. I will undoubtedly spend months absorbing what I learned ….. about both Finland, the extended family within and my inner connections to all of it. I fell in love with this beautiful country of a zillion lakes, home to the land of the midnight summer sun! I love that I finally walked the land my parents once called home, sat in the kitchen where mother cooked piirakaat, fish soup, her delicious sour dough rye bread, pulla, Christmas cookies! …. explored the sauna where I was born! … I love that I finally was able to connect with real live cousins, an aunt, an uncle and know that I do indeed have a heritage to be savoured, valued and cherished …. What a thrill to enjoy that Finnish national institution, the sauna …. It is a way of life in Finland and for a population of five and a half million, there are over two million saunas in the country, most of them at summer cottages … the treasured kesamokki!! There is no finer feeling than sweating it out in a wood-fired lakeside sauna, followed by a skinny dip in pristine cool lake water!! …. sharing this with my sister, our cousins, and having my daughter, granddaughter, and niece also embrace these experiences, filled the cup that just seemed to keep overflowing. The Saturday night sauna ritual was a big part of our childhood growing up in Canada and to a large extent I kept that going in its own little way within my immediate family during Sarah and Tim’s early childhood! I love also, that I feel comfortable around people I have just barely met, because of the family ties that bind us, not to mention our similar noses 🙂 ….. yes …. love is the cornerstone of it all!
Oh sure, a few regrets linger …. hind sight and retrospect being the wise old owls they are …. mostly I wish that I had taken more pictures and oh, more than anything, made time to chat and visit with every single one of our relatives!!! We were treated with such gracious generosity of spirit wherever we visited. Mikko, our host …. such a good soul, reminded me so much of my father …. has that same understated quiet, gentle, highly respectful nature. We so enjoyed our time in his beautiful kesamokki ….. Mikko heated his lakeside wood fired sauna for us nightly …. such wonderful memories to treasure always …. memories that undoubtedly will fuel plans for a future return someday.
Capturing some favourite moments of our time in Finland …. followed by my last few days in Finland, exploring the area around Helsinki ….
found the most amazing ‘Rock Church’ within the city limits … literally a church built around a huge rock formation in the city center with a copper dome ceiling … most amazing and incredibly peaceful inside and apparently one of the most visited sites in Helsinki!