Three weeks on holiday, and I feel like it’s been a year since I left home on the early morning train to Tampere. I normally wouldn’t do this, but let’s go chronological.
Week #1, Monday
The train leaves Helsinki at 8 am, by 10 am I’m at Tampere, meet my favorite wolf for picnic at the Tammerkoski park, we go food shopping at the local Stockmann and end up stealing plastic spoons from yoghurt cans, to spread the hummus. I’ve missed the wolf, it’s so good to be near him.
The next train leaves at noon, R and the dog meet me at the station, they’ve been visiting her parents in Northern Carelia. The train is old and noisy, we travel to the west coast to meet K and spend a week at their cabin. I play the viola at the back of the train, the low rumbling makes a comforting ambience that hides the out-of-tune music, or so I hope.
We step off the train somewhere I’ve never been, our one-third is waiting for us, this is the place where their parent lives, we drive north along the coast to arrive at the country’s official Slow City. Seeing the place, it’s easy to understand why.
We empty the town’s supermarket and drive to 200 meters from the cabin. The rest of the way we carry the stuff, along a pathless forest path, the ground was shaped by the last ice age and left there to grow moss. Then suddenly the trees fade away and we see the sea, and the cabin. Time stops.
Tuesday to Friday
A holiday, why do I need a holiday? I’m fine, I’m not tired at all, see? I just can’t stop doing things, but that’s nothing new is it? Still, I switch off the mobile phone. It feels good to be out of touch.
After a few days, breakdown.
I lie on the rocks, I’m weak as a kitten, there’s nothing in the future, there can be no future, I’ll never get up, why did I end up like this again?
I’m in bed, read John Irving’s In One Person, immerse myself in the life story of a fictitious character, a while back I called Finnish Student Health Service, said I’m not okay, not at all okay, they gave me a date with a psychologist in two weeks. Until then, stay alive.
The sea is icy, but I swim anyway, or at least dip myself in the water, the dog whines and tries to understand what I’m doing, she doesn’t like people swimming. When the cold gets too tight a grip on me, I crawl to the rocks like a blind Gollum looking for my glasses, and towel myself off, I do feel alive.
Then we go home. I don’t stay there for long, just enough for some laundry. But it’s not good at home now, too many things waiting to be done, needing me to do them. It’s time be off again.
R stays home, K joins me and the dog for a while at my grandparents’ place. Grandpa isn’t home, of course, so the place is very quiet.
When K has to go back to town, after three hours alone I’m bored, in six, desperate, then I go to sleep. Every day, I’m more and more comfortamble by myself. If last week was rainy and unstable, this is a heat wave, we don’t want to go out too much. I finish the Irving and turn to Conan Doyle, gulp down the Hound of the Baskervilles, I’m alone in a big dark house and the heat of the day comes crashing down in an endless thunderstorm, they’d left a kilo of chocolate in the fridge, well there’s not much left of it now.
This place is a perfect hideout for me, a place of rest. I don’t pick any berries, I pick myself up from the ground, sweep the floors for pieces of me, take time to settle them in a new order. Here, a year ago, I tried on the new name; here, in the darkness of the tiny sauna at the back of the yard, I am reborn time and time again from the womb of my becoming-aware. I need this place to be there for me – I need this place to be me.
On Thursday, I head home. A week and a half of holiday still left!