Migrant Tales Literary: The expatriate and the meaning of the four seasons of Finland

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By Enrique Tessieri

Three matters happen to some of us when we move to a foreign country: We learn to live with separation and yearning. Some of us grasp as well that in each farewell we die a little as the French poet, Edmond  Haraucourt, once wrote.

In distant lands we learn to hear those lachrymose tunes emanating from the woods and that in each season the concert is different but the same.

Winter: Assurance

The forest under sub-zero temperatures has many personalities. Contrary to humans, and since trees and plants cannot move like humans, they must travel with their imagination and with the help of the seasons.

Do they feel separation, yearning and change as we do? The answer may lie in the many flakes of snow that descend on our faces, each having a different weight thawing into water.

Is the acceptance of winter to my silence and stance an assurance that Finland has never forgotten me, even if I live today in faraway lands?

A group of Finnish settlers in Misiones, Argentina, in the 1920s.

Spring: Separation

In foreign lands I have heard spring water trickling and budding leaves thousands of kilometers from the source in Finland. In foreign lands, I’ve paid closer attention to the three springs: early spring; mid-spring; and late-spring. I especially miss mid-spring, or those days that begin to announce faintly summer’s approach.

Such days overflow with sunlight, with nights still infatuated with pitch-darkness.  Nature’s susurrations are everywhere. Under the sweet scent of birches, spruces and firs, lichen releases a soft crackling sound that sounds like an enormous just-opened bottle of lightly carbonated mineral water.

The separation of late-spring and early-summer ends with a furious knockout punch to the former.

Summer: Longing

There are two types of longing that some experienced: faint and strong. They are no different from the sub-seasons you’ll find in spring and in summer. Summer is so short in these latitudes that you can almost count the days with your fingers.

Days continue to get longer in early-summer until they reach their zenith in midsummer. Summer eventually learns to balance itself over the landscape in harmony and is at a perfect distance from its predecessor and successor, spring and autumn.

I occasionally take afternoon naps on summer. Rain makes me drowsy. If you listen closely, each raindrop that splashes on the roof has a different sound. It is like a lullaby that puts me to sleep.

Around mid-July, the sun barely winks or hints of dark night. Now twilight and darkness appear on tiptoes and with great care begin rearranging the landscapes for autumn.

Summer can be a tragedy for some. 

Autumn: Farewell

When autumn leaves and colors begin to abound, it is a time for some of us to bid Finland farewell and return to our homes in foreign lands. If you still haven’t left, darkness is now so thick that one feels as if he were floating in the abyss like in early and mid-spring.

The real reason why some of us return to Finland in summer is because we fear that our former childhood landscapes may forsake us. Every time we return to our former homes and say farewell we are modestly reaffirming that we are and continue to be Finns irrespective of our new religious, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds.

Even if some would want to banish us for good from this land, its useless because everyone knows that you cannot intimidate your deepest feelings and memories.

  1. Merja

    “you cannot intimadate your deepest feelings and memories”. This is the way it works! It is always there, your memories, but for sure. almost every time you can manage your deepest memories. The most difficult thing is the “feelings”, I don’ t know how to manage this matter!
    Many years away of Finland and it’s always the same: I feel lost in Christmas!!
    Anyway! Merry Christmas for everybody!

    • Enrique

      Hi Merja, controlling one’s feelings can be challenging at times. Christmas must be for you a call to return to Finland.

      Merry Christmas to you as well!

  2. MaryMekko

    In spite of all I say, I love Finland and my fond memories of its beauty in Ruska time and early winter. I do also recall the darkness, cold and blank cement walls of Helsinki, that was even scary, possibly slippery on the ice.

    Here in San Francisco we’re more concerned with street harassment and bums, beggars, drunks and druggies hitting on us for money, insulting us and so on.

    Which is worse, I wonder? But now, Finland has both, I hear, and its people cannot cope with the latter infiltration of trouble. Snow, ice and darkness, yes; bothersome foreigners, NYET!!!!

    Oh those poor Romani, honestly scraping a living off the golden sidewalks of Helsinki. Why don’t they just become single parents and qualify for lots of tax-paid help, housing and medical care?

  3. eyeopener

    @Marimekko.

    These bums. beggars, drunks and druggies who actually are a street harassment here in Finland are indees…….NATIVES!!

    Far away from reality it is easy to judge!!

    Boeh again to your unjustified assessment of foreigners in Finland.

    But I think in your case a long time away means getting a myopya. Then you get yourself the wrong glasses and that makes you virtually a blind ass!!

    Stop!!

  4. Marymekko

    I don’t remember any street harassment in Helsinki in the early 1980’s, except one man in a trench coat popping out from behind a tree, flashing naked. It was on the path to Roihuvuori Metro Station. But that’s a rare thing, isn’t it?

    I can judge these things as well as anyone, Eyeopener, and our visitors to SF are always judging the safety and cleanliness of our streets, constantly giving us feedback. Should I tell them that they are not qualified since they don’t live here? In Finland, opinions aren’t okay? God, what a Communist mentality that everyone has to shut his mouth!

    That would only leave foreigners like me, who care about Finland, having open opinions.

    I was also harassed on the platform of Roihuvuori Station in 2006 by very dark men, and they were going at it with all females waiting silently in that cold, grey place. Pretty nasty! I couldn’t determine their country of origin, but they were Finns or Irish! Those drunks I know!

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