There’s something incredibly freeing about wandering alone through a foreign city. The liberation of the anonymous, I suppose. I’ve lived in small country Australian towns now for the last fifteen years. Anonymity does not exist in such places, even as a rather solitary creature who prefers my own company. I’ve never been able to blend in.
But here I do, a foreign city, surrounded by people speaking a foreign language…I could be anyone. I stand on Aleksanterinkatu, drawn to a corner by a delightful noise, and I am honestly moved to tears by a man playing beautiful music on an elaborate array of glass bottles.
Surrounding me, watching also, are rosy cheeked Finnish faces, rugged up in big coats and beanies and mittens just like me. No one looks twice at me, and I feel like one of them. Except I lack the high, razor-sharp cheek bones. All around me, massive displays of Christmas lights and trees and hanging stars create a true winter wonderland that I had thought could only exist in my imagination or old movies. There are gnomes everywhere! Fairy lights everywhere! The windows of Stockmann’s department store house intricate, animated, musical displays that fascinate children. And a spinning one made of chocolate that fascinates me.
Small pieces of white fluff start falling from the sky. I look up. Did someone shake a rug out of a top floor window? That’s going to set off my hayfever. I chuckle at myself as I realise it is snowing, and can’t believe I actually thought that. Apparently still very much an Australian.
I came here to discover a part of my heritage, a part that had always drawn me despite being only one eighth of my genetics. I’ve thrown myself into the crowds and the energy and the pulse of the city. This trip, like all travel, is changing me. So many little mysteries falling into place, so many things make sense now. I am perpetually surprised that my halting Finnish is understood. Something about me is attracting the attention of tourists, and no less than four times so far I have been asked directions. What is that about? I am guessing the openness of the Australian face versus the more unreadable Finn. Or maybe just because I keep grinning. 😀
Jetlag has worked wonders on my knitting, and the fiddly Lilli Pilli and the linen crochet shawl charge ahead in the early hours of each morning. I’m also working on a jacket, which hopefully I’ll get finished to wear on the trip home because no way will it fit in my case.
Tempting as it has been to bust open the beautiful new Finnish yarns and have a party, I am keeping them perfect and chaste for now. Something very special will be planned for them…if indeed I can fit them in my suitcase too. In addition to the surreally appealing Muumi merchandise I keep buying, I may be struggling for room.
Come on. It’s a Moomin cookie cutter. How could anyone resist? 🙂
A splash of afternoon sun brings everyone out, turning their faces and bodies toward it. I find myself naturally avoiding it. It is the Europeans who love sunbaking, while ironically most of the Australians nowadays seem to hiss at it and run for the shade…
I wander also in quieter areas on days when I’m struggling a little. I largely ignore my diagnosis but occasionally it sneaks up and I have to pace myself as my joints crackle like bubble wrap. So I head for the beautiful cemetery by the water, where candles are lit on the graves throughout the dark winter months. The Sibelius monument. The Olympic stadium. This time of year, there are very few tourists. There’s a peace here, a comfortable, relaxed connection to the seasons. A different ebb and flow to the extreme brightness, energy and polarity of Queensland, currently sweltering in the summer heat and humidity.
I am reminded of a ring I used to wear, an intricately carved silver snail. It was a talisman at a traumatic time in my life, a symbol and a protective shell. A reminder that everything I needed was always carried within me. It feels good not to need that symbolic protection anymore, to know I can be at home anywhere. Even so, I miss it. Or rather, I miss M. He has not expressed the slightest word of complaint, despite the fact this trip has been so hard on him. We don’t live the kind of lifestyle one person alone can easily maintain whilst working full time.
I’ll be coming back here regularly. Even without the genetic link, my inexorable adoration of Moomins ensures it. But M will be coming too.
Next week…finally…the Christmas markets!! 😀