Freed-latitude + Freed-longitude = Freedlandia (p.s. This is NOT an official Department of State website. All views and ideas expressed are my own and are not representative of either the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.)
I knew this was going to happen. I knew the second I got off the plane I would feel that dormant Nordic gene awaken in me…(never mind that I grew up in California). I knew deep deep down that once I stepped into that cold, dark snicey winter wonderland I would be changed forever…and that is what’s happening.
The reality is that I’m usually happiest during winter in New York. It’s colder, darker, I can eat more and nap longer. On a cellular level I feel like I am surviving, not thriving, so there’s this sense of drama I don’t normally feel with the other seasons. Also, and this is my favorite, it’s quiet! It’s like putting on noise-cancelling headphones in a freezer that smells like crisp, clean pine. The relentless assault of noise that we live with can be overwhelming…the quiet that snow allows is so welcome.
Over the years I have found myself searching for a “pause” button in those moments of winter euphoria…literally trying to channel all my energy into a nanosecond of delicious silence. And the isolation! Oh my, the feeling of being alone, cut off, dominates your senses and focuses the mind. The only thing I can compare this feeling to is when my daughter closes her eyes after eating her first summer mouthful of ice cream and exhales what sounds like “yummy!”
I have been here two months now, and I am only growing more comfortable with this idea of what winter should be. I love the 60% chance of snow…everyday! I love not seeing concrete until it sneaks above 32 for a few days. I love hearing the click of ice skates and hockey sticks at the Viitaniemi rink every evening when I take a walk. I love deconstructing my outfit everytime I go inside…and putting it all back together when it’s time to leave. I don’t love slipping, but I do love what’s happened to my walking pace: it’s slowed down…a lot! I love the frozen lakes, the mountains of plowed snow, the tracks of footsteps, bikes, and skis wherever I go. I love the silent acceptance from my children when they’re told it won’t get above 10 degrees fahrenheit for days. There’s a lot to love.
I now need winter…and not just winter, the Suomen talvi. I’ve been told by every Finn I meet to just wait till Spring. “It’s so green,” they all say as if it were a promise wrapped in an apology. The thing is, I don’t want Spring. I don’t want an apology for the cold and white and darkness. If Spring comes along and flashes its colors…if the temperature gets above 35 fahrenheit and the snow disappears and the trees perk up and the grass glistens with the dew of kevätaika…I don’t know what I’m going to do.