We've stayed long enough so that Finland no longer looks as much like Maine to me (although there are certianly similarities). It simply looks like itself. At one point, I saw a flight of crows startled out of a wheat filed, black darts flung across gold, then falling back into it. Later, I saw what seemed to be a granite exhibit, with different colors and shapes arranged in groups and people walking around among them with the inclined head and the leisurely gait of museum-goers. And trees, of course: birches, spruce, maple, fir, pine. Lakes, wrinkled satin under a blue sky. A clutch of white, modernist buildings with glassed-in balconies, a truck yard full of disconnected semis waiting for cargo, a pale yellow wooden house with lacy gingerbread trim on the eves and around the windows. Little town after little town. More industry, more modern buildings, glass and square and labeled with company names, railyards and smokestacks, and at last Helsinki, where I'm beginning to feel almost at home--because I've returned to it twice, I think. There's something about returning and recognizing corners, streets, the receptionist behind the desk, that gives an illusion of homecoming. We had requested the room we'd had before, and got it, which added to the cosy sense of familiarity.
Our last day in Helsinki was a whirlwind of sightseeing. The weather was perfect--cool, clear, dry, bright--real sucker weather, in fact. We took an easy morning, catching up on sleep and mail. Ellen Skyped her brother. I read A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book on my iPhone (I love it, by the way, and may write about it, once I've come to at home.) We ate lunch on the Esplanade, in the jewel-box greenhouse we'd had dinner at last week, the cafe section, in a little glass turret with a banquette, very romantic, and looked out at all the passers-by. Refreshed, we hit, in rapid succession, the Museum of the City of Helsinki, the Sederholm House, and the Burgher's House-all scattered across a part of the city we hadn't seen before.
My favorite was the Sederholm House (the oldest house in Helsinki, built for a prosperous merchant in 1757). It's a lovely house, classically and comfortably proportioned, but the really cool thing was the exhibition, called Night (the official description is here). One room was a traditional bedchamber, furnished with a curtained bed, a commode chair, a linen chest. The next was a Jugendstil bedroom, very Arts & Crafts, with a cabinet full of nightwear and toiletries, including a thing like a transparent eye-mask which turned out to be a mustache-press. When we'd recovered from that, we entered a series of rooms full of night-related odds and ends unearthed in building sites: pipe shards, wine glasses, glass pearls found in a grave, a sample coffin, a knife, a lantern. The rooms were dark, as the streets were dark before the days of public artificial light, and full of the sounds of hooting owls, mating cats, grunting hogs, and rowdy singing. I can't say that a stuffed wolf and cat added much to the atmosphere of fear and danger, (the stuffed owl, on the other hand, creeped me right out) but they certainly upped the kitsch quotient. As did a couple of the more modern nightlife exhibits, most notably the disco room.
Our last stop as tourists in Helsinki was the National Museum of Finland, where we sat under Gallen-Kalela's remarkable frescoes of scenes from the Kalevala, rested our hot, tired feet and decided not to look at any more exhibits. Or houses. Or shops. We'd go back to the hotel, rest, change, have a nice dinner, maybe take a (brief) walk down by the harbor where we'd walked nearly 3 weeks ago, on our first night in Finland, have a last tar ice-cream, pack, and go to bed.
And that's what we did.
And now we're home again, and I have to unpack, wash, put away, make notes on a story I've been playing with in my head, catch up on business, and get ready to go to Atlanta for Faerie Escape, brought to you by some of the folks who did Mythic Journeys, at which we will talk about folklore and fairies with the likes of Charles Vess and Lisa Stock and Ari Berk.