July 23rd, 2010
We could have gotten to Nauvo in an hour and a half on a bus and a ferry from Parainen, but we elected to take the island cruise on the good ship Autere, which took three hours, because what the hey, it was a beautiful day, and I like archipelagos. As we put-putted along, Ellen exclaimed that glacial rocks look like loaves of dark rye bread, which they do--even down to a light dusting of lichen and lime. Only the tiniest islands are uninhabited, although many of the houses lurk back among the trees and can only be deduced by a tiny bathing house built out on the rocks or a boat tethered to a weathered dock--or, in one case, a helicopter on a sea-side helipad. After I'd had enough sun and wind, I retired to the cozy cabin, curled up on a cushioned bench, and actually wrote about 600 words on Wizard's Apprentice, glancing up from time to time to watch the islands gliding by. It was very satisfying. They aren't very coherent words, but they're better than nothing.
Nauvo itself is living proof that all small seaside resort towns are more alike than they are different. There is a harbor full of motor launches and beautifully-cared for and whimsically-named sailboats. There are shops selling hoodies and deck shoes and colorful tops and hats and bathing suits. There are shops selling maritime souvenirs, many of them made of rope or brass. There are food stalls and ice-cream stands (although I'm reasonably sure that only in Scandanavia does fish smoked on the premises count as fast food). There are tourists in sunburns and brightly-colored shorts and sandals pushing strollers and carrying tearful toddlers. There are small children with ice-cream smeared faces running around in an ecstasy of freedom and sugar. There is a harborside hotel--in this case, painted red with white trim--with flower boxes around the terrace and light, airy rooms with white furniture and chintz curtains and sprigged wallpaper.
Our room boasts a large porch, with a table and two plastic suitable for writing and two reclining chairs suitable for reading. We have used all of them for both of those things--also for hanging out the Necessary Washing I've done over the past two days and eating the last of our blueberry pie/cookie. The weather is variable--warm and sunny one moment, cool, heavy, and threatening the next. It's clear from the yellowed grass that rain would be welcome, and we're very cosy and busy in our little room, so I rather hope it does storm, and get it out of its system.
Before we settled down to our reading and writing, we ate lunch (Caesar salad with smoked salmon, and very nice indeed, and 14 cl of Crowmore apple cider, which we shared with some wasps) and dropped into the church. It is utterly enchanting, built originally in 1340-something out of granite blocks, with lovely groined ceilings and whitewashed and decorated walls. All that's left of the original paintings are two out of the seven Cardinal Virtues (Strength and Fortitude) on the pillars nearest the altar, and portions of some shadowy saints high along the nave. The ribs of the arches are painted with ochre and terracotta chevrons, which must have been done fairly recently, but look like they've been there forever. I don't know when the box pews were added--possibly 1767, when the churchyard wall and gate were built. They're carved and painted a lovely serene blue. There's a splendid model ship in full sail hanging in the nave, near an utterly incongruous crystal chandelier that looks like a refugee from a Las Vegas hotel. I took pictures, which I promise faithfully to post somewhere you can see them when I get home, because I have a new camera, and I almost know how to use it.
Continuing our island-and-church tour of the Turku archipelago, this morning we took the free ferry to the nearby island of Selie. It's not an island with a happy history, having been the center of the sealing trade for centuries, not to mention being the site of a leper hospital, and later an insane asylum for women which didn't close until 1973. At some point, they built a church on the island for the lepers, a rough-hewn and strictly practical building whose considerable beauty depends entirely on its proportions, which are lovely, the barrel ceiling over the nave, and the ships-railing screens separating the lepers from the rest of the congregation. Everything is unpainted raw wood--ceiling, walls, box pews, altar--except the pulpit, which is decorated with slightly smug-looking angels in cream-colored lozenges and backed by a painting of a woman on a sick-bed being comforted by an angel holding a host. The painting was as rough as the construction, and very hard to see. But it fit with the church, as did the pair of carved hands holding candles and the individual wooden candleholders stuck into holes on the backs of the pews. The whole place smelled of wood, and was very peaceful. In the graveyard we walked through rows of wooden crosses with women's names on them--the last of the asylum inmates, dying off one by one.
We walked around the island for a while, looking at wildflowers and the old asylum (occupied these days by a Marine Research Institute, and closed to the public), watching the weather change from bright sunshine to windy gloom. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, we took the early ferry back to Nauvo, where we are spending the afternoon making arrangements to stay in Finland an extra four days.
Yes, it's a surprise to us, too. Ellen has been struck by an idea for a story set in Keralia, where Elias Lannrot did much of his research for the Kalevala. And Keralia is a lot closer to where we are now than it is to New York, and the story is for an anthology due this fall. The long and the short of it is, instead of coming home on July 28, we're going to Kuhmo, where there's a Kalevala theme park (yes, really), and an outdoor museum full of old houses. With Kati Clements and her husband, because that's where she comes from and her husband's a folklore and history buff and she's a saint.
We're coming home August 2 instead.
Good thing I brought extra medication.
Tomorrow, we leave the islands (although there may or may not be one more dinner cruise with Tero and some other folks we met at Finncon) for Turku. As always, it'll be hard to leave Nauvo, just as we're beginning to feel settled. Doesn't take us long, does it?