Autumn Residency at Kilpisjärvi
posted by Christina Stadlbauer on 4 December 2017

It changes very quickly here – overnight the snow can come and then it is Winter.

That is what Oula Valkeapää mentioned when I arrived and we had dinner.

It took me a few days to get used to this environment.

My lungs, my eyes and ears needed to adapt.

On the second day, I went for a walk and did not advance much – had to stop and look down, notice a color or texture, take a picture, then look up, to the barren landscape and absorb this alien surroundings. When talking to Soichiro he told of a similar experience.

The speed needed to be adapted.

Then Mari left by Taxi. The evening before, we had a glass of wine and started to marvel at the playing cards made by Rauni Partanen – Tunturi Kasvit – a beautiful deck of cards that sparked some ideas about a possible future residency -

These cards could play different ways, also.

Friday, the sun illuminated with sharp contrast the surfaces of the North – the lake, the hills, the leafs, the black asphalt of the road. I cycled to Norway, the border just a few kilometers away, to see the vastness of Lapland continuing, just the same, on the other side.

On Saturday, I would get a better glimpse of Norway, when I cycled to the K-Market and Alko of the village of Kilpisjärvi. Like locusts in the bible, the shop was invaded by weekend visitors stocking up on Finnish beer and meat, and leaving some valuta together with raucous expressions of Norge speech in exchange. All was packed into expensive automobiles and quickly hauled back to Central European Time, some kilometers away.

The charm of border towns, North or South, always has something surreal to me.

Then, the snow came.

Monday morning, grey and rain, then slush, then snow.

By afternoon, the environment was white. The snow plough races down the street and the sounds start to be muffled.

The results of the Austrian elections reflect the shift lately observed throughout the Western World.

This cannot be muffled by the snow.

Tuesday, Leena and me went for a long walk to Leenan Lampi. The fresh snow and the sharp light created the background for a long conversation while hiking. The little lake had frozen over. All was still, only the spring kept the water open and moving.

The water divide also divides the character of the fish – the Arctic Char dwells in two neighboring lakes, of which one drains to the Atlantic, the other one to the Baltic Sea. These strands of fishes can never meet and mate and have developed noticeable different features.

We return along the reindeer fence.

Wednesday, the weather is grey and snowy. Rauni Parvinen, the botanist working at the Biological Station had promised to take me to the swamps to look for cloud berries. Luckily in the afternoon it clears and we can do our excursion.

Peeran Palsit – a very special swamp formation, eternally frozen below the surface, brings forth these berries. But this year, it is too late, only some leaves are left. .

Rauni knows so much, and sharing all her knowledge in her own language. she is challenging my Finnish. Well, I asked for it, in a way ...

I enjoy these encounters and feel privileged to be taken around by the locals.

The landscape keeps on surprising me.

Thursday. A very grey day. With my friend Helga who is visiting, we go for a walk and discover, again, the small details along the path near Saana.

In the evening, some excitement – the Aurora Borealis decided to put on an impressive show. Colors, movement, 3 D – it is all there!

How the Aurora looks is very unexpected – seen on many pictures and in videos, the real thing has nothing to do with these representations. These appearances are fast and alive, and so very different from what we are used to see in the atmosphere. Walls of light form within split seconds and carve sculptures into the sky. A glimpse and they vanish, to reappear otherwise.

One wonders if it is all “real” or just made up by a confused mind.

Following Leena's advice, on Friday we visit the Norwegian Alps, and take a trip across the border. It is a good moment to see the Fjord at its best. The top half of the mountain in snow, the lower half naked, dipped in the Atlantic ocean.

Norway is an oil country. At the only cafe in Skibotn there are two parking lots. One where some oil fueled cars are parked. Another with six Tesla supercharger stations. No cars are parked there. By 2025, Norway is set to ban petrol powered cars altogether.

On Saturday, we visited Leena's house. The night had been frosty and big beautiful crystals were decorating each branch and leave, the world was reflected in glistering colors in the sun.

A thin skin of ice was covering the lake near Leena and Oula's house, just not strong enough for walking.

Beauty, hospitality, warmth, endless questions about reindeer and how to live in the North – what looked like a short visit became a day long journey to a different reality, a travel to an unfamiliar, marvelous universe.