2023–10–06 | IMOX

The landscape lingered in the twilight of the dawning day, brightening hue by hue. The mist rose along steep hillsides of Koli. Suddenly the morning light dimmed. A sudden mist covered the sun and the mood changed in the blink of an eye: dark-clear twilight fell, and moon-sun shone. 

From under the frontier of fogfrom invisible source of light, a shimmering bridge emerged. The landscape was painted in few austere colours: silvery white, jet black, pale pearlgold. The islands and trees were standing in stillness, simple and strong. 

The silvery clouds arched over the lake, billowing forward, finally reaching the peaks. The familiar panorama of Koli disappeared completely: all I could see was the ground around my feet. The fog moved through, as white breath. The moisture was touching my skin, fresh and electrifying. In the mizzle of the whispering winds, in the luminous darkness, my perception changed. 

The view became a vision. With deepest gratitude, it was time to leave the sacred peaks. 

The words above are from my story written for the magazine of Saarelainen Family Society in 2008, about our autumn pilgrimage arranged for my 90-year-old mother to connect with her ancestral lands around Northern Karelia. We visited Koli as an essential part of our tour. Our mother, who was born in Eastern Karelia, was able to see the scenery from Ukko-Koli for the first time with a full knowledge of her Finnish roots. My sister and I, standing on the white peaks, looking eastwards, felt with her a deep sense of homecoming as well a profound longing. Together we let our gaze caress the land, tenderly aware that is was holding the living memory of hundreds of years of our family history – for us, yet to be found, remembered, and cherished. 

Almost to the day, fifteen years later, we looked again at the same landscape as sisters. The view, which we then perceived with a few first lines of a new and emerging ancestral map, has changed. Now the delicate and tentative threads have been nourished into a more colourful, precise and resilient tapestry.  We were on our way back from Kainuu, where we had just spent several days in a family retreat, weaving our intergenerational fabric of belonging and connecting. My blog post Shelter of the Family Tree was born from this experience. Our loved ones were still with us, both the ones alive on Earth and the ones in invisible realms. We walked on the sacred peaks, here and now, with more ancestral clarity and presencing than ever before. 

Now, when I look at my photograph of my morning moment, experienced alone on 5th of September 2008 at Ukko-Koli, I see the light across the Pielinen as ancestral bridge towards the east. It beams its way, first to touch my great-grandfathers original home at Kontiovaara, then showing the way to the shores of my mother’s birthplace by lake Ääninen, and keeps pulsating, opening aliveness into our maternal lineage even further. The ephemereal beings, that arrived across the lake Pielinen and enveloped me in their strange luminous presence, whispered again, in a dream. I was told their apparition was a call – and a blessing. This call I am only now mature enough to answer.

My sister found some days after our most recent journey to Koli in her archives perhaps the most beautiful description of Koli’s geological birth: a paleogeographical article written by science journalist Petri Riikonen for TIEDE magazine 3/2017, with a title Europe was assembled around Finland – the continental dance that brought Europe together began from Eastern and Northern Finland. As a former dancer, Riikonen has been able to narrate the ancient moves of plate tectonic interactions in poetic and sensual way. 

Here is quote, only as a rough translation by me from the original eloquent text in Finnish: 

We now know the bedrock of eastern and northern Finland, surrounding Pielinen and extending into Lapland was formed mostly between 2800 and 2700 million years ago. It is one of the oldest bedrocks in Europe. At the time it was formed, there was no Russia in the direction of present-day Russia, but apparently an ancient core of North America. In the opposite direction, there was no sight ofSouthwest Finland, Sweden or Estonia – just undulating waves of an ancient ocean. In fact, the rest of Europe was not yet existing,when this most ancient part of Finland began to dance the dance of the continents. It was already older than old, when other parts began to gather around it.

In a fascinating way, Petri Riikonen continues to describe the birth of Europe through choreography of seven ancient continents, evolving by exchanging their geological dance partners. During this primordial dance, under pressure and heat of a fiery tectonic embrace the most enduring core of Koli was born, metamorphosing from the sands of primordial sea into hard quartzite. The smooth hills we see today have been carrying the weight of a mountain range high as the Alps. Kilometers of land has been eroded away by glaciers and other forces of nature. Only the pure, all enduring white heart of the ancient mountains, remains.

Much has been said about the Koli landscape – and yet too little. As interpretations accumulate, the human narratives swirl in the ever-changing kaleidoscope flashing cultural eras and worldviews, in a piece-puzzled imagery. Historic Koli has been appropriated by many different people, sanctified and protected, but also used as a battleground of ownership and a site of disputes and conflicts. Maybe the time has come to travel through, without by-passing, beyond the density of all the narrative sediments and let the fragmenting human-centered kaleidoscope dissolve into a silence of a circle.  We can learn to listen, in an inclusive and more holistic way the profound aliveness of Earth. We can choose to find a collective path into the deep time that unites us all, and from there re-emerge into right relation with the creation: to see how the the transient human life is a gift, with planetary responsibility.

On the last day of August, a month ago, I wrote in my blog post Instrument of woven drops:

Over the cooling waters arrives the call from the crystal mountain: rest in me, receive the peace of my heart, and the dark. The towering arrogance, the sharp ridge slashing the sky has eroded away. I am smooth, bare and bone-white – your primordial mother. I am worn all way to my core. I see through your fragile web, and I dwell in the morning of your eyes, as a song from my ancient morning, where no people existed.

Listening to the mountain, mothering spaciousness for all life. Her drum, sounding without sound, sends circular waves of belonging, across eons. The vision, that I have remembered as evanescent dance of mist, now became crystal clear. The essence of our being, our soul-soil, is able to endure the same geological refinement: beneath all the layered, complex, entangled stories there is a deeper common ground, waiting. It is beyond extractive greed and hurry, taking possessions and sides. That which is revealed, polished to utter simplicity, survives the seismic changes, and the fiery pressure: it does not become – it already is pure, shimmering quartzite. It is the unbroken one. From this oldest of the oldest ground, we could learn how to slow down enough to live in greater peace, than peace, pieced by humans. 

On a rock,

once again, I sit.

I return, I see

 into the light 

of the lands.

The deep stones 

are deepening,

 until they become

the bedrock.

On my lap, seeds from distant lands

protecting a sacred heritage.

A view, a vision.

Opening to touch.

Silently. Slowly.

I am home.

My soul, 

our ancestral lands,

 this continent I rest upon

all related, all rooted

in one ancient heart.