Earlier this week I went for a drive into the forests around Lappi town again. My time was limited, and my body ached with weariness from the flu that finally had broken out. I knew it was coming since I had felt so incredibly exhausted without being able to really figure out why. In spite of that, I pulled on a dress and wrapped myself in a coat and my newly finished scarf before heading out.
When I started this post I meant only to show you some photos from that walk through the forest, but it turned into something entirely different. With all these words having poured out of me now, I feel I had a wish to tell you more deeply of what nature and sharing my experiences with you means to me. So instead of backtracking, I worked with it and if you make it till the end, I hope you will have gotten to know a little more about me. ❤
I remember how I for such a long time worked so hard to somehow blend into the background noise, while at the same time looking on and wishing I had whatever it was that was needed to become part of the crowd. Kind of like one of my brothers. He has this way of talking and being that makes people smile and laugh. Even if I don’t always think his sense of humour is so tasteful. Haha But whenever I was faced with an opportunity to blend in with others, I felt so clumsy and out of tune. Do you know what I mean?
I also remember one time when this sense of being out of step with the entire world, which is no uncommon feeling at the age of seventeen, completely overwhelmed me. I was in the US at the time, visiting a friend. I can’t remember what triggered it, but I took my diary with me into their backyard. Behind the house I could see the forest spread out before me. It was late autumn, the ground was covered in tones of yellow and brown, and I continued down the slope and walked straight into that forest.
After some time, I found a little stream and sat down beside it. I opened up my diary and started writing. In the end, I had written a poem, one I have many times over the years tried to find but it seems to be forever lost. I do remember the last line, though. Like the rivers our lives flow by, too many to care about them all.
I don’t know why that particular line has stayed in my head for soon twenty years. Nor do I know exactly what I meant by that at the moment I wrote it. Looking at it now, from where I am today, I think past-me tried her best to justify and rationalise that loneliness she felt. That one person cannot possibly do or be everything all at once. But even when we do, we cannot expect, either, that everyone will notice. Especially not if we are in hiding.
The forest has always been a place I have run to when my heart has been heavy, and for the longest time I thought of it as an escape. A space for peace and quiet. A moment away from the unfathomable loneliness of being in a room full of people yet feeling utterly and completely alone. Among trees and woodland critters I could forget. I didn’t have to see what I perceived as stark differences between me and others. And there I could escape from expectations and struggles. I would stay until my head was quiet and my heart light once more.
Lately, I have thought a lot about what that call into the wild truly was about. What I in my younger years didn’t see. A deeper meaning. The forest and nature wasn’t and isn’t a place where I wander into oblivion to shed burdens and responsibilities. It is a realm of clarity. A place to remember. Out here, I find the pieces of myself I might lose in day to day life. I reconnect and am reminded of what is important and what isn’t. The air, the smells, the sounds — it is like opening a window to let the dust of irrelevance and skewed perspectives whirl themselves away.
The immediate relief and effects of mother nature’s remedies are so poignant I wonder why instead of being prescribed pills for my depressions and anxieties on almost every first visit to doctors they didn’t tell me fly, little bird, out into the forest and stay as long as you need. Maybe not in those words, haha. But have you ever thought of it? Not all pills affect the central nervous system, but most of them have substances that affect the neurotransmitters in our brains. The very same which are affected when (among many others) we receive a hug, engage in physical activities — or take a long hike through nature.
Spring is almost like autumn when it comes to the smells, but unlike the richness of earth mixing into a concoction of berries and mushrooms in autumn, the melting snow and ice carries a tinge of winter’s freshness on its winds. There is also something very special about the heat that lingers within the ground in autumn, a kind of summer warmth that still rises up through moss and the ever-growing layer of fallen leaves. I have this habit when I am out there. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply, and then I just focus on my senses. Especially the feel of the air going down into my lungs, the taste in my mouth and what I with my sense of smell can pick up on. I imagine this is how the animals, who have much better developed senses than we do, know when the seasons are changing, and when to move and where to go. Like birds taking flight when winter is on our doorstep, long before we know of its approach.
I feel we need to be out here. As well as evolution makes sure we adapt, that deepest part of us remains something from the realm of wilderness. All things available these days are enhanced and improved for our convenience, yet it seems to overload our senses and numb them. These are just my personal wonderings, but I cannot help but think that it makes sense we suffer so much from mental unwellness when we are constantly getting high on impressions — physical and mental. And then we need more and more and more to sustain ourselves. Until we crash.
I had this idea about a year ago, that I would one day build a wellness center right here on our lands, and do guided health walks and hikes in nature, near and far. Down by the river, I wanted to build a big logging cabin with large windows and a veranda that faced the ever-wilder-growing lake there, and every morning a yoga class would be held in dawn’s embrace. And I am so incredibly lucky I have friends and family that don’t look at me like I have lost my marbles, you know? But I could really see it. And why not? I am not against medicine — it has and does a lot of good in this world. I do however believe that antidepressants are thrown around far more than is needed, when I with all my heart and soul and head believe a good dose of nature will do the trick just as well.
I still feel remnants of that sense of displacement sometimes when I am among others. Far less than when I was younger. I think that maybe with time, I have come to accept it as is and to fight against it less and less. Most importantly, I believe, I keep reminding myself it isn’t something that places me apart, that it isn’t a sign of me being faulty, but rather it is just what makes me me. Do you know what I mean? And the more I let it be, the less I try to cover it up, hide it away, which in turn strengthens my sense of self and confidence when being in the company of other people. In particular when with people who are very different from me. They like different things, or the same things but other aspects of it and perceive the world around us in ways I don’t. Subsequently, I relax and am able to take in and be truly engaged with their views. I want to understand.
In the last few years, with all the ups and down, nearly becoming literally empty but so full of chaos, and to finally begin to piece it back together again, I come to understand something more and more. Trying or even wishing to be someone I am not in order to fit in has been the very foundation of my unhappiness. Through squeezing myself into frames and folds of these expectations I imagined invited inevitable failure and misery from the very first day I embarked on a new endeavour to “correct” myself and be all those things I wasn’t.
Maybe I will one day found a wellness center here, or maybe I won’t. Either way I have this immense wish to share what I experience and for others in similar situations to find their way back to their innermost selves, to regain their very own balance and know peace. Happiness.
I used to think what do I know? I’m a mess and my life is a mess and I can’t even go to work without falling to pieces. What could someone who is so broken as I am offer those who at least manage these simple necessities in life? And I would also think that most likely I am only one among few who has these immense struggles to manage day to day tasks. I belong to the minority, I would tell myself. I did know others exist out there who face the same challenges and fall, but living among people who go to work even when they are sick, who keep clean, tidy homes and meals on the table, laundry baskets empty, beds made, get their kids to sports and events, manage to go out with their friends and still mow the lawn and rake leaves, plant flowers, do crosswords and read the morning paper… I felt like one in a million. And not in a good way.
At night I would lie in bed as my thoughts screamed how do they all do it?! What is wrong with me?!! And the next morning I would get up and do all those things anyway. I would then go to work, be the best version of myself I could possibly be and smile and be as social as I could muster. Then I would come home and get that meal on the table, do that washing, and sit down by my desk at the end of the day to read through masses of texts in Finnish with a dictionary beside me so that I could get my education. I went through these motions, gave it all and then some for eighteen months straight until I felt a part of myself drift to the sidelines. I watched this woman forge ahead and wondered how she couldn’t tell she had nothing left. No energy, no passion, no joy and no feelings.
Today, I think I needed to go through all that. I believe I had to truly hit that wall in the hardest most excruciating way possible to wake up. And I did. At first it seemed all of me came alive, and I got myself so lost. I stepped onto paths that lead me through things I am so unbelievably ashamed of but at the same time grateful for. And isn’t it funny how it is when we are as lost as can possibly be we finally find our way?
I used to be so frightened blind by speaking from the depths of my innermost self. And at times I find myself getting anxious about certain things I share, the words I write and leave here for anyone to see. At the same time, I feel such relief, and then I think and hope and wish that, maybe, those very words and experiences will reach and even inspire a thought with someone who needs them. Just as I have read and taken part in thoughts and experiences of others which have given me strength or hope in times when they have been needed the most.
On a wall in my favourite café in Rauma are these words: If your dreams do not frighten you, they aren’t big enough. I chased beyond horizons and boundaries to find that big dream to lift me to heights of happiness and bliss, and I believed the answers were in some faraway distance I had yet to reach. All along, it never occurred to me to look within. But now when I have begun, and it sure can be frightening, I only gain more strength and resolve for every time I do something in spite of the fear it triggers.
I wish you all a wonderful week ahead, and that you make time for yourselves to visit whichever is your place to re-connect and regain balance when it wobbles. Much love. ❤