The Unintentional Prelude

Even though I moved back home to Finland to rejoin my family in December last year, I still haven’t unpacked all the boxes of stuff I brought with me. So when I started working on the blog post wherein I’ll share Loke’s and my 9-hour hike, I thought I would go through my journals to see what I might have written that day. It took me a while but I found it eventually… and got stuck reading what past-me had to say. I’m laughing at myself because I just mentioned the lacking organisational and time management skills in my previous post. It makes me think of this image I saw once, of counting sheep when trying to go to sleep, and it ends up with hey, Macarena!

So now I have hit a bit of a hey-macarena situation with my blog post. I intended to just add an excerpt from my journal entry, but one thing lead to another, and suddenly I had poured out a ton of words before even getting to the actual hike. So instead of deleting those words, I am posting them as a fitting example of my process. Let’s call it The Unintentional Prelude.

June 20, 2015

Dear present-me,

Hiked the High Coast trail today! Got a total of 32 km! I am not sure how I am still alive. Or sitting up. Poor Loke is totally pooped. But it sure was nice. More than nice. Awesome, even. I am so proud of myself for doing the entire 1st course of the High Coast trail! Oh. And BOY am I glad I invested in those Meindl hiking boots. Without them, my feet would be chopped pork.

I wish I would have had a diary excerpt to share from when my parents first moved us–my siblings and me–from a Stockholm suburb up to this area in 1989. Not that I really kept a journal back then. I was eight years old and I hadn’t found my love for words yet. Suffice to say, younger-me did not share my enthusiasm and love for Ångermanland, the northern province of Sweden in which the High Coast is located. To my young self it was dark, remote, and I knew no one, at first. All my friends were a world away. Winters seeped through the creaking walls of the old house, and outside the cover of snow seemed taller than I was (enough to bury our car at times). I didn’t dislike nature, but the loss of my friends and the world I knew muddled my impressions.

From old photographs and stories my parents have told, I know my father took me out on smaller hikes to pick berries and mushrooms already as a baby–I rode along in a sling on his back. And later on, as my siblings arrived and we got older and could use our own legs, we stumbled around in his footsteps, climbed large rocks, hunted insects and explored the undergrowth. We would help each other to lift smaller boulders to watch in fascination the intricate patterns created beneath by all manner of critters and little lizards. Once we found a snake sunning itself. Another time we crossed paths with elk calfs. It is safe to say my love for nature has long been cultivated in me, and I in it.

At my request, Mom dug up some photos. Bless her.

When I came back to Härnösand in autumn 2014–and every other time through the years, really–I always remembered our family hikes with fondness. I took every opportunity I could to go back to those places we visited as children, coaxing whoever available along as well I could, but the one place that had the greater pull was a cabin built and maintained by a local outdoor organisation. It’s open all year round and is free to use by anyone. Nestled on a bare cliff on top of a ridge it gazes out over the amazing landscape that signifies the World Heritage of the High Coast.

View from Tuäggenstugan
Did you know that due to the post-glacial rebound, the High Coast rises 8 mm annually? And it will continue to do so for generations to come, gradually slowing down.

The trek up to Tuäggenstugan, as the cabin is called in Swedish, is situated a few minutes drive from a small village by the name of Ramvik, about 30 km northwest of Härnösand. My father still lives there in that creaky house I called home from the age of 8 to the age of 13 (and sporadically in later years).

The house used to be pink once, and white-beige-ish before that. The two smaller windows were once shop-sized windows. The house’s bottom floor held a sewing and fabrics shop in the earlier 1900’s – 1950.

My father’s house–almost only a stone’s throw away from water–faces Ångermanälven, a 463 km long river. The name originates from Old Norse–anger–which seems to have various meanings, such as tight/narrow, and names of lakes and bays have contained some form of the word anger. Mostly in Norway, but also in Sweden. In this case maybe it refers to that the province of Ångermanland is full of fjord-like (fjord-ish?) formations, although by far not comparative to our neighbour’s majestic fjords.

If you looked closely at the photo taken from Tuäggenstugan you could see the pylons in the distance (tiny, tiny). That is a suspension bridge–Höga Kusten bron–which was inaugurated 20 years ago, now, this year. Before it was built you had to take a ferry to the other side, or drive another 15 or so kilometers further north to cross. Next to the High Coast bridge on the other side of the river, atop some cliffs, sits the High Coast Hotel–where they serve absolutely delicious food–and that is where my hike began. The hike this post was supposed to be about. Er, oops?

Regardless of taking a little detour, these sneaky extra words still tie into all the reasons why this place means so much to me. Which is something the younger-me, as I mentioned earlier, never would have thought she would one day say. As I write this, and truly think about it, I find myself smiling; the place I once couldn’t get far enough away from is the very place that much later would have such a big impact on my personal growth and, ultimately, my mental health. I won’t go into details or dedicate any major words to that here, and get sidetracked again, but when I left Finland over two years ago I was suffering from deep depression and anxiety, social phobia, PTSD–and, now, let me tell you that all that has changed.

Feel the moment… just this moment.