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Örö Trees

Day with a Pine

On Friday the 13th November 2020, the sun rises 8.23 am on Örö in the Finnish archipelago. At 8 am before daybreak, in the dim bluish grey light I am already down by the shore, placing my camera tripod behind a rock, which I checked last night, in order to start my day’s work with one of the pines. To choose the pine was no easy matter, but this big beautiful pine was standing apart and had a perfect little branch to hang from. That is my plan, to simply hang for a moment on the branch, nine times, on the hour until sunset at 4 pm. There is a soft drizzle, and I cover the camera with a plastic bag before returning to the house.

9 am, the rain has stopped; the plastic bag covering the camera is covered in drops. The clouds on the eastern sky are brightened by the sun, here in the west they still look dark and damp. When hanging in the pine I notice the junipers and the rose hips in front of me. They seem to thrive here on the sandy shore. I feel weak, able to hang on the branch only for a few breaths. And the pine seems impersonal, indifferent, unlike some of the other pines I have encountered here.

10 am, the wind from south-east is rising; the changes in light, however, are minuscule. Looks like the day ahead will be grey and uniform – and chilly, + 7 degrees celsius. For November that is warm, of course, and this island is far south from the mainland. This is the only place in the country where you can find Pasque flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris), which usually thrive much further south. They bloom in early spring, though. Yesterday I saw some searockets (Cakile maritima) in full bloom a little further north on the beach.

11 am, no visible difference; the sky is grey as before. I hear a strange motor sound and see an orange quad pass by on the dirt track further away, an alien creature from another world. This is actually their world, a former military island transformed into a Nature Reserve. The radar tower to the right further up on the shore is still functioning; its red light discernible from afar in the complete darkness at night.

Noon, and all seems to be like before. The only sound is the prevailing hum or noise of the wind in the trees and the sea breaking on the eastern shore. I walk among the shrubs in the sand, stepping on lichen, moss, all kinds of twigs. This beach must be a paradise in summer time; it still is, although I imagine paradise to be a little warmer. It is a huge privilege to be able to spend the day with a pine here, although our actual moments of contact are very brief.

1 pm, and no changes; perhaps the wind is calming a little. I almost missed the correct moment, being absorbed in reading Eduardo Kohn’s anthropology beyond the human, How Forests Think (2013). The book is more about dogs and jaguars and humans than trees, about relationships of predator and prey, although some of the ideas could be extended to concern the vegetal world as well. Nonhuman beings have made and make humans what they are. (p.134) The pine tree was here before me, like the plants were around long before humans.

2 pm, the first drops fell when I returned to the camera, and the soft rain started when I returned to the house, strangely, because the rain was forecasted only for later tonight. Perhaps this is only passing cloud, temporarily darkening the pale grey sky. As if dusk would set in this early; there are still two hours to sunset. The days are short here this time of year; what counts as a day’s work is much less, too. Or, to put it in another way, the evenings are longer. More time to read and write and edit this video, for instance.

3 pm, the rain has stopped; it was only a drizzle, anyway. Returning from the pine I walk along the stony road towards north, feeling the afternoon coming to an end, slowly. Everywhere there are traces of military constructions; the sign boards describing them alternating with the ones pointing at the specific aspects of the nature on the island. Nature conservationist can be as militant as the Defense Forces, but here their presence feels reassuring; the very particular environment is protected at least to some extent. What to do with all the visitors, like me, is another matter. Now there is nobody else, but what about summer time (see visit Örö)?

4 pm, dusk approaching. The sun is supposed to set at 16.05, but no trace of the sun, no streak of light on the horizon to the left, no purple clouds, nothing to indicate sunset. Often the horizon to the left of the pine is flaming in red, today there is nothing but dark clouds. They are amazingly effective in shading the sunlight. My plan was to end at sunset, but since there is still plenty light, I leave the camera on the shore for one more visit, covered for the raindrops that start falling again.

5 pm, almost dark, for the camera at least. The human eye easily adapts to the twilight, and the sea reflects the light from the sky which is still dark indigo. It is easy to walk on the shore, among the trees it is harder. I wait for the right moment, knowing that I will be barely visible in the darkness. When, writing this, I look out the window, the darkness is already impenetrable. Darkness, a rare luxury in this day and age, available daily for the pines here and for me as their guest, for now.

Day with a Pine

The videos edited of the material recorded during that day – Day with a Pine (brief) (54 sec), Day with a Pine (3 min 20 sec), and Day with a Pine (long) (11 min 20 sec) – are all available as small files on the RC here.

By Annette Arlander

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