Örö Trees

Örö Again

With the Dragon Pine (4 min 25 sec.)

Great to have experienced an extra week on Örö now, in the autumn, when the island is quiet and has visitors mainly on the weekends. I came in order to visit “the pine next door” and the pine on the shore that I talk to in Swedish in the the small videos called ”Tala om det för fallen (tell it to the pine)”, both documented on the RC, here. This time I also wanted to find a few more ”wind pines” and perhaps experiment with the artificial insect lights at night. Instead I bumped into a pine I never noticed before, a real dragon pine that I spent some time with already the next day after my arrival. The results of our encounter are uploaded on the RC, here.

I did meet quite a few wind pines, too, and continued with the basic idea of video recording them (and myself sitting on them) from two opposite directions. One afternoon there was a military rehearsal going on, and the silence was suddenly interrupted with the harsh sounds of guns, once during both sessions, actually. See Wind Pine III (Rehearsal) a and b (here). Otherwise I prefer the two last versions, with a more interesting combination of two perspectives. I also made single sessions with some pines that I have looked at repeatedly during my visits, pondering whether I should do something with them, but never tried anything yet. The Dead Pine, which stands by the road to the residency house is a case in point. I remember looking at it when arriving, in the beginning of November 2020, pushing the cart with my luggage towards the south, looking for the house, and noticing the pine. At least one pine with branches that I could climb up on, I thought. Little did I know at that point that the whole island is filled with strangly formed pines, and plenty of ones that really invite you to climb on them. Another pine that I have often looked at is The Pine Aslant. When I recorded the image I was really excited and thought that might be the first good image this week. When I looked at the recording I was slightly disappointed, however, because my posing in the images is not so interesting, the tree lookes better on its own. These attempts can be viewed on a separate page on the RC, Odd pines in Örö.

This was probably my last chance to stay in the residency house this year, although one never knows what happens. There are many people who would gladly stay for a while, if there is a cancellation of some kind, so it is not very likely that I would have another chance. I might make a short visit and stay at the guest house in the hotel area, simply to end the year in winter, to make images of a full year, and to say goodbye to the two pine friends I have spent time with during each visit so far. I did not say goodbye yet, deliberately, because I hope I will be able to return in a month or two, at least once. But for now, the island will slowly adapt to the darkening light and the cooling weather with other visitors, and I will send warm thoughts to the pines from afar…

Örö performances Trees

Performing with a Pine

Performance with a Pine 2.9.2021 9 pm

Or rather many pines? During my five-day visit to Örö, with the main purpose of performing with a pine for a live audience on 2 September at 9 pm, I also performed for camera with several pines, as I usually do on Örö. First of all I visited my old friend, ”the pine next door” daily, including the traveling days Monday and Friday. And I visited the pine on the shore that I speak with or to, and recorded my fifth talk with that pine, “Tala om det för Tallen 5” (tell it to the pine 5), archived here. Interestingly, I met some new pines, too, like ”the Snail Pine” and ”the Wind Pine” as well as sat ”On a Pine among Heather and Grass” and ”On a Pine among Heather and Juniper”. They are all archived on the RC, here. These new acquaintances I posed with for the camera placed in two opposite directions, to get a kind of double perspective, and edited the material into split=screen videos. Not all of the videos are very interesting, although the pines certainly were fascinating. There were many more of them, especially some wind pines that I want to work with when I return.

Swinging in a pine (with people) 26.6.2021 3 pm

These small performances with pines were in some sense a side effect of my main performance, included in the event program of the Öres exhibition, that is, the second part of the participatory swinging performance that took place on Midsummer day at 3 pm . In that performance I invited people to swing in a small swing attached to a pine near the hotel area and later edited a video where the swingers change while the movement continues. A short version of that video is available for view online here and here. Now I projected a longer version of that video onto the same site, on the trunk of the pine and the branches of the near by juniper, and tried to swing synchronised with the people on the video. For the projection to be visible the performance had to take place after sunset. What was planned as a live performance turned out to be an action mainly for the camera again, because the group that was to form the main audience cancelled their booking, probably due to the windy weather. To make matters worse there was a rainfall that same evening, right after I had spread the electricity cables, and set up the projector and my computer, which I managed to cover with my raincoat. Luckily the rain stopped before nine, and I performed gladly my 20 minute performance for and audience of two – and the camera. The recording is actually quite nice, available here and (soon) here. Not to mention the magnificent poster (see below). Based on this experience I nevertheless think I probably should stick to performing for camera in the future, or try to find a context with several performers…

poster for the performance with a pine.
Helsinki Stockholm Trees

Writing to Trees

When speaking about my practice of writing letters to trees the main focus has always been in the encounter with the trees, and besides artistic research, the context has been, the relationships to plants, critical plant studies or posthumanism more broadly. Now, at the Colloquium on Artistic Research in Performing Arts CARPA 7 – Elastic Writing in Artistic Research, the context was writing, and I realized I have not really considered my practice from that perspective. Originally I planned to present the development of the practice from field notes written after each session of performing with a tree or shrub in the day-long time-lapse videos like Sunday with a Pine (2017) on the one hand and the voice-over texts utilising the letter form as a literary device written afterwards, like for the video Year of the Dog in Lill-jansskogen (Sitting in a Pine) (2019) on the other hand, into this practice of writing to the trees next to the trees, which I began with the olive tree in Ulldecona. And I did compile an up-to-date list of all my letters to trees, so far. The Powerpoint presentation as pdf file is available on the RC here. I wanted to show a small video clip, too, and could not decide which one I should choose, especially since most of them were too long. I even considered creating a completely new clip with the plane tree in Humlegården, which I was sitting next to during the pre-conference workshop “Writing to Your Chosen Tree – a workshop”. And then I thought of the possibility of publishing something in the proceedings, if there will be something like that, and decided to do something with the video from Alicante. The letters I wrote to the Australian Banyan trees there, right after my attempts with the olive trees, I have not shown anywhere, although they provided he logo for my project.. The letter to the first one, written in Dear Ficus Macrophylla, was rather brief, which left plenty of space for some added notes. Thus I read the letter as a voice-over, now, one and a half year later, and added another text compiled of various notes as a semi-academic reflection after that. The original video is more than 20 minutes, but this conference-version is limited to 17 minutes. I uploaded it on vimeo, and it is publicly available here.

Dear Ficus Macrophylla, video still
close-up photo of the same tree, used as “logo” for the project.
Harakka Helsinki

On the Artists’ Island

The exhibition Artists’ Island on Harakka Island (10.8.-26.9.2021) is for us an unusually large (31 artists) and professionally prepared (curator Veikko Halmetoja) summer exhibition that spreads out in various locations on the island, and this time also in the main building. More information about the exhibition can be found in the press release, available in English, further down on the main page in Finnish, here.

Poster for the exhibition, image by Osmo Kivimäki

My two contributions are both placed in the main building, and both are made on the island during the summer 2020. The video Dear Spruce – Kuusi Hyvä (41 min.) consists of seven letters to the only spruce on the island, and is shown as a compilation on a small TV-monitor in the library, with the letters read as voice-over narrations, in Finnish. I planned to use headphones to make listening a more concentrated experience, but did not manage to make the connection work. Because of the pandemic the use of headphones was not wise, so I abandoned the idea. Now my voice, not too loud, though, ills the whole library. The english translations of the letters are available in a folder and the video letters are available with English subtitles online, here.

Dear Spruce – Kuusi Hyvä 1-7 (2020) in Harakka Library
Dear Spruce – Kuusi Hyvä 1-7 (2020) in Harakka Library

The other work on display is July with Pine (16 min), which is shown as part of a screening compilation made by Kari Yli-Annala in the auditorium. Originally I imagined this work as a nonstop loop somewhere and the letters, as part of the screening compilation. The letters together are too long, however, and even this video is almost too long for a compilation, despite being the brief version of the work. The full version is 50 min 46 sec, although I doubt that I will ever show that version publicly, the brief version with 30 second clips feels long enough. The sea view opening from the darkened auditorium, as it were, works rather well, though. Some kind of documentation of the process, including notes (in Finnish) written after each recorded session, is available online, here.

July with a Pine (2020) in Harakka auditorium
July with a Pine (2020) in Harakka auditorium

The exhibition spreads into the ammunition cellars and the old telegraph and contains many kinds of work – already the screening compilation is rather multifaceted – and the walls of the main building are covered with paintings, installations and all kinds of images. My contributions are actually rather conventional in this context.The surfaces are cleaned of useless rubbish to let the works shine and the house feels like a magic fantasy world – I almost wish it would always be like this…

Stockholm Trees

Becoming Ginkgo?

Returning to Stockholm after a break of one and a half years I noticed the tree planted at the entrance of the tunnel in David Bagare gatan -street, in the place where they had cut down the linden tree soon after my move into the small flat nearby. I remember being sad when the small linden tree was felled, apparently for no reason. And now, when I saw a new tree in its place I immediately thought of it as ”a good sign”. For what exactly, is another matter… To my delight I noticed it was a ginkgo, or maidenhair tree, an ancient tree, almost a living fossil and a medicinal plant as well. I have seen one growing next to the National Library in the nearby Humlegården Park, so I could recognise the leaves. Then, about two weeks ago, I had an idea to practice “becoming tree” or the two-legged tree pose next to it. The place is often full of people so I abandoned the thought and planned to find a small tree in Humlegården to pose with, in the manner I did with the apple tree in Eckerö, where my head and arms were hidden in and by the tree. Last night, arriving in Stockholm again, I decided to give it a try. When I began today, however, my camera was behaving strangely; I sometimes accidentally press some button and then cannot return to the ”normal” settings. And that happened today. After quite some time with trial and error I finally selected some alternative that brought the camera ”back to its senses”, and I could make a small test image:

test image

And yes, I also made a full session with twenty one breaths, albeot in a position in front of the tree rather than next to it. (See first image.) For a documentation of the process in still images, see the page devoted to this series with the gingko tree, here. The title ”Becoming Ginkgo” is a working title, and it might be too ambitious or arrogant. Perhaps ”Wannabe Ginkgo” would be more appropriate?

Eckerö Trees

A Day with an Ash Tree

As part of my attempts at recording my encounters with a small ash tree growing near the former Post Quay in Eckerö I have used several of my old strategies or methods. They are all documented on one page in the Research Catalogue, in the order I made them, here.

In the Ash Tree

One such method or technique is creating a rough time-lapse video for a day by repeating the same action and the same framing of the image every hour or every other hour, like I did this time. I decided to sit and write next to the ash from sunrise to sunset on Thursday 22 July 2021, which meant starting at 5 am and ending at 11 pm, after sunset, actually. I wrote in Swedish, by hand in a small notebook, thus spending quite some time transcribing the text, and then recording it. I tried to do it next to the house, by the wall, protected from the wind, but was not happy with the sound and decided to return to the same place on the shore, and sat there, in the afternoon on the 24 July at 2 pm, reading all the sessions in one go.

After editing the video into a long version with the sessions in full, a brief version with 50 to 60 seconds of each session (with some extra time in the beginning and at the end) the next job was to add the recorded text as a voice-over and adjust the length of the video clips accordlingly. And then, the problem with the language returned – obviously English subtitles were needed. Translating the texts into English took some time, and when that was done I added them as text scrolls on each clip. Unfortunately, I had read my notes so quickly that the scroll is hard to follow at times, especially in some of the morning sessions where there is too much light and the text is difficult to discern. The texts, the orignal Swedish as well as my partly clumsy English translation are available on the same page, here. In include here below the translation of the text from the first and the last session, to give an idea:

Day with an Ash 5 am

Eckerö Post Quay 22.7.2021 5 am in the morning, or 4.59 to be exact. Time to begin the day with you, dear ash tree, at sunrise. I shall sit with you every other hour and follow how the light changes, how the wind shifts or not, how people come and go. And how you are doing standing where you do. I have posed with you for the camera several times and thought I would now try out this diary form to see if I could learn something new of you, from you, with you in this way. I hope you do not mind and remain as benevolent and generous as before. Behind you I can see the horizon is already turning orange, although the sun is behind the trees. The wind blows from southwest, from the sea, the day begins with waves lapping and silence. A good morning for you as well, I suppose. Thus, simply: Good morning!

Day with an Ash 11 pm

It is eleven pm, almost half an hour past sunset, although the sky and the sea still shine with a pale violet shimmer. The Eckerö ferry from Grisslehamn has arrived, although now most of the cars have already driven past, peace returns. A strange bird sounds behind me, and there are still two cars on the quay, all else is calm. – I looked at the recorded material and was surprised of the small abrupt displacements of the images in the afternoon – obviously I have been careless while placing the camera. Otherwise, the material looked fine. The proportions between the tree, or you, and the human, or me, are quite acceptable. I look very small on the rock next to you, although you are rather small for a tree. How things look in the image and how they appear in reality are two very different things. The same goes for the experience of coming to sit next to you every other hour for a day and trying to write to you, with you – that is something else than what can be seen in the image, and also the effect, feeling and mood created by the images and by the video formed of them. If I will add this text that I am writing, if I for instance read it and record it and attach it as a voice-over to the video, it will change everything again. Time will tell. Now I simply want to say goodbye at least for tonight and thank you for our collaboration during the day. I don’t know if you experienced it as a collaboration or anything at all. For me, however, it has been important to sit here next to you. And I think I will remember this day for a long time –regardless whether I find something worth pondering in these notes. Thus, simply: Thank you. And Good Night!

Eckerö Stockholm Trees

Goodbye to the Pine on Hundudden

Returning to the Pine on Hundudden for a last visit 19.7.2021.

Due to the pandemic and travel restrictions as well as the previously alarming covid-situation in Stockholm (lately the so-called incidence has been no worse or even better than in Helsinki) I have not visited my second home there since January 2020. At that time, before my ARA (Arts Research Africa) residency in Johannesburg, I kick-started this project – “Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees” – by initiating a pen pal relationship with a small pine tree on Hundudden in Stockholm. The first three weekly sessions and letters (in Swedish) are recorded on the RC, here:

Writing to the pine next to the pine…

And now, a few days ago, a fourth one was finally added to them. The letter I wrote as farewell – in Swedish, too – is inserted on the same page with the previous letters, here.

When travelling to Stockholm via Grisslehamn, from Eckerö, where I am enjoying a residency in the historical Post and Customs House during the month of July, I was not sure whether I should carry my camera with me. My main reason for visiting was fetching some hard drives and books, trying to rescue what was left of my many houseplants and cleaning the small flat after one and a half years of neglect. After the trip I realise that taking leave of the pine on Hundudden and closing that ill-fated part of the project, was actually most important, and made it possible for me to think of returning to Stockholm with new plans and ideas. It was also great to see that the pine was fine, unlike the poor birch next to it, which had completely dried out and probably died in the drought.

By saying farewell to the small pine on Hundudden I am by no means abandoning pines in general, on the contrary. I am slowly developing a project with the working title “Talar med tallar” or Talking with Pines. One option for a motto could be a quote from Anna Tsing: “If you ever wanted to be impressed by the historical force of plants, you might do well to start with pines.” (Tsing 2015, 169).

Eckerö Trees

Living in a Monument

My first encounter with the apple tree in front of the building

For the month of July I have the superb privilege of staying in the newly renovated residency in the historical building of Eckerö Post and Customs House on Eckerö Island. Living in this historical environment is a paradoxical mixture of peace and quite, bordering on isolation, and a tourist attraction occupied by a constant flow of visitors during part of the day, located within or next to a summer paradise, nevertheless feeling serene and even austere despite the luxurious facilities. I am still overwhelmed by this experience, arriving only a few days ago, and immediately choosing two trees on the premises to perform with. On the one hand I chose one of the two maple trees in the yard, the one on the right being the more inviting, perhaps because being further away from the cafeteria, and with plenty of space next to the tree. And on the other hand I chose the apple tree in front of the building, hidden behind a hedge of lilacs and small enough to be included in the image almost in full. I really wanted to show at least parts of the building in the background, too.

My first encounter with the maple tree in the yard.

After two easy mornings, or rather days, because I have made the images around noon, a surprise awaited me on Sunday evening; the white bench to the right of the maple tree had been relocated to the left of the tree, exactly where I used to stand, hm. I realized there was still enough space for me between the bench and the tree and decided to enjoy the surprise rather than to be annoyed or try to move the bench back. When I opened the door and stepped out with my camera today a new surprise awaited me; an elderly couple – well, my age probably, – was sitting on the bench. I decided to begin with the apple tree and hope that they would move away by themselves, but no, they did not. So, instead of waiting a few hours I bluntly went up to them, placed my camera tripod in front of them and asked if they would mind being in the image or alternatively leave the bench for a moment. They chose to move to another bench, and I completed the image, standing, not exactly in the same spot as before, but close enough.

My third encounter with the maple tree in the yard.

During these three days I have noticed that my balancing skills have clearly deteriorated for lack of practice, or then my shoes are too soft, not supporting my ankles, or then the spots on the ground are somehow uneven. Be that as it may, I have difficulties in standing on my toes for the duration of twenty one breaths, even if I lower my heels almost to the ground. Hopefully my balancing skills will improve through practice over the coming month…

Örö performances Trees

Midsummer in Örö

Many coincidences resulted in the opportunity to visit Örö again during an extended midsummer weekend 25-29 June, the most important of them being the Öres summer exhibition. My contribution to the exhibition consists of several parts, and my main task now was to organise the participatory performance “Swinging in a Pine” (working title) on Midsummer day 26 June at 3 pm. Hanging a small swing in one of the pines in the hotel area I planned to video record the visitors willing to swing there. All in all 19 people accepted the invitation, and now the next stage is to edit the video in such a manner that the movement continues while the swingers change. When ready the video will be visible on the Research Cataloge, here, and hopefully also on the Öres exhibition pages, probably here. Later, in the beginning of September, I will try to project the video back on the pine and swing synchronised with the people swinging on video. This is a technique I have experimented with on several occasions a few years back, and also described the process in an article in a book which is unfortunately not open access. (“Process as Performance or Variations of Swinging”. In Hetty Blades & Emma Meehan (eds.) Performing Process: Sharing Dance and Choreographic Practice. Intellect Books. 2018, pp 99-118.)

testing the swing

Besides for this performance I also came to install the triptych “On the Edge I-III”, based on still-images from the video, which is part of the online exhibition (see here), created during my Öres residency on the island in November 2020. The triptych could join the exhibition only now, a few days after the opening, because it was on display in the exhibition “How to do things with performance: epilogue” in Hietsu Paviljonki between 23-24 June as part of the University of the Arts Helsinki Research Pavillion #4.

On the Edge I-III (HTDTWP-epilogue, Research Pavillion)

After carrying the works from Helsinki to Örö by public transport, via Turku, I managed to find the space, which was assigned to me in the barrack near the residency house, thanks to the orange sign or name tag left in the room. After some experiments and attempts at placing the triptych in its planned order, I opted for a site-specific solution. The images fitted perfectly into the wooden shelf in the room, and I and III could be placed there. The middle part was placed on the opposite wall, visible from the door, to help people find the work.

On the Edge II, Öres exhibition, Örö
On the Edge I and III, Öres exhibition, Örö
the sign

Besides these tasks directly related to the exhibition, I alsohad the opportunity to continue my private performances, on the one hand with “the pine next door”, which I began in January 2021, holding hands with one of the two pines growing next to each other daily, every day when I am on the island. And on the other hand my talks with the pine on the shore, recording the fourth “Tala om det för tallen” (Tell it to the Pine), which is already transcribed and edited, available online. Both these recurring performances are documented on the same page, here.

The island is very different in summer time, especially when full of visitors, who nevertheless merged surprisingly well into the surroundings. The party people were probably staying in the harbour and the bar there, and the ones walking or bicycling around the island were here exactly because they appreciate the peace and silence of the place. Some of them might even be interested in finding the well signposted artworks among the army remains. The feeling of summer paradise is nevertheless overwhelming, and I do not feel like looking for new pine trees to perform with, not now. One reason might simply be that I have encountered quite a few of them already. But, there is no lack of more pine trees to meet, to sit on, to talk to, to holds hands with, or simply to admire on this island…

Kilpisjärvi Trees

On the Tree Line

On the Tree Line

My two weeks in an Ars Bioarctica residency at the biological station in Kilpisjärvi in the very north of Finland, are coming to an end, and it is time to summarise what I have been up to or tried to do here. My plan was to visit the birches on the tree line here and perhaps record a day and night with a mountain birch, and that I have done. More specifically I have created three kinds of material.

First of all I recreated some of the works I did when I visited this place seven years ago, as described in a blog post here. The day and night with a mountain birch described in the previous blog post, here, and documented on the Research Catalogue (RC) here, is a further development of those recreations.

Secondly, I have created a time lapse work, recording one session sitting on a birch below the station every morning and evening between 2 and 13 June. I have listened to the surrounding sounds together with the tree, as described in my first blog post, here, and documented on the RC, here, and finally also written a letter to the tree. Besides this time-lapse work I have also made some single sessions with other birches in the same area, documented on the same page.

And thirdly, I have performed or posed with various birches up on the tree line, on the slopes of Saana fell and in the area between Saana and Jeahkas fell. There I wrote a letter to a birch growing next to a brook, documented on the same page, here.

Thus I have material for at least the following works: Day and Night with a Mountain Birch (already edited), Listening with Mountain Birches (working title), which is a time-lapse video of two weeks from the shore, two letters to birches that could be called Dear Mountain Birch and Dearest Mountain Birch, and quite a lot of material, probably for several works with the working title On the Tree Line. And then the amount of material related to but differing from the time-lapse from the shore. Well, not bad for two weeks, I would say. Whether the material that I have produced will result in anything worthwhile in the long run remains to be seen. At least I have something to work on.

Beginning with the letters, I tried to record them in my room today; unhappy with the acoustics I tried to record them on site, and returned to the trees with a microphone and the transcribed text on an iPad. The first letter was addressed to a mountain birch on the tree line, next to a small brook.

Dear Mountain Birch

10.6.2021 Kilpisjärvi

Dear Mountain Birch, thank you for allowing me to sit on the dead part of your trunk, the old part of you, here by the spring brook gushing into a small temporary lake in front of me. I chose you partly because of the sound of the brook, which is inspiring and lively, somehow invigorating by its constant movement. Another reason was that you were so clearly divided in parts. The old dead, or at least seemingly dead trunk lying on the ground and then the strong young fresh new trunk growing straight up, with its bright green leaves. We are here a little below the tree line I guess, or actually on the tree line but in the part where there are more trees than a few meters further up on the slope of Saana, where they are sparser, smaller and with more distance between them. I thought it would be easier to find an individual tree to address there, but although each one of the tiny small birches were fascinating in their own right, I did not feel invited to write to them, like here with you. This setting is more protected, of course, but I also feel that you are a better representative of your kin, or your family here, as part of a collective, rather than the ones higher up on the slope. I should also explain that I am sitting here on the western slopes of Saana, or I am actually not sure if this is not really the slope of the other mountain, Jeahkas, which I probably cannot spell correctly. In any case this is the high north, very near the Norwegian border, in the thumb of Finland and in the heartlands of Sapmi or sami country. There are reindeers walking everywhere and although the village is full of tourists from the southern part of Finland or then from Norway, in the north or west, it is important to acknowledge that I am a visitor and an outsider in this place, a recipient of the hospitality of the Sami people, and of the mountains and their representatives, today especially you, the mountain birches. Unlike the birches further south, you seem more like shrubs, because you often have several slender trunks from the same root. And you often bend in strange contortions, because of the wind or the weight of the snow or for some other reason. So, actually you are a good example of the difficulty of thinking of trees as individuals with distinct borders, and although that is exactly what I am trying to do, you force me to acknowledge that it is not really possible, at least not in your case. In many places coniferous trees, like pine trees or spruces, are the last ones to grow on the tree line up on the mountains. Here, however, the pines continue only about half-way into the ”arm” of Finland, and spruces give up even before that, and it is you, the small mountain birches that will climb up on the slopes and create the tree line. There are some small groups of spruces or pines in the area, but I hear that they are planted. You are the only native or indigenous trees and superbly important for all or most forms of life in this area, including humans, at least in the traditional ways of life. To be honest, I do not know so much about you, but some details are described on the sign boards marking the nature path [trail], like the dark brown lichen that grow on your trunks. One can read the level of the snow by their placement, because they grow only above snow level. I wonder what the greenish-yellowish lichen that grow further down on your trunk are called. At least further down, near the lake, they grow in profusion, and shimmer as if in a neon color in the evening or morning light, which here, this time of year, resembles afternoon light further south, because the sun does not set, of course. It hides behind the mountain, viewed from the village. Here, high on the slopes it shines all through the night, I suppose. – There, a raindrop falling in the meltwater lake, I can feel them on my head as well. Perhaps there will be a rainfall soon, or then it will remain a drizzle. In any case it might be a good idea to end this letter, before all the writing is washed away by raindrops. So, thank you for your hospitality, generosity and patience. And all the best for the future!

Greetings, AA.

The second letter was written to the birch I have visited daily on the shore:

Dearest Mountain Birch

Kilpisjärvi 11.6.2021

Dearest Mountain Birch, I guess it is about time to try to explain to you what I have been doing, sitting here on your bent branch every morning and evening for almost two weeks. It is actually rather rude of me to do that without asking for your approval or consent or any kind of permission, but I did not know how to approach you in order to ask for your consent, and in many cases I usually choose to “just do it” rather than ask for permission, which often makes things unnecessarily complicated. I nevertheless sincerely hope that I did not offend you by my behavior, especially since I plan to continue with it for a few more days. I chose you of all the birches growing near or below the biological station because you live here on a small hill right by the lake, and have a beautiful view, on the shore. I did not realize that the lake functions like a cooler, so you and your immediate family here below are among the latest to grow out your leaves. Now, you too, have turned green and “dressed up” in small fresh leaves. This time of year, there is no real dusk or dawn, except in the middle of the night, perhaps, because we are here in the shadow of Saana fellm so visiting you in the mornings and evenings is more of a change in the direction of the light, not its amount. Right now, the sky is clouded, though, so those usual shifts of light and shadow do not apply. And I am dressed in my ordinary grey clothes rather than my black “performance” outfit. When I say I have been visiting you that is not completely correct, because I have come down to sit on you and with you mainly in order to listen to the surrounding sounds. Now, for example, I can hear some birds, but on many occasions the traffic on the road between the mountain and the lake provides most of the sounds. Especially the huge trucks travelling to the Norwegian border can be heard from far away when approaching. I wonder what they transport, and where? Perhaps there is a harbor in Tromsø, or something. Besides listening to the sounds with you I often count my breaths slowly, trying to wind down and become present in the moment with you. Twenty-one breaths are my usual duration, a way of keeping track of time, approximately. That is of course a very brief instant in your temporal experience. Although birches do not live longer than 100 or 150 years, that is way more than most humans. And here, where the shift in light conditions is so extreme, with a long night-time, the winter, and a long day, the summer, rather than the constant fluctuation, your sense of time must be different, too. – I actually learnt a lot about your way of life from a biologist who kindly gave me a private lecture today. She explained, among other things, that there are two types of birch woods here, the maritime and the continental ones, and the whole ecosystem in them is different, as well as the form of the birches. Here, obviously, we are in the “maritime” type of wood, with blueberry shrubs [twigs] on the ground and the trunks of the birches relatively straight and singular – well, most of you are bent to some degree, but not as twisted and divided as the ones higher up on the slopes. The term “maritime” refers to the way the birch woods look on the Norwegian side, and even though Lake Kilpis is a lake, of course, the northwesterly winds come from the Arctic ocean, which is actually not that far from here, and bring in sea air. In both habitats one can distinguish the height of the snow from your trunks, because the dark brown lichen that decorate them do not like to live below snow level. That I learned already from the sign board on the nature path [trail]. Why some of you have a completely white bark while others are pale grey, I do not know, and it might be just a coincidence. There are two types of birches that have hybridized, the dwarf ones and the downy birches, and you can see the difference in the autumn, because the dwarf ones turn read rather than orange yellow. I realize I would really like to come and spend some time with you in the autumn, too, and to listen to the sounds of autumn together with you, like we now have listened to the sounds of spring. I want to thank you for your hospitality and generosity and sincerely hope that I have not been too much of a disturbance for you. I hope you can somehow sense my gratitude and appreciation, and I wish you all the best for the coming summer. Let us hope it will be a peaceful, invigorating and productive time for you. Take care! AA.