By Yana Basenko.
The moment you’re sitting by the water and almost forgetting that day and night exist. The sun seems to never fall behind the horizon; only gentle orange skies that we shamelessly take pictures of to remember those never-ending summer nights. Everything comes alive. The forest, the lakes, the animals, the people. Oh do the people come alive! Those lit up faces covered in the soft sun kisses in the shape of freckles, the joy bursting out of the corners of their smiles.
Nature wakes us up in the shape of all the forest flowers, the 3 am sunrises and the midnight-barely-there sunsets. Finnish summer is different. Unlike anything, I’ve witnessed before. It’s so alive you almost feel it’s breath on the back of your neck. It’s touch through the warm July rain. It’s sounds made out of all the first picnics in May. And its departure when the leaves turn golden in September.
Just as we get almost a little too tired of the cold, the Finnish summer bursts it’s arms open with the heatwave no-one sees coming. Hiding any signs of jackets back to the closets, people rush to find the smallest clothing pieces to let the sun rest on the biggest perimeter of their skins. Outdoors become so exciting, almost as if we travel back in time to middle school when the only way to spending quality time is by playing games with your friends in the backyard. The park becomes your office, your restaurant, your club and your gym. Almost any and all activity, no matter how unnecessary, now has to be done outside in the sun.
The contrast of it all is what makes the Finnish summer so beautiful. Without the dark November days and the gloomy January mornings, we’d lack the appreciation of that drastic July light and warmth. Staying in and layering up is what brings the magic to those first May days in the sun. The cities become full yet empty at the same time with the summer terraces bursting with visitors and the cottages, or as we call them here “mökki’s”, filling up with family gatherings from all over the country. Living in the middle of nowhere for weeks on end becomes the new norm. Some might say that Finns have been social-distancing way before it became a necessary restriction.
Summer brings everyone closer. Maybe there’s something in the air, maybe it’s a common joy traveling a 100km/min and infecting everyone on its way, maybe it’s the sun, maybe all of these things mixed together. One thing I know for sure, the Finnish summer is one of the reasons I keep falling in love with this country over and over with each passing year.
Photo and column by Yana Basenko, a talented young Ukrainian writer who now lives and works in Finland.