The sun was brilliant this morning. As this will be the last visit to the island for the season Eija and Erkki closed up the cabins for winter, and early afternoon found us put-putting our way back to Mikkeli. Today it was just as peaceful and beautiful and warm in the sunlight. I sat in the bow the whole way and just watched the shore slowly pass. We needed to catch a 1:07 train. It was really tight. Erkki dropped us at the dock nearest the station with less than 10 minutes till the train left. It was a very quick good-by to Eija and Erkki. I have been overwhelmed by how kind they have been to me and how warmly they have welcomed me.
We had to rush to catch the train. Fortunately the station was just over the tracks from the dock, and the train was a few minutes late.
Next stop was Lahti where I was going to see some of the seven lively Finns, a group of women I met on the first couple of weeks on my Camino in Spain. As a person traveling alone, I was impressed by how well they seemed to work together as a group. A nice balance of personal time and group cooperation. The always seemed very strong and positive and I first ventured into a group acquaintance with them when Maarten and I joined them in their nightly stretching exercises at Viana. It took me a while to get their names straight – I only did a day or two before they left.
On their very last day I had a very lovely walk and talk with Anna-Maija. She is the person I have been most in contact with since then, and she is the person who had arranged for Sane and Layla to meet with us at her house. I really enjoyed getting together with them. They all speak perfectly understandable English, but they are not all confident about speaking. I realized that most of my interactions had been one on one on the Camino, and it is a little trickier speaking in a group. But I did just fine and I was so glad to be there, and learn a little more about them, which have included some recent major changes as well as the more mundane day to day activities, their lives as wives, mothers, career-women.
Up until last Friday Layla had a restaurant, and has no specific plans for the future. Anna-Maija’s husband died recently. Because of this she has been much on my mind the last couple of months. The future is now full of an overwhelming number of challenges and opportunities, which seems must be rather scary. But as in Spain, I was impressed with the positive attitude they seemed to have towards the possibilities. I loved the huge, beautiful, sunflowers that dominated the photos of Anna-Maija’s husband’s funeral.
All three are thinking of returning and finishing the Camino, Anna-Maija maybe next year from Roncesvalles (about the same time as Deb from Olympia… hmmm…) and Sane and Layla in 2013. Layla also told some very enticing stories about some long-distance biking and cross-country skiing excursions that she has taken which excited some possibilities in my imagination.
We talked about these and other topics over some wonderful mushroom soup made by Layla.
Anna-Maija has worked as a journalist, and was just taking a course in photography so as to be able to also supply photos to accompany her stories when she returned from the Camino. I’ve seen some of them on her very nice blog, “Ruusuvesi” which Google translates as “Rosewater” in English. She has lovely photos and usually Google Translate has done a good enough job that I can figure out the subject matter of her writing. It really varies from post to post.
There have been several themes that I have run into over and over on this trip. There is family, there is the Camino, and there has been the theme of division and destruction by war and it’s reverberations years later. Just two days ago I posted a story on Karjalanpiirakka, and I told a (very) little of the history of the Karjalan people, who were divided between Finland and Russia at the end of the 2nd world war when Russia reclaimed part of Finland.
Over the dinner table Anna-Maija began discussing a story she was writing on a trip that she had recently taken to visit Karjalan areas in Russia. What luck that virtually the only thing I know about Finland would happen to be the subject of her discussion! She invited us up to her office to look at the photographs. They were beautiful, but the hardship they depicted also sobering. I felt that Anna-Maija had been moved by her time there.
All too soon we were saying good-bye and Layla was driving us to the bus for Helsinki, and I am facing the end of this incredible trip.
Because I am taking such an early flight tomorrow, and the bus will only get me to the airport about an hour before the flight leaves, Veera suggested checking my backpack tonight. As the bus conveniently stops at the airport, it was pretty easy. Then it was the by now quite familiar 615 bus back to town.
Very, very tired. But a good day. Lots to think about from the beauty of Hameensaari and the lake this morning to again profound awareness of the good fortune I have had to meet and spend time on this whole trip such with such welcoming, amazing, interesting people. How comfortable and easy they have made it for me. There have not been words – in any language – to adequately express “Thank You”.