Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Memories of the Sea


My sister thinks that people can be divided into two groups on the basis of what kind of body of water they identify themselves with: there are lake people and there are sea people. My mother is a lake person; she even lives right by one and calls the lake in question "the scenery of her soul". My father, my sister and I are drawn to the sea. My father has lived at sea in some form or another for as long as I can remember. Even if he hasn't exactly resided next to the sea at all times, he has traveled to it often and taken my sister and I with him.

These days my father lives on a small island off the coast of Helsinki.


As children my sister and I spent countless weeks during our summer vacations with our father on the beaches of Southern Finland. The beaches there are not your typical pretty sandy paradises - the landscape is rugged, torn, rough. I remember vividly the prickly, mussel-shelled dunes with crookedly grown pine trees and the small pine cones in the sand, scattered around like stones, as well as the smell of salt and wind in my hair at night. I remember what it felt like to walk on the barren ground barefoot, how the dry pine needles sometimes stuck to the soles of my feet with sap.

After a day spent on my father's island, I took a little trip to Hanko, the most southern town in Finland, where many of my childhood summer trips with my father took place. I can't explain why I wanted to travel there after all these years - I hadn't been back there since the days of my childhood. My husband and I have been entertaining thoughts of moving to Finland one day, and I had an odd gut feeling that I should go see what Hanko looks like these days.


The affinity I felt with Hanko today was immediate. I got out of the car, and there were the dunes, the pines, the sea; I felt a strange, almost primordial rush of memories, all in one neat package, focused in and around this small town by the sea. In an instant, just like that, I could see my husband and I living there happily ever after. Moving to Hanko wouldn't necessarily be the most rational choice: the town's economy is bad, and it is considered by most people "a nice summer town but just wait for the winter"-type of place. But there is something about it I can't quite explain, something that made my heart almost skip a beat today as I stood on the beach and gazed out at sea. It was the type of breathlessness you feel when you encounter a place (or a person, or a piece of art) so beautiful but so heart-wrenching, that you almost have to look away.




So call me crazy, but I think I might want our family to move to Hanko. I guess there have been sillier things people have dreamt about, and there are sillier things to base one's dreams on than childhood memories.



I am wearing a second hand dress and necklace, both bought at the Hakaniemi market. Second hand sunglasses and belt are from Hietsu flea market, the shoes are from an online store.


16 comments:

Terri said...

There are places like this from my past that still "speak" to me in this way. What did your husband have to say about the place?

The Waves said...

Terri, so far my husband has been very enthusiastic about the place too, but so far he has only seen pictures... I guess time will tell what happens. :)

Rad in BK said...

I must be deeply connected to the sea, too. Whenever we go to a place like this (small, economically depressed, beautiful but not in a pristine way beach towns), I immediately want to move, despite the long resulting commutes. I understand your feelings completely. (OK, my fantasy town is less naturey than this beautiful town, but I feel similarly about it).
Thanks for sharing the gorgeous pictures.

Gracey said...

This was beautifully written. There are definitely places like this for me as well. Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevadas, for example. They have rough winters too, but oh, how I'd love to live there. The pines, the lake, the lightning storms over the mountain meadows, it's just heaven for me.

Shey said...

It's a very beautiful place Waves, beats my urban city any time. I enjoyed your description of the place, it was like I was reading a great book, it made me wish I was there. I have my own special places back at home too. Your outfit reminds me an outfit Maggy Gyllenhall wore last year, you look as beautiful if not more. =)

Teeny said...

The sea suits me just fine. It sounds like you'll be happy there. I prefer the quiet. But I do like community too.

April said...

beautiful photos!

ape-z.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

As long as there is a Wave, I would be very happy by any sort of body of water.
Hanko looks amazing! AND...I love your dress, sweetie!!! :) oxox, CR

Anonymous said...

Geesh, your hair is getting so long, hon!! :) CR

ps--the word-verification-contraption comes up with the coolest words for we 'anonymous' folk to replicate...this time, the word is "dingilly"...how wonderful!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I do love the sea, I've lived near the sea almost all my life and there's something unforgettable and inspiring about the smell of the sea.
Especially in November, when the sand changes its stucture and when you walk along the beach totally alone and the sand cracks under your feet in this unique way. I can't really explain it. Still, the sea in the summer, when everyone's there, is not as exciting. The sea should provoke some longing for loneliness.
Anyway, hope that your plans turn out well and you find your dream place on earth.
Katya

elle s'ennuie said...

I live about an equal distance from the sea and a lake, but I'm a sea person. When I'm deep inland, far from the coast, I feel kind of trapped, almost geographically claustrophobic. Your father's island home sounds so awesome to me, my own dream is to live on either an island or one of the small coastal towns. The Baltic is a nice sea, even if it is in a somewhat bad shape nowadays. :)

If you move back to Finland, will you be able to bring your kitties? (This was the first thing I thought of, hehe!)

Carolyn said...

I can definitely relate to having places that speak to me, and in which I feel my soul is rooted. I am a beach and sea person (but since I am an Aussie that is hardly surprising!!) We lived in the USA for a year, away from any coastline and we all got quite depressed. Probably just homesickness, but I think too it was partly because of being away from the ocean, and that we need it for our mental wellbeing.
Also, in Western Australia, having the Australian desert separating us from the rest of the country is very comforting too...
I like your yellow dress, and best of good luck with making a big decision! :)

Chuck said...

Absolutely beautiful photos, Waves. I can't get over the intensity of the blue sky. It's breathtaking.

blackdogramona said...

Ocean girl, I understand! I have always lived close to the east coast but for the past 10 years VERY close - Cape Cod, Massachusetts and now Belfast, Maine. I always felt if I moved away it would have to near an ocean, Atlantic or Pacific or I would feel strange, trapped somehow. I think we all do have "places" that call us Wondering what is the significance of the name of your blog "No Signposts in the Sea"?

robin said...

I have been reading your blog for nearly a year now, and this entry literally gave me goosebumps. You truly have a gift for writing, and I am so glad you share it with us.

I suppose I am lake person, but most of my favorite people are ocean people.

Also: Love the new haircut!

The Waves said...

Thank you, all, for your lovely comments! I wonder whether there are proportionally more sea people in the blogosphere than lake people, or if it's just a coincidence? ;)

elle s'ennuie: yes, if we move to Finland one day, there will be no kitties left behind! When I moved to the US I brought my two kitties with me, and that was tough enough, so I can't even imagine what it will be like moving with six... Oh well, it has to be done! :)

blackdogramona: the name of the blog comes from a novel by Vita Sackville-West. When I set up the blog over three years ago I had no idea that I'd be stuck with the name I chose at the time. I just randomly picked a book whose name was appealing... and here we are, years later... I haven't had the heart to change the name, even though I sometimes feel like I just stole it from someone who used words way better than I ever will. :)