From June to October 2014, Jenny O’Connell embarked on a walking journey across Finland, following the footsteps of Lappish legend Petronella Van Der Moer into the heart of the Arctic Circle. This is her blog.
It has taken five years, but we have arrived: to the place where my skill as a writer meets the story. To the place where the book gets more space than my paid gigs, or my obligations. To a place of spirit, and of deep faith. Welcome to The Year of the Book. A lot has happened since my last update. I taught myself how to write a book proposal. Sent it…. Read More
“It was not a bad highway, as highways go—long and flat and lined with evergreens and small houses—but it was a far cry from the serenely wooded trails of my imagination. Yet, Highway E75 was what I had. On my map of Finland it was a red line, pointing straight north. My head ached from the smell of exhaust and the roar of semi trucks. Curious faces peered at me from the… Read More
“These are people who live close to God, their god, the river. They bathe in her, scoop her up in containers to make coffee, drink her down. They skin ptarmigan and watch her current run red, then clear. They rake her bottom with their shovels, feed her through a sluice, collect her finest, densest soil in their pans, bottle up and pocket her gold. Each turn of the shovel sounds like ehkä…. Read More
3/14/18 I’m standing in the meadow, soles of my feet slowly freezing, wishing the body did not have limits. My eyes will never be wide enough to catch this sky, the shimmering veil of green falling like slow stars on my head. My mouth is no good either; what? what? is all I can say, all I can ever say when I am struck with wonder. I clutch my heart. I do… Read More
The Sami woman named Leena looked me up and down. I was wearing the warmest clothes I own—a ski jacket, snow pants, my best gloves and boots. Underneath all that I had heavy long underwear, a down vest, and my thickest fleece. I live in Maine now, I thought when I packed my bag last week to return above the Arctic Circle. This will be enough. “No.” Leena lit a cigarette and raised… Read More
In the the middle of a pond on my friend Ami’s gold claim in Lemmenjoki National Park, there is a floating armchair. The water, which may be warm during the summer, begins to drop down toward freezing come September. What, you may be asking, could possibly motivate me to sit naked with a local newspaper in my hands in a floating armchair in the middle of a freezing pond? There is only one thing. She is a… Read More
In my dream, I am a phoenix. I am standing in the wake of a tornado: shattered concrete, ashes, splintered beams, debris from buildings I have known, lived in, even. A wiry gray dog extracts himself from underneath a broken door, lifts his leg to pee, and walks out of the frame. The world is silent. At the highest point of the mass, the ground begins to vibrate. The rubble glows a golden… Read More
For those of you Finnish speakers, your moment has come. Here is a stirring, eloquent account of our epic 115-km journey to Lemmenjoki, written by none other than my partner in crime and modern-day Klaus, Annukka Rantalainen! Thank you to Seppo J. Partanen and Kultahippu for posting, and to Annukka for this great rendition. http://www.kultahippu.fi/tarinat-2/lemmenjoki/tunnelmapaloja-petronellan-jalanjaljilta/ PROJECT UPDATE: I am currently based out of a snowy cabin in upstate New York, and have… Read More
Do you feel like you need a little help from the Lemmenjoki Youth Club to get into the holiday spirit? Me too. (They might kill me for this. Worth it.) Starring: Jouko Korhonen Aki Karvonen Jukka Kela Ami Telilä Mullis Merry Christmas to all, and thank you for being part of this ongoing adventure.
The Berkeley coffee barista squinted at the Lemmenjoki gold nugget around my neck. “I just can’t figure out your necklace,” she said, “what is it?” I fingered the peculiarly shaped piece of gold and shifted awkwardly. “Umm, it’s a gift from the gold miners in northern Finland,” I said. She looked again, frowning. “Is it a map of Finland?” I smiled. I knew the inevitable, and the inevitable was hilarious. “No, it’s… Read More