“I’ve let both you and my mom down, and I’m sorry.”
I blinked back tears as I read the email again, and disbelief washed over me. It was from Solange.
On my first day in Finland, I met with a reporter from the largest paper in Finland, the Helsingen Sanomat. He was charming, seemed earnest, and worked hard to gain my trust with copies of articles from the National Archives. At the end of our interview he told me he was going to California for a conference, and asked for Solange’s email. I explained that Solange, like her mother, was an intensely private person and hated the press, but offered to share his information with Solange so that she could contact him if she wished.
As promised, I wrote to Solange. I vouched for this man as someone who seemed trustworthy, someone who I thought would be a good resource to help her set the record straight. As I expected, she did not seem interested. I received increasingly desperate emails from the reporter (whose name I will leave out for decency’s sake, though my anger begs otherwise) asking whether I had heard from her, and I responded to each with an apologetic no.
A week later, I opened a bomb in my email inbox.
Solange had returned from a walk with her husband and Buster, their beloved dog, to find the Helsingen Sanomat reporter lying in wait outside of her house. Solange was mortified – Petronella’s relationship with the Finnish press was shaky at best due to rumors circulating after her deportation from Finland about her being a fraud, a spy, an indecent woman – and this was so far removed from what she would have wanted. Solange gave the reporter the bare minimum to protect her mother, and wrought with guilt and anxiety, wrote to me with the news that she was rethinking her journey to Finland to spread her mother’s ashes throughout the places she loved in Lapland.
My tears turned to fury. I felt utterly betrayed. What a fool I was! I had trusted this man, even vouched for him to a dear friend. I had told him specifically about Solange’s aversion to the press, and he had responded by invading her privacy in the worst way. Thus, my Intersection was born. In truth, this was the final straw in my decision to leave my computer in Helsinki.
This Helsingen Sanomat reporter’s invasion of Solange’s privacy is something I will never forget, yet I feel I owe him a round of thanks. I thank him for making me aware of a side of the media I had not yet experienced, and for calling me out in all of my naivete. In a harsh, ugly way, he has given me a blessing: I have been forced to take ownership of this journey, to walk my own path and no one else’s – a path which, when I started doing so, became full of life and beauty.
Though it makes me incredibly sad, I respect Solange’s decision to do what feels best for both her and her mother. My heart breaks knowing that she will not be able to experience the kindness that both Petronella and I have found within this amazing community of gold diggers. I hope to share my stories of the magnificent landscape of Lemmenjoki and the love of land and people I have discovered there (more on that later). Perhaps when she reads them, she will find it within herself to brave the media and one day bring Petronella to rest within the landscape that shaped her life. Still, I stand by her in her decision.
In the meantime, I will do my best to live in the spirit of Petronella, and to continue her journey alone with the gold diggers this Saturday. I hope that I can express to them how much Petronella valued their companionship, how much her time in Lapland meant to her.
My greatest wish, however, is for Solange – simply, for peace.