Women of the Gold

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 mother, a daughter, a grandmother.
She is a wife, a lover, a runaway, a widow.
She is an entrepreneur, a pensioner, a state official, a goldsmith.
She is from the gold fields of Lemmenjoki, Laanila, Sotajoki, Palsinoja.
Her roots are in the North, South, West, in Savo, in Karelia.
Like gold nuggets, no two are alike.
She is a gold miner. She is a woman.
-Kai J. Rantanen

The professional alluvial gold mining community of Finnish Lapland is facing the greatest challenge in its long history.  A new mining law enacted by Finnish Parliament has already stopped the work in one third of the gold fields of Finnish Lapland.  And now, my friends in Lemmenjoki are fighting to retain the age-old gold mining culture of Lapland, the land they love, and their way of life.


Terhi, Miss January.  Photo by Ilkka Ärrälä

Quite honestly, before my journey to Finland in the summer of 2014 I wasn’t sure where I’d come down on this issue.  I consider myself a lover of the Earth; I’ve spent much of my career connecting young people to the environment so they care to protect it.  But the more time I spent in Lemmenjoki, the more I realized that this was a decision motivated by politics, rather than concern for the environment.  These gold miners occupy under 10% of Lemmenjoki National Park.  There is no corporation, they use no chemicals.  The last phase of every gold haul is panned by hand, in the river, and every claim is eventually restored to its natural setting.  This land makes them feel alive in every possible way.  It has for hundreds of years.  They want to protect it.

To support the fight against Parliament’s law, the Gold Prospectors’ Association of Finnish Lapland published a “Men of the Gold Calendar” three years ago.  Now, photographed by artist Ilkka Ärrälä, the women are taking things into their own hands.

My dear friend Tytti and I did that freezing armchair photo shoot in September 2014 half as a joke, half to see if it would start something.  When they told me it was happening, besides the shock of the fact that I will be featured in a nude calendar, I felt so humbled.  These women work this land with their own hands, their history is their own.  It is such an honor to be up there next to them.


Pirjo, Miss April.  Photo by Ilkka Ärrälä

I am Miss Upakuu, the 13th month.  According to my friend Pirjo (left), upakuu is a mixture of gold and black sand.  It seems to be the month for procrastinators and people who are always late.  In Pirjo’s words, “If someone has lack of time, he/she always can take and use that month.”

If you know me at all, you know that could not be more perfect.

I have seen the photos, and am so impressed with Ilkka’s imagination and artistry.  As you can see in Tytti, Pirjo, and Terhi (the women featured above) this calendar is practically overflowing with female strength and beauty.

As for my photograph?

It is not this one:


Photo by Tytti Bräysy

Or this.


Some models are more skilled than others. That water was COLD.

On second thought, I’m not going to show you.  All I will say is that Tytti did a gorgeous job.  You’ll have to order one to see for yourself.

I am doing a one-time order for those in the U.S. to save on shipping costs!
ORDER HERE or email jtall.oc@gmail.com by November 15th. (**EXTENDED DEADLINE: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27th**)  $20/calendar, shipping included.

For all other orders (14 euros + shipping), contact:
The Gold Prospectors Association of Finnish Lapland
+358 400 386500

One Comment on “Women of the Gold

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