“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… Read More

I was curious to know what would come out of my pen when I wrote my last “Hello Dear Friend, I love today” letter in Oulu.  It was simple, it was everything that felt true, it was this: Hello Dear Friend, I love today.  I love today because it is both an ending and a beginning. It has been a little over a month since I arrived in Finland, and what a… Read More

It all started with this photograph of graffiti on a wall in Ireland: I didn’t even take the photo, my college roommate Steph did.  I haven’t even been to Ireland.  Steph brought that photo home and framed it on the wall, and it became a part of my subconscious, scrolling through my brain like movie credits on repeat.  I scribbled it in textbook margins, I wrote it on napkins in the dining… Read More

I am finding it difficult to put the last week and a half into words.  The words “week and a half” feel strange when I say them, because I have removed my watch and begun to mark time by wild adventures and the periods of intense personal growth in between them, rather than minutes, hours, days.  The lesson to stop asking questions about where I’m going, who I’ll meet, where I’ll sleep, and what… Read More

Drawn by something I could not define, I walked the road to Monikkala manor.  It seemed vaguely familiar, like a road I had walked in a dream last December.  The crunch of the dirt road underneath my shoes, the fragrant smell of the evergreens lining the way, and the occasional mosquito bite reminded me that this time it was real. It feels almost ludicrous to explain how I came to walk down… Read More

I knew this would come, but I kind of hoped it wouldn’t. Today’s journey found me in a town called Kotka.  It was the last destination I had to check off the list of places Petronella visited around Helsinki before I begin my trek north tomorrow.  Tuukka and I explored the empty cathedral, and I noticed as I walked around the balcony that my footsteps were echoing in a beautiful way.  Without thinking about it I started to… Read More

When I first set out to retrace Petronella’s steps across Finland, I was under the impression that she walked straight from Helsinki to Lapland.  While that would be pretty impressive, in reality it would not leave nearly enough time for her to accomplish the trouble/fun/adventures that turned her into a legend during the four short months she was in Finland.  With the help of Mauno J. Pyhtilä’s “Balladi kauniista Petronellasta – Lemmenjoen legenda,” Martti Peltomaa… Read More

  “Are you going to work again?  I’d rather you take a sauna.” Eija Heikura is about half my height, but I know better than to argue.  Inside that tiny woman’s frame is a veritable tornado of cooking, cleaning, fussing, and motherly love.  The night I arrived, Eija gave me her own peach-colored bathrobe with puffy sleeves straight out of the 80s and a pair of powder blue shower shoes.  I took the… Read More

        A Difficult Beginning… said the monitor at Oslo International, and I cursed in every language I knew and wished I had read that before I missed my flight to Helsinki.  My 7-hour layover had turned into a 12-hour layover and it was mostly my fault.  Lost in an article about Petronella, I had been sitting at the gate with my back to the boarding desk, waiting for an announcement over the… Read More

Now put my bag on the conveyor belt And drink the last cup in one go Soon from above the clouds I will remember this land I don’t have a certain course I will go wherever fortune leads me I’m carrying pictures with me But eyes aren’t meeting each other Dad I’m here on the other side of the world and I sing pappadaduda pa duda dapa Mom don’t be afraid I will take… Read More