Finding Petronella

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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

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

Saturday October 11, 2014 It is somewhere way deep down in the morning before the light, and I am awake.  I am awake because I can’t figure out how to say goodbye. I came to Finland with the hope of being more than a tourist.  I wanted to slow down and settle in, to stay long enough to allow the people and the place to sink into my skin.  I have written about the major triumphs and pitfalls… Read More

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…do not seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” -Ranier Maria Rilke If you wanted to take the direct route… Read More

“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

        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

What happens when two tall, loud, curly, energetic women combine to change the world through music and dance? My dear friend Mira Manickam and I were sitting on my bed in the Marin Headlands last December.  We had just held our first recording session together.  “Mira, it’s crazy,” I said.  “I wanted to be a writer, and now I’m walking across Finland, retracing the steps of a 90-year-old wild woman and writing… Read More