The Transformative Finnish

An unhappy discovery during a house-cleaning of my Gmail account earlier today led to happier moments, but only after a period of deep sadness. I came across an email I sent, on November 8, 2007, to the mayor of the City of Helsinki, Finland. I sent the message in response to my horror of learning of the Jokela school shooting that took place on November 7, 2007 in the municipality of Tuusula, Finland. When I learned of the shooting, in which a deranged eighteen-year-old killed eight people and wounded one (twelve others were injured by flying glass, etc.), I was stunned. I wanted to tell the people of Finland I felt sorrow for and cared for them. The only person for whom I could find contact information was Jussi Pajunen, the mayor of Helsinki. I figured he might take my message and pass along the sentiments to people affected by the shooting.  Here’s the text of my message:

Mr. Mayor:
Many people in the U.S.A. are grieving with you and the people of Finland as you deal with the tragedy that took place in Tuusula. I don’t know who else to contact to express my personal condolences; I hope you will let the people of Helsinki, Tuusula, and all of Finland know that the people of the U.S.A. are deeply saddened by the tragedy.
My wife and I visited Helsinki two years ago and fell in love with the city and the people of Finland. We wish you all well.

Our one-day visit really wasn’t enough for us to “fall in love with the city and the people of Finland,” but we enjoyed what little we could see in a one-day foray in Helsinki. The city and the people with whom we engaged were, indeed, more than pleasant; they were welcoming. Learning of such a horrendous occurrence is always shocking and troubling; that it happened in a country I considered enormously peaceful was awful. Finding that old email sent me into an emotional tailspin. I researched the circumstances of the incident and engaged in all sorts of wild goose chases, learning more about the incident that, frankly, I had forgotten. I did not receive a reply to my email to the mayor, nor did I expect one; but I seem to recall that I allowed that incident to escape from my memory faster than I think it should have. So research was required to bring it back to me; I needed more details.

I’ll leave out all the negativity I plowed through during the research and get right to the softer, happier stuff that arose during the course of learning more about that incident, about Finland and, of course, its food. As I was wandering through English-language Finnish web sites, I came across an article about a hotel in the city of Rovaniemi, Finland (which, by the way, is the official hometown of Santa Claus in the Arctic Circle in Lapland). The hotel (the Arctic Light Hotel) was judged by the users of Trivago as the best in the country. The US-based Travel+Leisure magazine ranked the hotel number eleven worldwide. The article about the hotel, which I found on the Finland Times website, quoted the hotel manager as saying the hotel’s extraordinary foods at breakfast attracts people domestically as well as foreigners. I had to find the hotel’s website. I found it and then I found the hotel restaurant’s website. The restaurant, Arctic Boulevard, has a most-intriguing menu.  Arctic Boulevard‘s main course menu includes such delights as the Arctic Boulevard Reindeer Burger, the ingredients of which include pulled reindeer, cranberry chutney, red onion, and house mayonnaise. I must try this! And how about their Capercaillie Cooked Two Ways? Capercaillie , I learned, is also known as wood grouse, among other names. So, it’s a bird! Then, I came across a website for Tareq Taylor’s Nordic Cookery that convinced me I really must find a way to sample his  capercaillie and chanterelles.

I could go on—as  you might know if you  have been to this blog before—for weeks. I don’t know if my wife and I will ever return to Finland, but we will attempt to find the ingredients for, and cook, Finnish and Nordic foods.

So, do you see how the ugliness of stumbling across a horrible memory can lead one to better things? The tears of 2007 were justified and expected and they should never be forgotten, but the joys associated with the people who had to deal with those horrors are stronger and more long-lasting.

Some days, I wonder if I am just a simpleton whose wishes for decency and goodness and happy interactions are stupid and mindless and, possibly, dangerous. My eyes fill with tears when I realize the world in which I live is so ugly and dangerous and full of far more fear and heartache than reason says it should.

I am right at the edge of thinking none of this is worth the struggle any more. Why should we continue to push for justice when justice has succumbed to hatred? Why should we strive for reason when reason has smothered under a blanket of lies and idiocy?

We must try. It’s as simple as that.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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