Other People - Home
Finland, so far away; it is both exhilarating and
frightening to have stepped across the boundaries
of familiar, comfortable territory, to enter into
a place which bubbles up from the past at the
same time as it flows in from the future, a mix
of childhood memories and the discovery of a
landscape that seems as though it should be
filmed and not entered. Stepping onto a frozen
sea, surrounded by red wooden houses and birch
forests, walking out to the islands and listening
to the ice groan beneath my feet, the wind which
literally sings through the yellow reeds does
more to lull me towards dreaming than to wake me
up with its sting. I am as yet only half here,
the rest of me is somewhere in transition, both
internally and externally, I am slipping into
Swedish, and I can’t help clinging to French and
English, I don’t know who the Swedish me is yet,
my fingers, toes, and ears are numb and the white
light is a different way of seeing, the wind a
different way of hearing, everything must adjust
and adapt, for this isn’t tourism and change must
root itself down, alter the deep structure. It
is a strange labyrinth which requires my full
attention and which leaves me externally
distracted, exhausted, uneasy, jumpy, excited,
feverish, ecstatic, giddy, weaving in and out of
myself and tying strings to my fingers which lead
back to the rest of the web, to those who receive
my letters.
The gathering has begun, images, film, sound, the
laboratory is setting itself up, computers,
printer, scanner, internet, in a house which we
heat with wood stoves in the middle of the
finnish countryside, I have a hard time
remembering how we got here, we must live in a
spaceship that just looks like a house. But the
strangeness of the situation is what makes it
wonderful, it makes me laugh to get up from
working away on the computer to go drink coffee
and eat homebaked cookies with the seventy-six
year old lady who lives next door and who tells
me things I don’t remember about when I was a
little girl. And then to come back to Fred’s
company, speak French and listen to French radio
which struggles its way across the continent and
reaches us in scratchy stammering discourse cut
up by whining interference as though it came from
a century ago, bringing news of a war which digs
itself deeper and deeper into its absurd rut,
adding to the general irreality of life at the
moment.
Irreality which slides into gleeful moments where
logic seems somehow to overflow itself, bicycling
out through the woods, down snow-covered paths to
the sea and just continuing out onto the ice,
rolling along on a bicycle where a month or two
from now we would be under water. Things which
for the people who live here hold no particular
significance, but which for us are magical.
Swathed in snow, it is a hermit’s existence that
settles in on us here, but the cosy comfort of
the fireplace and the whistling howl of the wind
in the whiteness of the day and the pitch black
of the night, feed the fires that inspire us to
work on our current and future projects, the day
is divided into work on the computer, sound and
image gathering (as well as playing) outside in
the forest and on the coast, writing, editing
photograph sequences and recording for a new
installation piece, writing in both French and
English, studying everything from Finnish to Java
programming, fireside evening discussions and
comparisons of research over a glass of wine,
reading Gombrowicz’s Cosmos, Derrida’s
Dissemination, Bioy Casares’ Dream of Heros, as
well as the household activities that are a
welcome distraction from our intellectual
pursuits, shovelling snow, baking bread and
cooking on the woodstove, planting indoor seeds
and preparing the still frozen earth for outdoor
spring planting, though with a new snowstorm
sweeping in spring is not yet upon us. I feel as
though I’ve tumbled through far too many seasons
for one year, which in itself has just begun,
winter in Vancouver, spring if not summer in San
Francisco, back to a short chilly spell in
Vancouver and then over to spring in the south of
France, and now back to winter here in Finland.
The days are already growing long, the sun rises
at around five-thirty in the morning and its last
glow after sunset is still visible past
nine-thirty. The cold however, keeps everyone
indoors and noone willingly strays further than
necessary, ourselves included, but we have begun
to get to know those who work at the grocery
store and the bank and the library in the
village, I recently met my second cousin, Ulrika,
who works part-time as a cashier when she isn’t
studying in Vasa, a city (or the closest thing to
a city to speak of in the area) north of Malax.
We wouldn’t have realized that we were related if
not for the full-time cashier at the grocery
store, who had heard Fred and I speaking French
and had also heard Ulrika’s father (my father’s
cousin, that makes us second-cousins, right?)
mention that I would be arriving with a French
boyfriend. So it seems that the word is out, we
now just have to run into or visit everyone, and
to be honest I have no idea where any of them
live nor really just who they are, for now I am
still in the settling in phase and in no hurry to
go through all the formal presentations and
reunions.
In any case, the general tendency is toward
introvertism, towards the fiction that develops
when one is only too happy to let one’s mind
wander and which roots itself into reality and
models it, alters it, erodes and rebuilds it,
which makes limitations seem ridiculous (which
they are) and the world a (mere?) reflection.
Reality becomes personal, is absorbed, finds its
source interiorized, and with this movement
responsibility also shifts, and the environment
hinges itself onto the fragility of confidence,
which is happily holding up.
So just how easy is it to find and get work as an
English teacher in Japan? And as much as I know
you enjoy torturing yourself, are you not
creating the conditions which might excuse giving
in to overwhelming temptation? You will be in a
country populated almost entirely by the
creatures you find most seductive, oh chaste
friend, it will be highly amusing to receive news
of your daily combats. But I can understand the
thrill of purposely provoking one’s own
weaknesses, I must admit that I too enjoy such
dangerous games but that my morals allow me to
give in far too easily, usually without regrets
(it is my lack of regret which is capable of
making me regret). But I am far from such
temptation and quite happy not to have to deal
with it, as I am already amply satisfied and
shouldn’t be gluttonous. But is your intention
to go to Japan something (worthwhile certainly)
that will fill up your time while waiting to be
able to start your studies at Berkeley, or are
you changing your course of action entirely?
I have much to write to you about Dissemination,
but it will have to wait until the next letter.
Remember the letter-poems my brother and I were
writing to each other? Well, I thought I'd
include the latest installment:

Dear distant friend, our worlds do vary
from my abode with the elves and fairies
of the nordic forests and snow draped prairies
on Finland’s southwesterly shore
to thy southern haven and exotic lair
replete with creatures, scapes and wares
nary a hemisphere do we share
and though this distance I do deplore
I trust our company shall be restored

Black crow and magpie on the wire
‘gainst white fields and forest spires
whose contrast coming night conspires
to wipe into blue forgetfulness for
the few hours of which she does dispose
to sea and earth with deep ice sow
and pile up banks and drifts of snow
to slow spring’s effort to the chore
of freeing from sleep the northern moor

Around high handle bars our hands clasped
of our ancient cycles worn and rasped
the perfect transport from the past
to these vast countrysides explore
And when the limits of land we reach
no reason is there not to breach
the line that separates sea and beach
and onto the ice our wheeled birds soar
all hesitation with glee ignored

So send I from my frozen haven
these tales with curiosity laden
awed words uttered by your pale Raven
who this timeless wonder stands before
and who forgets not your dear eyes yonder
whom through my sight may also ponder
this world of which our hearts grow fonder
with each and every new path explored
unbridled flight for evermore


write soon,
Yen

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