i heard of a Bavarian kid who came to Yakushima for 3 days and ended up staying two weeks.
After my first full day, I was so tired from hiking that I ended up just walking to the beach in the town of Anbo, and setting camp there. I was happy not to have been the only one with the same idea. Free camping in Japan is not frowned upon, but campers do tend to reserve places at campsites even months in advance. I had just opened my satellite view to see any patches of grass or sand remote enough to be calm for the night.
There were two tents by the fire, and a small group of kids introducing themselves as the Anbo elementary school 4th graders camping club. I gave them what was left of my moomin cookies, and after they had gone to bed, sat down for a moment to read my book by the fire.
In the morning I woke up to Edelweiss being played – beautifully harmonized – on the towns public announcement megaphones. I could hardly believe it was not a hallucination.
I had sought out a good-looking site to camp at Yudomari beach, within a stone's throw of an onsen by the beach. It was secluded enough not to have any or very little passing traffic – mostly a few people going to fish on the large concrete pier that looked like a gigantic submarine bunker. Still, it fitted the landscape of black sand, black beach rocks in pareidolic formations and a silhouette of Jurassic park -type green mountains in the background.
I had bought a bus pass for 3 days (same price as for 2 days), so I thought to myself: might as well stay for a few days longer. I had grown fond of the island and especially its busdrivers, whom I had seen every day going up and down the coastal road around the perfectly circle-shaped island.
In the evening, at the onsen I got to chatting with another gaijin, and asked for a ride down to the next village where there was about the only place open for food within 5km either way from Yudomari. The ride saved me 45 mins of walking, that I intended to do anyway on the way back. The nights on Yakushima had been fragrant with flowers and sweetly warm until now.
The Hachiman as it was called, turned out to double as a karaoke bar after I had finished dinner. I had already made my way out when I regretted and turned back. There was a group with a girl from Holland, with whom we exchanged a few friendly words in Dutch. They were going to stay on the island until the end of April. Just in time to get out of the way when 2000 sea turtles abeach in May, I said. They were sorry to miss them. They are better left alone anyway.
They had Edelweiss on the karaoke menu.
The host said everyone in Japan knows this song, and in English too, as it is sung in high-school gatherings. We were the Captain and Liesl that night.
I don't have a lot of things with me on this trip. But things tend to accumulate. A box with space for 8 fruits, with just 3 left. A bento from the day before, still in good shape (food is well salted here). Some trash (trash cans are not abundant on the island).
I had grabbed a waterbottle with a carrying string from the place I go bouldering in Helsinki. It was been a great companion on walks and hikes across the island. I've been filling it at public restrooms, waterfalls and rivers. In the morning I put the left-overs from my juice unsealable tetra pack.
Last night as I was taking the bus to Anbo to sit at a zoom-meeting at a local place whose wifi my phone connects to every time I pass it, bringing awaited news from friends and family, I struck up a conversation with a father and son from Tokyo that I had met settling for the night at one of the mountain huts I passed on my first hiking day. They had slept three nights in mountain huts, and thus crossed the whole island from north to south. I gave them my card in case they ever considered coming to hike in Finland. The father promised to write an email to me.
It was a good idea to bring business cards to Japan, I never have them otherwise.
Once I got off, I went to negotiate with the cafe that were only about to open at 5, whether I could quietly sit and have a meeting for an hour and a half before they opened. I didn't have internet otherwise. They were very friendly and gave me a cup of cold coffee to seal the deal. I had a good meeting topped with an excellent meal of sashimi and rice with pickles.
I realised I didn't have my favourite accessory.
It came to me and I checked my pictures. I had taken one of the bus stop I had left to Anbo from. And there my water bottle was, tucked inside the shelter.
I took the last bus back to Yudomari. I was the only passenger. The bus driver was the quiet guy. The talkative one repeats everything the announcements for every stop. There are over a 100 over the island every minute or so, and the announcements repeat the stop number, the name, in Japanese, in English, and the occasional Iwasaki corporation announcement. The bus alwsays takes a small detour up on the hill in Onoaida to often just drive past the Iwasaki hoteru and coming back down onto the island's circular road. A gesture of diligence, perhaps also sponsorship.
The buses on Yakushima are small theatres for an intricate and accurate choreography of small machines. I always sit in the front row.
When a passenger enters, unless they have a contactless card as the younger locals often do, they take a small white slip with the number of the stop stamped on it from the #1 stamp.machine. The new slip gets sucked back in if no-one takes it once the doors close.
On top at the front of the bus there is the #2 fare.grid, a large grid of light-boxes showing the price of each stop number – based on the distance from that spot. The numbers grow larger at every stop. I get mesmerised by it.
When getting off, unless you have a contactless card or a bus-pass, you drop your number slip, coins and 1000 yen bills in the #3 cashier.machine. One of the slots on the cashier.machine changes bigger coins for smaller one. So there is also a #4 coin.changer.
When we were nearing my water-bottle stop, I called for the stop and explained that I just wanted to pick up my water-bottle and I would get back. He saw how happy I was to be reunited with my trusted hydrator. Maybe he also has a favourite cup at home he would not think of ever losing.
I noticed that the top of his cap was made of net instead of textile. I hadn't noticed before but now I couldn't unsee it.
I ended up observing the buses and busdrivers for four days on Yakushima.
having an old me and a new me is a cliché
having an old me is also a timeling thing – having something substantial to come after something else substantial. and for something to become substantial, it has to be established and this takes time
so I had a conversation between old me and new me and the old me managed to convince me, luckily
not without a small sense of precarity, but it was a sunny day's precarity.
where was I, so I had left Fukuoka and taken the Ferry down to Yakushima. I slept a night at the so called Yakusisugi Museum, where buses for the mountain trailhead left from.
Yakusugi is a species of giant cedar endemic to Yakusugi.
They are huge.
Jomon-sugi (many of the big and old ones are named) being the biggest at 5 metres across. During the hike up, trees that were 2 metres across seemed already huge.
I boarded a small bus with seats lined up with plastic. For the abundant Yakushima rain, I thought. Today was promising to be a sunny day though. One of 10 rainless days a year.
The trail followed a narrow-gauge railway line built along the river for logging purposes.
The day after I walked past a huge depot of logged Yakusugis. Still, most of the island is protected, and the part that wasnt – where most of the hike took place – seemed equally pristine, save the infrasturcture of steps, railings and endless 'appreciation platforms' as I came to call them.
When the paved trail forked into several appreciation platforms, you knew there was something to appreciate.
Later on the hike, I saw beautiful trees without signs or nametags, or any appreciation platforms erected for them. I found myself saying quietly outloud: 'don't think that you are not appreciated just because you don't have a single appreciation platform'.
The hike up to Jomon-sugi is very popular. The walk back down the same way to the bus would've been even more crowded than the ascent. Having left at 5.30 from the Yakusugi museum, I was already at the top of the main trail by 10.30.
The buses back to town from the trailheads left as late as 5pm, so I thought to myself: I have time.
I had a short conversation with myself. I felt excellent, not tired at all, and the day was very sunny. I didn't want to go back the same way, but I wasn't sure wether there were buses or any transportation available at another trailhead, which according to the map wouldve been another 9h hike. So even at best, according to the written time, I would be there after dark.
Not a good idea, thought Lauri the new.
But I had made the 6h-marked hike in 3,5 hours. So I would make the hike down to the other trailhead in just over 5 hours.
The hike over to the other side would in fact go over the top of the island, incidentally also the highest point in the entire Kyushu region at 1 986 m.
I was already walking down the trail laid down for Lauri the new, when I did the math again.
Besides, everything works in Japan. There will be at least a public toilet at the other trailhead, probably a series of signs (many on Yakushima are also in English) and perhaps even some information for just the kind of hiker like Lauri the old, who makes less-researched spontaneous decisions.
What's the worst that can happen.
So I went for it, accelerated a bit, and got to the top of Miyanouradake in just under an hour and a half from my timeling-point.
Steve, the bartender from DC had followed me. Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows them, was the second thing I said to them after having revealed my crazy plan two hours before. We ended up doing the whole hike down across the island to the other trailhead together. Supporting each others crazinesses with kind words from stranger to stranger.
We got to the trailhead by 5pm, there were of course no buses, but a public toilet and clearly marked signs with how long it takes to walk down to Anbo, where we were both staying.
So we hitchhiked and got a ride in under 5 minutes.
We had flying fish for dinner.
Here's to the old me.
’if i moved to japan’ was a thought that occurred to me already on the following day after arrival.
On my last night in Fukuoka, I swallowed my pride and googled where the local street food – the yatai stalls were located. Turns out I had narrowly missed them on my first night as I had passed just nearby on the lookout for food on my first night out.
The canalside on the southern tip of Nakasu island is lined with food carts rolled in in the afternoon and open until late at night. By the time I had finished work at ten, the stalls were all quite full with queues of different sizes huddled against the canal railing waiting to be next up.
I walked the length of the canal back and forth, and then settled to queue for one of the ones with a blue sign on top of it, some pictures of the ramen and yakitori they sold. I tried to eye out my new favourite drink in Japan, the non-alcoholic asahi dry zero, but they mostly only had small taps of regular asahi, kirin or sapporo on the drink shelves next to the stalls.
The stalls were all almost identical – a kitchen in the middle, and stalls on three edges of the cooking area, with stools very close to each other. The vibe was very intimate, I immediately fell in love with the concept. People of every age, and some stalls seemed to be especially popular with youngsters and groups of high-school or uni friends.
I was approached by the usher of the stall I was queuing, who spoke good english. I tried to answer in as much japanese as I had picked up. they made sure I understood I can only order all the food I wanted at once. I settled on some yakitori skewers and a local hakata ramen with pork.
Very soon a space freed for me to sit, and I greeted my neighbours and the two very trendy-looking cooks.
I heard one of them say ’yakitori des, skatta des’. I got my first order almost immediately, and a tin glass of cold green tea.
I had brought along a yellow beanie with the name of my district in local slang ’skatta’ (from skattudden, or Juniper Point), that was launched by the local super market chain alepa. It’s become a trademark of sorts for me, as I had it on for most of the Musica nova festival a few weeks ago. Someone on the arcade street had shouted ’ok, pikachu’ at me, referring to the yellow of the beanie.
When I walked back to my room from the library yesterday, I saw that I had lost it. I mustve had left it in one of the toilets I had gone to.
As it happened, the one thing I had lost so far was also the one thing I had two identical copies of.
So I had a brand new skatta-beanie on when I sat on the yatai stall.
yakitori des, skatta des.
Walking downtown to check out the Daymon-neighbourhood, boded to be trendy by the guide-book I had, I bumped into another traveller on their own, looking for some food. I had seen them also at the yatai stalls. They seemed like fun and good company at a glance, so I ran after them, apologised for running after them and then asked if they wanted to go for a drink with me. Since I was traveling alone, and I didn’t speak Japanese, it would be nice to talk to someone.
They agreed, and we went back to the stalls for a drink and some more food.
Turns out they were an astrophysics student from Poland studying in Tokyo, the best university in the field according to them. They were on a so-far very successful hitch-hiking trip all around Kyushu. They spoke impeccable Japanese, which they said was very useful as most people who offered a ride were also very talkative. This I had found on my hitch-hiking trips in Finland some years ago too. We both enjoyed languages and films, so we had a lot in common. we sat bar-hopping until three in the morning.
I had to check out by eleven in the morning. I paid a small visit to the nearby shrine, and then headed to the Shinkasen Hakata Station to exchange my rail pass. It took almost an hour of queuing, but I made it to my connection to Kagoshima, the port city servicing the island of Yakushima.
I walked across town to the port, took an incredibly fast hydrofoil ferry to the town of Anbo on the eastern side of Yakushima.
I bumped into a Japanese family on their way to a hotel in the southern shore and offered them Moomin biscuits. The grandmother of the family showed me pictures of the Uspenski cathedral from Helsinki, and I said I live about 200metres from there. They had been there last summer.
Too early to feel home-sick.
The kid of the family gave me a small pack of Yokohama mix salt snacks in return.
I found a Ramen joint open in an otherwise quiet little coastal town on a Sunday night. Delicious, cheap and quick, I took the opportunity to charge my phone before heading out.
I hiked for just under an hour to the Yakusugi Museum parking ground, from where a bus will leave to the trailhead heading to the central plateau of the island at 5am in the morning. I’ll be first in line.
Free tenting is prohibited in Japan, so I’m hoping to clear my village before anyone notices…
I spent a lot of time today in relation to a shopping mall.
I say in relation, because I feel like I oriented my day according to it, but I didn't really spend time inside.
I walked along the canal past the mall to the ferry port. It has a massive aquarium tank in its midst, harbouring a sea-turtle that made me incredibly sad. There was a grand piano that passers-by could play. The only thing I could think of was the finale of Taras Bulba, as even at my most distraught I remember my favourite chord progression in the world.
Fukuoka passenger port is food for the imagination. It services the westernmost towns more easily accessible by water (including Nagasaki), the islands north of Kyūshū as well as Busan in South Korea.
The Fukuoka Riverain has a large covered avenue going through it, most of which was fenced in with cute little green pickets. At the end of it I had sought-out Café Fika, which seemed to serve a nordic style gusto. Starting to feel like a walking bubble, I turned away and thinking I might go back there. If there ever was a day I could use a cup of coffee, it would be today. Otherwise I was perfectly happy with the idea of switching to tea while here.
On the other end of the avenue, inside the picketed, pear-shaped pen was a small electric train, the design resembling the kind of steam locomotive pastiches that you see in amusement parks and city old towns. It was meant for very small children, queuing up in a zig-zag with their guardians. Along with the driver, there were at least four other impeccably dressed train managers encouraging the kids to shout out possibly 'let's gooo' in Japanese as the train left on its rounds. The driver was waving back at the kids and the four other train managers blew bubbles from elongated teddy-bear shaped soap-bubble-sticks.
The train had speakers for the choo-choo sound, playing at a very friendly dynamic.
I stopped and waved at the kids as well. The train driver waved most enthusiastically.
I remembered an old joke about how different soviet union dictators would play out a situation where the train stopped. Khrushchev would command the train managers to shake the train and walk past the windows with branches to make it look like the train was still moving. Brezhnev would command both the train managers and the passengers to do the same.
What the Fukuoka express has in common, is that it also provides, I guess, a similar experience – some of it real, some of it enhanced. The train was indeed moving around the pen. What moved me was how hard everyone believed in it. The parents, the kids, the train-managers, the smiley driver – all were so into the show. I was lured into it too. I'm writing about it hours later.
I did end up getting that coffee at the cafe of the Fukuoka Museum of Asian Art, Cafe Iena. I have been to Iena once, following my little sisters fencing circuit around Europe back in the day. Or maybe it was Lena. Anyway, I like the name Iena. I'm happy it came back to me here.
I coccooned, huddled in a hanging basket by the window overlooking the Kawabata arcades, catching up on some emails and reporting to friends of family of my safe arrival.
That first sip of bu-ren-do ko-hii accelerated my heart rate, and suddenly I remembered my body was naturally only waking up now at around 3pm local time.
arriving in Japan is not the same moment as realising you're in Japan.
incidentally this is possibly also true of Hamburg
My first and only full day in Fukuoka did start unusually fresh. When I had woken up, for a brief moment I felt as though through my previous trip I'd hacked how to match body-time with solar time, and I was happily researching my itinerary for upcoming days in a fully flat position with the sun promising a shades-kinda-day. Really not that bad at all.
I have to save up on these cats for a later date. They merit their own post.
blueberries, or perhaps more accurately billberries, as they are called in North America to distinguish them from their southern, bush-growing siblings, come in various forms.
before I left on this trip, I considered buying dried packets of blueberry flour as gifts, as they are both in and of itself when it comes to stuff you can only find in alepa, as well as being fantastically portable. I forgot, so instead I packed some alepa- and moomin-totebags.
the Finnish flag-carrier famously adopted a line of distributing complimentary blueberry juice to their customers a few years ago.
when arriving at Haneda airport in Tokyo, and observing the cutest pair of sniffing dogs – probably grandson and grandfather – at work to find undeclared fresh fruit and veg together with impeccably dressed customs officers, I remembered that I had a small tupperware of blueberries (this time the southern bushy kind) in a side pocket of my backpack.
Luckily the pack was still on the way to being delivered to the conveyor, and once I saw it thump on the line, I waited for it to come to the far end where I was standing, while the dogs and god-owners went the other way.
I grabbed by pack from the conveyor, quickly pocketed the box of blueberries checking to see if I had collected any eyes on me, and promptly marched to the toilet to eat a box of blueberries in one sitting.
The original plan was to fly to Narita airport just outside of Tokyo, and then transfer to Haneda across town to make it to my connecting flight to Fukuoka. My flight from Helsinki was overbooked, and being flexible for timing anyway on this trip as I was, I volunteered to be replaced. Once I had gone through security and arrived at the gate, the matter was as complicated as booking me on a flight to Haneda instead of Narita, leaving ten minutes later and from across the corridor from where we were, and removing all the hassle from the correspondence.
I'm writing this five minutes to midnight local time in Fukuoka, after having travelled for just about 24 hours to get here.
It takes me longer to get to Hamburg.
At Haneda airport I had the time to have lunch at one of the ramen places they have inconspicuously places at the corner of the main hall of the Domestic terminal. I realised I had my wallet in my coat pocket and thus already checked in and on the way to the hold. Luckily I still had some battery left on my phone from filling entry forms and dispensing battery time in making QR-codes brighter. A simple tap on a ticket machine in front of the ramen-joint, and I was waved to sit down at the counter by a waiter with his back towards me. He must've heard my approaching rustling.
I observed the Haneda ramen joint staff closely, as I had nothing else to do, and they were incredibly light in all their movements and all their utterances. They sung - holding on to the last vowel of the sentence to either welcome customers or to bid them farewell long enough for it to settle as a key for a melodic line. It wasn't hard to listen to their speech as music. Their gestures of welcome and service were completely independent of the direction their face was pointing. They could fill glasses of cold tea in the corner, facing what they were doing, and simultaneously showing an empty seat for a new customer to settle into.
I will be on this trip for 25 days, aiming to update on here for 25mins a day. I will be in Fukuoka until Sunday, when I'm planning to go down to the island of Yakushima.
a week later, I am back where I started.
I got home for enough time to empty my bag, make a quick fettucine nduja and pack the same bag with my skiing gear. With my skis and poles in a blue ski-bag, I walked to the Senate square in time to join the demonstration to demand protecting 30% of Finnish nature as well as all the remaining forests that are still in natural state (there are not many).
Two hours later I was on the bus towards Pyhäjärvi Holy Lake, where tomorrow there will be a skiing competition. As I had forgotten to sign up, I was on the phone with the organisers to see if they could squeeze me in somehow.
They said that I could join the timeless start.
I told them that that sounded perfect for me. I thanked them, and they reminded me to pick up a vest in the morning in any case, so that I'd still get the juice and bananas provided at stalls on the way.
I'm looking forward to making a timeless run.
I notice that I've had a quite a lot on recently, so things a bit further down the line of priorities I easily seem to forget them.
The Finnish word for adult is 'aikuinen' which contains the word for time 'aika'.
In essence, an adult in Finnish is a timeling.
I chatted about this with a composer colleague and friend of mine, and they mentioned that that sounded like a thought they would have on long train journeys too.
When you literally feel like you are made of time.
Alluding to something a firesoul clarinettist said to me a few years ago, a timeling is someone who exists in smaller and smaller units of time, as they learn to be more and more focused and present in a piece of music they are bringing out to the world.
a timeling becomes smaller and smaller, as their temporal units can be divided with more and more numbers.
and gracefully, a timeling ends up scattering into infinidecimally small powdery units, that fertilise the memories of other timelings still waiting for their nth division into smaller temporal units.
only very small, is the timeling of now
whom and what am I stealing time from, deciding that I can spend seven days for a trip that within another moral dimension would have taken me three?
traveling for work and leisure is a privilege that comes with duty to make it count. to carry and not just be carried.
never sure if it was Wilde of Fry that quipped that there comes a time when it becomes more than a moral duty, it becomes a pleasure.
it is a pleasure to carry and to be carried.
I get an image of a 1940's Finnish comedy film featuring the idle yet ebullient railway wanderer Lapatossu, attempting to lift themself up from their own hair.
I carried myself to Glasgow and I was carried there by our hosts
How can I contribute? I can contribute numbers and insight into land-travel experience. A manual in how to steal time.
two nights and just over two days to get to Glasgow.
about 3 hours of travel time on the first day. I don't count the time spent in a cabin on the ferry or on the train as travel time (this is actually crucial in comparison to air-travel).
twelve. a full day, that is actually half a day.
my days are of the half-full kind.
just over 12 hours on the second day from Stockholm to Hamburg, and a long single stretch of just under 18 hours from Hamburg to Glasgow on the third day. Long non-stop stretches of over 12 hours are a preference for me sometimes, if they don't occur too often, but they could of course be divided into shorter stretches.
and back again.
Three nights and just over two days to get back to Helsinki. The overnight train to London, a 10-hour stretch to Hamburg, a night at a cheap cabin-hotel in Hamburg, and another 12-hour stretch with a 6am start to catch the evening ferry from Stockholm to Finland.
I'm stealing time from my metabolism, or how it has come used to a particular biological clock.
time-zones are the shelves from which you are shoplifting time
Early starts are good for land-travel, since they help to accommodate possible delays on the way.
When moving from Finnish time back towards the west, early starts go with the grain and you hardly even notice that your alarm looks like its an hour or so earlier than when you would normally wake up.
Working forwards from GMT, consecutive early starts can start accumulating as jet-lag. This for me is a sign that this particular trip has been an especially fast one. My body does feel more dislocated from its usual rhythm on this trip than previous land-travel ventures. With even one extra day both ways removes this issue completely, as 30 hours of travel would then be stretched across 3-4 and not 2-3 days, making the case for early starts redundant.
when stealing time to have breakfast, make it an adventure and seek out the best breakfast to be had west of Greenwich.
The travel days feel very different based on how they end. If by the end of the day you know you will have a place to stay somewhere, perhaps even somewhere that you can access 24/7 in case of being delayed, such as a cabin hotel or a friends place you have a key to, the day feels settled, and you can afford to slow down and break the fast.
allow yourself to value the precarity of your time on a given day, your friends will understand.
Days, by the end of which you need to catch an overnight connection at a certain time, have a different feel to them. I'm working here. I'm on duty. I need to carry this thing somewhere. Sorry, no time to talk, I have to get to Stockholm tonight.
Usually these latter days also have less flexibility about how to get there. Sometimes there is only one chain of connections, such as almost always is between Hamburg and Stockholm. There are no long connections that operate every few hours or so.
If like today, leaving Hamburg, I want to get to Stockholm in time for the 8pm ferry to Turku (the Helsinki ferry long gone by then, since it leaves already after 4pm), I have one chance to get it.
sometimes the first connection is also the last one.
This will change in 2029, when they finish the Fehrman tunnel connection, halving travel time between Copenhagen and Hamburg. Then I can afford to steal time to explore the best breakfasts to be had east of Greenwich.
stealing time for friends becomes more than a moral duty it becomes a pleasure
and hasn't the person you're meeting to break the fast really been fasting with you the whole way?
the carried carrier
this took longer than 25 minutes
Glasgow was a gathering of words.
I spent two days listening to how lovers of contemporary music articulate their view of the world, contributing my own mesh of spoken strands and working to make sense of a multitude of strands: priorities, crystallisations and shy suggestions alike.
There was also a delicate bubbling of associations, stories, anecdotes and observations.
Some of these were of a personal nature, linking to the history of a city and it's dwellers.
Glasgow-dwellers carry a collective trauma of a particular building. A building central to Glaswegian life both geographically, philosophically and psychologically. Completely destroyed by a recent fire, it lays dormant encapsulated by a grim cathedral of scaffolding, with beams of rusted steel, mangled by the power of the flames, grimacing out from it's foot on the hill, where lay the roof of a large circus building.
Our gathering passed the ruin on our first night in Glasgow, quietened and disheartened by the silent lingering destruction that had been frozen in situ.
On the following day, we had lunch at the CCA gallery just across the ruin, and while visiting the gallery spaces, one of the rooms' windows where giving towards the towering scaffolding.
In grey overcast daylight, the members of our gathering shared their stories of the ruin in turn. How there was a lingering smell of wet ash on the following morning, the reason of which became slowly apparent as the news of the fire reached the comuting readers on tablets and smartphone screens.
The smoke that was a single tower, visible for miles.
Someone found solace in that the building is excellently documented. There is a digital blueprint of the entire edifice and all of its intricate innards.
The art community in Glasgow and worldwide, while engaging in mourning of their beloved alma mater, their landmark, their pride, engage simultaneously in creative remembering. Not a regret of what could have been, but an immaterial trace, an enhanced memory, a fan-fiction.
The human building is foremost a memory palace, that has always had it's most urgent form of existence in its relationship with humans. In the memory of humans.
In the words of a poet building on the experience of a composer: a composition is the tending to a ruin.
Watering the moss that grows on it.
Covering the steel buttresses with a weather-resistant paint.
Being inside it unafraid of the falling weathered sand-stone.
Seeing a cathedral in the scaffolding.
writing every day has been a practice i have latched onto and fallen out of several times in my life.
I've kept a diary since 2005, but some breaks have been almost longer than a a year.
I notice that I can speak about abstract things, moods, feelings and elusive concepts with more ease in my third language now that I'm writing and reflecting on my travels daily.
One of my colleagues with whom we share curatorial work at the Nordic Music Days – the reason of my coming to Glasgow – asked yesterday about how I position myself as a Finn having lived a great bulk of my years in Belgium and elsewhere.
I often (lovingly) retort that I'm now stuck in Finland, having lived there for over 10 years now.
what I really mean is that I have two mouths to feed, and I always get reminded of this condition when I travel through environments familiar to me from my childhood – Brussels, London...
They are environments that have left a mark on me, and they contain cultural capital that is not in a very active state when I spend time in Helsinki.
It's almost like I have two digestive systems, to stomachs, and two mouths feeding into them. The part of me that lives from speaking French and connecting with the ensuing personality that follows from speaking French gets malnourished in Finland.
Likewise I develop a hunger for the ease of being and thinking that comes from being surrounded by and connected to a mother-tongue speaking community, if I'm deprived of it for too long.
But it isn't as simple as it sounds. I feel like i have a bilingual identity, and in a way my French could and would be in a near mother-tongue stage if I would have a more daily connection with it.
I sometimes miss the person I am when I speak French, and I can't seem to bring them out other than in French-speaking communities.
When I travel, it feels as though I slowly and gradually shed my skin when traveling through Swedish and Danish speaking communities – or indeed Estonian speaking – there being something 'close to home' about them. When I enter Germany and especially Belgium, I feel like I enter into a long-distance relationship with myself.
That's when the other mouth starts to feed, and the other metabolism starts its slow squiggling into action. Not always a process free of acids and nausea, but always welcomed and beautiful – fulfilling.
Yesterday after dinner I shared a bowl of rice pudding (or rice porridge in Finnish) with a small heart of cherry jam with a Scottish colleague across the table. The story that went around the table was one of love of porridge, how it tastes different when made with different tap water from different region. The best I have ever tasted was made from the esker-filtered natural spring water that comes out of taps in Lahti.
Turns out both of my mouths eat both porridge and potatoes.
this morning I woke up in my hotel room in Glasgow to both sun and snow.
this further enhanced a strange sort of feeling of making a big loop back to where I started off at, or at least a sense of symmetry between the two end-points of this hook-shaped trip.
yesterday evening I was in London for half an hour, just enough to feel a warm spring air definitely belonging to a consciousness of the south.
the window I was leaning against during the 4,5 hour trip to Edinburgh cooled down gradually. It was dark, and I could only make out the illuminated silhouette of Durham cathedral and the bridges over Tyne.
before London I spent 2 hours in Brussels. I grew up in Brussels – I had my first ventures on many fronts there, and certainly started making music while living there in my early teens.
So in a way I spent nine years there now, and 2 hours while growing up. Or I feel that these two ways of being in Brussels melted into each other once again.
Perhaps always, but certainly yesterday Brussels was a stage for a theatre of precarity. I had not reserved a place for the one Eurostar I had to take to make my connection between my whole trip so far, and the remaining train to Glasgow in the evening. I had to make it to London somehow, so I spent an hour and a half on the helpline and going from till to till to map out my possibilities.
Had I reserved the place a day or two earlier, this would've been as smooth a crossing as any up to this point. The reason I didn't, was that I couldn't have been absolutely sure that I would've crossed Germany in time to Brussels. I've never been majorly delayed by Deutsche Bahn, but I maintained the possibility of severe delays.
Turns out I miscalculated and I should've made a reservation anyway.
Once a place booked, I'd have something to show in case of delays.
Just a mention that I had thought of booking this connection is no currency when negotiating with a corporation.
I made it to my original connection to London eventually by booking two trains through Lille, but to unexpected extra costs. Manageable, but still better avoided.
If this trip would be more interrail-like – as in, I would have more temporal flexibility as to how many days I spend in any given location – i could've just gotten a reservation for the following day. High-speed trains require pre-booking, even with the risk of not making the connection due to delays.
Since I had to be in place A in time X, I should've definitely booked all the potentially precarious connections beforehand. I did immediately book the Eurostar for my return, and managed without a problem.
Like I wrote earlier, this trip is strange even by my standards. One way to bridge the precarity created by a greater number of travel connections, is to have a temporal buffer. Preferably an extra day just in case of something like this, but ideally a few more to be able to connect with places on the way and not just at the destination.
Bridging the wasteland.