In the four years I traveled to Colorado for work, I always enjoyed when the weather reached that undisclosed temperature where everyone decides it is time to start eating outside again, somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees. Everyone on the university hospital campus takes their lunch outdoors and chats about how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful state with great weather. All of us from Wisconsin would chat about lucky we were to be enjoying sunshine and butterflies, while people back home were shoveling their cars out of a foot of snow.
That same thing happens in Rovaniemi, Finland, only the silently agreed upon temperature is much, much lower. Just a few days ago, I savored a salmon quiche on an outdoor patio surrounded by other people, the sun beaming down, a balmy 28 degrees. You would think the residents of Rovaniemi were celebrating something, so many were out and about. And they were. The beautiful April weather.
When it’s 28 degrees and sunny in April, people in Wisconsin like to bitch and moan about the cold, as if they haven’t spent their whole life in Wisconsin and have no clue Mother Nature might toss you a treacherous snowstorm in May, or serve you 80 degrees of blue skies and sunshine. When it’s 28 degrees and sunny in April, people in Rovaniemi bask in those same warm rays, enjoy their morning coffee, lunch outside, push baby strollers happily along, linger a little longer. They come out in droves, to get their fill of vitamin D and the spring beauty of the Arctic.
I hitched a ride into town with Mel (Jaana’s good friend — my friend now, too…I think — and neighbor who often drives the kids in to school when she goes to work) and the kids one morning, and before she dropped me off at my much needed Coffee House, she commented on how hard it was to stay in town on a day like today, as she would much rather be outside in the sun, enjoying the quiet nature at home. At first I didn’t think much of it as I looked around; it was just a sunny day. But two espressos in, I processed her comment. When you live in a place that has so many dark winter days without much daylight at all, the sun becomes a luxury. And here I was, taking it for granted.
Arctic Finland actually looks very much like my home state of Wisconsin in the winter, and even more like the neighboring state of Minnesota. Curious to see what other similarities we shared, I recently asked Jaana if people in Lapland also started to complain when winter bled into spring for a little too long.
Um, no. Not at all.
She seemed a little surprised anyone felt that way, and it was breath of fresh air to hear how the Finnish fully embrace winter, with wide open wooly arms and mittened hands.
I looked out Mel’s car window as we neared town and saw one man ice-fishing, another cross-country skiing, probably to work, or perhaps just on a pre-work workout. A few more whizzed by on their bicycles. No. They don’t complain here. Winter is in their blood. For many, it’s what gets them through the summer. For all, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a part of who they are. Instead of hoping for summer, they squeeze every last drop out of winter.
Now ain’t that something.