My favorite season is Finnish summer. Let me be clear on that. I’m not talking about summer in general. I’m specifically referring to late June, the whole month of July, and early August in Finland. It is an absolutely magical time, unlike anything else that I’ve experienced in the world.
There’s a lot of context that needs to be explained. First, there’s the fact that I spent 25 years living in the American Southwest. Summer there is a sweltering hellscape. It’s a dry heat, but that description also fit an oven. I do not like Southwest summer.
It’s cold in central Finland for around 8 or 9 months of the year. I’m defining cold loosely as any weather that requires to you wear at least a light jacket or a sweater when you step outside. There is still snow on the ground as late as the last week in May, sometimes the first week of June. Our first year here there were snow flurries the first week of July. We’ll get our first snow as early as late October.
In Finnish summer, it’s hot but not too hot. Everything turns green. There are wildflowers, and birds, and butterflies. It is the most beautiful sight to behold, as if to compensate for the rest of the year. You learn to appreciate it, because you know that it’s ephemeral. That’s why a good portion of the country completely shuts down for July. Everyone not involved in providing essential services is on vacation. Stores and offices that aren’t closed completely go to part-time hours, or are only open a couple of days per week. There is a recognition that we all have to stop and take it in, to enjoy it.
Finnish summer is how we endure Finnish winter. We know that it will not last. All things must pass. The mindset of the country and the character of the people have been forged not by the snow and the cold, but by the promise that there will be sunshine, lush forests, and wild berries waiting to be picked.
What’s Your Favorite Season?
How would you answer this question, reader?
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