Midsummer Journey

picture by author
picture by author

The last five days I spent with my long time friends driving two times a thousand kilometers to (re)find ourselves in the pristine Swedish landscape. We drove all through the night having little naps or discussions to keep sleepy minds occupied. One boat trip, one xxl bridge and comfortable Volvo leather seating made a somewhat ludicrous idea into a lush trip. What to tolerate when wanting a men-return-to-the-wild-weekend? We arrived highly adrenalized.

The central motivation was to achieve what we had been hinting at since our student era: just stuff a car with our gear and drive off to canoe and exploration. Something postponed while growing in personality, fatherhood and professional ambition. Maybe a reminder of a roaring twenties lifestyle that appeared attractive but sort of naive as well. Pragmatism and opportunism had aged our souls into a  notorious age for badly managed libido – as one of my friends likes to put it. So indeed we found ourselves diving naked in the lake, fishing for a ten kilo predator fish and lazily fumbling our glamping outdoor stuff.

It was a great success! The Swedish landscape was the perfect decorum by its full and thick undergrowth of blueberry bushes, juvenile ferns, prickly grasses, patina rocks, sweetsmelling pinetrees and giant oaks. There is no such landscape liberation possible nearer to our homes. And besides, the 12 hour trip alone was uniquely intimate.

One moment we paddled on a mirror surfaced lake and it suddenly hit me that I was in the exact same landscape as Akseli Gallen-Kallela portrayed in his painting ‘Lake Keitele‘ (1905). One of the more immersive images of liminal landscapes. A sublime type of landscape that is not representing something other than itself. A sense of place and time that the Scandinavians refer to as “Stimmung*”. A mixture of a here-and-now experience, a touch of melancholy, timelessness and pride. The large surface of water rippling in a variety of gulfpatterns, light reflection, shades of blue. The clouds gathered in groups amongst a deep late afternoon sky.  Forested islands with long straight stemmed pines in the backdrop, drop drop, dropping to extend the wide depth of this place. And we, very nearby the watersurface, almost part of the rippling and therefore rippling along, in a cadence of quietude.

Recognizing this place by my memory and fondness of this painting helped me to respond to this moment and place. I wonder if indeed such education helps to extend sublime experiences instead of paddling along in blissful ignorance.

* Kerstin, T. e. (2010). Stimmung: ästhetische Kategorie und künstlerische Praxis: Deutscher Kunstverlag.