Christmas Eve at the Cabin

December 24, 2008 · Posted in Cabin & countryside, Geocaching · Comment 

It’s now Christmas eve and I’m sitting comfortably on the cabin bed, trying to raise enough energy to go and add some firewood to the sauna stove and to start preparing the Christmas foods. I’m here all alone, which makes this the first Christmas I’ve ever spent without seeing any family or friends. This solitude is self imposed, though, and so far very very comfortable.

Susi and her sister went to spend the Christmas with the family and I didn’t want to spend several days alone at home (freelancing from home made the apartment walls pretty familiar…). Neither did I want to go to a place where there was no chance for privacy after an autumn of a whole lot of people around me, so I ended up here in the wilderness.


The Autumn in Retrospect

This autumn has been hectic and very busy, but at the same time quite pleasant. There’s a distinct difference in being simply tired from working too much and doing too many things, and being pissed off and stressed about stuff. The autumn has been of the former variety, not the latter. The advantage is that a good mood is just a couple of well slept nights and lazy days away. I’ve had to travel so much that one time I literally had to check the plane ticket in the evening to see where I was going the next day. I’ve spent countless hours in airplanes squeezed in between two lardasses in the adjoining seats and running with a camera case from one interview to another. Things at the work have progressed in a pleasant way, though. My efforts and the risks I’ve taken have actually started to pay off in several ways.

The last week has been a barrage of good news, that has left me feeling almost suspicious. The ancient Finns used to believe that onni, which translates as luck and happiness, is a limited resource in the world. If you had some, you should hide it, lest someone steal it. I’m kind of amused, since  although I don’t of course believe in that, I have inherited some of that philosophy in my blood. I seem to feel that there has to be some kind of equilibrium with things – wild streaks of lucky breaks leave me feeling suspicious of what kind of nasty stuff will counterbalance them. I find these superstitious feelings amusing, but can’t really help them.

One nice thing is that in spite of the global economy, I’ve got work for the next spring and quite certainly for the next autumn too.  TV is not the stablest of fields when it comes to holding a job, because the networks often buy shows one season at a time & funding is at times hard to come by. The decisions are often made quite late, so theoretically you can be out of job every spring, autumn and new year in a few weeks notice. The spring season looked a bit bad for a moment, but our executive producer managed to secure us a full season. The company is also doing well enough to give out christmas bonuses, with lots of productions that have traction, so things are looking pretty good.

In addition to the day job I’ve had my own projects. One of them has been to get my credit card debt zeroed out before the end of the year, which I almost managed to do. This meant cutting down on expenses and doing work worth an additional 4000 euros in three months. In addition to that there have been hobby projects, like role-playing games and of course the whole brouhaha with Älymystö’s new web page. So there have been long days, insomnia and moments when taking a dose of Fukitol and hibernating for four months has sounded really good.

We’ve managed to go diving only once since the previous entry, which sucketh. Either we’ve been busy, Susi or I have had the flu or there’s been a miscommunication. The diving trip we did a couple of weeks back was a real blast, though, with lots of interesting sealife and so on. But more of that in a couple of days.

The Christmas

So, yesterday I wrapped things up at the office and left for our cabin site. The weather was quite sucky for driving, since the temperature was just at the point of freezing, nodding slightly below it, so the roads were at times very slippery and all the cars threw out a cloud of freezing muddy mist that smudged the windshield. At the cabin site I started with the ordinary routine of warming up the sauna and the cabin, while finishing the last of the work over the cabin net connection. 

Apart from one godawful thundery blizzard earlier in the autumn we haven’t seen much snow in Helsinki. Our cabin site is about 150 km to the north and luckily there’s some snow from here. Just a handspan or two, so not too much, but at least the ground isn’t completely dark, muddy and bare. When I got to the cabin, the first song I heard from the radio was “Walking in the Air” from the snowman animation they show every Christmas, which was kind of a pleasant emotional nuclear bomb.

The first evening’s sauna is a kind of a ritual in the cabin for me – it sounds corny, but it’s kind of a purification from all the crap of the everyday life. Sweating out the stress, the pissed off feelings, the vinegar-like stress-caffeine sweat and so on. Yesterday was no exception. After I had sweated it all out and scrubbed myself with the coarse sauna brush ’till my skin felt tender, I was feeling very light, content and relaxed.

The sauna stove stones glowing cherry red.

The sauna stove stones glowing cherry red.

I set all the things that go “beep” to silent mode, even turned the cell phone face down so I couldn’t see the light if someone called, and went to bed. I did the usual panic wake ups at 6:50 and 8:30, but steadfastly continued the very heavy and in many ways communicative dreams I was having. I finally got up before noon, feeling very good, rested and well slept.

Walk in the Wintery Forest

I had a breakfast of traditional rice porridge, cinnamon and milk. In the early afternoon I left for another eight kilometer walking trip into the forest. I went looking for the same geocache I tried to find earlier in the autumn without success. After the August trip I’ve found a couple of quite cleverly hidden caches, so now I managed to take a right point of view to this one and found it in a couple of minutes.

It's not very cold, so small streams and large ditches haven't frozen over.

It's not very cold, so small streams and large ditches haven't frozen over.

The walk in the forest was pure bliss. Surprisingly enough it’s often easier to walk in the forest in wintertime than in the summer. This time I also had better shoes, ie. army boots instead of running shoes. There was no undergrowth, the snow acted as a “smooth more” -filter to the ground and the leaves had fallen off the trees, replaced by a frosting of snow. It was quiet and peaceful, the weather was cool but warm enough to go without gloves and a wool cap and the world was really beautiful. There is a certain peace to be found for me in trips like that. 

There are a couple of bad thickets on the way to the geocache. Much more pretty and fun in the wintertime, though.

There are a couple of bad thickets on the way to the geocache. Much more pretty and fun in the wintertime, though.

When I was walking back and reached a road that connected a few houses to the main road, it was already getting dark. It was that moment of gray winter twilight when the eyes aren’t sure if they should rely on the cone cells or the rod cells more, leading into a slightly unreal feeling and the colours and the light level fluctuating. I met some people coming the other way, two kids who were sliding on the road with a kick sled and two women. A small girl was sitting on the sledge and she saw me, she sharted shouting “Santa Claus, Santa Claus!” I replied in Finnish “Ei kun ihan tavallinen tonttu“, which has a double translation of  “nope, just an ordinary elf” and “nope, just an ordinary doofus”. The kid was a bit confused, as were the women, because there was really no other place for me to come from than the three houses (were they probable were staying or at least knew the inhabitants) and the forest.

There were candle lanterns lighting part of the way. Nope, the colours are not retouched.

There were candle lanterns lighting part of the way. Nope, the colours are not retouched.

I used the walk in the forest to think about the last year and where things are now. I have to say that finally I’m pretty much in the place in my life I have aimed for. I have a job which I find comfortable doing and which challenges me, but also takes me into nice situations and gives me things other than just the money. I have a great, stable relationship which especially for the last couple of years has been better than ever, I have great hobbies and the means to pursue them, great friends, my health is ok, the finances are more or less balanced now and so on. The situation doesn’t feel fragile or a milestone on the way to somewhere either, it feels like the endgame to a lot of stuff I’ve been doing during my life.

No doubt this current blissful status quo will be broken soon, but I’m not worried about that – on the whole I’m not afraid of losing things. When something is attained once, it can be attained again. Being thoroughly happy and content like this is a proof-of-concept -kind of thing for me.

Some of the lanterns were hanging on fir trees.

Some of the lanterns were hanging on fir trees.


The Christmas Eve

After I got back to the cabin it was almost pitch dark. I wasn’t that tired, but nevertheless some hot coffee, Christmas star-pastries and gingerbread biscuits tasted really good. So, this is were I’m now, watching the fireplace roar. I just took a short pause from writing to add some firewood to the sauna and set a fire under the water cauldron to get some hot water for washing. The lake hasn’t yet frozen over, but it’s been cold enough today that there’s an one centimeter crust on the lee side of the cabin shore – nothing you couldn’t get through after hammering it with the buckets.

The sauna is almost ready, so I’ll better start setting up the meal. I brought with me the traditional casseroles, a ham which I roasted at home, sweet Christmas bread and all the relishes that go with the deal. I very much doubt that after today’s mini hike in the forest, a hour or two in the sauna and then eating myself silly I’ll be good for much during the rest of the evening – but then again, what is there to do apart from curl around my tummy to sleep.

Thanks for a great year to all of my friends reading this!