With Mountain Birches in Kilpisjärvi - Ars Bioarctica residency 2021

Kilpisjärvi 11.6.2021

 

Dearest Mountain Birch, I guess it is about time to try to explain to you what I have been doing, sitting here on your bent branch every morning and evening for almost two weeks. It is actually rather rude of me to do that without asking for your approval or consent or any kind of permission, but I did not know how to approach you in order to ask for your consent, and in many cases I usually choose to “just do it” rather than ask for permission, which often makes things unnecessarily complicated. I nevertheless sincerely hope that I did not offend you by my behavior, especially since I plan to continue with it for a few more days. I chose you of all the birches growing near or below the biological station because you live here on a small hill right by the lake, and have a beautiful view, on the shore. I did not realize that the lake functions like a cooler, so you and your immediate family here below are among the latest to grow out your leaves. Now, you too, have turned green and “dressed up” in small fresh leaves. This time of year, there is no real dusk or dawn, except in the middle of the night, perhaps, because we are here in the shadow of Saana fellm so visiting you in the mornings and evenings is more of a change in the direction of the light, not its amount. Right now, the sky is clouded, though, so those usual shifts of light and shadow do not apply. And I am dressed in my ordinary grey clothes rather than my black “performance” outfit. When I say I have been visiting you that is not completely correct, because I have come down to sit on you and with you mainly in order to listen to the surrounding sounds. Now, for example, I can hear some birds, but on many occasions the traffic on the road between the mountain and the lake provides most of the sounds. Especially the huge trucks travelling to the Norwegian border can be heard from far away when approaching. I wonder what they transport, and where? Perhaps there is a harbor in Tromsø, or something. Besides listening to the sounds with you I often count my breaths slowly, trying to wind down and become present in the moment with you. Twenty-one breaths are my usual duration, a way of keeping track of time, approximately. That is of course a very brief instant in your temporal experience. Although birches do not live longer than 100 or 150 years, that is way more than most humans. And here, where the shift in light conditions is so extreme, with a long night-time, the winter, and a long day, the summer, rather than the constant fluctuation, your sense of time must be different, too. – I actually learnt a lot about your way of life from a biologist who kindly gave me a private lecture today. She explained, among other things, that there are two types of birch woods here, the maritime and the continental ones, and the whole ecosystem in them is different, as well as the form of the birches. Here, obviously, we are in the “maritime” type of wood, with blueberry shrubs [twigs] on the ground and the trunks of the birches relatively straight and singular – well, most of you are bent to some degree, but not as twisted and divided as the ones higher up on the slopes. The term “maritime” refers to the way the birch woods look on the Norwegian side, and even though Lake Kilpis is a lake, of course, the northwesterly winds come from the Arctic ocean, which is actually not that far from here, and bring in sea air. In both habitats one can distinguish the height of the snow from your trunks, because the dark brown lichen that decorate them do not like to live below snow level. That I learned already from the sign board on the nature path [trail]. Why some of you have a completely white bark while others are pale grey, I do not know, and it might be just a coincidence. There are two types of birches that have hybridized, the dwarf ones and the downy birches, and you can see the difference in the autumn, because the dwarf ones turn read rather than orange yellow. I realize I would really like to come and spend some time with you in the autumn, too, and to listen to the sounds of autumn together with you, like we now have listened to the sounds of spring. I want to thank you for your hospitality and generosity and sincerely hope that I have not been too much of a disturbance for you. I hope you can somehow sense my gratitude and appreciation, and I wish you all the best for the coming summer. Let us hope it will be a peaceful, invigorating and productive time for you. Take care!

AA

 

 

AA