On the Tree Line 

10.6.2021 Kilpisjärvi


Dear Mountain Birch, thank you for allowing me to sit on the dead part of your trunk, the old part of you, here by the spring brook gushing into a small temporary lake in front of me. I chose you partly because of the sound of the brook, which is inspiring and lively, somehow invigorating by its constant movement. Another reason was that you were so clearly divided in parts. The old dead, or at least seemingly dead trunk lying on the ground and then the strong young fresh new trunk growing straight up, with its bright green leaves. We are here a little below the tree line I guess, or actually on the tree line but in the part where there are more trees than a few meters further up on the slope of Saana, where they are sparser, smaller and with more distance between them. I thought it would be easier to find an individual tree to address there, but although each one of the tiny small birches were fascinating in their own right, I did not feel invited to write to them, like here with you. This setting is more protected, of course, but I also feel that you are a better representative of your kin, or your family here, as part of a collective, rather than the ones higher up on the slope. I should also explain that I am sitting here on the western slopes of Saana, or I am actually not sure if this is not really the slope of the other mountain, Jeahkas, which I probably cannot spell correctly. In any case this is the high north, very near the Norwegian border, in the thumb of Finland and in the heartlands of Sapmi or sami country. There are reindeers walking everywhere and although the village is full of tourists from the southern part of Finland or then from Norway, in the north or west, it is important to acknowledge that I am a visitor and an outsider in this place, a recipient of the hospitality of the Sami people, and of the mountains and their representatives, today especially you, the mountain birches. Unlike the birches further south, you seem more like shrubs, because you often have several slender trunks from the same root. And you often bend in strange contortions, because of the wind or the weight of the snow or for some other reason. So, actually you are a good example of the difficulty of thinking of trees as individuals with distinct borders, and although that is exactly what I am trying to do, you force me to acknowledge that it is not really possible, at least not in your case. In many places coniferous trees, like pine trees or spruces, are the last ones to grow on the tree line up on the mountains. Here, however, the pines continue only about half-way into the ”arm” of Finland, and spruces give up even before that, and it is you, the small mountain birches that will climb up on the slopes and create the tree line. There are some small groups of spruces or pines in the area, but I hear that they are planted. You are the only native or indigenous trees and superbly important for all or most forms of life in this area, including humans, at least in the traditional ways of life. To be honest, I do not know so much about you, but some details are described on the sign boards marking the nature path [trail], like the dark brown lichen that grow on your trunks. One can read the level of the snow by their placement, because they grow only above snow level. I wonder what the greenish-yellowish lichen that grow further down on your trunk are called. At least further down, near the lake, they grow in profusion, and shimmer as if in a neon color in the evening or morning light, which here, this time of year, resembles afternoon light further south, because the sun does not set, of course. It hides behind the mountain, viewed from the village. Here, high on the slopes it shines all through the night, I suppose. – There, a raindrop falling in the meltwater lake, I can feel them on my head as well. Perhaps there will be a rainfall soon, or then it will remain a drizzle. In any case it might be a good idea to end this letter, before all the writing is washed away by raindrops. So, thank you for your hospitality, generosity and patience. And all the best for the future!