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Mist forms above the lake's surface. The wind holds its breath. Trees stand still. Not a stir from the reeds and lily pads. Sounds carry with crystal clarity then echo off distant hillsides. From some way off come noises of tractors and farm machinery. Far more rewarding to concentrate on the sounds of the birds and the water. A dog’s excited barking, rising from behind trees just across the lake, accompanies the yells and screams of children at play. Cattle sound off in nearby fields. Small water insects plop about, making diminutive ripples. A golden-silver full moon hovers above the trees bordering the woodshed. Samy, the cat, behaves as a dog, coming when called by name.
The sun is poised to drop behind the trees. At this time of evening the lake is a perfect reflector. The sky is almost clear, with a few cloudy wisps low on the horizon and a bank of pink streaks to the west. The minutes pass. Pink clouds are now grey and the trees are green-black paper cut-outs. The firmament is clear, whitish-blue and tinged with pale gold on the western horizon. Caught in the pine tops, halfway between the woodshed and the farmgate, the moon, golden and quite cheeky, shines into the yard. The western horizon turns from gold to red and the sun, now silvery and smaller, buries itself in the trees. An owl’s hoot comes from over by the cowshed. An old workhorse, noisily chews grass a little way off. The night becomes cold, the stars dazzling.
Early August, ten o’clock, still dusk, ten degrees centigrade, sixty degrees north. Exhausted, so tired. This is a land of water. The lakes are all pervasive. On the map the countryside resembles a magnificently labyrinthine fractal entanglement, blue and green entwined in never-ending regressions. Implicate in the chart’s abstractions is a world of smaller and smaller chunks of lake, island, peninsula and forest, all delineated by an infinitely extending ensemble of shorelines, residing in a finitely bounded lakeland domain.
Here, the farm, the island nestle, twenty kilometres south of a small town. The path from the house led downhill through woods and past a field of wildflowers. On the way to the lakeside, I encountered an old horse contentedly munching. I handed him a mouthful of hay. Mist drifted across the lake. Trees loomed in silhouette across the water; scornful of the enfeebled light, you could tell they were shutting down for the night.
The sauna hut on the shore behind, I stood on a worn plank jutting out over the shallows. The individual reed stalks fringing the lake were not crowded together into dense opaque clumps. Each stem had its own breathing place. There was plenty of room between them for the night’s blue-blackness to deepen and flourish. Faint, unidentifiable water noises came mysteriously, tangentially out of the mist, glancing off my ears.
I had left the city early that morning and spent all day travelling, in several buses and lastly a taxi, journeying through forests and farmlands, finally crossing by cable ferry to the island, arriving at the farm just in time for the evening meal.
Next morning I was hiking along to the end of the peninsula. A few metres to the left of the road some logs were stored in piles. I stopped. The ground was covered in bark and woodshavings. There was a scattering of large yellow and brown mushrooms. Away to the left was the lake. Mainly birch trees were growing in the surrounding woods. I took a few deep breaths. This spot before me revealed one of those natural scenes that, though not classically beautiful, for me was capable of evoking strong aesthetic and emotional responses - the greenness all around, the distant blue lake, the brownness of the log piles. The temperature see-sawed between warm and slightly chilly as the sun ducked in and out of the clouds. On my way back to the farmhouse I picked some wild strawberries. They were delicious.
You are exhausted. Four o’clock and you have just returned from a long ramble through the forest. Hundreds of small, blue butterflies speckled with gold, black and dark blue dots were your intermittent afternoon companions. You fell in love with the rocks, their beautiful tones and textures, their hardness underfoot. Not long after lunch you had veered off the road a little way from the farmhouse; thinking to avoid what your eyes thought was an approaching motor-bike, you took a forest path and found yourself led up onto a high plateau. Reaching the point where the track disappeared traceless amongst the bracken and heather, you stopped when you heard a stick crackle and break some way off. There, through the trees you saw a moose. He seemed almost black, antlers and beard silhouetted in the dappled light. The animal was twenty metres away. You moved stealthily, wanting to view him from an angle free of intervening trees and shrubbery. You managed to watch for a few seconds before he got wind of you and ran off into the forest. You walked on out of the trees and entered the heathland covering the top of the plateau. All manner of wildflowers abounded, but you could not name them. This place was foreign, not your country. On over the heath you travelled, thinking you had spied the beginnings of a dirt track ahead. It turned out to be a fallen tree. You thought it best to retrace your steps back through the forest to the neglected trail you had first followed. As you did so, you came upon another fallen tree, laying at just the right height to provide you with a comfortable perch. You sat there in the sunlight. The morning had been overcast and cool, but the mid-afternoon was suffused with warmth and delight.