A little solstice story

The last two nights I have had nightmares, which I see as a good thing. When I was younger and seemingly healthy at least, I used to dream vividly most nights. Later, for many years, it seemed I did not dream at all.

What it looks like at 5PM.

What it looks like at 5PM.

Despite the long winter nights, I haven’t had much time for sleeping. However, despite (or perhaps because of?) those nightmares, I woke up in an unusually happy mood. Annoyingly happy, one might say. I went out to find the water by myself. Even the brown buildings were glittering this morning.
2014-12 Glittering Wall

Do they do this everyday, unnoticed? There is a hill that catches well the solstices and equinoxes; I headed for it.
2014-12 Solstice Hill Tree Noon Winter

The sun hit the top of the hill spilling over it. There is a hidden stone staircase here, but I only use it on special occasions. If you visit me, I will surely take you there, unless ice forbids it.
2014-12 Solstice Top of Hill

On the top of the hill, the sun at its winter solstice zenith, and from it a ship was emerging.
2014-12 Solstice Ship Sun 1

It is the one ship I can really identify, because it is our brother S’s ship, sailing towards Helsinki’s harbor, out of the blaze of our low hanging yellow star.
2014-12 Solstice Ship Sun 1

This made me even more joyful. The weather has been so warm, the grass is still spring green. Sun was on my face and at the same time a slight snow was blowing from the west and melting on my cheek.
2014-12 Solstice Shadow Tree

Finally, it was time to descend from my sweetly solitary hilltop. Bending down beside the glacier bared rocks I looked again, respected, the almost iridescent lichens growing there, reflecting on my recent sins, asked forgiveness of them.
2014-12 Solstice Lichens

I know all of my dear readers know the difference between a moss and a lichen...

Lichens are completely different, and far more interesting organisms than mosses, as all readers of this blog well know.

This birch tree demanded communion with its shining silver bark, this strange sunlight on its paper skin. I am starting to come around to birches.
2014-12 Solstice Birch Sky

How I ended up stealing a kiss from a red haired terrier is a bit stranger. It involved an escaped Swedish vallhund, whom I helped to stall. These are little viking dogs, who among other things, sailed with Norsemen into the British isles where their progeny are one of the Corgi breeds–the better one.

While frightening or at least surprising his person by attempting to chit chat in Finnish, the sweet little still-leashed terrier and I made friends. I learned that the name for a vallhund in Finnish is Länsigöötanmaanpystykorva , which is a bit more specific. Västergötland, to which the name refers of course, is the province of Göteborg, or Gothenburg in English, a familiar town.

And then, little viking dog captured, I continued on my way along the water, the solstice sun beside me until I finally had to turn again into the city (the sun doesn’t rise even above the lowest buildings) to hunt for some cream, potatoes and dill like a good Scandinavian. Don’t worry: three heads of beautiful Spanish garlic, and a little pot of fresh cilantro found its way into my basket as well…

Mushroom Time

From this cooling, sweet mouldering earth, Finland is blessed with an abundance of edible mushrooms that give a good reason to welcome fall. The brightly colored chanterelle (kanterelli) is among the most well-known of wild mushrooms. Its bright orange and golden colors catch the eye, and it is not only good looking, but delicious. According to Wikipedia, chanterelles are also an excellent source of vitamin D, no laughing matter as we head into dark winter. It took me a while before I discovered that these golden trumpets, Cantharellus cibarius, are just one of several members of the Cantharellaceae family available in Finland.

I walked past Chanterelle’s more modest cousin, little suppilovahvero ( Craterellus tubaeformis ) many times before trying it. A more delicate mushroom, with an orange-yellow hollow stem and a brown-grey top, it isn’t as striking as it typical Chanterelle, but just as delicious. It is usually much less expensive, too, and so definitely worth a try. It is also possible to find it dried in Finland.

Craterellus tubaeformis: Suppilovahvero

Craterellus tubaeformis: Suppilovahvero

The first time I saw the intimidating ( Craterellus cornucopioides ) they were being sold in the old market square in Turku by two young Finnish people who looked like they had been living in a tree for at least the last summer. These grey and black mushrooms themselves looked like fallen, fermenting leaves. My Finnish was even worse then, but I got the idea that these black silky mushrooms were related to chanterelles, and that, unlike false morels, they don’t need special cooking in order to be edible.

Not only did I survive my first encounter, they were delicious. They are not always easy to find, however, but this year I have started to see them around again. I bought mine out of the back of a car in Hakkaniemi in Helsinki. How to use their beautiful color to the best advantage is still under experimentation. These were cooked into omelets after being sauteed in butter and also eaten in a simple pasta. (with Italian corn noodles and Buffalo mozzarela– the combination of fresh Buffalo mozzarel and wild mushrooms is something I learned from an outstanding dinner at Mami in Turku). The omelets in particular were sublime.

Maybe it is that I feel these other members of the family Craterellus are overlooked, but I find them, if anything, more tasty. Perhaps I just relate to them better than the golden, flamboyant and muscular Cantharellus cibarius.

Helsinkilainens are lucky this weekend; it is packed full of mushroom events that will include the opportunity to learn more from knolwedgeable people. The first, today, is a food-oriented Mushroom people’s day at Teurastamo . This is hosted by the Sieni Ihmiset (mushroom people) an organization that organizes events around the gathering and cooking of mushrooms. 20 September 2014 from 10am to 4pm. Tastings, wild mushrooms for sale, and a special pop-up restaurant at 7pm. Sunday and Monday there is a mushroom and lichen exhibit put on by the Finnish Mycological society. It is free, and you are welcome to bring your own mushrooms for identification. The event is listed here, but only in Finnish. It is at the Kasaniemi Botanical Gardens, in the botany room (kasvishuone), which they warn is on the second floor of that beautiful building, without stairs.

2014.09 Mushroom Calendar

Above is the September page of this amazing calendar from a dear friend gave to me, and that we have been treasuring all year:

luonnossa kypsyys
mehevälle tuoksuu maa
kuulas kuutamo

Not only is it a beautiful haiku, but it contains within in the name of September in Finnish: Syyskuu . I love it. It is from MuuMuru, and a delightful use of this ancient Japanese form– 5 7 5– of nature poetry. Here is my own bad translation:

In nature ripeness
fertile luscious fragrant earth
cooling clear moonlight

Please leave your better translations in the comments! Or a poem of your own for September… reading this I felt the translation missed the fun of the original so was compelled to write my own, inspired by the beautiful morning air and red berries filling the rowan trees in the park nearby. Although it falls short– or long rather– of being a haiku:

This cool morning
the sweet smell of fallen leaves
lingers along the park’s narrow transept
Rowan berries glow in trees
hot embers in the cooling air
catching the last light
of a distant slanting sun.

Hmmm… I guess I could force this into a haiku:

Along the park’s transept
Rowan berries glow in trees
Summer’s last embers.

The air is sweet now with this beautiful fall. All of nature composting, rose hips ripening and mushrooms blooming in these last few perfect sunny days.

Key in a tree

Another thing I enjoy in Finland is the habit people have of placing dropped items (gloves, hats etc.) up high so they are visible and don’t get muddy. It is a nice little habit.

Lost key placed in a bare spring tree

Lost key placed in a bare spring tree