a special Easter greeting


We received this astonishing Easter greeting this morning from artist friends Loit and Virge Joekalda in Tallinn, Estonia. I’m so in love with it that I asked permission to share it here.

Loit wrote that last fall he made a trip to visit rock art sites in England with Paul Bahn under the guidance of “top rock art researcher and archaeologist Stan Beckensall”. Loit made this frottage (rubbing) of one site in Northumberland. The ‘world’ egg is an amazing touch, isn’t it!?

I’ve mentioned the Joekaldas a number of times. Most recently, three years ago I wrote this:

Tallinn has a special place in my heart. Newer readers may not know that in 2002 I had an exhibition in Finland with two other Canadian artists and friends. We travelled to and around Finland and also Tallinn on the other side of the Gulf of Finland. We fell in love with Tallinn where we met and became friends with artists Loit and Virge Joekalda (whom I’ve mentioned a few times elsewhere on this blog). The Estonians are close cousins to Finns, as part of the Finno-Ugrian group of peoples, so it was thrilling for me to see Loit’s exhibition of frottages and photos from his expeditions to sites of rock art by Finno-Ugrians in Karelia.

More related links:
Our visit to Tallinn and meeting the Joekaldas
Loit’s rock art calendar

I used one of his photos from that calendar in a work of mine: Vyg & Willendorf.
How this came together as a part of my exhibition in 2005

And read about Virge Joekalda

Thank you both, Loit and Virge, for your friendship and amazing influences on my own work!

Lucia and lights


How lovely, on Lucia’s Day to have our first real snowfall, light flakes slowly dancing down, the frozen ground now white and an icing-sugar-like dusting on evergreen branches. It set the right mood for finishing up the holiday letters and cards.

We were lucky to have two weeks of sunshine before these clouds came along, but the days are short, the nights long, thus our craving for light becomes a part of the season’s celebrations here in the northern lands.

St. Lucia is celebrated by the Scandinavians, even the Finns now. Expatriates might have such celebrations in the Scandinavian community centers outside their home countries. But we had a small taste of another celebration yesterday when we met friends from out of town for lunch at the beautiful VanDusen Gardens. It’s the setting for the annual Festival of Lights. It was a treat to see them come on in the darkening afternoon just before leaving but we had no time to go in for a walk for it’s a huge park. We have enjoyed those amazing light presentations there one night some years ago with these same friends and it really is a magical place. The garden volunteers spend two months putting up the lights.

On the drive home we spotted Christmas trees for sale next to a Catholic church doing a fundraiser for their school, and so it was we picked up a tree, saving a trip out today! It’s sitting inside the garage in a bucket of water, awaiting the night we bring it in and put on lights and ornaments. We usually do it on Carol Ship Night when the boats go by all lit up with lights, with the biggest one ringing out Christmas carols.

Now that the letters are done, thoughts turn to start cleaning and decorating our home. On Wednesday, our family in the UK are arriving, so there will be the merry sound of excited and happy grandchildren in the house again! Soon there will another midwinter celebration of light.

sing your complaints


The Helsinki Complaints Choir at the stairs of the Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki.
Photo taken from the complaints choirs website

The first time I heard of complaints choirs was over three years ago and later blogged about how amusing they were to me.

A few days ago, I read on a Finnish culture blog about an article in The New York Times by Phyllis Korkki (the last name sounds Finnish): Turning Complaints Into Art. Here’s a snippet:

The idea started in Finland, where there is a word for people who complain simultaneously, valituskuoro, which translates as complaints choir. About six years ago Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen and his wife, Tellervo Kalleinen, both visual artists living in Helsinki, began discussing the possibility of turning this metaphorical concept into something quite literal. People spend so much energy complaining, they reasoned, so why not harness all that energy into something positive?

In 2005, with help from arts-related organizations in England and Finland, the two organized their first complaints choir, in Birmingham, England.

The Tokyo choir, which performed last month, is the eighth that the couple have worked with. But others have formed choirs in other cities, and, Mr. Kochta-Kalleinen said, more than 60 performances have occurred worldwide — from Melbourne to Singapore to Philadelphia to Florence.

This is all a surprise to me! The interview of the Finnish artists who started it all was interesting and I enjoyed hearing that Finnish accent!. There’s even a website for complaints choirs worldwide along with videos of their performances that I’m slowly going through, looking and listening and smiling! I hope you will too.

December’s here

The sun is shining and I can see the snow on the mountaintops. It’s cold and still very wet from the November rains. I think we had some frost last night, not the first for we had a few in November on the rare clear nights. I’ve been outdoors raking more leaves, especially the big heavy wet magnolia ones that are about the last to fall. I gathered the few fir branches that had been tossed down by recent windstorms and saved them for Christmas decorations.

That’s when I remembered it’s time to flip the calendars to December and time for advent calendars to put me in the mood! So I’m now looking at last year’s post for some online calendar links since I no longer buy the now-too-kitschy-ones with cheap chocolates in them that are sold around here.

Speaking of links, over the almost six years of this blog, I’ve written now and then about Finnish culture, traditions and history, especially regarding Christmas. One of the sites I linked to frequently was Virtual Finland. I was very sad to note sometime earlier this year that it is gone, replaced by a more modern business and tourism oriented version called this is Finland. Call me old-fashioned but I miss the old one, plus all my great links in past posts are dead! Don’t you hate when that happens?


Anyway, today I see that they now have a Christmas special that I’ll be perusing. And I’m pleased to see they do have an advent calendar*, by Mauri Kunnas, Finland’s most successful children’s book author and cartoonist. (I see his birthday is the same as mine!) His wife works with him and paints his drawings. (There’s more about him here.)The calendar can also be downloaded and printed as a poster, should you have children in your life you wish to delight. I’ve emailed the link to our granddaughters in England. I might even print it for them to use here when they come the week before Christmas! Should I cut some windows and hide some little treats behind them?

Now I really really must start those Christmas letters, after all I got the cards printed well over a week ago. And I do have plans for new work to test in the print studio for the rest of the week. Life goes on…

Happy new month, dear readers!
Related link: December 1st, 2005
*link has expired and thus has been removed

a midsummer fest

Up with the early light, though the sun is obscured with cloud, I remember it is Juhannus and

… the summer solstice, (or properly June solstice for it’s winter in the southern hemisphere). Memories of magical midsummer nights in Finland, Denmark and Sweden made me long for those white nights of the north, and to feel again that amazement with how joyful and energetic the people were. Celebrations rooted in pagan times abounded. It seemed like no one slept much, just soaking in the light, as if refueling after the long dark winter. How could you sleep when the sun hit your eyes where you lay in bed, with only sheer window coverings?, I thought the first time I visited as a teenager, grumpy from jet lag.

This is the time that most Finns start their summer holidays, their trips to summer cabins by serene lakes, leaving the cities behind. Businesses reduce to minimum, it’s as if the whole country slows down. How come here in Canada, a northern nation, we don’t celebrate midsummer night? Oh, the Scandinavians communities have their events in various cities this weekend, but is that all there is? Where is the magic? Even up in northern British Columbia where we lived a few years, there was no celebration, no sense of the ancient rituals of the seasons.

Read more from last year’s nostalgic post

For the first time in some years, yesterday afternoon husband, youngest daughter and I went to the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival at our Scandinavian Community Centre to see if we could find a little of that magic I always miss. We were very pleasantly surprised how the event had grown and how well attended it was. I loved the choir, the folk dancers, and the variety of colourful and beautifully made national costumes they wore as did the many volunteers and quite a few visitors. (How I wish my mother’s fit me.) We enjoyed samples of food and displays set up by each Nordic country celebrating their heritage and crafts.



The Viking Village was definitely the most impressive, put together with a lot of hard work by the Norwegian and Icelandic members. The village held a couple of boats, one just recently completed and made by hand, interesting tents with carved and detailed wood frames, upright looms in the prehistoric style, shields, helmets and weapons, and characters in Viking era costumes and jewelry enacting scenes of village life.

Other highlights for us were the Finnish birch bark woven crafts and wood objects, plus the Dane Steen Larsen and his reproduction of an 1830 European barrel 72 pipe organ that he built and which plays six different melodies.


So it was that a little of that nostalgia and pride for the traditions of the old country was nourished and satisfied in me. All of us people there celebrated midsummer in an emigrant-Nordic way far way from our roots. If you live in the Vancouver area and you are interested, the fest is still on today and is open to everyone.
Hauskaa Juhannusta! Happy solstice!

Some interesting related links:
June hardly sleeps **
In Scandinavia, Solstice Means Fun in the Midnight Sun
Solstice at the megaliths in Brittany**, something that I’d like to experience someday

** Edits: links no longer work and have been removed

K.A. Laity’s Unikirja: Dream Book

I want to take a short break from the subject of our recent trip to tell you about a special book that I’m very excited to learn is now published and available: Unikirja: Dream Book. Author Kate A. Laity has Finnish roots, owns several kanteles which she plays too and has a blog Wombat’s World.

Here’s a most intriguing description of Unikirja:

The schemes of witches and sages and giants. Doomed marriages and supernatural bargains. The magic of music, of the sauna, of family. A fish who’s a girl, a girl who’s a wolf. The creation of the world. Author K. A. Laity weaves timeless magic in UNIKIRJA. Tales from the KALEVALA and KANTELETAR, the ancient myths and folktales of Finland, receive new life and meaning in these imaginative retellings. Mixing the realistic with the fantastic, the mythic with the modern, the dream-tales of UNIKIRJA reinterpret the beauty of the original, time-honored Finnish stories for contemporary readers.

Some readers may remember my post about Kate’s amazing trip to Finland’s rock art site in Astuvansalmi. The wonderful image on the cover of Unikirja looks like it may be from there!

To assist readers unfamiliar with Finnish myths and folklore, Kate has written a bit of a background about the The Kalevala and The Kanteletar as well as a couple of tastes or excerpts: Vipunen and Palakainen.

Naturally this book is of special interest for me so I shall be ordering it right away! Congratulations, Kate!

Film: Recipes for Disaster

If you live in the Vancouver area, you will want to see this important film:

On April 16, view the third and final film of DOXA’s Documentary Film Series in the lead-up to our May festival. Recipes for Disaster follows a young Anglo-Finnish family as they rid themselves of all oil-based products for a year. The challenge proves to be more emotionally difficult than the family anticipates and John, father and instigator of the oil fast, must find a balance between living oil-free and keeping a functional family. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

DOXA Documentary Film Series Screens Recipes for Disaster

Location: Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St., Vancouver
Date & Time: Thursday, April 16th, 7pm

Filmmaker in attendance via Skype for Q&A after screening

Here is a short film clip.

This may sound familiar to some readers for I wrote about it over a year ago after seeing it on CBC. I recommend it highly!

In addition to the reviews in the DOXA link above, here is a review in The Tyee. The reviewer tends to focus most on the couple’s relationship issues and neglects thoughts about the wider environmental concerns. How do we manage and balance both?

Easter weekend


spring, rye grass, pussy willows, birch twigs, tissue paper flowers
virpovitsa whisking, children with cowbells
decorated eggs, egg hunt, dancing sun
mämmi porridge, flying witches, begging children

All of the above are a curious blend of Eastern and Western traditions assimilated into the Finnish Easter (expired link, removed).

This year we will miss the annual Easter egg hunt around our house with our granddaughters. Hauskaa Pääsiäistä, Joyeuses Pâques, Frohes Ostern, Happy Easter! Enjoy the long weekend, dear readers.

Easter 2008
Easter 2007
Easter 2006
Easter 2005

Women’s Month interviews

this morning

Writer and blogger-friend Kate A. Laity of Wombat’s World is doing an inspiring series of interviews of women:

I’ve decided to use this month — Women’s History Month, of course — to do a simple yet wonderful thing: celebrate the fabulous women I know. I hope this makes us all aware of the web of amazing women we have around us. Women don’t tend to be good about tooting their own horns, but one thing I’ve learned from history is that small efforts by individuals can change the course of the world even when they don’t intend to do so.

Yesterday, on International Women’s Day, Kate posted an interview of me – what an honour to be included amongst so many talented and strong women including Kate herself! Please do read at least some of the other interviews so far, found under the label: ‘women’.

In the interview I mentioned that I could not remember exactly how Kate and I first met, other than our Finnish roots that drew us together. This morning in preparing this post, I looked up in my archives an article about Wombat’s World and Kate’s fabulous trip to a rock art site in Finland. There was the answer… please go read it and visit the link to her photos. Her new book Unikirja, inspired by the Kalevala, Kanteletar, and other Finnish myths and legends, is coming out soon and I want it!

Kiitos paljon, Kate!

Janus and Tammikuu

Janus – etching, 40 x 37.5 cm.

As I crack open new calendars, I think about January and the Roman god Janus and about looking back and looking forward. I wonder about the Finnish name for this month, Tammikuu which means oak month. The Finnish wikipedia says this (my loose translation):

“Tammikuu” is the year’s first month and midwinter in the northern hemisphere, which suggests the name for the month. In the Häme dialect “tammi” also means heart or nucleus, or alternatively navel, centre, axis. “Tammikuu” has sometimes been called heart month.

I like the notion of a month devoted to the heart and centering oneself. Certainly I’m pulling into myself a little these early January days as I contemplate and indulge over some books. I read by the windows for it’s been snowing steadily since before midnight last night – so beautiful to watch! Even with thaws alternating with night time freezing, there’s still a lot of snow on the ground, now building up again. I don’t remember having such a long continuous snowy period here, almost three weeks now. I love it but admit it’s getting a little tiring navigating it. I’m lucky to be able to stay home if I wish though I did get up to the library and the food store yesterday. This long spell of winter whiteness may be coming to an end with temperatures about to climb and rain about to pour, creating flooded streets and darker days. I have mixed feelings about returning to normal life.

Instead of putting up another snow photo, I thought it appropriate to re-post (from here) an old etching of mine which happens to be called Janus. Hope you enjoy it.