Snippets of Anna Jaaniste's writing done while at mardu

This post has 1 reply
In the second part of October a visual artist Anna Jaaniste spent three weeks at Mardu. Here is what she wrote about her agenda and expectations before her stay. Her work will start to unfold gradually when she gets back to Australia.

But for now we are very glad to share snippets of Anna's writing and photos done while at Mardu. We are very thankful she decided to come and had a special time here at Mardu.

*Please note that these are unedited writings by the author.

On that day, the forest felt cold, uninviting, ominous, The forest was so silent and still that it was uncanny. It felt so strange to me - like an absence - a vacuum. Yes - a vacuum was somehow the right word. It was also full of “elk flies”, tiny crawly flat bugs with wings that jumped onto my skin and into my hair at every opportunity, then crawled around, feeling very uncomfortable, and I was picking them off for hours. I wasn’t keen to go back into the forest after that. The following day when riding around, I looked into the forest with a sort of dread - it seemed to have a dark veil around it, and I imagined it cold and foreboding inside.

It occurred to me that I was in a foreign environment - smells, sounds, temperature, light, humidity, the animal species - all foreign to me. -The signs and signals in the land indiscernible to me. A different language. And my inspiration for making sense of this - interacting with the place through my art - does not flow in the same way as it does in Australia. There is a gap in the flow - the language. Perhaps, also, being in a foreign territory puts my system in a defensive position and somewhat closed off to certain connections..

The sounds of the land. of the forest. Listening - waiting. That is all. For some inspiration, some connection, something solid to come to me, something desired - in a sense, that is all we can do in any situation - we are waiting.

Anu said there are two seasons in Soomaa. One of bare feet, and one gum boots - the gumboot season being for 9 months of the year.

Last night I managed to overheat my room terribly. As the temperature rose into the evening, swarms of flies, all shapes and sizes increased in numbers in my room, buzzing around the ceiling. I recorded their buzzing sounds. Rait came in and noticed them - he said they had been in hibernation, and now think it is summer, so have “woken up”. I don’t know if it was larvae that has now busted open in the warm room. But, as I had done on other nights before going to bed, I loaded up the stove, preparing for the cold night before me, and as the heat rose and rose, the fly numbers rose also. I lay in bed reading with a torch, and they buzzed and buzzed around me, crawling in to my covers, into my hair… I got hotter and hotter - it was very uncomfortable. I considered opening the door and letting the cold air in, but that seemed such a preposterous idea in the context of previous colder nights, that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. When I went out for a pee, I left the door ajar, to cool down the room a little bit. Anyway, eventually as the load of wood burnt off in the stove and the temperature dropped, the flies decreased in their numbers, I cooled down a bit, and fell asleep, sleeping soundly all night. Now as I write, there are just the standard few buzzing around the ceiling. I find the sound quite comforting - perhaps it reminds me of Australia.

The forests are unexpectedly engaging here. I thought I would not be so interested in them. It was the thought of the bogs that drew me towards this place. And yes, the bogs are stunning, peaceful, otherworldly, sublime - but the forests, they are intriguing. That first day, as I said - I found them ominous - too silent and still and dark - almost claustrophobic. But now as their shades change each day, each moment, and my relationship with them changes, I see other aspects to them. And they are like a magnet. They are like something that I know is there, and I can make the decision to “enter” when I want to. It is a real presence, a real world of its own. The Australian bush does not have this aspect to me - there, I feel integrated with the bush - when I am near it, living near it, I feel I am already part of it, it is dynamic and moving and spacious, airy - its presence is mobile and open. But here in Estonia - it is almost like there might be doors to the forest, and inside itself it opens to another world.

The wind is a focus for me. I listen out for it - when I hear the rustle of the leaves it sounds like a language. The birch trees here have a particularly beautiful voice. Delicate and soft, but still crisp and clear. And I will never forget that morning in the silent forest, after an icy night, when the yellow birch leaves were falling, landing softly and making their quiet sounds. The leaves weren’t falling from wind, but I think from temperature change or something - something do with the cold night maybe.
After the past week of stillness, today comes wind. The trees are rustling. It is colder - but the wind is also like some sort of friend. …But wait till it gets stronger, and I get colder! -Then it won’t be a friend.
I link the wind to my breath. So in a way it is an extension of myself - movement.

It was incredibly pleasurable being on the bog, picking cranberries - they were not on bushes as I expected them to be, but on the tiniest of stems imaginable, almost invisible, and nestled amongst the mosses. Red, slightly translucent, almost luminous in colour. The whole bog was like a dream - like how I always imagined it would be, the colours, the sense of sound and atmosphere there - drawing me in. I just wanted to wander right in, further in. …And picking the berries - it almost felt like I was preening, grooming the bog - like an animal cleans and fleas its fellow animal - fingers gently feeling and grasping the berries, plucking them, collecting them - but ever so gently, so as not to break them, and not to collect extra materials, needles, mosses, leaves etc. The sun was out, low in the sky, I could hear the gurgle of water bubbling under my feet. I would half sit, leaning into the mossy mounds. So comfortable. Time was flying - I had to text Anu and let her know to come for me later than we had arranged. The collecting (preening) felt like women’s work - through time across the world women have been food gatherers. And there was this beautiful exchange - the bog giving me its produce - and I was accepting it - across time - an exchange of energy. -I can’t describe what I was giving it, but I was equally giving. It gave me its presence and produce, and I became part of that.

How it is to be here:
I am slowly coming to grasp some ideas, senses, of what it is to be here, of the relationships between my dreams, and my heritage, and the land. -They are not what I expected, or hoped, in as sense. It is not so simple and neat.

So, the kitchen is still framework. The insulation went in, the boiler was brought in and half-installed. And my connections filled out a tiny bit. Somehow this house is very much part of my residency here. It is a part of the place, a part of Soomaa, and a part of what drew me to the place.

As spend time in it - I see it sort of as a carrier for my perception of this place - and a bridge for my connection to the place - culturally, in memory, in the moment - me bringing my ”inner world” to this place.

It was a huge full moon rising - and a very icy cold evening setting in. I wanted to go out later on, after dinner, with my sound recorder, and see what was there.
Bears had been more and more on my mind. And Rait said that he heard wolves.

1 reply

Your journal gives me a profound sense of some of your experiences in Soomaa. I loved your metaphor of being part of the Australian Bush, yet sensing a door that opened magically into the other-world forest near Mardu.

I remember sharing a similar feeling about the cranberries when we were in wetland country in Eesti a few years back. The berries were like tiny Christmas lights, offering themselves up to be celebrated and then picked and eaten. Moving around the countryside where there are bears and wolves is exciting, even when we can't see them - we just know they are there and this is their homeland.

You have painted a rich canvas with your words. It would be great to spend time in the Finnish countryside. Not sure about the insects though!
Joanna Jaaniste, February 22, 2016

Add a comment

Email again: