Returning to Finland, another beautiful summer in Orivesi, I found myself drawn to the water in a new way. Taking off from our summer house, as I often have, in a wooden rowboat, I was off to do something or off to do nothing. To hop in the boat is be part of a common cultural pastime, and in summers past, I used that old boat to fish and catch crayfish. But this summer was different, the boat and my time on the water became something else.
I often rowed without destination or goal, with only the sound of oars moving in the oarlocks. While rowing, your back faces the direction you’re traveling, looking at what you have left behind. In the quiet movement there is confidence of heading in the right direction even without constantly looking ahead.
There is a rich tradition of rowing in Finland; it is both a practical pursuit and a leisurely one. It isn’t sport but an easy way to get fresh air and a little exercise. When you see a boat on the water, it can be coming or going from anywhere. What is personal to that rower cannot be seen when you spot a boat from a distance. Is there a freshly caught fish in the bottom, or a six-pack of beer or a dog on the way to the veterinarian? Or is there just quiet and thought.
Whatever the mission, or lack of one, a rowboat in the middle of the lake in the summer in Orivesi, is a relaxing and peaceful place. As I sit in the rowing machine at the gym now, it is where my mind will try to be, moving forward while looking back.