Philip Tidwell

Philip Tidwell

Graduate Student Grantee 2006-2007

To call any of my impressions of Finland today ‘first’ is probably true only in part, as the people, language, and culture of this country have been present in my life for nearly a decade now. But we see with new eyes when we have come to live, not simply to visit, and it is certainly true that I come to Finland now with a greater sense of wonder and intention than ever before.

It is difficult to describe precisely, but it is clear to me that the differences one sees when arriving here are founded somehow in the climate, landscape, and language. Already in our short time here many of us have made excursions to the forests and lakes outside of our cities and perhaps also to a sauna or cottage. As summer ends and the autumn days grow shorter we notice the ways in which Finns embrace the end of the warm season with their almost urgent need to be outdoors, and we begin to feel with them the value of the fading light of each day. Even those of us who lack experience with the Finnish language see and hear it daily and become familiar with its rhythm and intonation.

More than just symbols or stereotypes, these factors seem to be the primary forces by which Finnish culture has been shaped. They are the first places that I look in my attempts at understanding the Finnish lifestyle, and often I find with them reminders of my own childhood in the American Midwest and my connection to that landscape and its own working traditions. Even the pace of daily life and the patient exchanges of unspoken words seem to draw out memories of my days in the fields and towns of rural Kansas.