Towards the end of winter there is usually a time here in Finland, when we have a number of cold and sunny days. At the coast one can then often indulge in one of the greatest pleasures of winter: walking on the sea in sunshine.
Yes, the Baltic Sea freezes over (although it didn’t really the last two winters). For some kilometers and often up to the point where the archipelago ends and the open sea starts, people can skate and ski and walk. Some even drive with their cars out and in places there are regular ice roads leading to some of the islands.
The sun is reflected by every surface out on the ice and there presents itself an opportunity to get the first sunburn of the year at -10 degrees Celsius. The islands themselves seem like white whales bathing in the sun. The ice itself, however, is by no means just a flat surface. Around rocks it is often pushed up to pyramids and one starts to understand that ice is in constant motion.
But not only around rocks, no everywhere, the ice surface is a real candy-shop of textures and forms. Still, among all the wonders what touches me most is the change of perspective a walk on the ice provides. This is a bit difficult to explain but let me try.
This particular piece of coast has become a kind of second home to me. I have been here so often that the islands close to the shore have become friends, many of whom I know by name. The landscape has become part of my inner landscape. On the ice, however, I can walk around the islands and look at the shore and at the places where I usually move. That is like I would look at myself from a distance. But also I learn new things about my island-friends I literally see new sides of them.
Now, you might say (and rightly so) that in principle I could see the same from a boat in summer. But that is not quite the same thing. In a boat you are always aware that you are in a different element. There the land, here the sea and you stand not on firm ground but on a more or less unstable platform. The tool, that is the boat, is very present.
But the ice seems to extend the land itself – one might not even notice where the land ends and the ice begins. The islands themselves turn into hills and distances between them and the land and all the proportions of features seem strange and distorted. Maybe I notice only because a single perspective, that from land, is so familiar to me, but there starts to sneak a thought upon me: which one is the real perspective? Is summer perspective more real because it is more familiar? Can both perspectives be equally real and true? I get reminded of the famous story of Zhuangzi who dreamed that he was a butterfly. But when he awoke he wondered whether it was Zhuangzi who dreamed he was a butterfly, or whether the butterfly now was dreaming it was Zhuangzi.
We often talk about perspective in photography and only mean optical perspective. Therefore it is easy to forget how much of perspective is in fact something inside our mind. And this perspective a whole deal contributes to our view of reality. The island which always was a narrow strip of rock in the sea turns out to be a deep triangle – and the fishermen always new.
We assume that we all, more or less, agree on the same view on reality. We don’t. But that is for the next post. See ya!