Summer came suddenly just when I was leaving Kilpisjärvi. When I reached Rovaniemi there was 20 degrees at the railway station, and trees were already green.
On my last day I still walked up in the birch forest to be for a while with the trees. They did not have leaves yet, but they were flowered with birdsong and there was a river on the place of my skiing path. I was not alone with the trees, there was the rabbit as well. Maybe, or not, one of those whom I saw almost every morning eating and jumping around and chasing each other outside of Kiekula. Anyhow this rabbit was one that had already an almost complete summer dress. The rabbits were all different, one was still white a couple of days ago, and the other was beautifully spotted with grey patches on white and then this.
The reindeer’s fur does not change this radically by the season. The reindeer are light, greyish or dark ‘by nature’ and are also named by their looks. In the reindeer’s colouring I see almost a picture of the landscape, the fur being constantly in synchrony with the nature with the reflections of the light and the soft fading of the colour. From far away it is difficult to distinguish the reindeer. They might first look like stones, until one understands and sees the slight movement. And the birch forests on the slopes form lines and a sense of rhythm and movement that resembles the forms of a reindeer herd.
I understood from what Leena told me that traditionally the reindeer come to Kilpisjärvi landscape in the heart of summer, so midsummer time. Yet I already met some of them here. There was the small group on the slopes of Saana and a big herd on Malla. I met the Malla herd twice, first when they were higher up and I could only admire them from far and later again a week after when I bumped into them on my way up.
First time I noticed them was when I was coming out from the birch forest that covers the lower parts of the northeast slope of the smaller Malla coming up the route from Siilasjärvi. Earlier in the day I had been drawing beside the river and among the shadows of the birches on the other side of the lake and the road, on the lower slopes of the Jehkas-mountain. The place where I had met a whole group of willow grouse the other day, all performing their short flights and throat-sounds and talks. I kind of hoped to meet these birds again, but now the forest had been silent.
The afternoon was warm and beautiful so after crossing the road and coming down to the lake I decided to continue up to Malla. I was following the tracks of former skiers and had to pay attention, since the snow was already quite soft here and there. At one point there were big footprints of a beast crossing the tracks that I was following. They also seemed rather fresh, fresh enough to give me the shivers, for the first beast I thought about was the bear. Then I tried to imagine the bear walking about in the open mountain landscape and it didn’t quite seem likely. I thought about the wolverine and decided it was it. It was after the reindeer, maybe especially the calves that are born all the time now. It wouldn’t be there anymore now, in the warm afternoon, and it most probably wouldn’t be interested in me… Going through these thoughts and thinking about the beast I could somehow feel its presence there. Was it a former or actual presence remains a secret, but there was something, since just then a single willow grouse appeared beside me and stayed there looking at me as if trying to connect with me. We became acquainted and did not think so much about the wolverine anymore. I continued my way up and found a good place to draw.
Second time I already waited for to meet the reindeer. They were on the lower parts now and on both sides around the route I was following. I skied slowly towards the herd and they looked slowly at me and started to move. I thought I could notice how they organized themselves, there was one who told the others what to do and where to go. Then they went, following one another. I continued further up and just there was one very white reindeer separate from the others. She was indecisive, made odd noises, turned her head about and finally just started to run in a circle around me thus joining the other herd. I suspected she had a calve, but since I didn’t first see it I thought she maybe just felt somehow trapped between the steep slope and me. I stopped and remained silent to follow and feel her beautiful circle. When I continued upwards I saw the little one. It was trying desperately to get out of my way in the thick snow. Instinctively I started to talk to it as if it was a baby and changed my course so as to give it peace. From further away I detected that everything was fine again. After that I started to see other calves as well, dark and light-coloured, some moving already quickly about their mothers.
I have thought about the circle of the white reindeer very much. I was mesmerized by it, the circle was so perfect, and the reindeer was so vast. I don’t quite know why I have to think about it. Maybe there was something about the wildness of the animal that showed. Anyhow I felt this reindeer’s presence very strongly and maybe it was also her moving so fast, which was so captivating.
Later, up on the highland I started to follow the paths of the reindeer. I enjoyed this very much and it made my skiing a bit easier, at least I was prepared for the deeper snows since I saw where they also had had more difficulties with proceeding. I went criss-cross admiring landscapes and smelling the plants on the bare spots where the reindeer had eaten. Me too I stopped to eat and drink and feel the earth. And later to draw, to let my eyes wander from near to far, thus wandering myself, half imaginatively half truly, on the smooth slopes, feeling the slight rocking movement that their lines create.