Pining for Finland

Brown Bear painting by Brenda Davis Harsham

Brown bear, brown bear,
what do you see?
Reindeer herds or
Santa in Rovaniemi?

May to August,
the midnight sun lights Lapland.
Under that luminous sky,
the Sámi teach that all
beings and objects have souls.
Paintings, pottery,
dolls and blankets have stories.
A Sámi kota is a circular tent,
a place for visions and healing.

Brown bear, brown bear,
what do you see?
A Lake Saimaa seal,
cut off from the sea?

Long winer nights are
lit by aurora borealis,
heaven’s fireworks,
the celestial dragon.
If we listen,
what will we hear?

Notes: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a classic children’s book written by Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle. I pay homage here to a book my kids love, and I reread so many times it feels part of my DNA.

I’ve seen a rise in visitors from Finland, and I wanted to learn more about it. Finland’s cities of light are dwarfed by its vast wilderness near the arctic circle. In between Sweden and Russia, Finland flies its cross-of-blue flag over lakes, mountains, forests, rocky inlets, migrating birds and northern lights. It’s a place of magic, with trees frozen like trolls, glass igloos and brown bear roaming free.

The painting is a watercolor of mine from twenty years ago, tweaked by iPhoto.