In Oulu I love its calm. It is something that I have learnt to appreciate with time. At my arrival I was still carrying with me the element of rush. Having lived in cities with several million people, I was used to speed and haste. Running to catch the bus, to reach a place, and leave it on my way to another. It was a constant frenzy against time, a struggle to meet the to-dos of the day. Although fascinating, this battle left me exhausted. Some few nights, I did not even have the strength to get to bed. I took shelter on the sofa to wait for the new day and with it, another dizzying fight.
But not here. Time passes differently in Oulu. You do not have to run for a bus because you already know what time it arrives. Nor rush to get to another place because the distances are short. And that peaceful feeling is accentuated in winter. It feels like the days getting shorter and the snow falling slowly permeates us. The intensity of summer fades, the celebrating crowds dissipate, and the sounds of people playing become silence. And that quiet flow of time that shocked me at first, is now an invitation to live things in a different way.
In another city a few years ago, a friend wondered if I had children. I asked her to guess, and she replied, ”I don’t think so. You don’t look concerned in that way.” I was surprised. After reaching a certain point in a relationship, I was discussing children with my then girlfriend. When I looked at the city with those eyes, my perspective changed. If facing that rhythm was so addictive and heavy for me, I did not want to imagine how hard it would be accompanying a little one to learn and adapt to it. A child forces you to stop and I could not stop nor want to then.
It was when I lived on the Argentine coast that I realized that there was another way to live. Mar del Plata was a ”small” city of 300 000 inhabitants that became a million in beach time. In spring or summer, I could sit in the park and watch others sunbathe, read a book, or just play cards. I found myself almost race-walking on the street, while everyone else was just strolling. A slow pace, no rush. It was then that the seed was planted in me to look for a different place to live. And when looking for new destinations, Oulu came up.
I arrived here with the image of a snow-lashed city that defended itself from darkness with a few artificial lights. Also, focused on becoming financially viable (and aiming to do it fast), I decided the long winter night had nothing to offer. But, unable to defeat the darkness, I had to slow down, and listen to it. Then I started to develop this habit of looking at the sky. That is how I discovered green and yellow auroras dancing, or white snow falling as if caressing the air. And, while mesmerized, I gratefully accepted to slow my pace down.
After finding those beauties hidden in the darkness, I also discovered a different rhythm when working with others. I do not longer have to drain my energy at work and give my beloved ones the leftovers. Instead, I enjoy a more balanced life. When I finish work, I can go home, and spend time with my wife, or just grab a cup of tea and experience that black immensity from the calm of a warm home. Ironically, one that produces one of those artificial lights that I saw on my first picture of Oulu.
Now, when facing the winter sky, I like to contemplate it for a while. I realized that if I am patient, I can feel the air entering and leaving my chest, or the rhythm of my heart beating peacefully. And following this new cadence, I find the peace to engender other things. Like this article, for example. Or maybe, in the future, little children whom to teach about this rhythm and help them get absorbed in it.
You can drop Pablo a line and get to know him: @santur.pablo.