Saturday, 10 November 2018

Floating in the Consciousness

Of all the books I have read so far this one has the most beautiful, original and poetic language. Eeva Turunen uses words one doesn't hear that often. This book made me remember how magical Finnish language can be if the author has the gift to use it on it's full potential. Turunen's Neiti U muistelee niin sanottua ihmissuhdehistoriaansa (2018) has not yet been translated to other languages, so this treat is now only for those who can read Finnish. I wonder what a challenge it would be to try to translate this because one of the main elements of this work is in the language and it's nuances. But they translate poetry so it must be possible.

The book also plays with genres and it can be read at least in two ways, as a collection of short stories, dialogues and poems that tell the histories of different characters or as a novel that describes different angles of the person's life. The main characters have a lot in common what comes to their personalities. Their way of seeing the world is similar and it makes sense that actually all the stories tell about the relationships, career and life in general of the same person. The characters are referred as miss U, miss K, miss N or their names are not told. This made me ponder the idea that maybe the characters are written anonymous, like in a manner which someone would really tell about their relationships; Well I won't tell their names lets refer them as A and B, OK? Personal issues are often told with a mist of anonymity so it won't feel too revealing to tell what has been going on in mind.

The relationships described are mainly between women, love affairs, crushes and friendships. It is refreshing to read women's experiences that are not to do about relationships with men or raising children. Turunen also breaks the  conventional roles by writing characters that surprise, their choices and ways of seeing the world are not as one might first assume. For example in some stories the gender is not so obvious or necessary in a main character's mind but when they reflect other people's actions toward them it reveals how those people are assuming and behaving according to their interpretations. 

The stories are stream of consciousness in the most fluent way. The reader gets to the waves of consciousness and gets a glimpse of what is currently on the mind of the main character. In the opening story two women are travelling in Island and the other one, miss N predicts that the volcano might erupt soon. In her mind she does all kinds of neurotic arrangements in case it happens. She seems to be aware that her mind is going to paths that are not logical anymore and tries to hide the purchases she has done in case the emergency hits. In another story an architect is not getting sleep at night and begins to reflect her latest commission. She is in the  beginning of her career and goes through what possibly went wrong because she was not chosen to complete the design of the building. The thoughts circling in her mind are very relatable; should I have laughed in that situation to bond better with the customer, was my way of expressing myself unclear and did the work done correlate to what the customer was looking after and so forth. All these annoying details that make it impossible to be proud of one's own work. To add to the pile of anxiousness she begins to imagine how her ex-girlfriend is living a dream life with her new woman. It is so real to go though the whole life and it's mistakes and could bes in the late hours of the day when sleep is not arriving.

I think it shows in the style of this book that the author is an architect and a play writer. At parts there is something similar with a play manuscript. The situations are described in a minimalistic way, A says, B says, A thinks etc. For a visual person it gives more than thick and fully charged writing. The style gives air to picture the situation, where the people are standing and what they are doing. The picture formed to one's head gives more about the whole context of the happenings that could be written with more words. In one of the stories the main character tells about her worries to the property manager in a letter. Instead of the letter being static it is in constant move as the main character goes though her home, what can be found there and who she meets in the yards and corridors. The letter contains her life and the past events which open the situations and why she has so much time to ponder and write to a complete stranger she has made her friend.

The luxury of time is common to all characters in these stories. They have time to look back and go through every detail in their past relationships, they have time look where they are at the moment and what is around them. There are cotton swabs in door wreath, the flowers are nastily packed to revealing transparent foil and neighbors move in their balconies. Also there is something similar in their lifestyles. Work or other interests in the cultural field are visible. Past relationships are haunting their life at the moment or low self-esteem is affecting to the current affair. Their life sounds real and something we can feel through our own experiences. Even though we would be doing great and we would have a work we enjoy and well functioning relationship, still there is some insecure place that gives warnings and puts us to reflect what we have done wrong. It happens every now and then in all situations where we communicate with each other. Because most of us want to show themselves in good light and treat other people in a manner they deserve. 

What I particularly liked about this book was that the main characters are quite ordinary, trying to make it in their life whether single or in a relationship, with a job or without. They are lost after a girlfriend has left or waiting the woman of dreams come out of the DIY cardboard teleport. They are looking for appreciation in work life. I think almost all have gone though moments like that, absent minded wandering in the apartment and streets waiting for something wonderful to happen. I am not sure if that reflective and neurotic spirit ever stops haunting even though the teleport would blink. 

Thursday, 8 November 2018

World As We Don't Know It

Hannu Rajaniemi. Summerland (Kesämaa 2018)

Secret service agent Rachel White gets a tip that there is a high class spy in the system. In a classic setting of an espionage story she can't be sure who are supporting and covering the acts of the spy. Spy named Peter seems to have connections to the highest authorities of the society. After speaking to her nearest superior she is accused to have stress and incapable of continuing in her position. Therefore she is moved to lower rank work. Yet she doesn't stop the investigations but gets allies from both sides, the living and dead, to figure out the pattern.

If the setting of the story is classic the surroundings are anything but. The story takes place in 1938 British secret service.  The world though is not the same we know now. In the turn of the century the division between life and death has been broken. People can call to the other side to their friends and relatives. People who have passed can visit the living as unseen ghosts or hire a body from a person who can take in the spirit. The secret service has an office in both sides and these two are cooperating. The world doesn't know Hitler or Nazism which is an interesting choice. Usually stories that are set in that era take material from World War II happenings. I think it is a stylish decision not to repeat those in this novel. Horrors of that time have been used too often in entertainment I think. Still in the world Rajaniemi has created war is not absent. The wars are even more brutal and apocalyptic, if possible. Some soldiers are turned into monsters that take their fuel from souls.

In many ways the other side is very similar only the essence of everything is more abstract. If the world of the living is more material the other side is built on thoughts. This is an interesting and philosophical thought about the essence of life itself. We believe in the matter we see and touch yet we have no clue who we are and where we are. How Rajaniemi describes the other side tells about our constructions as human beings. Peter, the spy, has difficulties with his self-image and the appearance he builds every day might broke. Once he stands in public transport when his arms become arms of a boy. It is like we draw our lines daily to keep the surface but some situations bring out the insecurities and one's own history. The world around us is also abstract, the buildings, streets are a common agreements. We agree that those are there and we believe in the ideas of these things and accept those as a part of a shared reality. In the world on the other side all the material might disappear during the sleep and one has to make these constructions all over again in the morning. Peter's house is not the same, interior becomes bare after night. Like he has lost the common idea of the world and seen beyond.

One bigger theme in this science fiction novel is the necessity of life and death as a dichotomy we can't break.  In the world Rajaniemi has created life has no meaning because death is just one step that has no bigger influence. Death as we know it is scary, because we can't know what is on the other side. We have our own and shared beliefs that direct our look to afterlife. We acknowledge that life on the Earth is limited and then we go some place else. Yet our understanding and knowledge is narrow. Rajaniemi plays with the idea, what if we would know exactly what is waiting for us, how would it change our life? In the world where Rachel and Peter are living life has lost meaning. There is no progress made because of the lack of the driving force. No motivator to develop medicine and work with life expectancy. Neither death nor life has no meaning.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Winter Is in the Air

As you can see from the styling of these photos Winter and Christmas have been on my mind lately. It felt great to get this project finished yesterday. To be honest it began to look like this would end into a closet of unfinished works. Evenings turned darker so rapidly that I hardly found time to make sewing and stitching work in proper lightning. Unfinished works are irritating and that is why I put all my effort to this project. I know that if this would have ended to the closet it would have stayed there to the unknown future. Now this one is better closure to the year's quilting. Next year will bring it's own projects that I am sure of. I have two ideas already and I can sketch those properly during the Winter months. Also it might be that I craft some very tiny projects for Christmas. Quilted Christmas ornaments would be nice and in a size scale one can handle without bigger mess in the house.

Empty table cleans the mind and gives space to create totally different projects and process new thoughts. Christmas decorations have been circling in my mind and I am excited to get to decorate my home soon. Just few weeks and most of the Christmas decorations can be brought in! Christmas being a limited period of time with it's own character it gives a needed break between old and new year. I like to divide projects to two categories at this time of the year. One, a pile of work that needs finishing touches and can be completed from to do list before Christmas. Number two, a pile of work that can be left to wait for next year and fresh start. (Three, a pile of work that can be forgotten :) With this technique Christmas time can be reserved to things that please the mind at the moment, small crafts, slow brunches, reading and just being and resting. 

Today's quilt art is called Net because it got it's color from a fishing net. I noticed during the process that it was difficult for me to create a pattern that is not based on repeating motif. I imagined nine boxes to the fabric and placed one motif in each box. This imaginary grid gives needed rhythm. Then I combined the motifs with stitching. In the stitching I used the same curl shape as in the fabric pieces. Stitching collects the net together. Another combining element is classic red in a hue that goes to orange in some light. First time in my life I made piping myself using the same fabric as in the curls. Red piping frames the work beautifully making it an entity. Otherwise it would be a bunch of curls that seem to run away from the work. I love these small details. Last October I made a cushion that has octagon shape, see more here. Tassels in the corners made a huge difference to the look. Not all works need pipings and tassels, some are best without. But I do love it when I can craft a little extra and test a new element. I was amazed how easy it was to make a piping and by making it by myself I got the exact color and size I wanted. Maybe I could make Christmas ornaments with piping? :)

Happy last week of October to You All!


Friday, 19 October 2018

One Option

To stay voluntarily childless is one of the options one can choose in life. Yet it is still a choice that raises lots of opinions even these days. People might doubt your capability to make the decision by saying you don't know what you are losing or that you will most surely change your mind. A voluntarily childless person confronts more prejudices than a person who has chosen to want children. Those two decisions are not seen as equal and the decision not to want children is combined with things like selfishness and career oriented lifestyle. It is seen self-centered to be happy just the way you are in your life without children.

I have experienced many kinds of attitudes towards being childless. In some situations I have felt outsider and it has been impossible to address that as a problem. Because the solution to my problem would be to have/want children of my own and then become a member of the group.  It is like there is no need or duty to consider people who don't have children, they can be left outside because it is their own fault. In any other case it would be bullying but what comes to being childless by choice it is seen as personal decision that has consequences. If you don't make children you choose the path of an outlaw, someone outside the society of good people. There is one sort of women's culture that gets it's roots from motherhood. Motherhood and womanhood are seen as synonyms. In that discourse experience of motherhood is something that combines all women no matter how heterogeneous the group is in other ways there is this one subject that is common. Building of a group starts with addressing how we  women know... and then continues with some experience that is connected to having children and raising them. Once I was in a situation that it was Mothers Day and I was given a rose just because all women are mothers and raising children together even if they don't have children of their own. It was one of the most awkward situations I have been in. It is thought that if you don't have children you still have the motherhood in you because you are a woman. If you say out loud that you don't feel like it you can be left outside alone.

There is also the concept of societal motherhood and woman's role as a mother in society who nurtures, guides and takes care of other people. By combining motherhood to womanhood some characters are forced to women and taken out of someone else who would feel those more natural. For example to see all women as nurturers is harmful towards people who do feel like women but struggle in filling this norm and start to question if they have some way failed. These norms are changing but are still present in today's society. It has not been one or two times in my life that I have been asked to nurse someones children or even take a small job in nursing children. This thought that I would be good with children cannot rise from anything else than the fact that I am a woman. It is thought that it comes natural to take care of someone's children and that I would actually enjoy spending my free time with children. It has also been argued that I should practice nursing children so I know when I have my own.

This leads to the great non-fiction book about voluntarily childlessness. Because all that I just told from my own experience is something quite many women who address themselves as voluntarily childless have gone though. Nefertiti Malaty's Ei äitimateriaalia (2018), could be translated as Not mother material, was a liberating read. It lists quotes one will hear as a voluntarily childless and tells about the prejudices and attitudes people still have. It also goes to society's level showing the politics that push women to procreate in the name of the nation's well being. It is liberating to know the power structures that make one doubt their own decisions. It is accepted to say to a woman that you will change your mind, you don't know what you are missing if you don't make kinds and motherhood is one the greatest things in life. These might be true for someone but it doesn't make it right to force feed these to people who have thoroughly pondered the subject and have courage to say out aloud what they know is true to them. One is allowed to say that you will regret if you don't make kinds but how would it be if someone would say to a person who has kinds that you will regret that decision. It is tragic if a person makes children just in case not to have regrets afterwards. It means that childlessness is pictured as a lifestyle choice that lacks some greater purpose. One optional part of human life shouldn't get such a big role.

The pressure is huge and it comes from all around the society. It becomes difficult to hear your own voice. Children are seen as a fulfillment of a well lived life and as a continuum of human life and well functioning nation. New taxpayers they state. It is selfish women who ruin this vision. It is not true though. The best part of this book are the narratives of women and non-binary who talk openly and honestly about their life and the prejudices they have confronted. Most if not all of them are active in some organization that makes societal work. They have also dedication to voluntary work. This doesn't mean that there is some debt to pay for the society if you don't make children. The point is that the archetype of a childless person as selfish and self-centered is far from reality. These interesting and inspiring people I read about have many things they are passionate about and those interests take time. I have noticed this in my life. There are so many activities, new things to study and learn, so many causes to work for, that I don't see where I could find time to be a mother.

The book opened how people have noticed they don't want to have kids. Some have known their whole life and some have realized as an adult that Hey, it is not compulsory to have children if you don't want to! I know the later. One day the notion came to me. I had felt sort of hurry all the time in life. There was a certain pattern to run though. I studied fast to move to work life and to be productive. As a student I had the thoughts that what if life doesn't go according to this given pattern? What if I am not married at the age of 30 and mother at the age of 31? Fertility was running out of me and time to settle and have children began to end.Will I be left alone and outside, I asked. The pressure was huge and put me down daily. Then one bright day few years ago I finally understood that having children is not for all and it is not compulsory. I realized it might not be for me at all. Instead of time running out I had all the time in life! For some not having children feels final as for some to have children feels too final. Our experiences and ways to see our live's are not similar. The world around us tels us a story, story where people find love and settle and make kinds. In that world it might be challenging to make this invention that it is not meant for all. There are options that are equally right. It is perfectly OK to look for relationship without the pressure to become a parent after few years together. Those are two separate things. A great relationship and being loved are not awards of motherhood.

Malaty's book presents one option among many. It doesn't claim that staying childless is the only way in life. Neither does it criticize those who decide to make children. The book doesn't defend the decision to stay childless. Because there is nothing to defend. If more people decide to be voluntarily childless it is not a threat to anybody or anything. World has enough people already and those who choose are free to have children. People who don't want children of their own are not against children or hate them. In the book some even had their career in working with children and youth. Being child free can be the best and happiest option for some and that decision should be respected. Cartoon artist Kaisa and author Monika  are telling about their interests and that they would't have time to be mothers as a part of that all. It is heavy that people without children and singles get so much negative attention, advice and confront pure discrimination in both hobby and work groups as well as in the society. As Malaty writes no one drives the cause of the childless and singles in the politics. We are part of the community too and we work for common good from our own place. Old fashioned norms shouldn't justify discrimination and make it right to pressure people act against what they feel they are.

I would recommend this book for voluntarily childless as an empowering read that gives support in the decision. This is also good read for those who want to know their options. Instead of painting a dark picture of life without children it shows how happy and fulfilling life can be when you make the decision that is right for you. It would be equally great if people who have children could read this book too and see the other side of the subject.

Nefertiti Malaty: Ei äitimateriaalia. 2018. Aito Reuna Kustanne. The book is in Finnish.