An energetic forest adventurer or a serene caretaker?

Lusto – The Finnish Forest Museum has focused on exploring and promoting people’s personal relationships with the forest over the past few years. A report on Finns’ relationships with the forest was also recently published by Kantar TNS Oy, which showed that forests play an important role in people’s lives and that the relationship with the forest is often very pluralistic at the individual level and continues to evolve over time. The report grouped forest relationships according to different dimensions, taking into account the unconscious needs, emotions and intuition that significantly influence people’s decision-making.

I decided to dare myself to reflect on my own relationship with the forest using the emotional response classification used in the survey.

An energetic adventurer

I think that this type best describes my relationship with the forest. My adventurous approach is likely to have originated in my childhood, when I was a scout.

As a child, for me forests were places to visit with friends, to ‘see who was who’, to survive, compete and experience adventures. Forests were exciting but never frightening. Orienteering in the woods on winter nights left strong memories. A resinous stump dug out from under the snow generated heat and light, snow turned into drinking water and spruce twigs made a comfortable enough bed.

I think it was my hobby that also led me to study forestry at Joensuu and later even in Germany. My friends thought that my choice of career was pure madness and a rash decision in a country in the middle of recession. I’m happy that I followed my instinct as the forest sector has proved to offer an excellent and versatile career path for me.

My energy levels are not quite the same now that I’m middle-aged, and the adventures are mainly a distant memory. Childhood and teenage experiences in the woods surely leave lasting emotional imprints, and mine certainly affect my choices even today.

A level-headed utiliser

This type of emotional response is characterised by planning, competence and balance. These skills were taught in the Faculty of Forestry, so this response clearly must be part of my relationship with the forest. I understand both the forest’s importance to the national economy and the need for sustainable development. Personally, I get very excited about new innovations and solutions, which may be at odds with this emotional response category that emphasises calmness and prudence.

A carefree rambler

Carefree, spontaneous, enthusiastic… this seems to be a somewhat accurate description. Sometimes it’s nice to go to the woods without any purpose and stay off the beaten path. If you have trouble in your life, the forest can prove to be a great therapist. How that works, I wonder? Does the Finnish identity have a special, built-in relationship with the forest, and will it change, say, as a consequence of urbanisation?

Did you discover your forest relationship?

It’s just not easy to place one’s relationship with the forest in TNS Kantar’s framework of emotional responses. Many themes were easy to identify, but surely the personal relationship is much more complex than this categorisation would suggest. I may tackle the emotional features of the determined investor, serene caretaker and social minder in my next blogs, having ignored them here as they do not seem to fit me in particular.

It seems that the building blocks of the relationship with the forest are determined in childhood, and the relationship builds on the changes and experiences over a person’s lifetime. For me, the construction has moved from the adventures of youth into a more level-headed and tranquil direction. Perhaps I should allow more adventure into my relationship with the forest in the future.

Pekka Äänismaa
Lusto – The Finnish Forest Museum