For the love of the woods

The rustle of aspen leaves is the sound of summer. It’s not a proper summer if I can’t hear them. When I was a child, I lived near aspens and I often slept in the garden. I have planted aspens in the garden of my summer cottage; the wind playing in the leaves takes me back to my childhood summers.

I can still remember how the strong scent of resin from the freshly-chopped pile of logs set me on the way of my education. The forest had always had a strong presence in my life through hunting, berry and mushroom picking and, of course, building huts in the woods. I’m sure that my parents’ decisions and the example they set for me, as well as the proximity of the forest, gave me my good ideas.

The wood pile came from the clearcutting of my much-loved mushroom forest. The disappearance of the forest seemed final. It made me think about what is important. I learned then – or perhaps later – that things are not black and white.

My education and career in forestry have increased my understanding of the forest and have also made my forest relationship more varied, as well as – possibly most importantly – giving a temporal perspective to everything.

The most fascinating feature of the forest is its constant change. There is always more to learn and you’ll never be fully educated. Owning part of the forest deepens the relationship. Working in your own bit of forest is especially enjoyable as you’re the master of your own decisions.

The forest is also a great educator. It will tell you if you make a mistake but it also remedies your mistakes if necessary. Other creatures will also show their appreciation in their own way; the capercaillie will be happy if undergrowth is saved, as the hazel grouse will be if there are alders around.

For me, the forest is part of Finnishness; it’s part of our national identity. Finland has more forests than any other country in Europe, and it is the forests and the relationship with the forest that makes the nation stand out. This is strongly reflected in Finnish culture and vocabulary. Everywhere I go, the forest is with me.

I miss the clear October mornings when the coo of the black grouse would echo around the landscape. I miss sitting at an open fire; it is therapy for modern man. I’m impressed by the heavy thud of logs as a felling machine cuts trees in a clearing – it is the sound of prosperity for Finland.

It is good to be in the arms of the forest. This is something I’d like to pass on to my own daughter, even if we now live in a city. I hope that she, too, will have a strong, unique and loving relationship with the forest.

Ilari Pirttilä
Managing Director
Metsämiesten Säätiö