Suomenlinna, Finland is one of those islands I used to imagine as a child reading adventure fiction. In my secluded cubbyhole I would be transported by particular tales to an ungoverned realm where magic and mayhem ensued. I was Karana fighting off feral dogs; I was Jim Hawkins on the trail of hidden treasure; I was Ralph attempting to corral my rag-tag band into order. There were no adults to supervise or rely upon, no escape possible, and illimitable potential for excitement. Rescue, when it came at the end of some of the books, seemed anticlimactic.
Exploring Suomenlinna gives me that spine tingle I once felt between the pages of thrilling juvenile escapades. Here was a cave in whose terrifying depths I might discover buried gold. I gingerly enter the dank interior, my eyes adjusting to murky shadows. What is concealed within that niche? It turns out to be an empty, squashed Coca-Cola bottle. I wrinkle my nose in disappointment, but the adrenaline rush of the chase stays with me.
I head down a path around whose corner a bunker appears. Are pirates within plotting a takeover? I hesitate despite the idyllic bench winking at me to rest in front. I tiptoe forward, keeping an ear out for war cries, for the one-legged crook who evokes terror. A flicker at the edge of my peripheral menaces. I swing left to spy a barnacle goose flee. Its derisive yap taunts me.
My path curves gently up between swathes of yellow mustard blooms. The sky glowers, the waves whip into a frenzy. I am an isle upon this island: self-reliant, bold, full of clever survival techniques. I shall whittle a sturdy fort from fallen logs, fashion clothing from grass blades, repair the disused canon, make friends with a field mouse. There is nothing I am incapable of accomplishing in my tempest tossed kingdom.
On the far side of Suomenlinna I come across an overgrown white gate, half open, inviting me in. Who lives beyond it? Do I dare go through to find a Rumpelstiltskin or a hut made of candies? I crane my neck to glimpse a bit of roof obscured by shrubs. I decide not to disturb the locals. Instead I continue towards the pewter strait where daisies nod.
I sit upon a boulder to watch the clouds shape themselves into sheep…pterodactyls…gargoyles. A sailboat nears the coast searching for marooned survivors. Its occupants scan the cliffs for evidence of life. I shall not let them know of my presence. I do not want to return to a hot supper yet. There are wild things to encounter, expeditions to plan, phantoms to conquer, locked doors to unbolt.
At the beginning of another year, there is so much at stake. Hopes for good things to happen, yearnings for new adventures, wishes which might be fulfilled. There is also fear at the thought of failure, terror for the end of dreams, dread that another twelve months will pass without the progress I wanted. It’s like being stranded on an island. I think back to all my made-up games played on sidewalks, in back woods, on jungle gyms where the unknown was the exhilaration. I reflect upon my day spent on Suomenlinna where I briefly held the future in my palms, giddy to thwart whatever perils came my way. Here’s to meeting the challenges of 2018 with the enthusiasm I had pursuing monsters, defeating dragons, and evading buccaneers on my imaginary islands.
Thank you all for your unfailing kindness, support, and good wishes throughout the years as I travel through this life and our world. It has been such a joy to share my stories with all of you and to be invited into your own narratives of struggle and success.
Suomenlinna, Finland is designated automobile free, so the best way to explore the beaches, the fort, and the wilderness trails is by walking. While Suomenlinna is a popular destination for visitors, please be aware that more than 800 Finns call the island home.
Have a favorite island adventure you loved as a child? What challenge in the new year are you most looking forward to tackling? Tell me about it in the comments below.