The Top of the World

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Elena Lmr

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Hilja stands up straight at the top of the world. Straight in the middle of the soft emptiness stretching out before her, limitless between the sky and the horizon. Her fair hair is plaited beneath navy blue earmuffs, her white skin wrapped in layers of wool and fleece, and her blonde eyelashes makeup-less. Her fingers grip the poles and her skis plunge into the thick powdery covering of the lake. In the middle of the wide open spaces of Lapland only two things exist: the forest of pine trees, bowed low under the weight of the snow and Hilja’s blue eyes. Everything else has disappeared, shrouded under the snow and the temperature of minus twenty-five which casts a frosty breath over everything it touches - and which also kills. The Finns know this. The cold kills men, smells, and colors. It transforms the world by tiny gradations of the senses over which slide the wax of candles, the blades of skates and the hooves of reindeer.
The beauty of the top of the world shimmers. Hilja’s breath is wrapped in frost. Her gaze is swathed in the silence and ranges over the invisible horizon, over the arabesques of the pine trees. She embraces her immaculate solitude. Yet she loves the life she has in Helsinki, she likes the city teeming under woolly hats, her marathon of a job and her whirlwind children. But… for weeks she has felt lost, bored, fed up with the noisy conglomeration. So she left. She needed this tranquillity. She needed the silent solitude of the horizon you could not see. Just long enough for her to miss Helsinki, for her to be able to go back there feeling the renewed excitment of a little girl.
She feels good here. At peace. She breathes deeply. Soon it will be one o’clock in the afternoon. The first rays of the icy sun embrace the landscape spread around her. The white sky is lightened by reflections a little brighter even than itself, and the snow is sprinkled with a powdery gold. The silence slips by, then breaks on the suddenly-gusting wind. The flakes too light to settle dance in the watercolor reflections sketched in the cold air. Hilja breathes in time to the delicate waltz of the breeze piercing her gloves. She closes her eyes for a moment, and grips her poles with her fingers. She can feel the sun on her fine eyelids. She feels so good here. 
This evening, lost in the long night of the Lapp winter, she will wait. She will wait for the Northern lights which dance in the silence. And tomorrow she will return to Helsinki, to wrap her life and her children in all the joy she will feel at seeing them again. She can’t wait.

Translated by Wendy Cross


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