We all crave a digital detox, and usually without realisation. Look at the onslaught of useless rubbish that we voluntarily hound after. Swipe. Double Tap. Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. When did we get addicted? I left it behind for a full week. I learned to be human again. I listened to my instincts. I found myself hearing the orchestra hiding in the silence. I wrote. I photographed. And this is my rendition.
Does true silence exist? The simple definition of silence is the complete absence of sound. In 1952, the American composer and music theoretician John Cage produced his controversial three-movement piece titled 4’33” to underscore the impossibility of silence. “There is no such thing...” said Cage regarding the premier of his piece. “What [the audience] thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”
Today, if we withdraw from the chatter of the city, communication, and Push Notification, what are we left with? What are our sounds of silence? To answer, I accept an invitation to disappear for a week into Finland and its lake lands surrounding Savonlinna with an Art Director from Berlin and an entrepreneur of sorts from Copenhagen. Admittedly, it takes a day or two for quotidian anxieties to dissipate; that incessant drive to reach for the phone. Any emails from work? Messages? Instagram?
The pale blue of morning leaks in lazily through the mezzanine window. I sneak down the stairs and gauge the risks of a butt freezing journey to the outhouse; I veto my urge. Last night’s fire is cold, white ash flaking off charred black bits. Drifting past into the kitchen, survival instincts has me pouring hot coffee before long; it gurgles out of the pot. I lower my face into its steam, inhale deep and revel in the creamy aroma. Seated at the table, I focus on my breathing. The mind in response, begins to acutely detect natural nuances that our tech-driven world easily drowns out. Light builds on the far side of the lake, creeping up through the trees, casting silver gold flames across cerulean waters. The old gnarly pine shudders in a brittle wind and I vaguely wonder if he has a nickname. A cheeky robin, swoops in to industriously peck away at the cheese stored outside on the terrace.
Meanwhile, the cabin slumbers on. Only the sharp tic toc of the wall clock marks the slippage of time. Waking to slow morning rituals, we revive the fire and brunch on smoked salmon, eggs, and forest berries. As we gradually disconnect from our distractive careers, the more we engage with our own thoughts. I write, conscious of the nib of my pen scratching against fibrous paper. One knits, steel needles whisking through soft black wool. And another reads; the pages of a book flipped with slate-like scrapes. These moments are truncated by occasional conversation, bursts of intensity that dissipate as quickly as they ignite. Wood crackles steadily in the fireplace.
The day dwindles, the sun sinking through Nordic skies without much haste. The silhouette of skeletal birch needles up into tissued clouds that gleam like rose gold embers. We stock more wood into the cabin for the night. Then, lanterns and candles swinging like an archaic procession, we march down to the lake side sauna and cram into its steamy darkness. There is a decidedly masochistic edge to Finnish saunas; scalding heat, self-inflicted birch branch whippings, and in this case, being slathered with a black clay mask. To wash up, I dive into the blood curling waters of the November lake. It blows the breath out of my lungs and sends a million pinpricks shooting through my body. My inhuman squawk gunshots out over the water. Above, the stars burn bright.
Incidentally, the optimal cabin setting for whisky consumption is past midnight, sitting languid by a cheery fireplace. Outside the night rain falls on the wooden deck. Our drinks glow gold as they’re intermittently raised. Saunas have a propensity for making one feel wonderfully exhausted. So closing the first movement, one eventually goes to bed; two glasses left to sip, pour, sip. Not much is said save for weighty thoughts and faded memories exchanged in low slow whispers. Later on, another leave to sleep, and I remain a while longer, adding another log into the hearth. The glass door of the fireplace brightly rattles against iron as the heat builds within, flames lapping hungrily at the wood; the Finnish refrain of a third movement.
Text & Photography: Mr. Vagabond