Thursday, August 18, 2005

Berry-picking in Katajamaki community in Finland.

Katajamaki is only one of the more than hundred sustainable communities described in the 2005 edition of Eurotopia, a volume that each year compiles on going social experiments in the Old World, including info as its population, number of acres, decision making system, and property status. I had heard of Katajamaki in the Rainbow Gathering in the Polar Circle, from Touco, Katrii and Aleksi, three finnish guys whom I later visited in Jyvaskyla, their home town, on the way to the Community. In those days the guys were conspiring how to make money out of the sell of electric mandolines made with biscuits tins. Between line and line they realised the telephone number of the community.

Katajamaki is in the middle of a conifer forest, altoguh the same can be said just about every place in Finland. The main house where its 10 inhabitants gather for each meal dates back to 1905 and was the main buiding of a mental sanatory that functioned until 1917 and that used alternative (and controversial for the time) therapies as taking the inmates to tree houses for some days and colortherapy. Kiutso, one of the 3 survivors of the original experiment team, narrates this with pride, while the sun, childish, plays among the threads of his beard. Self sufficiency is the idea behind any community, and according to the degree it is achieved they can be categorized. Self sufficienccy as a contestation to the divion of work, in which the worker that operates the TV making machine changes his salary for cucumbers and the one operating the cucumber making machine changes his salary for TVs. The idea is to recover the lost conexion with the food we serve on our table, but they also thrust against the idea of private property, everything is owned colectively, the land, the animals, the money. The salary, in case a community sell part of their products in the market, is distributed according to necessity. The model is similar in some points to a kibbutz. Gathered all the members, decision are taken only with total consensus. In this context, I felt honoured when Kiutso asked me if direct trade in Argentina was still flourishing.

But one cannot visit this places and pretend to be an anthropologist and set to scribble lines in a copybook. During the mornings, with a bucket fixed to the body by a belt, we would sit by the berry plants to pick individually those mature, which were later kept in a freezer for the long winter coming. There was job there for an army, it seems we were milking an infinite cow. Somebody in the house was listening to a Mozart vinyl, human sophistication to accompany the most basic of tasks, receiving the fruits of the land. By afternoond we would walk in the forest to collect mushrooms, we would collect potatoes from the garden and prepare a nice meal for the group. In the house (that smells of wood and herbs because they have a large drying room) is always with some visitant. 

The community encourages visitors, curious leave not only a few euros or their work in exchange of their board and food but they also substitute the connectivity of the abbandoned and criticized city, at the same time propagating the communitarian values outwards. In the whole, Katajamaki seemed to me underdeveloped in relation to their potential. Which is good. There is lot to do, but finding people with long term commitment is no easy. Now, Kiutso and Ossi plan to extend the garden to the forset respecting the principles of permaculture, a discipline in vogue among contemporary organic farmers, and which aims to make agriculture and nature coexist.

To Helsinki I arived using the same sign that, attempting to say “Around the world” it merely stammered a “The world, around you”. I had already discovered the mistake, but I had learned from vendors in the streets of Buenos Aires that ortography mistakes are eye catching. My fisrt impression of Helsinki had nothing to do with helsinki itself, and it was happiness, or better stated, melancholy. After so many rural experience and hipie meetings I was I a capital city. That melancholy dennounced an umbilical stigma with urbanism I still suffer. Automatically I started to musitate some tango, the esthetic vibes, that impredictable radio, had tunned with the other capital: Buenos Aires. I awaked from the hallucination and walked trough the city, modern and scandinavianly boring. I had arrived to attend in time th star of the marathon of the Athetics World Championship… Masses of people in the Esplanaadi, that danddy boulevard, fisrtly made me shy to sell my poetry books to people sitting in benches, but then I was turned on by the absurd of the poet Neruda who I was reading and said “it would be nice to roam the streets with a green knife and shouting until freezing to death”. I stayed two days in Siljia’s and jani’s appartment. Siljia was the daughter of the driver that had taken me to Oulu, she had kindly offered me accomodation. With her and her two german friends, Annika and Laura we strolled around the city. Two days later I ferried it to Tallinn, Estonia. On the board, the Baltic States….

No comments: