Saturday, 21 July 2012

Saarijärvi, Juhola: in Tapper family's footsteps

Few kilometres from Saarijärvi, Central Finland, in the middle of the forest and by Leuhunkoski rapids, there is a mustard coloured house in which four artistic and athletic brothers grew up with their parents. Kain Tapper became known as a sculptor, Markko as writer Marko Tapio just like his brother Harri Tapper, whereas Yrjö Tapper became a stage designer. To see what has given the Tapper lots of inspiration, the family home Juhola can be visited on summer weekends. 
The friendly guide and his dog give me a tour of the house with stories of the family's life. The mother of the family, Aino Tapper, was also artistic and she knew how to handle a knife without ever being taught at an art school. Just look at the lovely, softly carved cow.
The cowshed roof is made of shingles, a rare sight these days although it was very common decades ago. The building no longer holds animals but houses an art gallery, Galleria Jarska which this summer features an exhibition on Yrjö Tapper's stage designs and artwork.
The lovely black and white photograph shows the proud father and his equally proud, four grown-up sons. What a great portrait! Marko Tapio became a celebrated novelist, Kain created original minimalistic sculptures; Harri has become an awarded novelist after his retirement and Yrjö focused on stage design in many Finnish theatres.
No visit to a Juhola without a walk in the woods! I borrow a map of the marked trail which begins at the corner of the garden: the oldest building of Juhola is the old sauna which doesn't seem to be in use anymore.
Worn out signs lead me to the forest and every now and then I learn a little more about what each place has meant for the Tapper family. After several days of rain showers, the ground is very wet although as if by a miracle, the sun is now shining. This is also the start of Tilta's footpath to the church. Only I don't know who Tilta is... She must have been a member of family?
Kainin muotokivet, or Kain's shape rocks, are no ordinary rocks. I have walked enough times past Kain Tapper's sculpture at Kirkkopuisto Park, Jyväskylä, to recognize the shape of the large, moss-covered rock in the statue. So this is where he got the inspiration from!
It is always relaxing to walk in the woods, and especially in a place like this one, full of stillness and unique atmosphere. Tiny, pink linnaea flowers are in bloom by the side of the path. I can well imagine the Tapper family drawing ideas and energy from amidst these old trees.
The trail leads me to more densely growing trees. This is Marko Tapio's favourite part of the forest and after his death, the family decided not to do any felling here. It is as if the two trees that have fallen down of their own accord are there on purpose, with the slanted cross telling both that no, you mustn't touch us, and in memory of the writer himself. 
A squirrel has left behind the leftovers of a spruce cone on the wooden steps that lead towards the top of the rocky slope. There is a special rock; before his death, Marko Tapio constructed a small cross on top of it, but it is almost totally covered in moss.
I can hear water coming down the mossy slope, hidden from my eyes. There are quite a few small, natural wells there. The path starts winding back to Juhola house and takes me past the grandest tree of these woods, Haltiapuu (haltia = fairy, puu = tree). In that tree lives the good fairy of the forest. Beneath another tall spruce, there is a solitary rock. When Vihtori Tapper, the father of the family, felt he had done something wrong, the remorseful father used to come and sit on this rock.
Hiiskula is a small cabin that Vihtori Tapper originally built on the top of the hill for his son Kain, but after Kain sold it to his brother Yrjö, the cabin was moved close to Lehesjoki river.
The rock should be somewhere close by... It takes a while until I find the stone slab which is in fact a tombstone for Varma, the family's beloved horse that was especially important for Kain. The sculptor had Varma's skull dug up from the ground and after it had been cleaned, he kept it as an inspiration for his artwork. One example can be seen outside Saarijärvi museum -the Musta kallo, or Black Skull sculpture.
The trail is now close to the shore and I'm getting closer and closer to Juhola garden. These birches make me think of the four brothers, growing together, yet towards their own paths.
I hear the wind blowing more fiercely as I enter the garden from behind the cowshed. The apple trees are swaying slightly; it will start raining again soon. The Tapper family is lucky to have grown here, surrounded by all these elements of nature that have influenced their work in different ways. We are shaped by where we grow up.

No comments:

Post a Comment