Lake Inari is the largest lake above the Arctic Circle. It is the third largest lake in Finland. The village of Inari is located at the south end of the lake. Inari is the capital of the Saami people of Finland. It houses the Saami parliament, Sajos – Saamelaiskäräjät. And it houses the Sámi Museum Siida. Lake Inari is covered by ice from November to early June. The exhibition of the Eight Seasons starts in June.
The main exhibition and Sámi Museum Siida was brand new in 1998. Ms. Kirsi Schildt and Mr. Markku Stylman told us that the whole building was designed depending on how the exhibition was planned. Normally, you have a building and then you do the exhibitions. The outer edges of the main exhibition have four big walls. On the walls is a chronological presentation of the Eight Seasons:
Early summer starts in June. The snow is melting, if it hasn’t melted yet, the migrating birds are in heat and plants start to grow again. From May 25th until July 23rd the Sun is up 24 hours a day in Inari. The flowers spring and the colors of the nature get deeper.
Summer starts around Midsummer and lasts for a month or so. The warm summer is short in the north. A lot of things must happen very quickly. Swarms of mosquitos buzz in the air. They are important food for birds. They are also helping the reindeer herders to gather their reindeer in mountains. Earmarking the calves is one of the most important occasions of the year in reindeer husbandry.
Late summer is from the end of July to the beginning of September. The Sun begins to go below the horizon again. The colors are changing and turn brownish. The plants prepare for winter, the chlorophyll in the leaves goes to roots and trunks (plants). Migrating birds start to trek south.
Autumn is in September and October. The colors in the tree leaves are more colorful: Yellow, orange, and a wide range of possible colors. The Finns of the south head north for Ruska because they don’t have the color display of the north. This season is the mating season of the reindeer. Animal and birds prepare for winter. The willow grouse have white and brown feathers in summer. Over a period of 3- 4 weeks they change to an all-white outfit. It is better camouflage, and the thicker feather is warmer.
Early winter starts in the beginning of November. The first snow can be seen on top of the fells. The permanent snow usually falls in late November/early December. For Kirsi it is the favorite time of year. It is grey but very peaceful. The waters are still open waters, there is little snow and you can feel the quietness
Winter is not dark. From the end of November until mid-January is the Polar Night. The sun stays below the horizon 24 hours a day. It is the time of the blue hours. In the twilight days, blue dusk reign for a couple hours. And the nights are very long. There is a lot of snow, and also many days of clear skies. Small rodents are running in caves under the snow. The snow is a protecting insulator against the lowest of temperature. The bear is hibernating in its nest. Newborn cubs may appear in the middle of the winter with the size of a man’s fist. From the middle of January the sun returns. It is a joyful day, a celebrated day. February pass by, the days get one hour longer per week.
Late winter is March and April. For the Saami people this is the time of the year for easy going. Another winter has been endured. Another summer is on its way. In the meantime, it is time for confirmations, weddings, festivities and leisure ice fishing.
Spring is May. It is the start of the year for the reindeer herders, new reindeer calves are born. Migrating birds are returning and the snow melts. It is time to get busy again. The reindeer herd moves to the mountain or coast for summer pasture.
The nature in the Arctic changes dramatically. The amount of sunlight varies, the temperature varies, and nature and people have been fine tuned to deal with these changes. For pickers, this can be the schedule: Gull eggs are picked in April/May, cloudberries are picked in July/August, blueberries are picked in August, and cranberries are picked in September, and so on.
In the Arctic, if you don’t seize the moments, you’ll have to wait another year. In case, you survive the winter.