A Toast to Life

Quite early on I have considered that the backyard of the University of Lapland should be its front yard. This point of view is simply conducted from the awe that his possibly unacknowledged part of the main campus has awakened in me. The park-or-forest-like space locates between the backside of the building and the bond, with trees, paths, formations of stones, steeps and view. I tend to lean close to the windows in the break room of the Faculty of Social Sciences, A-wing of the main building, to peer the vivid outdoors. While doing so, I discovered that the ‘natural species’ that I was so eager to see where actually closer than I thought. Simply by laying down my gaze, I realised that the rooftop was patched by greenish and bluish communities of moss and lichen. Especially recognising a cladonia fimbriata really made my day, since I knew it from a poem by Helvi Juvonen, as a part and inspiration for a piece of public art in my former hometown.

Photo: Joonas Vola

I had an urge to photograph this small hidden world, which came much more immediate project when the roof renovation started and the gravel cover was to be permanently removed. The fact that the roof and the window placed these living being right under my nose, also gave the perspective to a microcosm, where the moss and lichen do not emerge as tiny batches of drift, but as migration of another ecosystem rather questioning than compromising the purpose of a human dwelling and of those surfaces that no other living being has claimed as its niche. Rather the ecology of small stones being capable to offer a porous ground for humidity and organic matter to attach, to grow out from and to dwell, seemed very ‘natural’ course of life to take. This raised another poem in my mind, that of William Blake, that for me expresses in a few verses, the greatness and gravity of the smallest, and the importance of the insignificant, or more precisely the tendency to fail to grasp the cruciality. And where Juvonen uses the word “fragile” (hauras) and Blake’s poem has a word “innocence” its title, made one to think the future of this world on ours. Simply by entering the roof, the first outreaching bodies had fallen. That probably was also the reason why I did not exit the room and enter the roof from the break room window with my camera before it was almost too late. This was not because this act would compromise me, but that it would compromise this whole new ancient world, in passing. Now the roof is ‘clean’ and ‘bare’ … almost. The metal cover for the ventilation infrastructure still has the signs of life remaining. The life will find a way.

The photo-essay “Living on Rooftops” https://www.ulapland.fi/Saitit/Pohjoinenvalo/fi/Elaman-kate/393f9c94-02a6-4816-b03e-31bf650aed18 is provided to you by Northern Luminance https://www.ulapland.fi/Saitit/Pohjoinenvalo/en

Joonas Vola