A year ago today, I arrived at Arteles in the Finnish forest for a month of focussed writing.
Designed primarily for visual artists, the surfaces of Arteles are galleries. Gifts from previous residents mark walls and furniture, hang in unexpected places. During winter, treasures wait beneath the layers of snow for summer residents to discover them. And on the day of their departure, each resident signs their name on the foyer wall: a record to prove it wasn’t a dream.
For me, arriving at Arteles was like exhaling after holding my breath for five months. It provided exactly what I needed at the time: solitude, stillness and a huge desk. Before I left, I wanted to give it a token of thanks, something more than just a name in permanent marker. So I wrote a tiny love letter to Arteles, so small it could only hold one sentence. I hid it in a high crack in the wooden wall of my room, the wall which marked the boundary between my desk and the leafless birch forest.
Eleven months later, I received an email from the artist then occupying my room. Part of it said:
Thank you for your secret message, which reminded me that there is perhaps a deeper connection between those of us drawn to the Finnish winter.
I love that someone found my note and took the time to write to me. But what’s even more important is this idea of connection, not to the Finnish winter – although that is a curious phenomenon – but to another person I’ll never meet.
What resonated with this artist was that one hidden sentence about my experience in that room reflected her own. It’s easy to forget how similar our experiences are, especially when they’re difficult to articulate. But this is the power of the work we create.
For me, this artist’s email was a perfectly timed reminder of the importance of sending work – regardless of its scale – out into the world. We can never anticipate the significance it will have for someone else, or how it might influence them. And when, on rare occasions, someone contacts us to let us know, we can never anticipate how that gratitude will fan our own inspiration.