Finding my true north.
A trip with my mum and Ronja to the far north, to Sápmi, to the small town of Kautokeino, in the midst of the arctic tundra.
I have been there before, I was born there.
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One day it occurred to me that I had to go there - to Kautokeino. I have of course always known that I was born there; and the idea of the place has always been attractive, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that I could actually go there. Until one evening. It struck me like a lightning. I have to go, I have to be in the place where I came earthside. And then I thought about the story of my own birth, and remembered the name of my midwife, and googled her. And she was still alive, 93 years old! Not only that; she had written a book about her life and work. I ordered the book, read it, and decided to get in touch. I really, really wanted to meet her.
The hands that greeted me into this world were Sara Hætta’s. She was the only midwife in the municipality of Kautokeino (which also happens to be the biggest municipality in Norway) for 42 years and helped birthing women have their babies everywhere - in the lavvu, on the tundra, in the birth clinic, in their homes. She travelled by foot, by reindeer, by snowmobile, by skis. Her life and work must surely be rare in a global perspective.
A couple of months later, we were on a northbound plane. I was finally going to set foot in my birthplace again, after we moved away from there when I was two years old. Having my mother and oldest daughter with me felt right, there was a symbolism there that made the experience stronger.
Sara lived with her niece, and they greeted us with so much warmth and hospitality. She answered all of our questions with wit and clarity, and was so wise and funny and lovely. We were deeply moved by the meeting, it felt like something important dropped into place. Being in the presence of a person with such experience, and the fact that she was there when I was born into this world; it was powerful.
I left with a feeling of gratitude and privilege. This feeling grew even deeper when I learned that Sara passed away this autumn. I am so happy I went there and that I reached out to her.
The main attraction of the trip was meeting Sara, who welcomed us with her whole being, but also setting foot in the actual spot in the room where I took my first breath was powerful.
I was born in a yellow building in the village, which served as an old people’s home, but which also had a birthing room in the end of the corridor. My mum remembers well the elderly people who with loving curiosity approached her as she was walking the halls with contractions during my birth. It is not a nursing home anymore, but it looks mostly the same, and we were allowed in to see the old birthing room. So I did it; I stood in the spot on the planet that I was born in. It felt important, and good.
We also went to Juhl’s silver gallery, which is an amazing place. They make both contemporary pieces, but most importantly the traditional Sami silver jewellery. The building is also a fantastic story of how one family slowly and surely built their dream and brought world culture to a place in the middle of the tundra. It really is breathtaking.
Going to Kautokeino felt in many ways like coming home. I have been drawn to the north and to Sami culture my whole life, and being there gave me some answers to why. It felt like the beginning of a relationship with a very powerful area, like coming full circle with something profound in me. I am so thankful I went, I found my true north.