Old woman in the woods

Last updated: 2023-08-18

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Sometime ago I went to harvest blueberries from the nearby woods. Weather was rainy, yet very warm day as it usually is during the early August here in Finland. A picture of blueberries in the Finnish forest.

Blueberries in the forest

It wasn’t very good blueberry year. It had been very dry and hot for the best part of the summer, so I wasn’t expecting to find many blueberries. The trip was more like a way for me to relax and escape the daily grind, harvesting the blueberries was a bonus.

I was standing in part of the forest that was full of boulders, ice age had done its thing thousands of years ago. Looking at the map I knew that there was a dense forest a few hundred meters ahead. I headed there and saw this crystal-clear stream snaking through the forest. I took my backpack off and filtered some water; it was a sweltering day. While reaching towards the water I noticed plenty of blueberries other side of the stream. The stream was too wide to jump over so I took my hiking boots and socks off to cross it. And I did. Water felt freezing cold on my toes. What a refreshing feeling.

I had a five-liter bucket with me along with a smaller container approximately half a liter in size. It didn’t take much time before the smaller container was full of blueberries. I decided to take a break and made coffee with my pocket stove. It’s hard to describe how relaxing it was. Just sitting on the forest floor and listen. Occasionally deer flies landed on my shirt; nothing’s perfect I thought to myself.

It had been three hours since I arrived, and it seemed that there weren’t much more blueberries to harvest. I started heading back to the fire road; it was three kilometers south of the spot I was.

From nowhere I heard something, something or someone moving. Probably a deer, I remember thinking to myself. How wrong I was. Just over twenty meters from me was an old woman heading my way. She had two ten-liter buckets full of blueberries. I knew they can be heavy, and she was an old woman, so I asked if she needed a helping hand. She walked right next to me and started talking.

“Thank you, but I’ll manage.” she said.

“OK good. Damn these deer flies.” I mumbled back to her.

She gave me a grin and continued: “You know, the more you bow down for the forest, the more it will remunerate you.

“Oh, yeah sure”, I said with a surprised tone of voice.

The old woman left, and I was also going to do so. I thought that it would be nice to have a one more cup of coffee before heading home. I bent down to place the pocket stove on a top of the rock next to my feet. In that moment, I noticed that there were blueberries everywhere around me. So many of them that I almost jumped to my feet in surprise. It took me the best part of two hours to collect the five-liter bucket of blueberries.

Mielikki in Finnish folklore

In Finnish folklore there’s a forest deity called Mielikki1. She was known to be the wife or daughter-in-law of Tapio, the king of the forest. It was also known that Mielikki would appear as an old woman for hunters and other woodsmen.

While the old woman I met in the forest was most likely just an old lovely grandma, it’s fascinating to toy with the idea that I met Mielikki. There’s magic in that.

Do you have similar experiences?

1 Mielikki – Wikipedia

Copyright © Niko Rosvall