Anita Aukee Johnson
The Finnish Americans, far from the land they had called home, found the American landscape "claiming" them, incarnating them into an American identity, as they learned to call new lake shores and farmyards and fishing grounds home. The transfer of affection and sense of identity from the homeland of Finland to the United States was not easy; in fact, the Finns arriving in the last waves of European immigration were among the least likely immigrants to learn English or marry outside their ethnic circle--and the most likely, for a time, to return to the homeland.
The Finnish immigrants to America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries left behind a nation in turmoil, struggling for identity and political direction, but they also left behind a landscape that had shaped their personal and philosophical view. Nature and the experience of living close to the land were a common factor in Finnish life. In climate and topography, Finland is a challenge to the human community, but in its beauty and wildness, the Finns have always located their strength and sense of meaning. Rockwell Gray, in his discussion of the role of landscape, believes that
pleasure or displeasure in a particular landscape or interior carries within it roots deep in the first years of life. So we do not see landscape and the natural world without instruction from art--without the perceptual frames and visual conventions regnant in our own culture--neither do we respond to any place without the informing presence of many remembered places and experiences--layered palimpsest like in consciousness. (55)