Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Headlands around Hemp

A couple of days ago, on Easter Monday, as my wife and I took a two-hour walk around the woods near our home, she taught me an extremely precise Finnish word, pälvi.  (She claims that she has mentioned this word before, but of course these things we easily forget.)

Pälvet are the patches of ground, usually at the base of a tree, where the snow first starts to melt in spring.  They are the scattered spots on the forest floor where green makes its earliest reappearance, and for many people they are surely a welcome sight after a long winter. 

Finnish is maybe unique in bestowing this hopeful sign of spring its own name – apparently even Swedes, fellow Nordics with their own generous expanses of snowy woods, don't have a word for it. As you can imagine, we don't have a comparable word in English either, though when you type pälvi into Google Translate, you will get an English "equivalent".  

According to Google, these patches of barely thawed forest translate, surprisingly, into "headlands around hemp." Really? I can easily believe that, in order to come up with a translation like that, hemp had to be involved somewhere.      


The challenges of late-season skiing.


  1. Interesting. Do you guys also have many different words for "snow"?

    Hey! What species of tree is that in the next to last photo? It almost looks like a hemlock tree! But I reckon it' some kind of spruce? Information, please.

  2. They're Norway Spruce (Picea abies), the second most common tree in Finland (only Scots Pine is more numerous). The woods around here sometimes remind me of the crest of the Smokies, though here we're at sea level.

  3. That's strange. I reckon because I've never seen a young Norway spruce. They're my favorite non-native tree here in the Appalachians. I see them a lot in the high NC mountains and in WV (always planted--never wild). An absolutely gorgeous tree when it's mature.