Perched on a rock overlooking Lyngen fjord in Arctic Norway is Lásságámmi, a house that belonged to the Finnish Sámi writer, musician, and artist Áillohaš, Nils-Aslak Valkeapää (1943–2001).
This week it’s the residence of Carol Rowan, who is there on a writing retreat. Carol is a treasured editing client. She works in Inuit early childhood education (ECE), a field she became passionate about when she and her husband, Inuk filmmaker Jobie Weetaluktuk, were raising their children. Carol has worked for 20 years as a consultant in ECE to Kativik Regional Government in Nunavik, the northernmost region of Québec. She lives in Montréal, is a PhD candidate at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, and for three months this year is a visiting scholar at the Sámi university in Kautokeino, Norway. The Sámi are Scandinavia’s only indigenous people.
I covet Carol’s writing retreat. The idea of an isolated, quiet place to write is deliciously appealing. Readers in the Lower Mania might ask, “Don’t you live in a quiet, isolated place?” I do, but I want one without interruptions! I keep pledging to fix up the little cabin on our property as a writing retreat. Better still, I dream of renting a house in Ireland for three months, or six. But if I had a retreat, would I actually write? In a setting like this one, I’m not convinced I’d do anything but gaze out the window all day!
Carol reminds me that Lásságámmi is located in the Arctic Circle. It’s only just emerging from winter’s perpetual darkness. She has a few precious hours of natural light each day. The rest of the time, she works like this:
Carol can write almost anywhere. She has written in bus stations, airports, hotel rooms, and countless other spots, but Lásságámmi is the most picturesque. The photo reveals her as highly motivated to make the most of her writing retreat. It’s motivation, not location, that is crucial. In The Writing Life (Harper & Row, 1989) Annie Dillard writes:
Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.
At Lásságámmi, Carol found the best of both worlds: a room with a view—in the dark.
If you’d like to retreat to Lásságámmi, you can apply to the Lásságámmi Foundation. It owns the house and administers the rights to Valkeapää’s artistic works. The foundation is owned by the Sámi Parliament in Norway, Storfjord municipality, the county of Troms, and the University of Tromsø. A committee selects individuals to live in the house for short periods of time to work on their art or research.
But remember—if you want to actually write while you’re at Lásságámmi, make sure you apply to be there in the dark half of the year.
* Update: Carol
successfully brilliantly defended her doctoral dissertation Thinking with Nunangat in Proposing Pedagogies for/with Inuit Early Childhood Education on February 14, 2017.