One beautiful, sunny summer day about 15 years ago, Karoliina Laitinen was spending time in a park in Helsinki. She wanted to sit down on the grass but was shocked to realise that she couldn’t sit on the ground without a blanket. In her mind the ground felt dirty.
When Karoliina was a child, she loved to play in the forest. When she moved from her hometown Lappeenranta to Helsinki to attend ballet academy and later work as a freelance ballet dancer, her connection to nature faded.
I had become estranged from the natural world that had been so dear to me since childhood.
From that moment began her conscious journey back to nature.
I decided that until I’m able to comfortably sit naked in an ants nest, my journey is not finished, she now recalls.
I’m not quite there yet. I think I’ll leave the ants in peace, she laughs.
Karoliina took various courses on the environment and nature while still working as a dancer. She started with a course that focused on wild vegetables and herbs that can be found in forests.
On one of our field trips, I watched in awe when my teacher picked a nettle and ate it raw. It nurtured my desire to learn more. As a ballerina I was used to a strict diet. Using wild ingredients in my food made me trust my own instincts about my body. I also learned to be more grateful – the food nature provides us.
As well as a dancer and dance teacher, she is now a certified nature and environmental advisor, nature connection advisor, and wild vegetable and herbs advisor. In 2016, she moved to Tampere, her place of birth, and started her own business that she had planned for many years.
Wild Rowan (Villipihlaja in Finnish) offers various services to people interested in well-being, nature and unique experiences. She strongly identifies with the rowan, a sacred tree in the old Finnish folklore.
Although tender and modest, rowans are strong and resilient and cannot be contained in strict rows. They also nourish humans and animals and never suppress anything with their growth.
At Wild Rowan she organises field trips in the vast Kauppi forest in Tampere, where she encourages her clients to lay on the soft moss beds and embrace nature with every sense.
The unrequited feeling of being loved that I experience in the wild is wonderful. Nature accepts us the way we are, whatever mood we’re in. That feeling has helped me be more compassionate towards myself.
Now that she has immersed herself in nature in various ways through personal growth and work, her inner life and creativity have flourished.
As my knowledge and understanding have increased, I eventually began to understand nature in myself. I’m happier now. I can embrace both challenging and lighter aspects of life with more understanding and confidence.
Photo credits: Karoliina Laitinen