In Estonian, the corresponding word that urges to pay careful attention to something originates from seafarers. In olden times, the ship’s course was determined by referencing, and thus observing Polaris, the North Star. Therefore, this image, so intimately related to the open seas, still carries an allusion to that ancient system of navigation.
Observation is a primordial maritime feeling.
Our genius loci has two distinct, true homes: the forest and the sea. Somehow, we are seemingly better people on the beach or near the woods. Those peculiar frontier lines amplify the positive and lessen the negative. This aspect evokes the magic of Estonian culture. It is the daunting, or even crazy ‘edge effect’: pressed between two worlds at the edge of the sea and the forest, we stare at the very story of creation. Interestingly, the best-known psychiatric hospital in Estonia was located in a place called Seewald. In Estonian, that name, originally German, came to mean and still denotes a psychiatric institution in more generic terms. The origin of this word thus marks a point where sea (See) and forest (Wald) crash into each other, creating a kind of little chamber of crazy ideas.
The sea and the sea view are part of Estonians’ self-image. It is the same millennia-old beach panoramas, the same primeval longing for the sea, the sea happiness and sea sadness that we share with our ancestors. The sea breathes on the human being for a thousand years, rounds the stones and rounds off the thoughts. Sometimes we are struck by an overwhelming feeling of the sea, an irresistible maritime instinct. Then we walk on the beach in search of something: pebbles, shells, things washed ashore. We do not know exactly what we are looking for but we know that the mystical object must lie somewhere at the water’s edge, right where the sea laps against the shoreline.
The embrace of the forest and the sea gives birth to crazy ideas, great discoveries, wild beauty. Amber was conceived by the union of the sea and the pine tree. The Baltic Sea coast also qualifies as a birthplace of mythological beauty. The Amber Road was a far-famed trade route between the Baltic and the Black Seas,dating back to the times of the Emperor Nero. A craving for that magical northern gold was not alien to even Mycenaean beauties. The northern gold was legendary all across the Roman Empire. Baltic Sea amber has been found as far away as pharaonic tombs of Egypt.
The Baltic Sea is a power plant of the soul. She was also godmother to the word ‘electricity’. Both electricity and the electron got their names from amber, found on the Baltic coasts. More precisely, ‘electricity’ has its etymological roots in elektron, the Greek word for amber. Email, or electronic mail, would thus righteously mean ‘amber mail’, a message of breathtaking beauty from the depths of time.
While the history of Estonia belongs largely to the north, Estonia’s story is mystically southern. Both have their origins in the sea but the latter begins much farther away than the former. Approximately 600 million years ago, the continent of Baltica separated from a supercontinent in the vicinity of the South Pole and set off north across the globe. This lonely introvert of maritime origin remained stubbornly northbound for hundreds of millions of years, crawling away from the Southern Cross and heading towards the North Star, which hademerged above the horizon.
Maybe this is why we sometimes feel oddly animated on a strip of beach. We experience the flow of the earth. The Baltic Sea that we hold close to our hearts is a piece of the big ocean. A wave crashing ashore is a clamour of all creation. This is communication. The world’s oldest internet. This is Time.
The sea views of Arne Maasik have been born during a period far longer than a decade. Approximately a picture a year — any faster pace would seem simply inappropriate rushing. These images contain Time, just as the big sea does in abundance.
There is time!