In 1693, an odd young man named Olof Ahlbom lived near the Torne River in Finland.
Finland was, and is, a cold country. The Torne River marked the boundary between Finland, to the East, closer to Russia, and Sweden, to the West, closer to Europe. Europe was cosmopolitan, divided into states, and settled. Europe was the Renaissance, the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, warm winters spent in Italian gardens. Europe was fine wine and honeyed mead. Europe was Rome, more than Greece. Europe was timely, rather than timeless. Russia was vast, its antediluvian forests left in place. Russia was mystics, shamans, long winters with their great Northernness. Russia was vodka and aqua vitae. Russia was Greece, more than Rome. Russia was timeless rather than timely.
And young Olof was a son of Finland, born on the Finland side of the river, waking to auroras during the long, dark Winters and…
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