Lapland Provides Magical Escape

“Christmas Time is here” … and the Peanuts song is playing on a continuous loop through my head. Every deer I see is a reindeer. Every bearded man is Santa.

My kids got a postcard the other day, from the real S. Claus. He lives in Lapland, and I saw him just a year ago on a magical trip to the Arctic Circle.

He was sitting on a red and silver throne in the snowy village of Rovaniemi in Northern Finland. I watched as he spoke to children from around the world — fluent in many languages. Elves were at work in the smattering of buildings that dotted the landscape, each hut with a crackling fire that sent curls of smoke into the super-chilled air.

I often think back to my time spent in Lapland. Cold starry evenings in the Oakland hills remind me of my nightly search for the Northern Lights in the small Finnish village of Sirkka. Virtually alone as I walked on the softly lit streets, I pondered my place in this complex world. A blanket of stars seemed to comfort me. Christmas lights twinkled on glistening pines. And, I realized that what a person needs most during this time of year is a child-like sense of wonder. Whether we’re bathed in the light of an Arctic moon or gazing at the Bay Bridge off in the distance — we all have a lot for which to be awestruck and thankful.

P.S. My guide for last winter’s trip to Lapland was my friend, Kirsti Maki. If you’d like information on her Jan. 11-16 tour of the region, you can contact her by e-mail at

E-MAIL BAG: My item last week on the Oakland cop who lives part-time in Sweden prompted this letter from reader Bengt Anderson: “We do have arctic winters in the northernmost parts of Sweden,” Bengt writes, “But in most of the country, the climate is similar to Connecticut, where I lived and worked for 12 years.”

KID CARE: Two local realtors have come up with a clever concept for child care in Montclair. The Home Company Child Nursery on Thornhill Drive is a licensed daycare center in a real estate office. Started by two moms who needed to balance work and family, Jennifer Montague Clark and Suzanne Arballo Budowski opened an on-site center for their employees, clients and the local community. It’s working. Friends tell me the 3-1 care-giver-to-child ratio is exceptional, and it compliments the goals of the real estate agency, which are to serve local families in the best way possible.


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