Notes On a Gentle Man

By Satu Runa
For Papa (Dr. Pentti M. Rautaharju, Dec. 23rd, 1932 – Aug. 7th, 2018)

When I think about archetypes in storytelling and apply it to my father, a few iconic characters rise to the top. Being the warm, kind, provocative, playful, deeply pensive, adventurous explorer… I see in him the epitome of Finnish culture.

When I watch older James Bond movies, I think of Papa. When I see “The Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials, I see my father. If an actor were to portray him, I think of Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery, or Patrick Stewart. Pensive, charming intellects confidently navigating the world, radiating their deep personal history of truly living. I benefited from this. We travelled together to 29 countries from the moment I was born. I am eternally grateful for this as the experience allowed me to develop a deep understanding of the human condition. The most worldly person I know, along with my mother, my father jet set around the world for the best reason: The people demanded it. A selfless, dedicated scientist, professor, and cardiologist, he was in high demand for his expertise because he devoted his life to extending lives. He is the hero to myself, and so many others.

He was the recipient of a rarely granted award: the role of Commander, Order of the Lion of Finland. The Finnish president at the time, Tarja Halonen (yes, the one that Conan O’Brien highly resembled) awarded that honor to him, marching with all the academics to Turku castle in their honor. Women and men are able to prevent and survive heart disease (the number one cause of death in America) in a large part because of his pioneering, life-saving heart research.

Doctor for the Finnish ski team at the Squaw Valley Olympics in 1960, Pentti watched his athletes win 7 medals, including 2 golds (something of note: it was at this Olympics where the first “instant replay” was utilised to verify a close call). He was a talented artist in carving wood reliefs, composing original poetry, and translating classic Finnish poetry, including several poems of Finland’s legendary poet, Eino Leino, published in the Poetry Salzburg Review (and on Pentti’s personal poetry blog: Jewels From Finland). Worldwide, people recognize the Finnish contributions of composer Jean Sibelius, painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and architect Eliel Saarinen. In heart research, my father, Dr. Pentti M. Rautaharju is a shining star.

In his later years, Pentti developed a skill for taking care of orchids- a patient and tender practice. A true Finn, he was intrinsically connected to the Earth, always having a large garden filled with a variety of flowers and vegetables. His impact on his friends, colleagues, and family will be felt for all time- but his gift to humanity is eternal. “I love you from here to eternity,” he would often say to me, gripping my hands. And eternity is where he will always be.

Dr. Pentti M. Rautaharju, PhD

Dr. Pentti M. Rautaharju, PhD in Salzburg, Austria (2010).

 Satu Runa

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Comics Are For Everyone

Each time I attend a comic convention, I think about my place there. Girls are socialized to think that “comic books are for boys” and that we “need boys to educate us” about comics in order to be included. This is false. “I’m not really a comic book fan… well, except for Kabuki. Harley Quinn. Black Widow. Wonder Woman. The Maxx. The Crow. Love and Rockets. MAD Magazine. Oh! It all started with Archie…”

Despite that most of the comics are created by men, it still draws the female audience. Yet due to socialization (and being ostracized + my “quadrant” being mostly ignored in Hollywood), I still keep thinking that I’m not a part of this community. As evident with the response to Wonder Woman and Black Panther, times are a-changing. We do belong. I’ve always been a fan of comic books, though never part of the “core audience.” With every character created that looks like me, I get a rush like nothing else. Looking forward to more comics for more people. It’s not just a straight white boys club anymore.
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[Ms. Marvel (aka Kamala Khan) – Jorge Molina]

-Satu

The Library

The Library

I want to be with someone who makes me feel
The way I feel inside a library.

Few places are as peaceful. It is church. The one place in a city center where I can truly think without interruption or stress. I value this institution as much as a hospital.

The occasional self-chuckle. The turning of pages. The smell of old paper, vanilla, oak, history. The respect of humanity and those who dedicated their lives to the preservation of our eternal contributions.

The contrast between a library and the Internet. The visual, physical structure of our minds verses an amorphous cloud housing every thought and sentiment, albeit temporarily.

The idea of permanence is comforting. The concept of change- stimulating. Records are everything. We cannot move forward without the analyzation of the past.

I love the library. Here, I am timeless. Here, I am in the quietest limbo. I never want to leave.

-SMR 7/8/18

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A Canadian Immigrant’s Arranged Marriage with America

My relationship with the United States is like an arranged marriage. I didn’t choose to be here, and my love for this country grew with time. As I came to terms with my circumstances at a young age, I began to understand the American psyche over the years. But it took a long time. I came from a land of peace, gratitude, and snow. I went to a place full of anger, hatred, and pride. My defenses went up immediately. After 22 yrs, only since November 8th, 2016 had I truly began to understand why America is the way she is. And it took a protest to do it. Yes, this land is chaos. The people are crazy. The history is fascinating, tragic, and beautiful. But what America *could* be is marvelous. And, as a proud citizen of two countries, until they come for me, I will fight for her. #Resist

-Satu

Rogue Waves and Wipe Outs

Women make waves.

In troubled political and career times I think of Mary Ann Hawkins. A pioneer in American surfing, Hawkins caught the world’s attention after a feature in Time Magazine lead to her work as a Hollywood stunt double for Lana Turner. She broke a world record for holding her breath for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

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Mary Ann Hawkins, from the Encyclopedia of Surfing (by Matt Warshaw)

She toppled wave after wave and opened a swimming school, having taught over 10,000 people to swim. She quit surfing in 1983, shortly after her son drowned while working.

Life is unpredictable and strangely coincidental. It can be beyond cruel, but it can also be rewarding. All you can do is give your best to the world, and not worry about if the world will give back to you. You are here for a purpose.

The everyday strife that an actor experiences is not unlike surfers. Athletes either win the game, or they don’t. They sink, or they swim. But they keep playing, they keep chasing wave after wave- despite knowing the life-threatening risks. We ride the feeling of hope and wrangle that euphoria while it lasts like the drug that it is, knowing that we will crash eventually. But my recovery rate is phenomenal, and that only came after years and years of rejection beatings and flaky promises.

I want to spare new actors from pain. I want them to learn from my mistakes. But my mistakes have made me bullet proof, and I wouldn’t trade this life for any other life in the world. Strength is earned, not given.

Get out there and own it, like Mary Ann Hawkins did. Manipulate it. Ride it… then crash, knowing that another wave will surely form, but this time you are ready and waiting to catch it.

-Satu

 

 

Prince Dreams

I warmed up on the keys then tuned my guitar. The rest of the musicians were eagerly checking a blackboard with their names written in alphabetical order. Each name had a song written next to it, up to the S’s. I anxiously waited to see which song I would get, if I would get one at all, because if you didn’t get a song selection you were cut from the band try-outs. Waiting patiently, nervous. Did I make the cut? Was I good enough? And there it was. He had chosen “Darling Nikki” as the song I would sing for the band, and play guitar on. All of my dreams had come true with the stroke of a purple pen. Dressed in gold and yellow, he turns to look at me, smirking, black curly cue perfectly coiled on his forehead. I whispered “Thank you” as he strutted off to start rehearsals. #PrinceDreams

-Darling Satu

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I want to make art

 

I want to make art.

Feel the sun
Etch crimson blush
Crisp sea air dusting salt in my hair
Flicking, flittering, abandoning all despair

Unattached from fear
Doubt and rage. Years
Painting age on my face from
Love lost and one too many beers
Instead of one less paycheck
Tumbling all dominoes of balance
A delicate Jenga puzzle of bills
Income, and keeping my family safe from harm

I just want to live
Make art every minute, every second
Out of happiness, joy, and bliss
Capture things impossible to miss
Kissing my skin, like free-falling snow
Free and wild as nature intended
Fearing only the unknown
Instead of my own people.

©2016 Satu Runa
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photo by RonniDropBread