The Learned Pig

Art – Thinking – Nature – Writing

Milla Koivisto - Kaiku


Kaiku peeked through the kitchen window. The scene was empty – the Shaman was out. Kaiku went to the kitchen cupboard. Behind the pots and pans her fingers found a key. With great care she opened the door. The action made her shiver with excitement. The heavy door opened slowly. The room bathed in sunlight. The air was hot and stifling – here the windows were always kept closed. Wooden driftwood shelves filled the walls and an almost nervous energy lingered in the air. On the shelves sat an army of glass jars. Kaiku closed the door behind her. The glass jars felt warm, and light reflected from the surface of the glass on to the walls. As she rotated the jar the spots of light on the wall danced.

Perhaps because Kaiku could not speak or make a sound of her own she had developed a fascination for all sounds. They seemed to fill an empty void and comfort her. She had heard the sea in her different moods. Kaiku had heard the gentle ripple, which formed when the sea caressed the closest rocks on the shore and penetrated between every small crevice. The rocks further out, which formed small reefs, were in a constant turmoil with the sea. Sometimes the waves around them looked like the splashes of a big fish tearing up its prey underneath the water. At times the surges appeared as an underwater organ lifting up small amounts of sharp water spikes. Sometimes the waves appeared as a broad-shouldered swimmer gobbling the water as he dived. They all formed a different sound. The sea had offered her a number of voices to collect.

Kaiku had developed an efficient process to collect and store the sounds of the island.

When Kaiku could not sleep she would go to the forest and listen to the owls. They would fly very close and she would look at their big round eyes, which gave away nothing. Kaiku had developed an efficient process to collect and store. Her method, which was perfected with time, consisted of sitting still, patiently waiting and listening. Then, with one efficient movement, she would open the mouth of a pouch and trap the sound in. Then she would bring the sounds to the lighthouse. The various sounds lived with her in harmony, side by side in her library, separated from each other by thin glass walls.

She had collected them all, the sound of a fire eating dry wood, morning dew falling onto a leaf, two rocks smashing against each other, a bell someone had left to the mercy of the wind, and countless others. Kaiku was intrigued by the minuscule and the massive. From the natural soundscape surrounding her she could evaluate the island’s condition. A healthy forest by nature was noisy, constantly communicating with the spectrum of life that lived in it.

Milla Koivisto - Kaiku 5

The Shaman had taken the boat and the small pier was empty. Kaiku lay on the rocks looking at the sky and listening to the surf. The granite under her felt solid and strong and carried the warmth of the day in it. Streaks of colour meandered through the landscape. Pink, silver and grey threads of different widths embellished the rocks. Kaiku looked at the lighthouse towering over her. It was truly brave. To exist in a nest made out of rock, in the embrace of the sea, under the burning sun, was courageous. The harsh waves and the salty wind kept engraving her surface, sculpting her shape to their liking. All the little soil that wandered to her grounds was swept away by the autumn storms, a garden was only a distant dream. The lighthouse was destined to stand in solitude. Yet she had the grit to provide shelter for those who dared to trek to the outer rocks. Solid, she rose up from the rocks amid the constantly changing weather, thanks to her clever builders.

The fires represented and united the people who resided on the edges of the sea.

The evening started to dim. In the distance, somewhere far away, Kaiku could see a small flame lighting. Soon others joined the lonely bonfire. From island to island a chain was created. Like small glow-worms they burnt brightly in the dusk. Kaiku rose up. The fires represented and united the people who resided on the edges of the sea. They acted as a link, a communication system. With their bright flames they spoke of the century-long, unbroken bond between the people, who had promised to protect and guard each other. The fires were also burnt for those who never returned from the sea. For Kaiku they were a reminder of others around her. They were people she never saw and who she would never learn to know, but with the shape of their flames they showed themselves to her. With the fires they were all linked.

Kaiku got up and ran in to the lighthouse. She climbed to the beacon. Through the glass windows, she could see the fires lighting all around the islands. She opened the door and stepped out. The wind played in her rough, dry hair, she could smell the change it carried with it. There was a hint of coldness in the air.


This is an edited extract from Kaiku, an illustrated fictional story set on a small island in the Finnish archipelago. It is a story about a reclusive shaman, a flute playing girl called Aino and her echo Kaiku. The Kaiku book is the first part of Milla Koivisto’s audio-visual project of the same name. The Kaiku book is now available to order.


The Learned Pig