The direct translation from Finnish is ‘courage,’ but I think there’s more to it than that. Sisu, as a non-Finn, is bravery, determination, and wits in the face of potential adversarial circumstances.
Sisu is one of my favorite words.
On our first camping trip Jane, who had just turned 4, wanted to sleep in a hammock in the woods just like her dad, under a tarp. She’s honest about how she feels and how she sees herself, she’s brave when she leads and tells me she’s scared to follow. I let her lead as she climbs rocks, inspects mushrooms and berries, and takes pictures along the trail at things ‘so beautiful.’
She is sisu.
She listens, is wise, and kind. We eat camping meals and watch the sun set over Lake Champlain from Hoyt’s Lookout. The sky turns purple, her favorite color, even though she says that all colors are her favorite. It grows dark and she tries sleeping in the hammock. It’s hard, I know adults who are scared in hammocks.
Closing on 11pm, bitten by every kind of mosquito, having tried all of Jane’s suggestions, she wants to go home. We pack up, she puts on her green backpack which must be at least 25% of her weight and walks through the deep, dark woods.
She is sisu. She chose to brave those dark woods armed with a flashlight, she walked all the way back to the car with owls hooting goodbye to her. She did that on her own.
The next day she doesn’t talk about how scared she was, she talks about hearing the crickets for the first time, and the lightning bugs, and the purple sunset.
She is sisu and she inspires me to be brave.