An Easter Greeting

Good morning my dear readers. It’s Good Friday and the rest of the house is quiet apart from our freezer humming in the room next to me, and there is a subtle whoosh of water going through the radiators. I just settled in in front of my screen with a mocha coffee. For Christmas last year Jay and I got one of those one-cup coffee machines for ourselves, and ever since I have been almost addicted to using a shot of dark chocolate in my first cup of coffee every day. I have consciously been trying to reduce my caffeine intake, though, especially at night. Some days it works, some days not so well. I read that if you have trouble with your thyroid, caffeine is not good. A couple of regular sized cups a day is all right, but on average I drink way more than that so I thought I would try to cut down, at least until I know whether or not an underactive thyroid is what is causing my tiredness and anemia.

Before I write anything else I really want to say thank you all for the so, so lovely comments on my last post. I know I might be silly thinking this way, but somehow I always end up feeling that with having become so inactive on my blog, and taking forever to reply to comments, I somehow don’t deserve anyone’s attention. I have made friends over the years with whom I have lost contact because I am so terrible at keeping in touch. It’s hard to explain to someone I know why I get like that — it never has anything to do with that I don’t care for them or don’t value their friendship. After a while I feel so incredibly dumb for declining invites over and over, and somehow trying to explain why leaves me feeling like I fraud. I want to get better at this, though, because I do understand silence and avoidance only leaves the other person wondering and questioning if they are at fault. This happened just recently and it gave me a thorough shake and a kind of eye-opener. Any state of depression or exhaustion is a lonely place; I like to have my own space but this loneliness is so very different than choosing retreat when I just need to refuel. Instead of consciously craving to be alone I want closeness but can’t reach out. It’s like becoming trapped in my own misery. I drown in it. The shame takes over and makes that distance all the more difficult to cross. Can you recognise the feeling?

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To write down how I feel, and to try and paint a picture of what it’s like on the inside is somehow so much easier when I write a blog post. I really wonder why that is. Of course, the language is one factor — I may be able to speak Finnish well, and I have heard so many times how good I am at speaking the language, but it’s only in general conversation. I have no idea what words to use or how to converse about emotional topics in Finnish. Several years ago when I went to therapy, I got to speak with a therapist who knew Swedish. When that wasn’t an option I switched to English when I couldn’t express myself in Finnish. I have actually thought about this a lot lately, that maybe one side to how I am feeling is that I am a foreigner. I may have lived in Finland on and off for ten years now, but I can still feel totally alien. It is definitely my own fault — I have isolated myself out here on the farm and haven’t actively worked to seek a social life outside the family.

I could write so much more on this, but what I wanted (before I got carried away) was to show you that pot I painted, and to share some photos from the past week, and some from before that. The sun is getting warmer every day now and the snow is melting. I can’t tell you how absolutely divine it is to stand outside on the warmer days. Spring really is staking a claim on the earth now, and even though I have been outside so little this year, I still have many photos I haven’t shared with you yet. But first — the pot!

finished-result-of-painted-pot

close-up-of-painted-pot

I really am so happy with the results. I had many ideas on how to paint this pot, but after layering the colours I was so pleased with the texture I didn’t want to do anything else to it. It also reminded me of how much I really love working with my hands, and it has motivated me even further to fight this mind fog so I can do more. For example I have a big IKEA bag full of drift wood I brought with me to Finland last year (and even more in the garage, some up against a wall next to the office, and more in a cardboard box, haha) with which I had many plans and ideas. Some of you might remember the frame I made out of drift wood for a painting last year.

That the light (or lack thereof) can do so much to a person is something which fascinates me and leaves me in a sense of wonder. Some weeks back I sat and went through some photos. I had just come back inside from a walk around the old buildings here on the farm. It was just above zero but the snow dwindled silently and the wet flakes left me with a chill, so I didn’t linger too long. As I sat with these photos I noticed that instead of snow covering the evergreens, there were water droplets everywhere. A mixture of relief and giddiness surged through me and I almost started crying.

 

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Since then we have had some really cold days, with temperatures of ten below zero or more, and others much warmer. One day we had six above. This time is almost holy to me. These fluctuations mark the end of winter and beginning of spring and it’s like every cell in my body comes alive to respond to it. At times it catches me off guard and I become so overwhelmed by the sensation tears fill my eyes. Do you experience similar things? Or is there something in particular that signifies end of winter or beginning of spring for you?

catkins

Another symbol of spring for me are the catkins. I noticed the first ones on a very cold day several weeks ago, and I was so surprised to see them there in a landscape still embedded in snow and wintry shimmer. That day was so magical, though, and I stayed outside longer than my hands could handle. The warmth of the sun on my face had me entranced. The song of birds created the most beautiful symphony mixed up with Loke’s and my own slow, crispy steps across glittering fields.

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I am actually wearing my PJ pants in this photo above, haha. They have been the most comfy pants but I had to brave the shops and hunt down a new pair since the fabric has gotten so so thin. I suppose it doesn’t matter when only Jay, Lilli and Loke are around, but sometimes our kitchen or dining room becomes an office or conference area when there are meetings related to the farming business. I usually make myself scarce at those times, but I still imagine it looks odd for someone to walk around in PJ’s in the middle of the day. 😉 Especially extremely worn PJ’s. Haha

One evening when the sun stood low, I looked out toward the trees where our road leads off the farm. The most amazing light painted the tree trunks and branches in an almost fiery pink/red, and I rushed through the house to gather my camera and tripod. When I got outside, I switched direction and went for our lower fields instead, distracted by the colour in the sky. Ever since I have wanted to show you this ethereal sunset. By the time I was satisfied I had enough photos of it, the sun had dropped lower and the light was gone from the trees.

sunset-over-snowy-fields

Can you see the reflections on the snow? I was in complete awe as I stood there. It was cold but the sun still set rather quickly then, so I managed to get back inside before my fingers froze. It’s incredible how fast that changes now — how the sun’s descent slows down and graces us with these gorgeous colours for longer and longer with each day passing. I was here about a week before this photo was taken to capture the subtle grace of this late winter light. Then I found an icy wonderland behind our storage building and crept around with my tripod in the bushes to get some closeups until my hands were on fire with the cold.

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It was after these photos I was in so much pain I didn’t know what to do with myself. Regardless, I have to say they were worth it. With time it seems most pains subside, no matter how deeply they cut in the present, and it is in that transition I think it becomes easier to look beyond and see that even when we have been at our worst, when the nights were so dark, light was there. It kept us company. We were not alone — we never are truly alone.

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Our house is waking up now, but before I leave I would like to wish you all a beautiful Easter, and show you a couple of photos of the flowers I bought. Getting those plants just made me want even more! 😀

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daffodils

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Lily of the Valley might be my absolute favourite flower

Once again, thank you all so much for the inspiration you truly give me. I am also so happy and grateful for the feedback you gave me after my request in my last post, and I have already taken some photos to share together with the story of my tattoo, so that might be up next! I would also like to take this opportunity to say that if you ever think of something you would like me to write about or to photograph don’t be shy to let me know. I will try to honour most requests. ❤

Much love, hugs and a happy Easter weekend!

my-tattoo
“Strength, Courage, Wisdom” ❤
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Tired Of Being Tired

Last year I had a really strange experience. I am not someone who can easily take a nap during the day; usually it takes me just as long to fall asleep as the time I then spend sleeping, no matter how exhausted I am. Either way I tried and eventually fell asleep on the sofa. When I woke, I heard Lilli giggling in the kitchen. Groggily I thought I must have really needed that sleep because I hadn’t noticed her coming home from school. I went to turn my head and realised I couldn’t. I could see the room but couldn’t move one fiber of my body. A vague memory hit me of someone who had once mentioned this odd state of being awake while being asleep — I can’t remember what it’s called. But the story was frightening and I panicked. I fought tooth and nail to move my legs and started screaming. The sound echoed in the back of my mind but seemed lodged in my throat, still I didn’t stop until, finally, my surroundings dimmed and I woke. For real.

That feeling of being stuck and unable to move or make a sound — hopelessly trying to reach past the silence, reach through the apparent barrier around me — is how I have felt these past few weeks. So it isn’t so strange the same happened when I started this post yesterday. I wrote — I wrote a lot. So many words yet it’s like they weren’t getting through, like they were not the actual words I wanted to write. They came out in disguise, in a shape I didn’t think them, in a way I didn’t intend them. And suddenly I had written several paragraphs about some topic not at all related to why I sat down to write in the first place.

What it all comes down to is that I am still tired. Beyond tired. Way past exhausted, even, to be honest with you. So completely hollowed out and unbalanced I found myself saying out loud: enough already! Do you ever get like that? Your entire life just seems so upside down and inside out that you could choke on it.

distant-contemplation

A few weeks back I had some blood tests done because I have had swelling in some of my fingers — they were red, hot to the touch, and one finger I couldn’t even curl fully. This sensitivity to the cold made it all worse and, sure, I have experienced this for a couple of years now, but never this bad. Just this weekend I came inside after not even half an hour in the cold and my hands ached so much I was in tears. I stood hulking by the sink as the warm water cascaded over my fingers and felt so damn miserable. I can take Loke for a longer walk, being in constant motion is what I suspect helps keep it at bay, but if I go outside with my camera to take photos I end up in excruciating pain and I hate it. So after one week of swelling, stiffness, pins and needles and something like liquid fire in my fingers, I sought out a doctor.

Among my bigger fears were SLE and rheumatoid arthritis. Mom has suffered these since (I think) her mid-twenties, and I myself was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis when I was fifteen. When I phoned about the results last week, though, they had come back negative, for which I am so, so grateful, because lupus and arthritis are hellish illnesses. However, we also did a screening of my blood levels as well, and it turns out I’m anemic. In spite of having taken iron on pretty much a daily basis since this time last year, when I sank into depression. Last week when I talked to the nurse I was told to call back on Monday, this week. She left a request with the doctor to write instructions for me, since I told her about that I have been taking iron. And other vitamins and minerals. All he had for me was: we will keep an eye on it. And the first time available to re-visit him is in mid-April.

Did I mention I am tired of being tired? I feel like screaming. I should probably leave the house first. I did that once a few years ago and it both did and didn’t help. Maybe because it wasn’t a very forceful nor impressive scream, but that anticlimactic sensation made me laugh. Sort of like the time when I in a fit of indignant rage decided I would try to throw a mug, because throwing things seemed to me be a thing some do when they get angry, and I had always wondered if it actually helped. I made a dramatic exit but came straight back inside to pick up the broken pieces and to apologise.

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loke-and-I-watching-eachother

All this said, last week on Friday I told myself, out loud, that it’s enough. To start off, I made a deal with myself to not touch my phone for the rest of the weekend, except for phonecalls and text messages. It worked really well, with a couple of minor slips, and on Saturday I spent a few hours in Rauma, both to look for new glasses and to get some plants! I have so often imagined how lovely it would be if I could have lots of plants, but I have felt cursed — they all die on me. Now I was ready to give it another try, and not only do they give a sense of peace and harmony, but some plants really do improve the air. If at any time that is needed it’s during winter and early spring. Both Lilli and I suffer a lot from dry skin this time of the year. And so I did some research to find plants best suited for someone who repeatedly exercises her knack for killing them. Not intentionally, of course.

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kimbala-fikus

lovely-fern

zamiakalla-the-wardrobe-plant

On my way home from Rauma on Saturday I sat with a big smile on my face, constantly peering into the rearview mirror to see the back seat full of brown paper packages. I couldn’t wait to get back to the farm to introduce these beautiful plants to their new home. Loke was so excited and stared with such intensity when I unwrapped the plants. I wish I had remembered to take photos of it.

And then, on Sunday, Lilli and I had a day in Raisio — a little over an hour’s drive from here — to visit IKEA, among other places. Over the years I have always seen so many nice pots there, but can you believe the one time I go there specifically to get pots there were hardly any? At first I was so certain I would be able to dig up some old pots from the nooks and crannies here at home, but they were all wrong sizes, so off we went. At the end of the day I came home with four pots, and we really had a wonderful time.

new-pots

It’s not often I enjoy shopping or spending any great amount of time in places packed with people. IKEA is one of those places that can be so cozy and fun to browse, while at the same time sucking the life out of you. I only have good memories of it though, from when my parents took us there as kids. And when I lived in Australia, I would sometimes visit IKEA to alleviate my homesickness.

After a full day away from home, I was too tired to do anything else, so it wasn’t until yesterday I got stuck into re-planting. It took me a lot longer than planned because I wanted to take photos at the same time. Jay shook his head (all in good humor) when he came into the living room. I had news papers, pots and plants spread out over the floor, and my camera on the tripod blocking the passage, haha.

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filling-the-pot-with-mulch

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I honestly have no idea what I am doing, which I am sure you figured already when I mentioned I am an unintentional plant-killer. I have done some research and written down instructions on how to care for these plants (where to place them, how much water to give and how often, etc) but only time will tell if I get it right this time or not. So if any of you have tips or advice for me, I will more than gladly receive it. 😀

Now there are only two plants left without pots, but one of those will be planted this afternoon. I did have one pot that I bought for an ivy which died last November. It sat in its pot still until end of January. Somehow it looked beautiful anyway, and I didn’t have it in me to throw it out. I gave it to the wardrobe plant, as its called in Swedish. It basically means you can put it away and forget about it and it will still survive — sounds perfect for me, right? 😉 So the terracotta pot I bought from IKEA got a little special paint treatment. It didn’t occur to me until after I had painted it that maybe the paint isn’t good for the plant. The chalk paint I mixed is meant for furniture, and the shimmering paint is meant for wooden panelling, so I don’t even know how well it will last. But it’s so so pretty!

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pearly-shimmering-paint

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Painting really is so relaxing and the pot turned out pretty nice, if I do say so myself. I will snap a photo of it when the plant is in place.

Now I have a little request of sorts, and I would really like to hear what you think about this post and these photos. What did you like? What didn’t interest you so much? Or is there something you would have liked to see/read more of that I didn’t show/write? I figured that just because I can’t spend much time outside right now with my camera it doesn’t mean I can’t still take photos. I’ll just have to get a little more creative, I guess, and then take the opportunities those moments when it is warmer to take my camera outside.

Another big plus with all this is how good it felt to do something. Buying and planting a few plants and painting a pot might not seem like much, but finding enjoyment or even the energy to do something small after long months of slumber can mean the world. And for a while I got to feel a little more like myself and not the tired blob inhabiting my body lately.

Last but not least, thank you so much for leaving so wonderful comments on my last post. Every single time I receive a message in spite of my own shortcomings in replying on time (if at all), I get such a warm feeling. It really, really means so much to me and I truly feel I have your support regardless of what my life looks like or how often or seldom I update. Still I strongly believe it will get better. Many hugs to you my dearest readers. ❤

Change And Acceptance

Hello my dearest readers. After my last post it seems like all the little workers in my mind grabbed their coats and went on holiday. Or not even that – they walked out of the office without any notice of where they were going or when they would return. Maybe it sounds a little odd, I don’t know, but it didn’t even worry me and I followed in their footsteps out the door. If I were to sum up the past few weeks with one word I would describe it as being in limbo, and it shows all around me. Piles of clothes, mountains of dishes, dust and crumbs and Loke’s hairs everywhere. Multiply that with the mess I have previously complained about times a thousand.

I have had a few milder emotional outbursts when my lids have fluttered open to take in my surroundings, but it is like even my annoyance is in a state of limbo. All that frustration I can feel when I get nothing done goes pooff before even half its usual magnitude is reached. I still don’t know whether to call this true hibernation or depression, though. All that I feel — or don’t feel — and this lack of care for the state of this house or my daily doings could also be, if going by symptoms listed on the web, called depression. The thing is I think I consciously accepted I am depleted at the start of February, and it was after that I let go and disappeared. I keep asking myself does it really matter? Do I have to put a name on it?

chilling-with-loke

However, in the past week it has become clear that I was meant to do this. Shut down, turn off, retreat. I had too much in my mind, too many wants, wishes and ideas buzzing around together with needs and pressing necessities. A jitter so loud that I couldn’t make sense of anything at all. So after I last week made an important phone call that had been eating me up from the inside out since early January, I had a moment of clarity.

At the start of the year I received a letter to let me know it was time to begin the repayments of my student loan. I have waited for this letter ever since I finished my studies in December 2016. The way it works is that after completing your studies you get one year respite. I assume it is to give you time to find a job or to do further studies, in which case you continue on as a student and loan taker and don’t have to repay anything until you are completely finished. I knew already, deep down, I wasn’t going to university, but I think somewhere underneath it all I felt an immense obligation to make something happen that would generate an income within twelve months. That obligation was in conflict with my dreams and wishes — my heart’s desire — to build my very own business on my own terms, and I think I subconsciously stuffed the entire affair further and further away from my conscious mind.

our-snowy-maple-tree

So the first instalment was due on the 28th of February, and at the end of last week I finally picked up the phone. I don’t fully get this immense issue I have with speaking over the phone. Part of it, I think, might be that I can’t see the person I am talking to, and I hear voices better if I can see the facial movements of those I speak with. Like an anchor, to connect one to the other. Without that anchor some words become muffled and I seem to miss chunks of what people are actually saying. Simply put: I lose focus when speaking with people over the phone. And somewhere amongst it all I get nervous and start shaking, my pulse goes up and I sweat, too. It really is awful. Usually I sit with the phone so hardly pressed to my ear it’s all red by the time I am done, haha. It can help to close my eyes, to cut off any external impressions that might disrupt my attention. Or I can doodle on a piece of paper. Sometimes that helps, too, but it differs from time to time, mood to mood.

The kind lady on the phone was so very helpful, though, and she walked me through an application for extension over the web. She could watch live from her end as I filled in the details and clicked my way through. When it was done she told me that CSN’s (the name of the student loan company) handling of these applications are automatic, but she could with confidence assure me my loan will now be frozen for another year. The tears welled up in an instant and I cried. Oh, I am getting all emotional again now as I write about it, but the relief I felt in that moment crashed over me like the most divine ocean wave. I think I overwhelmed her with my profuse thank you, thank you so much I am so happy. But I really was. And after I hung up an email arrived to tell me my application had been approved and that my payments for this year have been reduced to zero. Ahhh, can you tell I am so so happy? 😀

loke-showing-his-love

So as I wrote further up, I had a moment of clarity. For the first time in weeks it was like I could see in colours again, and the world didn’t seem shrouded in a haze. I really believe I had to let go of absolutely everything and get back to basics. Imagine you have collected a pile of washing into your arms, you know the one that is so big it keeps falling apart, and you actually have to peer around the mountain you embrace to see where you are going. And suddenly you can’t remember if you have collected all the sock pairs. So instead of running around the house with that tangled ball, I had to drop and spread it out over the floor to see what I actually have to deal with. Now I may have a mess spanning wall-to-wall in our home and in my life, but at least I can walk around with a clear view of it all. This loan was one of those things hidden deep within that pile, and it had festered and spread into so many areas of my life… I can’t believe I just compared a loan to socks and used the word festering. Can’t stop laughing now. 😀

Another big change is that the days are getting longer, the sun warmer, and the birds are chirping. Yesterday I took another slow stroll with Loke down our road through the fields. At first I listened only to the creak of our foot and paw steps. Loke’s made this soft and crisp resonating sound, while my own were more like crunch-crunch, haha. But then I stopped and closed my eyes, turned my face to the sun and this amazing chirp and chatter of the birds soaked right through me. Usually Loke will start sniffing around the ground, but he remained completely still by my side and I think he, too, was listening to the wakening song of the birds.

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manta-the-rarely-seen-farm-cat

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Right now I really hope that I am waking up for real, but at the same time I feel there is still time left to consider the lessons from the past few weeks. From the past months, really. It all began last autumn, and I can’t let go of this thought that there are stages in life, and stages within those stages. Each needs to be given its own time, and it won’t matter if I don’t accept it and keep going anyway — at some point those things I choose to work even harder to squeeze whatever I can out of (or ignore completely) will make their demands.

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I especially think of the days I have looked out the window at the magical beauty of sunshine over glittering fields and gazed with longing at the tree line beyond. And how I barely used my camera — my amazing new camera Jay got me. Not even imagining myself there among snow-laden pines and spruces gave me the strength to get up. Still, somehow, I found ways to be at peace with it. This is where I am right now, and in all probability where I need to be. I told myself this so many times during these weeks. Told myself it will pass, just like every other time previously. What I believe and fervently hope is that giving myself an abundance of time will make all the difference; to not use up the steady-but-slow refuelling process by making myself feel guilty for all this non-productivity or inactivity. This will allow my being to truly rest. It seems like the closer to empty I have been, the harder my body and mind has worked to use the little energy in my reserves. Like an engine low on oil will eventually be wrecked, like a fuel tank sputtering when running on fumes.

magical-light-in-the-forest

And little by little I have felt that pull to get up and do things, grab my camera. A couple of days I walked around outside, if only for a short while, but I was grateful for those short little moments. I could tell myself it was enough and truly feel content. At the end of the day, a knowing I’m finding hard to explain rests within me. It may be a quiet and soft whisper, but it’s an encouragement all the same. Maybe it’s that trust that is returning — the relationship I think we need to build with the world around us, that there is meaning in events that at first make no sense to us, that frustrate us or even seem like a nuisance. The events out of our control. I think of it as sailing. I know nothing about sailing, but as far as I have understood it’s about positioning the sails to work with the winds. I imagine you have to feel those winds and know how to set the sails to be able to maneuver the boat in the direction you want to go. Those winds can’t be controlled or manufactured to suit my wants or wishes. But I can give in and work with them. To accept what I can’t do and be okay with what I can do. However little it may be. It’s enough. For now, it’s more than enough.

I’m sending you all my love, and a big, warm hug.

Something Special

Hello my dear readers. I just sat down with a cup of coffee in front of the screen. On the other side of my window behind it a million tiny snowflakes whirl around the sway of our spruce hedge. I keep thinking about all the words I write and leave behind, erase, change, and suddenly don’t feel like using. It reminds me once again on how I at times have wondered if I should schedule my posts. My inspiration to write comes and goes, and now it has been… two weeks since my last update. So if I did write this way then I might keep all the things that fill my mind and these drafts, the photos I take that I want to share, and spread them out so you get more regular updates, even when my mind goes quiet and my motivation to shoot dwindles. What has me hesitating is that I write so very much from my feelings and impressions in the now, and it would feel like giving you Monday’s news paper with your Sunday morning coffee.

I’m hoping to throughout this coming year figure out just which way to blog is the best for me. Maybe this is a process all bloggers go through until they find their very own rhythm?

Now, however, I’m going to tell you about something very special, something I have been wanting to write about since before my trip to Sweden but was too overwhelmed to find words for.

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Photographs of my mom when she was little. I just love her outfits.

I took this photo very late one evening earlier this month, after having waited and waited for the new battery to my brand new camera to be fully charged. After many months of slowly letting go of the prospect I will get a new camera any time soon, Jay completely blew me away when he decided to sponsor me. And not in a small way, but he got me my dream camera. The Canon 5D Mark IV. I have had it for almost a month soon but as I write this my whole body wants me to shout out loud. The first couple of days I didn’t dare to take it outside. We had such miserable weather — slush, then ice, then snow, then rain and more ice — and I was so afraid I would slip and break the camera. Silly, I know, but there you have it.

Instead I took photos inside the house, which is something I have been so bad at before. Even if I tried and had almost let go of the fact my old camera didn’t handle higher ISO all that well, which is needed in dim lighting — especially on moving targets — somehow I lost the feeling for it. But now it’s fun again.

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Our spruce hedge, viewed from the living room window.
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Lilli tried to keep his attention by saying “candies!”

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My parents bought two cats not too long ago. This is Tobi (or Tobidoo, as they call him), and his sister, who mostly ran away whenever I got close, is named Potts. Or Pottis. They weren’t too sure of Loke when we first arrived, but after he sniffed and buffed their butts all was well. Haha I have many names for Loke, too. Bubbas or Pumpas the most commonly used ones. Do you also have a million different names for your furry babies?

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When he is told to stay put.

When I left for Sweden I wished so much I would have gotten an opportunity to capture the northern lights — now that I had this awesome camera to do it with. Even a star struck sky. However it feels like it snowed almost every single day I was there, which I of course only loved. I wanted to visit so many places during my stay in Sweden, too — places my grandparents grew up in. For many years now I have known both my mom’s biological parents are from Ångermanland, but what I didn’t know was that my dad’s mom is from around here, too. And through life’s mysterious ways, Mom and Dad ended up in Stockholm suburbs, where they met some forty years ago now.

Ramsele, where my dad’s mom was born, is maybe a two-hour drive from Ramvik at most but I have never seen it. Ljungaverk, where my mom’s biological mother is from lies a little south and inland. I mention biological since my mom was adopted. She has never met her biological mom, but we have been in contact with her biological dad since I was little. Sidensjö, where he was born, is a smaller place close to the town of Örnsköldsvik, about an hour north from Ramvik. I don’t know but I wonder if this is why I feel such a deep connection to this region? As though the very spirit and soul of these lands have left an imprint on our genes which are carried down in the intricate yet massive data sheet of our DNA. More interesting still is how my biological grandfather has Finnish ancestors. I find these things so very fascinating and I hope I will make it to these places I mentioned next time I visit my parents.

One day when the snow just kept coming down, I took Loke for a walk toward the Ramvik bay. As kids, my brothers and I would come here quite often. There is a very small beach which over the years has gotten a little more sand (by the looks of things), and the cape has served as our destination for adventures. Ramvik isn’t a very big village but it has so many beautiful houses. I had to check up what the laws said on photographing peoples’ homes, and it is allowed so long as I am shooting from a public road. Luckily no one was out with their gardening gloves. 😉

ramvik-bay-area

ramvik-bay-and-cape

To be honest, I spent most of the two weeks in Sweden in my parents’ house. I did meet up with my friend a couple of times for coffee and dinner. It was so cozy and I have missed her so much. We are terrible at keeping in touch, but when we do meet it’s like no time has passed. I feel so blessed to have found a friend like that.

As I already wrote about in my previous post, I went on a 600 kilometer day trip with my mom and brother. We didn’t do another one like that, but I did go for a drive with my parents on the other side of Ångermanälven. The afternoon sun was so incredibly beautiful and I wish I had photos to show you the breathtaking scene that unfolded over the broken ice on Ångermanälven. I stopped the car and got out to take photos only to realise I had left the memory card on the kitchen table. This is so typical of me, but I have now bought a second memory card which I will always keep in my camera bag.

under-the-high-coast-bridge

This photo was taken from underneath the High Coast Bridge. To get those photos I missed out on the day I left my memory card, I went back to the other side of the river. The clouds managed to amasse before Mom and I arrived, but I got out anyway. To stand underneath this bridge when cars and semi-trucks pass overhead is a little frightening, but I can’t help but feel humbled in the face of something so incredibly larger than myself.

view-over-angermanalven-and-high-coast-bridge

We drove up to the High Coast Hotel. I wanted to see if I could walk up the mountain to get some photos, but with all the snow it was too deep to walk in. Instead I climbed up a few meter tall pile of snow created by the ploughs and the view was just as spectacular from there.

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the-high-coast-hotel
The High Coast Hotel

Growing up with winters far harsher than the ones we have these days I’m not a stranger to frozen fingers, but this past year even the slightest chill leaves my hands next to non-functional. Mom and Dad had a spare pair of those touch gloves, which I got to keep, but even with gloves on I have only to be out five minutes before the tips of my fingers start going numb. It doesn’t actually hurt while I’m still in the cold, but once I get inside and start warming up — the pain is excruciating. I think this is one reason behind why I have sat behind the windows in longing, watching the beauty of January from the safety of warmth. Mom said I could try a really fatty cream, which I have yet to put to the test.

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forest-dressed-mountain-through-the-trees

snowy-twisted-old-birch

Earlier this week we got the warning of an incoming snow storm for today. The winds this morning were definitely a little stronger than usual, but the snow didn’t pick up until midday. Our internet also dropped out, which was due to carrier switch. And I had to take Lilli to the doctor since she has been home all week with a terrible cough. There is no inflammation or infection in her body, though, and the fever went down earlier in the week, so she is back on the sofa and resting.

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pot-of-lavender-in-snow

the-bend-to-my-parents-house

After two weeks away, I am so happy to be back home. There is much less snow here, but if this snow storm continues that might change. And I am more than content with all the photos I managed to get from the short walks I took with Loke a few times a day. Now we need to wait for his jacket to arrive with the post. I always forget something at my parents’ house after my visits. This summer I left my camera cleaning kit, and now I left Loke’s jacket. Out of all things. Luckily we only have a couple of degrees below zero.

I hope to get better at updating as this slumber begins to leave my body. Until then I will leave you with a couple more photos from one beautiful morning in Ramvik, and I wish you all a good weekend! Many hugs and much love. ❤

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The light on those trees and mountains ❤

pink-lilac-clouds-over-the-river

Learning About The Moments

Hello dear ones! I checked the weather map this morning after waking up to strong winds grabbing at the house. They warned of hard winds in this area and outside the snow is creating a thick veil of fog. Somehow there’s something very cozy about sitting inside when the wind howls and snow whirls through the trees outside the window. And I always feel so safe in these old, wooden houses.

On Sunday morning just gone, my mom, brother, Loke and I went on an adventure, and once again I meant to write about it earlier but I keep forgetting how these road trips zap all my strength and energy.

white-road-and-snow-laden-trees

If sitting still and crammed into a car for hours is strenuous for me, it is even more so for my mom who has arthritis. But she loves adventures, too, and when I asked if she wanted to come along on this trip she of course said yes. She had an SLR when we were younger and has filled many pages in our family albums with photos. Now she uses her phone and happily shoots from the seat in the car, so the photos with me in it are courtesy of my mom.

One of our first stops was at a frozen lake with the most beautiful view. I got out to climb a snow drift to get a better view, but when I wanted to get down on the other side it didn’t occur to me that the snow wouldn’t be as packed down there. Loke whined in the car when I gave out a shout as I went straight through at least one meter of snow.

me-photographing-on-a-snow-drift

I started laughing as I sat there in my hole in the snow. Mom called out and asked if I was all right, which I of course was. I got snow into my shoes and inside my coat, which I didn’t realise until I had sat in the car for a while and the seat and my pants were all wet. Haha But I got great photos!

white-lake-and-snowy-tree-dressed-mountains

frost-dressed-tree-trunk

snowy-rest-stop

You know, this area we drove through was one of the most beautiful on the entire trip. Ever since the road trip with my brother last summer I have wanted to go back toward the Norwegian border, toward the fell mountains to take photos. Now when the world here is covered in all this snow, I got an image in my head and decided to go chase it. All along the road Mom and I ooh-ed and aah-ed at the breathtaking sights. Driving a white road lined by tall spruces in their snowy coats, leaf trees bowing beneath the weight of the snow, is so incredibly magical. It’s like being embraced by winter itself. A sense of warmth and peace spreads through every limb in the body and I didn’t even stop to take photos. I wanted to continue along that road into eternity.

So often I have both read and heard that it’s not the destination that counts but the journey. It’s so true, too, I have found, but I also forget this so easily. When I get an idea and the inspiration to move, I sometimes become so focused on reaching my goal that I only give glances to what happens around me as I work toward it. In spite of knowing each step holds valuable experience in itself. So often along the drive I saw such beauty, but I only stopped a few times. I knew that we only had so many hours of daylight, and since we left two hours later than I initially planned, I would have had maybe one hour at our destination before sunset. A thick sheet of clouds also hung from the sky so the light was very mellow to begin with, which didn’t matter so much. I love the melancholy, too, that the landscape is wrapped in when the sun doesn’t shine.

me-photographing-at-rest-stop

Jämtland, the province in which my destination was, is so beautiful. It’s not all that different from Ångermanland, just more. The mountains a little higher, the valleys a little deeper, the lakes a little more to count. Or at least it feels like that. And then of course the fell mountains to glimpse on the horizon as you near Östersund. Åre is situated in Jämtland, which might be if not the most popular winter holiday destination, then very far up there. My brother and I drove past Åre on our way to Norway last summer, and it sure was spectacular to me, even without its winter outfit.

These last photos I’m sharing are from Ragundadalen, about halfway to our destination Gräftåvallen, which lies about 100 kilometers below Åre.

winter-evergreens

snow-powdered-cones-and-needles

frozen-river-landscape

rest-stop-ragundadalen

After having some coffee and sandwiches at this rest stop, we drove on until I had to pee so badly I feared I would wet my pants. Haha Then I wasted precious time driving around a small community called Brunflo trying to find a toilet. We were in stitches by the time we found a service station where they had four toilets. Brun is brown in Swedish, and I commented on that no wonder it’s called that; people have been driving on for hours and they come here bursting at the seams in search for a toilet and find none. I have a very childish sense of humor. 🙂

When we finally left Brunflo, the sun was disappearing behind the brief break in the clouds, and even though I knew by then we would be arriving after dark, I drove on. All the way up the mountain that looked nothing like what I had imagined. In all honesty I saw no fell mountains within our reach, only those towering on the horizon, far too far to reach on that day’s trip. At the top outside the small resort, I stopped the car and didn’t even get outside. My brother took Loke out to leave some poop on top of the mountain, and then he had a pee in a snow drift before we drove back down. Mom laughed at the fact we had driven 300 kilometers for this, which is funny. We also looked at renting a room for the night to maybe salvage the trip and take the next day to drive around, but my brother had to be at work at eight the next morning, which he said his boss would probably be okay with, but I drove us back home anyway.

snow-powdered-evergreen-branches

I have a tendency to think at times like these about purpose. That pretty much anything we do, things that happen have a meaning. Especially when I drove 600 kilometers there and back without barely getting out of the car. I didn’t take photos up on that mountain when I so easily could have, but I just didn’t feel like it. When I sat there I thought that this trip wasn’t meant to be about reaching a destination or a goal. I didn’t come here to find the visuals to fit the image in my head. This was about looking at how to be in the moment, how to savor the journey. The people I was with — spending time with family I don’t get to see very often. And believe me, we had the greatest time. We talked about everything imaginable and laughed so hard my face hurt. And before settling in for the drive home, we stopped at Brunflo again to get some dinner.

dinner-stop-at-sibylla-brunflo

After a couple of months of feeling like my passion and motivation for all things photography and going on adventures had slipped away, I am so incredibly thankful for this drive. I talked a little with my brother about these things when I picked him up on Saturday night, and he, too, has felt his own inspiration for drawing (which he is so amazing at) has abandoned him lately. Maybe this is just truly due to the seasons within us. The winter in our minds. We, too, fall into hibernation and need to do so. Our minds are capable of incredible things, we as humans have so much power and energy flowing through us, but can we expect it to be constant? Is it natural? Is it nature’s way?

I look at the river and the mountains outside my window and it lies in peaceful rest. The tall birches don’t attempt to sprout buds, no animal out there pretends it is anything other than winter. The water slows its course beneath the ice. Just the same our thoughts and actions need a little extra time to unfold.

I wish you a continued great week. Much love. ❤

A Magical Drive Into The New Year

After I finished picking out the photos for this post and began counting them I started laughing. Why do I even do this? I already know I have too many, so knowing how many won’t matter.

But, hello, dear ones! I am taking myself out of my social media silence and I’m putting my blogging pants on again. My holiday is over and as I write I am still recovering from a two-day drive from our farm to my parents house in the mid-north of Sweden. Usually I take the ferry between Turku and Stockholm, but not this time. Instead I braved the icy roads of Lapland (the big Lappi up north). I left at nine in the morning on Tuesday and arrived at my parents’ house at eight on Wednesday night. The tyres may have stopped their vibrating but my bones were still buzzing. I don’t know if you have experienced this (or even have the possibility, if you live where winter tyres are not needed), but some winter tyres have these tiny little metal buds on them and they are very noisy on asphalt. Additionally (apparently) they make the car vibrate? I carried all my luggage into my parents house right away, because it was seventeen below zero, and then went to lie down on the kitchen floor. Flat on my back. Arms and legs stretched out as far as I could reach. All of me was shaking and somehow a flat and solid floor beneath me was what I wanted. It was the strangest feeling.

free-running

The original plan was to leave at the end of last week, but one thing after another prevented it, so it wasn’t until Tuesday morning this week Loke and I stepped out into a crisp, hazy winter sunrise to take a few deep breaths before getting in the car. Loke took a wild dash around the farm as though he knew it would be a couple of weeks before we’re back home again. I have to say that in spite of being such a dork, Loke has immense patience. I can’t imagine anyone else being able to travel in a car with me for over twenty-four hours and not be driven to insanity by my oh-wow-look-at-that-I-have-to-stop-to-take-a-photo-oh-it’s-so-beautiful.

loke-trying-to-avoid-the-camera
Loke’s face, haha.

When I packed the car I put all our luggage into the backseat and filled up the baggage space with soft blankets and Loke’s bed. He got to travel like a king and only seemed disturbed once, at a point when my eyes seemingly stopped working and rolled around in my head until I started making loud noises while slapping my mouth. I had every intention to stop the car to have a power nap, but you know those P-pockets along the road where you can stop the car? They are nowhere to be found when you truly need them. So howling just had to do. (My dad rolls down the windows and sticks his head out if he gets tired. I was already half-icicle, though, so it wasn’t an option for me.)

evening-winter-sun

It’s quite amazing how quickly the snow cover changed and grew as I drove north. Only a couple of hours away and the blanket of snow was visibly thicker. The area we live in is called Satakunta, which I creatively will translate to the Rain Domain. In Finnish we say it either rains water or snow. There’s no actual verb for it’s snowing. I guess the Rain Domain is visited mostly by falling water. At least lately. But a little further north I began fighting the urge to stop and take photos. I knew that once I start, I can’t stop.

the-blue-road

I came across this sign that read The Blue Road. As I drove I thought about what it meant. For a while I wondered if it literally had to do with the colour of the road. In this light it really did look blue. A deep-ocean blue — you know that almost black-blue? Yesterday I consulted Google and read that its name comes from that it follows a water course all the way from Norway through Sweden and Finland, and then finally into Russia. I love to stumble across things like these. To at first, unbeknownst to facts, wonder in cluelessness of its meaning and then visit google to find out what it might actually be. I think in this day and age, with a world of knowledge at our fingertips, it’s too easy to look up answers without first getting to ask questions and ponder them in ignorance. So to me, in that moment, knowing the light here is very special this time of the year, I thought why not? Wouldn’t that have been so cool, though? A road being named by the light that hits it during the winter months.

This reminds me of something. Did you know that in Finnish, aurora borealis is called fox fire? Revontulet. I looked it up last year and found out that it comes from an old belief in the Fire Fox, a god of some kind streaking across the tundra and hitting its tail against the ground, which is what people believed ignited those fiery lights in the sky. I thought it was the most amazing tale. Honestly it touched me so deeply I spun off names in my head for a brand name for my photography. I’m letting it live its own life for now, though. I have found that these things usually come together by themselves, in their own time. One morning I will shoot up from bed and shout of course! And then I’ll know.

magical-sky-over-icy-road

beautiful-skies-and-snowy-fields

I stopped a lot in a short span of time before the sun set. The colours in the sky and the resultant light playing over the vast sheets of snow took my breath away.

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picnic-table-by-frozen-lake

Loke and I stopped by this coffee cottage (which was closing as I pulled in with the car) to have our dinner. I don’t think it was even four in the afternoon yet. I had sandwiches packed, and Loke got a bowl of dry kibbles mixed with some wet food. He eats the kibbles if he is ravenous, so to make it more attractive I mix in a little something to give it more taste. At least I imagine it tastes better. And Loke seems to enjoy it more that way.

snow-laden-trees-in-twilight

vibrant-winter-miracle-twlight-skies

When I stopped at the P-pocket to step out with my camera to photograph this sky, a big semi-truck pulled in behind me. I had to get back in to move my car forward, and then I sat a moment talking to myself out loud. I was so annoyed. Why did he have to show up right there, right now? I wanted to shoot this sky so badly, so in the end I got out and jumped into the snow to run around the truck. After that my toes didn’t unfreeze until I stepped into a scalding hot shower at the hotel in Oulu, hours later. I am so thankful Jay persisted to talk me into staying over the night somewhere and not sleeping in the car, which I said I could. Now I know I wouldn’t have, because it got really really cold. Oh, and when Loke and I arrived at the hotel room he had his very own bed waiting for him and a bag of goodies!

I wanted to sit down with my laptop that evening and write a blog post to tell you about my upcoming adventures, but after the hot shower my eyes just wouldn’t stay open. I fell asleep almost instantly as my head hit the pillow. I love that feeling. Especially after a long period of having trouble falling asleep no matter how exhausted I am.

The next morning, at six on Wednesday, I went downstairs to the breakfast buffet to eat a big breakfast. For a couple of years now soon I have been skipping breakfast — somehow I feel a big glass of water and coffee is enough. Breakfast makes me sluggish and my mind foggy, but since that buffet was included I thought I would at least give it a try. I may have overdone it, though. I ate two small deliciously crispy croissants, a little bit of yogurt with musli, and one piece of toast with salty, melted butter, marmalade, and cheese. It was so tasty and almost worth the nausea afterwards. Haha

wind-mill-turbines-in-frozen-sunrise

The drive from Oulu to Happaranda, the first little town on the Swedish side, takes about two hours — with my driving, at least. Since it was still dark when I set out I didn’t stop for more photos until I was in Sweden. This photo was taken just outside of Happaranda, and those wind mill turbines looked so mystical in the wintry haze.

I didn’t think to exchange money when I went through Happaranda. I actually got lost trying to find a clear spot to photograph the bay area in the misty sunrise. But the snow. I haven’t seen this much snow in what feels like forever. And the snow ploughs have created huge drifts and walls when ploughing the roads, so it was nearly impossible to get to a spot with a clear view. I gave up and turned the GPS on to navigate myself back onto the E4.

frozen-roads-and-snowy-forests

more-frozen-trees

The temperature meter in the car flipped out at the start of the trip, so all throughout the drive I think it showed me the temperature of the engine. As such I had no real idea of how cold it was outside. But looking at the trees in their frosted coats, I figured it was several degrees below zero.

Before lunch I decided that I needed to find a Forex to exchange money so I could have something to eat. And in case I would need to fill up the fuel tank again, even though our Volvo is very economical and has a massive tank. And I still haven’t re-fuelled it.

Google told me there was a Forex in Luleå, which is situated just a little off the E4, so I used the navigator to get me there. It was amazing to drive through the forests in this area. And the roads, though ploughed, were still white. I wish I had thought to take photos. Not only of the landscape here, but also of the city. People were out walking on the big frozen water and even cars were driving on it. They had ploughed pathways out on the lake! The thing is I got terribly lost. First my navigator took me in circles, so I had to stop in the end and walk. I went into a small food shop to ask directions, and it wasn’t until I stood at Forex that I realised I had no idea how to get back to the car! I walked the streets in search for the car on feeling alone and did find it, but in a brief moment of panic I feared Loke would freeze to death before I could find the car again.

frozen-snowy-trees

The funny thing is that by the time I got out of Luleå, I was so stressed my stomach had tied itself in knots. I could barely eat the mashed potatoes and grilled sausage I bought from the service station along the road. I ate a couple of mouthfuls, forced several more until half was gone, and then left the rest. I drove on in pain for an hour before it dissipated. I am not big on making New Year resolutions, but I have promised myself that I will truly work on being in the moment this year. Life is unpredictable. My moods are unpredictable, and they sway all over the map. Lists and hours of writing in my journal won’t change the seasons and weathers within me, nor how I really deal with them. I read through some posts from last year, took some time to re-read your comments, and I feel so blessed to have such wonderful readers. Your encouragement and your support has meant and means the world to me.

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I am also so thankful to Jay for suggesting I take a couple of weeks to myself. This Christmas was very different, yet so amazing. I got the bedroom done, finally, and then with Jay’s help we got some other cleaning projects done, but in the end he suggested we get a cover for the doorway into the anxiety room. So I bought curtains from IKEA which Dad helped me put up on the day before Christmas Eve. All of us — Mom, Dad, Jay and I did cooking for our Christmas dinner, and Jay’s mom brought some dishes, too. She made her amazing sour milk cheese. So good. Dad boggled at the amount of food laid out on the table, but when we all sat down to eat on Christmas Eve I was so happy it was finally done. I hadn’t run around like a decapitated chicken to get the house sparkling, there were still a lot of mess in some places, but we had the most wonderful time. I really shut the rest of the world out and focused on our own little unit. It was so needed.

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frozen-lake-and-snowy-forests

Now, for the next couple of weeks, I will focus on only me, my photography, and travel around this magical place of my childhood. Take your time, Jay told me. And I will. I will try my hardest to not feel guilty for indulging time away from my family to do something I love. To let go and just enjoy my own peace and quiet. To get in the car and drive to wherever, whenever. And if I don’t feel like moving an inch, then that is all right, too.

soft-winter-glow

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I intended to write this post and share these photos yesterday, but one night of sleep didn’t help me recover from the drive, so I spent the day taking short walks with Loke up and down the road outside the house and editing all the photos from our road trip. We had twenty-one degrees below zero yesterday. The insides of my nostrils froze when I breathed, but I kind of love that feeling. It reminds me of days when my legs were shorter and my layers of clothing much thicker than now. Days I flew on skiis across the frozen river without a thought of the depths below. Careless and innocently unaware of how thick the ice is and how much weight can it really take before it breaks? It won’t give, but I still fear for it.

high-coast-bridge-in-snowy-haze

beloved-ångermanälven

I took the camera with me on our morning walk yesterday while the coffee was brewing. When I powered it up, it told me I had no memory card, so I went out again after Loke had done his business. And oh, this river. Beloved Ångermanälven. I can’t explain what it is about this place that moves my soul so deeply. Its quiet, melancholy beauty. I will spend many mornings here and just breathe in.

my-parents-house

red-panel-and-frosted-window

Today I will go into Härnösand to find myself some gloves I can use when I’m out there shooting. As of right now some fingers are still swollen from the icy love bites from these northern winds. Even in still weather the air here burrows into the skin like a thousand needles. In spite of it, I don’t feel cold. There’s something very different about walking through a couple of degrees on the plus side, sleet and black landscapes as opposed to this icy chill hovering over pastel-white mountains and valleys. I feel oddly yet pleasantly warm in its cool embrace. Only my hands suffer.

I hope you all had amazing holidays, that your New Year was peaceful, and I look forward to continuing to share this journey with you this year. Welcome, 2018! Much love and many, many snowy hugs to you all. ❤

 

 

 

 

To the Fire In Our Souls

Hello dear ones. I got such an incredible urge to write you all now to wish you a wonderful New Year. And what does it really matter if I have nothing else to say? In spite of lack of words to share, I am still so incredibly grateful for everything that has happened this past year, and for getting the chance to connect with so many. So thank you — for joining me and sharing your thoughts and words. And may your 2018 be beautiful. Much love and many hugs to you all. ❤

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warmth

happy-new-year

Dressed In Winter And Taking A Holiday

Hello, dear ones! It has been way too long since my last post, but not for the lack of trying. Somehow it seems like nature and I are in sync, both stuck in a phase of trying lately, and the results we aim for don’t get realised at all. I look out the window and feel a sense of connectedness with the winds, with the earth, and the snow now falling once again, as opposed to rain the past couple of days. Nature appears to be struggling with its attempts at dressing our fields and forests in winter. We have had some colder days, and earlier this week on Tuesday, I drove Lilli and myself through a whirl of snow into Rauma for her art school. There was so much of it I felt myself drifting when staring out the windscreen at the large and hypnotizing flakes being hurled at us. But we made it there and home. And the next morning we woke to my spoken wishes the evening before come true —  magical soft sunlight over a white, crisp and misty winter wonderland.

power-lines-in-snowy-haze

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I forgot about my coffee and threw my coat on, then spent over an hour walking around the farm as I aimed my lens in all directions. The air was so invigorating. Oh, and there is no way I could ever possibly describe in words the light that hits these buildings, and the mellow warmth in the tones reflected in spite of the cold. I feel like I could live in winter for an eternity and never grow tired of it. What drains me — and others, I’m sure — about winter these days are all those in-between days, when there is no snow yet no bare ground, either. Just a sea of grey slush. Makes me wish in the most deepest and secret parts of me that we lived even further north.

But, of course, I can’t move the farm. The entire village, even. Three hundred years of history and heritage isn’t something easily walked away from. And it’s just one of those cozy-feel day dreams, anyway. It wouldn’t even take a day to drive up to those vast, white rolling hills and mountains, and that is a blessing in itself. Not to mention our farming wouldn’t work up on the tundra. I suppose we could become reindeer farmers? Not sure Jay would buy into that, though. Haha

magical-hazy-glow-over-barn

soft-winter-light-on-wagon-house

I think it so very easily happens, no matter what we wish or dream about, that we begin taking it for granted. Especially when we struggle. Life is so full of ups and downs, and when we enter those valleys the dark can press us so heavily that we forget to look at the beauty of it, too. This is where I have been for some time now, wandering through a deep and gloomy haze, but for the past couple of days I sense an adjustment. I am getting ready to accept that this is where I am. Now. I am tired, exhausted even, and uninspired most of the time. I get sucked into a vortex together with all my better judgment, my plans and creative ideas, yet when I try to grab at even one thing it scuttles off into the fog and leaves me empty and crestfallen. The smallest setback leaves me standing at the end of the world, or makes me want to go to bed and sleep until it’s all over. In many situations it seems all that negativity I used to carry around, ghosts of old, and bad habits converge on me and I buckle under their attacks.

a-lonely-ladder

I looked at this ladder up against the window to what is to be our bedroom, and I thought to myself I didn’t even take it back after I cleaned the windows. It has been sitting there for a couple of months, now, if not more. But do you know what I also see? That old birch and how I love looking at it when I get my morning coffee. I have so often taken photos from that window, and that birch always makes every image so beautiful.

I think it’s one thing — a good thing — to be able to turn toward the good things, to count our blessings. But something I struggle with is to look those ghosts of mine in the eye and just let them be as they are. I often treat them like my worst enemies, like diseases I need to abolish, demons to be exorcised. Or simply just problems and flaws that need to be fixed. That, in turn, leads to frustration and anger which I bombard myself with. The harder I fight, the harder they fight, and maybe it isn’t so strange I find it a losing battle. Those ghosts are me. Some say kill them with kindness, and I also remember from my childhood days what my Dad used to read from the Bible about loving our enemies. I never was told and I never could have grasped in the first place, anyway, that we could be our very own worst enemy. But I have learned this in later years, so maybe I should try to stop exiling those wailing wraiths in the deepest recesses of my mind? Maybe I should treat them with kindness and compassion? After all, they are reflections of me at times when I felt neither. I could try and see the strength in their survival, their persistence and perseverance, in spite of the anger and hatred they have been and are victims of. At one point in my life they were a bigger part of me and they helped me survive, if maybe not in the best ways.

To love the most when it’s deserved the least could possibly be the greatest power there is, but the hardest. I think that is especially true when it comes to the self. I have so often wondered how do I love myself, anyway? What does it mean? I still can’t grasp an answer for that, but perhaps it’s a start to stop trying to divide myself, which seems to be exactly what I do when I look at those parts of myself as a problem to be fixed.

moon-among-old-buildings

the-moon-in-misty-magical-winter-wonderland

Oh, you know, I have started this next paragraph now several times over — each time with something different — because I keep zoning out when I look past my screen and into the snowfall outside the window. I want to tell you about what I have been up to these past couple of weeks, the ups and downs, my stress-induced ulcer and the deep doubts I have felt in pursuing this creative and artistic lifestyle, but as I mentioned further up I am lost in this vortex where I can’t grasp things. I start to write something and then forget what I was getting to. This is my way, but it’s so much more intense lately, and probably the very reason why I haven’t updated. But after that beautiful winter morning, and all the photos I took, I have little by little managed to summon motivation to write in spite of the time it takes.

swans-emigrating
At one moment, when I stood on the road behind our barn on that magical morning, I heard the call of swans. With the white haze and glow from the sun I had trouble pinpointing where they were, and when I finally got the focus of the lens to agree with me, they were so far away. I do remember thinking, though, that I’m not the only one out doing things in the last minute. I’m not actually sure when birds emigrate or if swans even do, but a couple of more groups like this one passed over my head while I was outside that day.

winter-birches

magical-glowing-light-behind-old-sauna

Another big motivator right now in writing this post is to give you all a sign of life, but also to tell you that I have decided to consciously take a Christmas holiday. I will be doing the same with Instagram — perhaps more importantly with Instagram, since lately I have felt such an obligation to post, and that wasn’t at all why I started sharing my photos.

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cozy-lamp-in-spruce-adorned-window

It’s so strange how when I write these big posts and get to the end I feel like I haven’t said what I really wanted to say. But, once again, it’s probably a case of that incredible inability right now to link things together. I can’t even make sense of the words I have written. I want to erase it all and just post the photos, but at the same time I don’t want to hide this part of me because it’s very possible this is just one of the seasons within me. One of the cycles which I go through from time to time. So instead of closing the doors and telling visitors she can’t see you right now, she’s not doing well, I just want to say this is me, too. I’m not sick. I’m not unwell. I’m just a little all over the place right now. I want to be okay with the way I am at this moment in time and let myself be just like this.

soft-light-on-timber-and-old-buildings

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And at last I want to thank all of you who have signed up to follow my blog. I don’t think I expected any more than just a few, even if I hoped. Either way it has really meant so much to me you found something here to capture your interest. I also enjoy so much to see your thoughts and reflections over what I have written, the photos I have shared, and it warms my heart that you are still here, even if I am absent for longer periods or in spite of my texts being a little messy — at times more so, haha. Even you who don’t comment and give me a like. Thank you. I look at the traffic to my blog and no matter how much or little reaches any of you, I am thankful for the opportunity to connect.

magical-soft-light-shining-into-the-yard

A big hug to all of you. Have the most amazing Christmas holidays, and I will see you in the new year. All my love. ❤

Caring For the Trees And Our Forests

Good morning my dear friends and readers! Thursdays and Fridays are my sleep-in days but when Jay’s alarm went off this morning I woke up and shot out of bed. I went straight to the stove and started making Lilli some porridge. She usually makes her own breakfast (she likes it that way, but always loves my porridge). When Jay came downstairs a couple of minutes later, he asked me — a little groggily — why I got out of bed. My body just jumped up. Haha And it really did. I remember a time when getting out of bed was a process that could take up to an hour or more, a time when I was not a morning person. A time when I greeted a cheerful good morning with a grumpy mumble. I can still be slow in the mornings, and sometimes it takes a while to find my voice — I do like it peaceful — but it’s still fun to think about how differently I started my days. It’s something I like to use as a positive reminder of how we are capable of change. Keep working at it but give it time. Lasting change does take time to be established.

beautiful-leaves-in-snowy-depth-of-field

Earlier this week I promised Jay I would go into the forest to continue clearing around the saplings I planted this summer. We were promised snow today, and if too much snow falls on the bowed down stalks having created a blanket over the baby trees, they will become crushed and suffocate with each new layer. I was supposed to do this weeks ago, but not even visiting the forest seemed to be able to reach through the chaos of stress and anxiety inside me then. I made it once but hardly got anything done. But now. Yesterday I filled a thermos with coffee, took Loke with me, and went. And I stayed over three hours until after my coffee break. I lost track of time as I ran around with the camera in my hands.

pine-sapling-in-snow

a-slightly-bigger-pine-sapling

On Tuesday on our way home from Rauma — I take Lilli there every Tuesday afternoon for her art school — we were met by snow flakes whirling down from a black sky just as we passed Lappi. It’s not unusual for the meteorologists to get the weather predictions wrong, so I was so relieved only a powdery layer fell during the night. And it’s so beautiful like that. That luminous white against the earthy tones of autumn’s last breath and the rich greens of pine and spruce is so serene.

me-contemplating-in-the-old-forest

I knew beforehand that if I start off with getting my camera out, I won’t be as efficient. So once I arrived at the clearcut area, I got my tools — a scythe and an ice hockey stick — and went straight to work. Some of the grass I just stepped on, and some of it I beat down with the hockey stick. When I used the scythe, the tougher stalks that weren’t cut through smacked me in the face. I lost count of how many times this happened, haha. It was so nice, though, to do this. It’s very hard, physical work, but I find that the more I exert myself in body, the more invigorated my mind becomes. This is why I used to go for several kilometer runs while I studied — I would run almost every day from Monday through Friday. It kept my mind sharp and clear. Then I discovered that taking long walks through nature did exactly the same. And running in nature… bliss.

I dreamed of doing a trail run through the High Coast during my time in Sweden, but had to stop running for a while when I got problems with one of my feet. The doctor put it down to strain on a joint in my big toe, probably due to faulty running technique. And possibly overdoing my exercising regime. After that long break while waiting for my toe to recover, I never fully got back to it. But it’s all right. I’m okay with that.

 

 

loke-sniffing-a-tree-stump

Loke stayed in the car while I worked, but after my break I got him out and he was so excited about all the smells he didn’t know where to turn. Apparently even a dead tree stump entices the senses! I can somewhat understand, though, even if my sense of smell isn’t as good as his. Not only the physical labour had an energising effect, but the scents. I didn’t so much stop to think about it while working. Once I engage in something, especially something like this — meaningful work for the benefit of future generations, personally caring for the health of the forest that I love — I can lose time and space. My dad is the same when he starts a project — he keeps going until he can’t keep upright. He even forgets to eat. I remember when I lived with him in later years of my life, and he would come into the kitchen like a dying man. I have to eat something, he would say as he pulled things out of the fridge with shaking hands. For many years afterwards he has said how much he appreciated my cooking, since I started cooking for the both of us and called him to the kitchen to eat. Another thing that has changed — we used to go head-to-head in the most intense debates and arguments when I was younger. The rest of the family would flee to another part of the house until we were done. For the longest time I held so many grudges against him, for being so harsh on me. But I was just as harsh back. Today I often find myself full of gratefulness I could let it go and instead cherish the good times.

 

I had no intention of going down memory lane, but the mind fills with trodden paths as the years go by and I often get lost wandering. It’s also much nicer when we can do so and look at the scenery in ways we didn’t before, don’t you think?

powdery-snow-on-a-forest-road

powdery-snow-in-old-forest

Every time I have come to these parts of our forests, I have wanted so badly to take photos and show it to you. Especially knowing some of them will be cut down in the years to come. Yesterday I shot over 200 photos, and with this new lens I felt I could finally capture the depth and soul in it. On the one hand it really saddens me when these old forests are harvested, but at the same time I know that when they are left for too long they die and rot. Such is the cycle of nature. Of course it is an aching sight to look at these clearings, but this is also why it truly means so much to me to be able to plant and nurture new trees. We take and we give back.

clearcut-area-against-old-forest-backdrop

So when I go out onto these raw and naked fields, even with stark reminders all around me of what once used to be, I do not feel that sadness. I feel joy and purpose in my task. For every sapling planted I drive a stick into the ground next to it. This way we are able to follow its growth. We will see if it has been eaten by deer or elk and plant a new one, just as we will also be able to track it in a sea of dead, bowing grass to ensure its survival over winter.

spruce-cone-on-snowy-road

As I write, clouds of steel are hurling snow down from the skies and I feel so bad about not finishing my work yesterday. I look out the window and as the day brightens I can see the world outside being covered in white. Only the taller sprouts and stalks left standing as nature goes into rest for the winter can be seen through the thickening blanket of snow. As much as I am looking forward to wandering through a winter wonderland, I can’t help hoping this too will melt so that I can return to finish what I started. I do take comfort in that I got over half of it done, and the worst areas, too, before taking my break.

coffee-break-in-the-forest

And I can’t forget the generosity of the forest, how it restored me. I think back on sitting there with Loke, having my coffee, and doesn’t it just taste the best when it comes out of a thermos? Maybe the peaceful quiet and crisp air adds to it, as well. After this photo was taken I grabbed my camera and tripod and ran into the old forest to stand among the pines and spruces decades upon decades old. I closed my eyes and just existed.

me-feeling-the-freedom-among-old-trees

I also think of that the glory in existing is to have been given the blessing of being born. Once upon a time a previous generation planted these very trees. Once upon a time Jay’s ancestors walked a raw field to place their very own little saplings into the earth — these very trees I can stand amongst and feel a part of this cycle. To know that somewhere down the line our descendants will see and feel this where yesterday existed but a field of little baby trees. In this I feel purpose, and in this I feel gratefulness.

Now I want to wish you a wonderful day. Much love. ❤

A Morning Date With the Wood Burner

Hello darlings! I just looked at the time and it’s incredible how quickly the hours just fly ahead when I’m consumed in a task. When I got up this morning our house was so cold because we were lazy this weekend and didn’t keep an eye on the wood burner. Last night Jay went to check it and confirmed the fire had gone out some time ago, and flipped the switch to heat up our water with electricity instead. We are lucky we aren’t in the dead of winter with twenty below zero. While it’s still on the plus side, although only a few degrees, it seems the water stays warm for longer, even after the fire has gone out.

Using electricity is something I find so wasteful when we have our own wood to burn, but I am also grateful we have that option — as much as it’s not meant as backup for our laziness. However it’s very useful on those harshest and most painfully cold days since burning wood simply isn’t enough. Of course, I am completely okay with putting on an extra layer of clothes, but not having the luxury of warm water on those days isn’t so nice. That said, we haven’t had a winter like that for a long, long time now.

ash-chamber-overflowing
The ash waste goes into this container, and a big screw is attached to the handle, with which we grind the waste through a pipe in the wall and into a big barrel on the other side.

As soon as the darkness lifted, I got dressed in my work clothes and went outside to deal with the fire. I really don’t like going out there when it’s till dark, at least not up on the loft. There are so many deep corners up there and the slightest wind whistles eerily through the old wood. I’m a grown woman but still afraid of the dark and so easily spooked it’s ridiculous. Some nights I have to wrap the bed cover around my legs — I have this strange fear of something touching my feet. I’ve read and heard that I’m not alone in that, though. Do any of you have fears like that?

The first thing I do when I get out there is fill up the container with wood chips. If the fire has gone out, I have to turn the feed off before or it will push wood into the burner, which fills up and gets clogged without a fire. It is only now that I am getting the hang of all the things involved in this. The amount of times Jay has had to answer the same questions!

checking-the-wood-burner-chamber

cleaning-the-wood-burner-chamber

I think the fire went out before we ran out of wood because the burner chamber was full of wood chips and big charred/melted lumps. I have no idea what happened, but I spent the longest time cleaning before I could even get started on building the fire. I had to reach in there with my hands and dig it all out.

a-pot-full-of-ash

The actual fire is in the end part of the pipe which feeds wood, and not inside the burner chamber. Took me some time before I understood this. Air also blows through this pipe, so before the fire is alive and steady, I have to disable the screw, otherwise it will just push whatever little glowing embers have ignited out into the burner chamber. And then I have to start all over.

the-wood-feed-lever

the-bolt-screw-nut-thingy

I gave up trying to find the appropriate names for these parts. In the first image are the two levers — one connected to the screw and one to the engine that drives it around. That bolt (or whatever it’s called) in the second image has a ball bearing inside it (I think). It keeps the two levers connected, and before the fire burns, it has to be removed so that the engine (or compressor?) only blows air through the feed pipe. Jay was in charge of this at first, but now that I can do it, I have to be the one to tighten this bolt, otherwise I can’t get it back off. He tightens it way too much. For my strength, at least, haha.

lighting-the-kindling

burning-milk-carton

We collect all burnable things from the household rubbish and use it for kindling. These milk cartons are perfect since I just open it up and fill it with paper and carton and whatever else, then light it up. After that I put it into the end of the feed pipe, where there has to be wood chips. Then I just wait until the wood a little further in is burning. This looks really cool. Like hundreds of tiny, tiny fireflies soaring out from the pipe and into the wood burner chamber. I tried to get a photo of it, but I wasn’t willing to risk the health of my camera. 😉 I did manage to catch a few flying dots of fire, though!

flying-burning-dots

So that was my morning. I think I spent almost two hours out there, and another couple of hours, almost, getting this written because I do not possess the skill of multitasking. The editing took no time at all. I barely did anything with them, and I think it’s thanks to my yummy (it is a good word!) new lens! ❤

me-and-my-beloved-coffee
Here I am, writing you lovely people and waiting for hot water so I can wash all the soot off, haha!

Now I will wish you all a wonderful week. I hope it brings many good things your way. I also want to thank you for all the lovely words you leave me, they really make me so happy and I love reading them. I will sit down and answer your comments a little later today. I’ll see you soon!