Regaining Balance

Hello, everyone. It’s been a while, now, and I get this feeling I update less and less often. After getting back from our holiday in Sweden, though, it was like something inside me deflated. A strange mixture of serene vibes and quiet emptiness.

Since our ferry home left early on Monday morning, and there is a 400-something kilometer drive from Ramvik to Stockholm, Lilli and I set out after midnight. My mother was crocheting a little bag for Lilli, and while she added the finishing touches, I took my camera out for some last light catching. The car was packed and we were ready to go, so I took a long, lazy stroll and stayed outside for a good hour.

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These old docks have all but crumbled into the depths of Ångermanälven, and they look so mystical in the dark.
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Lilli and I made a couple of stops along the way down to Stockholm. One to fill up the tank, and one to let Loke do his business before getting on the ferry. He simply refuses to go in those sand boxes they have placed on the walkways outside. Considering the amount of dogs leaving their waste in there, I don’t blame him.

We filled up fuel at this rest stop called Tönnebro. Next to it is a lake, and as we drove in I said to Lilli I just have to take a few photos first. So I did.

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I thought the gull would leave, but he watched me intently for a moment, then got back to gleaning his feathers.

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Absolutely gorgeous sunrise. And that mist. ❤ I would have taken more photos if we hadn’t been on a tight schedule.
My first full day home was back-to-business. I went into the fields to do some work and in the evening I took my camera outside but at first my heart just wasn’t in it. I actually had this ridiculous moment when setting up the tripod and mounting the camera; I didn’t tighten the screw and the camera fell forward, squashing my finger. It’s unbelievable how much they weigh! So I swore in such ways any elder would have told me black frogs were cascading out of my mouth. And then I plopped down on the forest floor and started crying. Not my brightest moment, I can tell you that. But I kept going–bleeding finger and all. I refused to accept defeat.

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First blueberries of the season!
That first day spent working, I decided I would go back to those fields out in the middle of the forest. Wild flowers of all kinds, and an abundance of them, lined the fields and the grassy roads, so yesterday before last light, Lilli and I took the 4WD for a spin. When we got there, someone had trimmed down the foliage and the visions I had for my photos were strewn out in dried and shriveled heaps all along the road. I was a little sad about it but I quickly got distracted by the beautiful shadows falling across the fields. And in the end I got many, many great shots.

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In the next two weeks to come we have some projects in the house that need finishing, so I may or may not be able to post very often still. But once that is done, I’ll be back with more regular updates, and lots of photos. Thank you so much for the support, everyone. And a happy, cozy Sunday to you all. ❤

 

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Trust And Fear

Writing about my time at Härnösand Folk High is actually something I wanted to do while I was still there. I created a blog here on WordPress back in 2015 but nothing more came out of it. Every time I sat down to write my head went empty and got crowded all at the same time. All my intentions were pushed aside by fears and worries over what you would think about me and my words. I also wondered what I could possibly have to offer in this vast sea of already established bloggers and inspirational people. Of course I am still curious about you, but not because I am convinced you will think I am a complete nutcase or that my words are insignificant.

I also held my visions and dreams locked inside. I thought that I couldn’t write about what has not taken shape yet, that I can’t share what I don’t understand before I myself know how it all fits together. To show you the process, my unfinished or unpolished creativity, was unthinkable. It had to be something worth sharing. But do you know what? How can we hope for the sun to reach us if we hide in the shadows? This is something that I learned to acknowledge, a belief I strengthened during my time at Härnösand Folk High. For every time I let go of my words and share my thoughts and dreams, I grow more confident, no matter how strange or abstract it may be. To share who I am and what I do, what I envision, gives it substance. Makes it real. Like the little baby pines I planted a few weeks ago. I took them out of the cardboard box they arrived in and set them down in the earth. There they stand now, among moss and lingonberry bushes, stumps and flowers, beneath the sky to be nurtured and grow into a forest once again.

In the same way I share my words and my photos, and I love doing it. I believe in it. And that is how it is supposed to be, don’t you think? This is how I believe I manage to fight against the nervousness. I took those first steps, got over the threshold, let go of my fears and made space for what I truly feel and think, deep down. What I truly want.

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I believe that to trust others we have to trust ourselves. I had no faith in my own abilities, and what I thought of myself was lower than low. When we trust someone we let them in, we open ourselves up and give them glimpses of our innermost selves. I did not think much of that person I was on the inside, I don’t think I even knew who that was, so to invite others to take part became very difficult.

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The experience I want to share with you today took place during an excursion. We created so called Interest Groups of various kinds which met up about once a week (sometimes every two weeks) during the first hour of school on Fridays. The Outdoor Group I joined did many things together–walking in snow shoes, skiing. To start the day like that was so wonderful, and it gave so much energy. In April last year (2016), we went to a place by the ocean just outside of Härnösand called Smitingen. There is a beach, summer cottages, some trails, places to grill, and cliffs. On these cliffs I went head to head with my fears.

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At first, I just enjoyed the adventure of being surrounded by nature, and these rocks were a comfortable challenge. I breathed deeply of the ocean air, savoured the scent of pine and resin mingling with that tangy breeze sweeping in with the waves. It wasn’t until later, as we reached the cliffs further up ahead, that my insecurities began to take over. And suddenly I stood there on the edge of a gaping crevice. Waves rushed in deep down below in the darkness, and in my eyes it looked like a death wish. At one point I even wondered if I would survive this or die and never see my family back in Finland again.

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The very core of a Folk High is acceptance and equality. The individual. To be met as you are, for who you are right then and to be given the time and be offered the tools you need to take the necessary steps. For you. Because you aren’t there for anyone else but yourself. To work through and take on the challenges you need to get to where you want to go. And to do this, we have to work together. Accept and respect each other. This is the heart, and this is the spirit of a Folk High.

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Out on those cliffs, with the waves crashing below, I met that deeply rooted fear and lacking trust. And then my teacher crossed over. Just like that. It’s easy, you can do this, he said. Do you trust me? A man jumping from cliff to cliff like he was born to do it. I told him no, but also that I didn’t really trust anyone. I kept looking over my shoulder to my friends, and argued there had to be another way around. Sure. Up. Which was even worse. I was literally petrified. But all throughout my hesitation, no one said a thing to make me feel I was being a coward or ridiculous. Nothing and no one but my own demons shouted at me.

I can’t do this. It won’t work. I’ll never get to the other side. I don’t want to. What a stupid idea to come out here–I’m slowing everyone down. They won’t catch me, they’ll lose their grip–I will lose my grip. I am such a pain in the ass.

My head was filled with impossibilities and my entire body responded according to my intentions, that I just couldn’t do it. I made a few half-hearted attempts but mostly I just clung to the sides and felt like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. My memory goes a little hazy here because once I made the decision to put my trust in the hands of others–my life, my body–I shut down all thought process, silenced the taunts and jabs of my ghostly persecutors, and gave myself over to the task at hand. The thing with fear is that the more you think about it, the worse it gets. Of course I wasn’t able to rationalise quite so well in the moment. But I am here, alive, and writing about it.

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Once across to the other side, breathless and trembling, I said aloud from now on, every time I think I can’t do something, I will think of this day. And I have. I will never, ever forget. Not only did I build a little trust that day, but I drowned a good dose of my fears and left them there in those freezing waters. And the feeling that came with breaking myself loose, taking the chance, accepting the help of another human being was so powerful. I didn’t reflect much on it in that day or the weeks afterwards. Not until much later. And after I shared this experience in front of the school those couple of weeks ago, my teacher came up to me and gave me a hug. He told me he didn’t know it had had such an impact on me. How could he, though? I didn’t talk about it openly, not like this, not with these words and these reflections. But I am so glad I finally did.

This was only one of the challenges I met and took on during those two years. However, for each step I took in spite of I can’t do this reverberating through my entire being, I put down a stone. Piece by piece I built a foundation of self-confidence and trust in myself, a trust in the world around me. I took note and recorded proof with which to contradict those voices which always managed to convince me I couldn’t do something. They still try, but I pay them much less mind now because I know differently. I am not a failure. Just as long as I keep trying, keep taking those steps.

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The teachers at this school had that special ability to find and help us focus on our strengths. For me, this was the key, since I already was so good at obsessing over my weaknesses. With this help I am now working on turning those weaknesses into strengths. After all, throughout my life I had adapted the habit of seeing so much from a negative point of view. Finding faults and ways to sabotage myself by staring myself blind at all that I couldn’t do, which resulted in one opportunity after another passing me by.

These days, instead of focusing on the possible failures and botched outcomes, I remind myself it will be an experience gained. I will be all the richer for having tried and failed than if I had done nothing. Success lies not within dodging failure but within embracing the opportunity and possibility to learn, gain, and grow. And we all start somewhere, don’t we? When we are little and learn to walk we fall on our butts, on our heads, bump into things and meet that fight with gravity and balance again and again. But in spite of the tears, the pain and frustration we never, ever give up. Failure is not a concept we conceive of at that stage in life. Just because we have that awareness now, why should we let that get in the way of passion and want, or make us shy away from dreams and visions?

I know that some days are tougher than others. Defeat hits us harder, our confidence falters, we see more failure than progress. What I have found is to at such times accept it and let it be so. What I have come to believe is that we have seasons within us just like the nature around us. For me, personally, spring is my toughest time. When everything seems to come to a stand-still, spring might even throw in the reverse. Winter returns and paints the world white, and those buds on the trees cannot seem to reach through to the sunlight, nor be coaxed by the birdsong. But the seasons change, every single year the world bursts into colour sooner or later. As do we. So to get to know ourselves and feel those seasons within, be kinder to ourselves, more understanding and have patience is I believe so very important.

I want to thank you so much for reading and joining me through this experience. If you want to share any of your own experiences that have in one way or another had an impact on your life, I would love to hear about it. For now, I wish you all a wonderful Friday, and a happy Midsummer Eve! ❤

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Be Louder Than Your Fears: An Introduction

Be louder than your fears. You may have noticed I have this in the header section of my blog. I also have it with me these days in the back of my mind. On the days I have to step out on the battlefield to challenge myself it is my banderole. It is the beat of the drum as I stride forward, head held high and knees shaking. Engraved on my heart too because no shield and no armor is of any use if I want to change. I have to let those challenges hit me so I can feel them, receive them, understand them.

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Fear. I sit here and think about it, how it once ruled my entire life. Fear doesn’t seem to come alone, though. It isn’t just fear; it is a lack of belief in one’s own abilities. Not much sense of self. The strange need for confirmation and praise from others yet never, ever believing it. No matter how many compliments or how much encouragement I got, the voices and words of criticism and degradation I had ever heard in my life won. One phrase I seemed to love to use once, the one phrase that resonated all through me was you are such a fraud. I used to be mindful of and so very careful with every single word I spoke because sooner or later this new cheerleader or supporter of mine would find out how very wrong he or she was about me. One day soon, he or she would see me for what I really was. A fraud. A poor, pathetic excuse for a human being. Harsh? Yes. But that is how I truly saw myself.

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Trust. I didn’t trust anyone. But how could I? I was wholly convinced anyone and everyone I ever came across would betray me. And I never even gave them a chance to prove me wrong. I was always right. It was easier that way–better that way. At least I wouldn’t be disappointed. Which, funnily, I always ended up feeling anyway.

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Hope. The crushing weight of hope lost. Yet it never died. Deep down, some part of me never, ever gave up hope. Hope is an odd thing, because no matter how hopeless things seemed, how hopeless I felt–hope was the glowing ember that always ignited and kept me going. I actually used to hate that feeling before things started to turn. With that sense of self-irony I would tell myself oh, what the hell, I love failure and rejection anyway, so why not give it another try? What could be more fun than being totally crushed? The more the merrier! I also used to think it was my stubbornness, sometimes I still might. I remember comparing that sense of keep going as a cogwheel mechanism deep, deep down that forged ahead on the absolutely worst days while I was being dragged behind on a line. I was on the ground, got pulled across gravel and dust and through muddy swamps. It never, ever stopped.

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I am sharing this image in honour of some personal inspirations of hope: great Swedish illustrators from times past, like Elsa Beskow and John Bauer, and the accompanying stories; my grandmothers who enriched my childhood with the enchanting fairy and folk tales of old; and for Jonna Jinton who embodies hope and creates art with soul, showing us magic and dreams truly can be the stuff of our world.

So how did it all change? How did I turn it around? These are questions I have asked myself a lot. During my last weeks at Härnösand Folk High, I spent so much time trying to go through my past few years to pin point the pivotal moment. I couldn’t. I still can’t. And, I think, that is because that magical moment doesn’t exist. Rather, the magic lies within a formula of many different moments. A sequence of moments that lead me through the haze until the day I realised I could see clearer. I think of it as the mist on a cool morning after a previously hot, baking day. How do you define the single moment in which it dissipates? I didn’t even know the mist was lifting, and so I didn’t think to keep an eye on the process. Until I noticed I could see across the distance.

This is where my journals have become so important. And they confirm my belief that it is a formula. A series of moments–motions–that lead to insight. It is all a process, and I take it all–one day at a time. One step at a time.

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I have already mentioned I went back to Sweden a couple of weeks ago to accept a stipend. The gesture moved me so deeply, like a confirmation of all the challenges I have met, all the obstacles I have overcome in the past few years. After receiving the message about the stipend, I thought that now I want to write about this. I had wanted and meant to for quite some time, but this gave me that last push. It also inspired me to write this and the next post in Swedish, too. Since about the age of eighteen it feels like I have travelled all over this planet, and because of that I seem to have become more comfortable with English than my own mother tongue. But at the Folk High I received so much encouragement and support writing in Swedish that I wanted to do it also as a gesture of how grateful I am. And this is exactly what Härnösand Folk High is about–an atmosphere of acceptance and equality. Not even always through spoken words. It is more like walking into open arms and being embraced. You are surrounded by all that which is needed for you to find your own inner voice and to strengthen it.

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I wrote these posts before I left for Sweden, and I had intended on posting them back then, minus the part of me receiving a stipend, since I was to keep it secret until that last day of school and the ceremony. I never did, though. And then I thought I would post it after, which would give me a chance to add some photos from the school. But I forgot. I took a few photos at the very start but then I got lost in the joy of being among all those people again, meeting my teachers and fellow students who still had a semester or another year left. I did however step up in front of the entire school to share the very moment I will share here, too, in the next post. One of many, many moments I got to experience during my time at Härnösand Folk High. One of those many opportunities I was given and accepted to challenge my fears–be louder than my fears.

So with some photos from that day, and a few more words, I will in the next post tell you about a day I got to challenge both my fear of heights and my fear of trusting others. Meanwhile, I would love to hear about any experience or challenge you have had or met which has had an impact on your life. After my time at Härnösand Folk High my belief is stronger than ever that we can learn so much from each other. Even from that which may seem small to us. Some of us go through life and apply these valuable lessons we have picked up and learned along our journeys even without thinking much about it, but to someone else it could be quite the inspiration. ❤

 

A Challenge And Creative Exposure

Good morning, everyone! Once again I am here in the early hours of the morning with my eyes wide open. These summer nights really do mess up the inner clock, and it’s the same thing every year. Vibrant days, bright nights. It is like an endless kaleidoscope of shifting colours and lights. Mornings are like a dreamy haze, but I keep waiting for the mist which has yet to grace us with its mystical presence. The days are covered in a white film which leaves you blind as you step back inside, if only for a few seconds. And the evenings–these evenings simply glow.

Today I decided to practice getting more comfortable in front of the camera. I am too aware of that it’s there and end up thinking too much of what I want it to look like when I should just let go and feel. Sometimes that shows in my photos, and other times not. So out of the two hundred photos I took of myself today I have selected only a few.

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This isn’t actually so different from how nervous I was before I had to get up and do a presentation in front of the class back in school. I remember one of my teachers from Härnösand Folk High. Two other classmates and I had been on a seminar in Stockholm, and when we got back we were supposed to talk about our trip and the seminar in front of the class. I told my teacher about how I kept freaking out, I had no idea what to say, and I felt physically ill. He gave me some incredible advice that day which I have not forgotten since. He said (not in these exact words, perhaps): No one but you know what you are going to say, so no one will know if you mess up. And no one else but you can speak for you and how you perceive things.

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In the end it all came down to being myself–daring to be myself. Not what I imagined was expected of me, not what I thought others wanted to hear. Just me and my words and my own experiences. Of course, afterwards I used to obsess excessively over what I had said and how that might have come across. Did I offend anyone? Did I say something that might have sounded odd or could have been perceived badly? Did I say too little? Too much? Did I sound awkward? Admittedly, that little voice of insecurity still pops up at times. These days, however, I am better equipped to let that voice be, to challenge its convictions. Also, I remind myself that we are billions of people on this planet–an unimaginably big place vibrant with cultures and beliefs, perceptions and opinions. We will always run into those who have lived very different lives than us, that are shaped by their own experiences and I believe more or less each and every one of us have our own truth. We are all on a journey to explore that truth. I see it the way I look at light and shadows falling across a rock on the ground. If I stand where the light shines, I only see that angle. I know a shadow falls behind the rock, but unless I move to look I cannot possibly know what is in the shade. And every movement around that rock will give me a different view. If I took a photo for every step it would show something new.

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I believe it is just as simple with people. Simple, but I won’t claim it’s easy, because it’s not. I have chosen, though, to in the best of my ability always strive for acceptance of all these truths, whether I know them or understand them or don’t. And to remember I gain nothing from getting anxious or worried about what others may or may not think. And most importantly, different does not equal wrong, it is not its synonym. Different is just different.

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All throughout my time at Härnösand Folk High I challenged that voice–the many different voices of old perceptions, narrowed and bound. I stretched my limits. Sometimes I tried too hard, went too fast and was too eager when I noticed what a kick it was to break free. That, yes, I can do this. But I also had moments when I wanted to pull back into my safe cocoon. I did, too–in conjunction with that presentation of the seminar I was suffering from anemia, so it was easy to accept a sickness leave. I was gone from school for three weeks. I had taken those firsts steps, though, and suddenly sitting alone in my apartment and watching Netflix didn’t give me the escape I thought I had longed for, and I kept berating myself. I, who was diagnosed with social phobia, wanted to be back among my new classmates and teachers, even if I didn’t really know any of them yet. As I have come to wonder now later on is that perhaps I didn’t ever have a phobia, rather I was constantly running on empty by not knowing how to listen to my own needs. I need my own time, I know this now, but what I was missing, what I didn’t understand, was the balance between the two. What I didn’t know how to was to say no, to say I would rather sit at home today and read or write or whatever else I enjoyed doing on my own.

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So. I am now going to challenge myself in front of my own camera. For a while now I have had some ideas for photo art projects. They came to me when I shot a severely underexposed photo, and while trying to fix it in Lightroom it ended up looking more like a painting than a photograph. It gave me the same feeling as the illustrations in the children’s books my grandmother used to have. Artists such as John Bauer and Elsa Beskow. Their pictures are so special. So magical. So imaginative and creative–the way only children’s stories and fairy tales can be. My grandmother also passed away in December last year which hit me incredibly hard, so I kind of want to do it partly to celebrate and honour all the ways she enriched my childhood. I miss her so much my heart can barely take it when I think too long about it.

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Another part is that I feel so immensely inspired and encouraged to keep following this endeavour by a wonderful Swedish artist, blogger and photographer who, amazingly, actually did an interpretation of a John Bauer illustration some years ago. I remember the first time I saw it, about two years ago now–my jaw dropped. I think I wrote a comment on how it made me think of this particular John Bauer picture–and later on I read that she, too, loves his art. And the story behind that image she created is just mindblowing. I can’t find words to describe how I felt. It transcends what I accept as reality–it is the kind of experience that makes you truly wonder how this universe works beyond what science can explain. Her name is Jonna Jinton, and if you haven’t already heard of her then I cannot urge you enough to visit her blog and have a look at her art.

It is one thing to do a yoga-ballet pose on top of a mountain, facing away from the camera, but another to convey a feeling that matches the visions I have for the art I want to create. It will require emotion and immersion, dedication and battling a lot of frustration and failures as I go along, I am sure. I have been afraid to do this, and I have thought that I should get better at photography first, better at editing and learn more about Photoshop before I even share my ideas. But earlier today as I wrote in my journal, I asked myself isn’t the process the very thing I wanted to share? The very reason I started the blog was because I figured out that waiting for the right time results in nothing but waiting.

So, once gain I will say that here I am, then. I am just going to go for it. And, as always, thank you so much for reading. It really means so much to me. ❤

 

A Personal Journey

Hello, everyone! I know I dropped off the radar but it seems like I have been in constant motion since Wednesday morning and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write until now. The past few days have been amazing and I have been longing to get a moment to share them with you.

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In my mother’s living room.
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A gift.

Last week I got a message from the education coordinator at Härnösand’s Folk High in Sweden, where I studied for two years–two incredible years which came to play a big part in the personal journey I began back in 2014. I have had plenty of time now to land and process all the emotions and impressions from the past few days–and since I got her message–but even as I write I am overwhelmed anew. A tangle of happiness, wonder, and such a deep thankfulness it feels like I might lift off the ground. I cannot tell you how many times I have been on the verge of tears or how many words were choked by the emotion that provoked them.

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View from old route E4/“Riksväg 90”.

As I write, I sit in my father’s kitchen, a cup of coffee beside me, and with a view of the High Coast bridge outside our window. It is the most comfy place and I am so easily lost in thought and contemplation. Even though I feel and know the changes I have gone through, even though family, friends, and teachers have seen and confirmed them, I am still kind of gobsmacked that it got me elected for a stipend. A diploma with words of my accomplishments along this journey rests in my suitcase now, ready to travel back home to Finland to be framed. Honestly, I am going to put it on my wall. I both can and can’t believe it, do you know what I mean?

You know, I almost didn’t go. After I was contacted I ran out the door and across the farm to where my partner was in the middle of cleaning our machines. I had to shout over the rumble of the compressor. I told him about the invitation back to Härnösand Folk High and he reminded me of the timing belt that needs changing before any major trips should be made with the car. And there just wasn’t enough time to get the car into the workshop before I would have had to leave. The HFS education coordinator told me I could join them over Skype, so either way I would be with them throughout the event. And so I told her I couldn’t come.

My partner noticed how crestfallen I was, and I kept trying to come up with any alternative or solution to make the trip anyway. He told me you’ll regret it if you don’t go. I don’t believe in regrets, but I knew already on the inside that I hadn’t accepted I can’t be there. I guess I needed to hear that I could risk the fate of the timing belt–and the engine–take the chance. Sometimes, no matter how far you have come to trust in that inner voice, sometimes that little extra push is needed. So I went, and the car and I had a smooth and uneventful trip, all the way from Finland to Sweden.

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I think once again on those words the speaker presenting the stipends gave, how important it is to find your own voice. For so long I lived with those borrowed voices I had collected over the years, and for so long I grew to resent the people behind those voices every single time I met failure and disappointment. So finding my own voice wasn’t only important for me and my own well-being and growth, but I have finally been able to let go of the world of weight my grudges encumbered me with. I can now with complete honesty say I do not feel contempt for anyone, no matter who they are or what they do. We are all on a journey–our very own path to find and establish that inner voice, find our place in this world. Sometimes we walk alone, and sometimes we walk alongside others. When my own voice is strong and clear, and the trust in myself sincere, I have come to see I hear and find it in me to understand and listen to others in ways I never could before.

For this, and for all the other challenges and opportunities to meet them I was given during my time at Härnösand Folk High, and to all the wonderful and amazing people I got to meet–I will be forever grateful. So this is not the end of a journey, it is only the beginning. And I eagerly and with more surety and confidence than ever take my next steps.

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At the top of Skule mountain in the High Coast, Sweden. A sneak peek of the many more photos to come from that evening. 😉

As always, thank you so much for reading and I wish you all a cozy Sunday and a great week ahead. See you soon!

Gratefulness

Hello, everyone! I really hope you are having as great weather as we are having right now. The days are surely growing lighter and longer, which wakes me up even before the alarm goes off, but I know I will catch up on those missed hours at some point. What I would miss if I dragged in bed is watching the world burst with spring’s vibrant colours as sunrise kisses each and every leaf and bud on its way up into the sky. Even the still-yellow grass from last season seems alive among the new seedlings in this light.

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And the field work is done! The other day I joined for the first time the yearly tradition of picking rocks. We go out with Fergu (the Massey Ferguson–my partner insisted I stop calling it Fergie, hah). Lilli and I sat on the trailer as we went to our destination. During harrowing and cultivating a few of our fields turn up rocks. Every year it’s the same. You would think that after all these generations, they would have disappeared, but still they keep popping out of the earth. Mostly small enough not to damage the harvester, but some are quite huge. Guess what, though? They will do wonderfully for my gardening projects!

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As I sat there in the back of the trailer with all the rocks we had collected, on our way home through the village, I was filled with an overwhelming happiness. Gratefulness. We walked in the foyer and stripped off our dusty clothes–it was everywhere, inside the clothes and in my mouth. I had to get cleaned up to go to shop and get milk, and my partner told me that Lilli will be coming along to pick out a reward.

Jokingly, my partner went on to say, “And this is when you ask what your reward will be.”

My reward?

“Well,” I said. “My reward is to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee.” Honestly, isn’t coffee just so good when your very bones are tired from hard work? My partner had to admit he agrees with that, too.

Gratefulness. This is my other reward. To be filled with it so completely.

Picking rocks and crunching on dust might not seem like much to be happy about, right? Such a trivial and even unpleasant thing–how is it anything to be grateful for? I am grateful because I get to spend time with my family while working. I get to crawl across the earth with a camera in my hands. All around me rustle baby leaves of spring, streams purl beneath the feet of birch, pine and fir. And Fergu rumbles along at a lazy pace as my partner and Lilli converse about history. I don’t notice the dust until the day slows its breaths because I am exactly where I want to be. And I am once more grateful I worked so hard to find a way to open my eyes and see I have been for years.

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Do you or have you ever felt like you are chasing happiness and it always seems to be right out of your reach? There is one or more things you feel you need to achieve before you can be truly happy? I felt like that. If only I had that, if only I could get to there, then–then and only then will I be happy. Then I will be able to enjoy things, do the things I really want to do.

What I have found is that it wasn’t until I began to look for the good things in my life, counted the achievements I had made–however small or insignificant–instead of looking for shortcomings and failures that happiness found me. And once I did, I spent less and less time filling my mind and my days with struggle. Of course the struggle doesn’t magically vanish, but I realised I have a choice. Either I can sit by the window and wish for all the things out of my immediate control, or I can reach for whatever is within my grasp. By doing so, I put myself in motion–and I can promise you, that motion will lead you to anywhere you want to go. Just one step at a time, one grab for something within your reach. One day, those steps will turn into a thousand steps, then tens of thousands.

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My Lilli’s journey has only just begun. Maybe one day she will sit there, teaching our grandkids to steer Fergu?

I have this book, which is one of the many things that have helped me turn my life around. In How To Stop Worrying And Start Living, Dale Carnegie mentions a story he was told once, and I am only loosely quoting, but the story goes: “Only one grain of sand can pass through the hourglass at one time. No matter what you or I do, you cannot make more than that one little grain go through at any given moment.”

Simple? Yes. Easy? No. But:

“You and I and everyone else are like this hourglass.”

Lastly, I am grateful for that first post I made here on WordPress. That I took the first step and joined this blogging community. I am still so green, but let me tell you I love being here and sharing my journey with you, as well getting to share in yours.

Until next time. See you soon!

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Healing, Soothing Sunshine

When I went to bed last night I basically ordered myself to stay in bed today. Time to get better, time to let my body recuperate. Morning came… and I tried. I really, honestly did. How could I stay in bed though when every single nerve ending was jittery with energy? Isn’t that a strange feeling? Have you experienced that? You know you’re sick, you feel it in your nose, in your throat, in your chest and joints. Yet, somehow, you are on your way out the door and into glorious sunshine.

And it didn’t end there. I raked one-quarter of the yard (which, granted, took me a few hours, because it’s a huge yard), cleaning up leaves left from autumn and a ridiculous amount of Loke’s poop.

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I stepped in it! (Who wants to show off dog poop, right? Well, me.)

I went outside an hour before lunch time, and then again just past 3 p.m., after taking my daughter to a friend’s place. I stayed there until I was done with my quarter. Almost till 6 p.m. Madness, right? My nose was running the entire time, but crazy as it seems, I feel so much better. All that fresh air, probably hundreds of sweeping movements with that rake, and a little play time with Loke in the pile I gathered–was the best medicine.

My guess is I will sleep like a log tonight. But first–more photos. I wish you all a lovely day (or evening/morning, depending on where in the world you are).

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I kept getting weird grid marks when I edited, so after playing around with all kinds of settings, I got myself an oil painting. It looks pretty neat.
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When I reached down to gather two armfuls of leaves Loke looked so hopeful that I couldn’t resist. I ended up spreading it out pretty nicely and had to rake it back in again, but Loke loved it.

 

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And the leaves loved my jumper. So do I. (Later this evening my daughter found leaves in my hair. Whoops?)

 

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Lots and lots of thank you kisses from an overjoyed dog.
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And that’s it. See you tomorrow, beautiful gardening gloves, you.

The Seasons Within

Hi, everyone. Are you also looking outside and wondering what is happening with the weather? On this farm the weather is really important. We have temperature and precipitation measuring devices all over the place and apps in our phones. It’s a topic on the lips of my partner and his father every day. It is strange, though, how we go through all the seasons in one day, sometimes even within the span of a couple of hours. Or less! And to top it off, I have gone and caught the flu. My partner and daughter had it last week. But it’s good that we take turns, so there is at least one functional person keeping this house running!

I would like to share with you some thoughts I had last night, when I just couldn’t go to sleep, regardless of being dead-tired and feverish. I got out of bed and fetched my journal to empty my mind (and it worked! Yay!). But this morning I continued thinking about it. Growth. Ambition. Getting things done according to plan. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out, does it? No matter how hard we try, in spite of our best intentions and planning. I was frustrated that I couldn’t get my next instalment of My Love For The High Coast published. I had written in my Editorial Calendar that I will publish one piece from the series every week, and one week had passed since the last one. But my mind and body craved bed and sleep and the harder I fought the sicker I felt. So I wrote in my journal and came to the conclusion that even though I would like to think that I can be at peace with things and accept them as they come, as they are, I still continue pushing myself. Too hard. Way too hard.

I tend to come to a stand-still, which is something I am sure we all feel from time to time. Nothing happens. We’re not necessarily taking a step backwards, but we’re not going forward, either. Kind of like with the weather right now. It’s spring, but the world is yellowed and gray. We have sown the first seeds of the year but they won’t grow when temperatures drop below zero at night.

All these things spun around in my mind, and I then wrote this is also part of the process. This is also the journey. Maybe this is what matters right now? The seemingly insignificant. The stand-still.

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All that grows has stages of appearing still, not moving. At those times, deeper processes are at work, though. The mysteries and hidden wonders of life. And in these moments, perhaps we are to remain as we are? Take a breath. Not even reflect. Just be and watch.

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Because that which is not visible or even discernible needs energy, too. And if I keep digging, keep pushing, I disrupt the balance. The balance of nature, which I am a part of. The seasons within us and around us. I can’t affect the weather, but I can try to understand. And I thought about the chaotic fluctuations between warmth and cold, snow and rain. Maybe nature is finding its balance, stabilising itself. And maybe that is why I find this time of the year most taxing, usually suffering depression and anemia and having to take a ton of iron and other supplements to raise my blood levels. This year especially–I can’t remember having dropped this low. Not in this way. Just a month ago I had a scare; I felt nothing and the emptiness nearly took my breath away. I was pale as snow, washed out gray and ashen!

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So maybe we are all finding our balance right now, thawing out of winter. Spring will arrive, just as surely as that awful moment of nothingness passed. A warm breeze will sweep across our fields, the earth will soak up the sun, regain its energies. One day soon we will wake up to buds on the trees, and the world will burst with those first vibrant sprouts. Nature will shine. I will shine.

It’s all a process–it’s another season of life. And I’m a part of it.

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Among Fields And Smiling Finns

Yet another weekend has passed and we are gearing up for another week. A busy week. For farmers there is no such thing as weekend, though, and Nine-To-Five doesn’t exist. The field work has commenced so we are looking at a very full-specked stretch ahead of us. For now, though, may tractors, their drivers and the harrowed fields rest for a few hours before it’s time to go again. Unless that rain we’ve been promised comes pattering down.

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Looking out earlier as my partner’s father was out there, I remembered how after sowing birds come flocking. And I’m not talking a few–literally tons. Okay, maybe not tons, but a lot. Seagulls. We don’t really see them around, and in spite of being in the Land Of A Thousand Lakes, we do not have any major ones closeby. But that doesn’t matter; once those seeds are in the ground those gulls somehow find their way here. This year I will be sure to have my camera ready!

Tonight, however, I am readying my camera for something else entirely. While thinking ahead of the week to come, and what opportunities to grab to practice my photography, it suddenly hit me. Sammallahdenmäki (Moss Cove Hill). All the years I have lived here and I have completely forgotten we have a prehistoric archeological World Heritage site, practically in our local backwoods. It’s the perfect spot for light hiking and an afternoon picnic with my daughter. So once that sun peeks out again, we are off on a little adventure.

What about you? What does your week look like?

I will leave you with a photograph I played around with of my special guy–he came back from parking the tractors for the night as I was trying to catch the sunset. For now, I wish you all a wonderful Sunday evening and a great week.

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I call it “The Smiling Finn” – a rare but oh-so-charming sight to behold.

Re-channel Focus And Gain Inspiration

In my last post I wrote about perception and about getting distance in order to gain insight and appreciation for what you do, in fact, have. In light of that and the odd sense of emptiness that can come after you feel you have accomplished something you set out to do, I am going to focus on my life today in this post.

After I published Shaped By Thousands Of Years I thought “Okay, which adventure do I go for next?” I browsed some photos, visited some blogs and sites, and didn’t really do much else that evening. Although I did get rather excited when someone tweeted my post on Twitter, then freaked out because, well, I wanted to thank the person and I get anxious when I get eager. But I won’t go into that now. The next morning after Loke’s morning round, I took a big cup of coffee and sat down in the home office to look at my Google Calendar (which was a suggested goal to set up that I snatched off Daily Post’s newbie blogger advice page).

As I sat there staring at my schedule I felt totally scatter-brained. Where do I even begin? What do I do? I had my instructions right in front of me, all the photos picked out for several posts, a journal full of material and inspiration from the past two years, but it didn’t matter. I was simply stuck. And thoroughly bummed out because I couldn’t find the cable for my DSLR to transfer some photos from last winter. I had to have what I didn’t have. Typical.

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But I got the winter tyres changed, so cheers!

Glancing at my journal now for that day, I see a lone word on one line shouting at me in All-Caps: FAIL. The lines that follow consist of me writing myself back to sanity, focus and reality. And before I went to bed that night, after admitting it’s all right that I didn’t get any work done on my blog, I wrote myself a goal for the following morning. I would get my butt out of bed one hour early, before the rest of the clan, and take Loke and my camera outside, get a bunch of photos, but also enjoy the moment for what it is.

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Despite a crisp couple of degrees above zero it was a gorgeous morning; we stayed in the early hour sunshine for almost an hour before I went back inside to make some coffee. (I do love my coffee, a little too much, perhaps.) Later that day I went into Rauma, a very charming town that I will have to show you at some point. Old Rauma specifically, which is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

While in town I got myself a replacement cable and later that evening I found the old one. I laughed. You think you have looked everywhere and then you haven’t. Either way I could finally get my photos transferred, plus the ones I took yesterday morning.

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Loke hears rustling in the grass. A field mouse?

And yesterday evening I went outside to take more photos, because I was so excited about my remote shutter that I have been wanting to get for ages.

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Getting outside and staying there with my best buddy and my camera got me some of that distance I needed to rechannel my focus and gain inspiration. So once again this morning I went outside, but a little further. Down to the river that runs at the edge of our fields to the (I think) west. I have been there before but that was almost three years ago, when I was juggling studies, thirty-hour work weeks, and taking care of a huge house while keeping myself together in-between therapy sessions to treat my social phobia, panic disorder, PTSD. Now I came in search of the tranquility I remember finding there, and found it. That and so much more.

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One hour and a few dozen photos later, Loke and I wandered through the forest and walked home. On our way up the back road I stopped to take some more photos but eventually made it home. I got my customary cup of coffee and went a little crazy with the edits, thus the wild colors. I have no idea what I am doing but there is so much cool stuff you can do with RAW format. I love it.

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The field work is about to commence and soon I’ll get to spend my afternoons here, bouncing around in the seat of an old tractor.

Even though I am no longer in a work place, nor in school with times to keep and assignment deadlines to meet, I have plenty of things that fill up my day. And all the opportunities in the world, I just have to reach out and take them. Most days I believe it, most days I reach for it, but some days are more challenging than others when it comes to staying focused and sticking to my goals. We tend to reach for more and much further than what we can possibly achieve in one moment, let alone a day or a year. I wrote in my journal two years ago that all the things that last take time. I’m not sure what I meant by that at the time; judging by some other things I wrote in that entry I get the feeling I was frustrated with myself because I kept failing at something (and possibly half asleep because some sentences truly don’t make sense). But looking at it now, I see something that means sustainable results come after continuous effort has been made, again and again, over a greater period of time. Like me finally finishing my eligibility for university studies, at the age of 36. After years of trying and failing because I gave up and didn’t stick with it. But this time I did, by not accepting that voice that told me I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t clever enough, I wasn’t good enough. Instead of convincing myself I can’t do this I kept telling myself I can do this. I will do this.

So today I want to tell you that it feels so damn good to stand at the edge of these fields and remember how hard I worked to get here. Right here. I made it. And I am home.