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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ❤