Those Little Things

Good afternoon my dear friends and readers!

I remember when I first arrived in Finland, to this farm and when Jay’s parents lived in this house. Some ten years ago now. One of those things that stood out mostly was how they received guests and the entire machinery around having people over for dinner or a special occasion. So very different from my own parents and how I grew up.

One room in this house was specifically designated to the purpose of guests, only, and on all other days the room stood untouched, unvisited. The furniture were from previous generations — either crafted by those who had lived here before, or bought to match that era. I think jugend would be the closest to accurate style of these tables, chairs and cabinets. Lamps and carpets.

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The table and chairs are new, but I have kept that cabinet because it’s just so beautiful. I would have kept the matching table and chairs if it had only had capacity for more than four people. Maybe one day I’ll figure out a way to rebuild or extend it, somehow. 🙂

That room I am talking about is through the doorway you can see to the left, and no longer in use. It has turned into an “anxiety object” — a corner of this house into which we over the past few years have shoved furniture, boxes and just stuff every time we have done renovations or cleaned. Panic cleaned, as I would like to call it. Jay nor I are the tidiest people, and so every single time we have guests over we run around like mad to get the house in order. I have tried to then keep it that way, but over time it slowly falls into oblivion, and then it’s always the same thing the next time we invite people.

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Jay’s mother would get everything done beforehand. The food, the pies, cakes and pastries, and all the cleaning. On the day, she would heat up what was to be served warm, and all she had to do was get herself ready and set the table. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? I remember the first time I wanted to host Christmas Eve here and I still had things left to cook when the guests arrived! Haha. I can laugh at it now, but back then I was a wreck and it didn’t help when Jay pointed out how his mother had always done it.

We have had some time to practice now, though, and last Thursday, when Lilli’s godparents and their son were to come over, all was ready twenty minutes before the set time of their arrival. I could sit peacefully on a stool and watch the oven. I said to Jay well, what do you know? We’re getting better at this! I did however go into town to buy the cake and buns to go with the coffee this time. I always bake and cook myself otherwise, but this time I decided not to — I simply felt I didn’t have the time.

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Look how tidy it is! ❤

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Even that anxiety, that painful knot in my stomach that usually appears when I feel those expectations of how to conduct myself, how to be social and a good hostess barely bothered me. Of course I know these people well, but that hasn’t made much of a difference in the past. Either way I am honestly so happy about this achievement, which I really feel it is, and in light of how down I have felt lately, I wanted to share some of this happiness and accomplishment with you. I am still so grateful and aware of the wonderful support you have given me, and even if I have had a couple of late nights since last I wrote, I am on track toward catching up on my rest.

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Another thing I have wanted to do for a while now is to take the camera with me when I refill the wood chips that we use to heat up the house and water. The thing is, though, that for one, I am so scared of getting dust onto the camera sensor again, and a lot of it flies around up on the loft when I shovel all that wood around. Another is that my camera isn’t very good at handling higher ISO’s, which are needed due to the dim lighting. The photos turn out grainy, and my perfectionistic tendencies cringe and squirm when I look at the results. It’s actually the same when I take photos inside the house, but lately I have consciously made an effort to try to let it go. It’s so silly that I leave my camera sitting just because a little graininess scares me. And I can still practice so many other aspects of photography.

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In the loft, the hatch to the shaft. At the bottom is a big screw that feeds the wood chips through an iron pipe and into the wood burner.

So the other day I took my camera with me but completely forgot to take my tripod, and lazy as I was, I just placed the camera on whatever surface I could find, resulting in a very, very dirty camera body and shoulder strap. I set the timer and let it snap multiple shots as I worked.

Now that the temperatures are dropping we will need to go out there more often, and when it’s really cold — fifteen to twenty below zero or lower — we need to refill more than once a day. Luckily we aren’t there just yet, and once every other day or two days is enough.

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wood-burner

The snow we had a few days ago is now completely gone, but that’s a good thing since I have some work in the forest. Some of you might remember I planted trees earlier this year, and since then a lot of grass and other vegetation has grown around and over them. So I need to go back to clear it away before the heavy snow arrives.

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I hope you’ve all had a great weekend and I wish you a good start on next week. Much love. ❤

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Lost And Found Within

Earlier this week I went for a drive into the forests around Lappi town again. My time was limited, and my body ached with weariness from the flu that finally had broken out. I knew it was coming since I had felt so incredibly exhausted without being able to really figure out why. In spite of that, I pulled on a dress and wrapped myself in a coat and my newly finished scarf before heading out.

When I started this post I meant only to show you some photos from that walk through the forest, but it turned into something entirely different. With all these words having poured out of me now, I feel I had a wish to tell you more deeply of what nature and sharing my experiences with you means to me. So instead of backtracking, I worked with it and if you make it till the end, I hope you will have gotten to know a little more about me. ❤

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I remember how I for such a long time worked so hard to somehow blend into the background noise, while at the same time looking on and wishing I had whatever it was that was needed to become part of the crowd. Kind of like one of my brothers. He has this way of talking and being that makes people smile and laugh. Even if I don’t always think his sense of humour is so tasteful. Haha But whenever I was faced with an opportunity to blend in with others, I felt so clumsy and out of tune. Do you know what I mean?

I also remember one time when this sense of being out of step with the entire world, which is no uncommon feeling at the age of seventeen, completely overwhelmed me. I was in the US at the time, visiting a friend. I can’t remember what triggered it, but I took my diary with me into their backyard. Behind the house I could see the forest spread out before me. It was late autumn, the ground was covered in tones of yellow and brown, and I continued down the slope and walked straight into that forest.

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After some time, I found a little stream and sat down beside it. I opened up my diary and started writing. In the end, I had written a poem, one I have many times over the years tried to find but it seems to be forever lost. I do remember the last line, though. Like the rivers our lives flow by, too many to care about them all.

I don’t know why that particular line has stayed in my head for soon twenty years. Nor do I know exactly what I meant by that at the moment I wrote it. Looking at it now, from where I am today, I think past-me tried her best to justify and rationalise that loneliness she felt. That one person cannot possibly do or be everything all at once. But even when we do, we cannot expect, either, that everyone will notice. Especially not if we are in hiding.

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The forest has always been a place I have run to when my heart has been heavy, and for the longest time I thought of it as an escape. A space for peace and quiet. A moment away from the unfathomable loneliness of being in a room full of people yet feeling utterly and completely alone. Among trees and woodland critters I could forget. I didn’t have to see what I perceived as stark differences between me and others. And there I could escape from expectations and struggles. I would stay until my head was quiet and my heart light once more.

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Lately, I have thought a lot about what that call into the wild truly was about. What I in my younger years didn’t see. A deeper meaning. The forest and nature wasn’t and isn’t a place where I wander into oblivion to shed burdens and responsibilities. It is a realm of clarity. A place to remember. Out here, I find the pieces of myself I might lose in day to day life. I reconnect and am reminded of what is important and what isn’t. The air, the smells, the sounds — it is like opening a window to let the dust of irrelevance and skewed perspectives whirl themselves away.

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The immediate relief and effects of mother nature’s remedies are so poignant I wonder why instead of being prescribed pills for my depressions and anxieties on almost every first visit to doctors they didn’t tell me fly, little bird, out into the forest and stay as long as you need. Maybe not in those words, haha. But have you ever thought of it? Not all pills affect the central nervous system, but most of them have substances that affect the neurotransmitters in our brains. The very same which are affected when (among many others) we receive a hug, engage in physical activities — or take a long hike through nature.

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Spring is almost like autumn when it comes to the smells, but unlike the richness of earth mixing into a concoction of berries and mushrooms in autumn, the melting snow and ice carries a tinge of winter’s freshness on its winds. There is also something very special about the heat that lingers within the ground in autumn, a kind of summer warmth that still rises up through moss and the ever-growing layer of fallen leaves. I have this habit when I am out there. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply, and then I just focus on my senses. Especially the feel of the air going down into my lungs, the taste in my mouth and what I with my sense of smell can pick up on. I imagine this is how the animals, who have much better developed senses than we do, know when the seasons are changing, and when to move and where to go. Like birds taking flight when winter is on our doorstep, long before we know of its approach.

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I feel we need to be out here. As well as evolution makes sure we adapt, that deepest part of us remains something from the realm of wilderness. All things available these days are enhanced and improved for our convenience, yet it seems to overload our senses and numb them. These are just my personal wonderings, but I cannot help but think that it makes sense we suffer so much from mental unwellness when we are constantly getting high on impressions — physical and mental. And then we need more and more and more to sustain ourselves. Until we crash.

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I had this idea about a year ago, that I would one day build a wellness center right here on our lands, and do guided health walks and hikes in nature, near and far. Down by the river, I wanted to build a big logging cabin with large windows and a veranda that faced the ever-wilder-growing lake there, and every morning a yoga class would be held in dawn’s embrace. And I am so incredibly lucky I have friends and family that don’t look at me like I have lost my marbles, you know? But I could really see it. And why not? I am not against medicine — it has and does a lot of good in this world. I do however believe that antidepressants are thrown around far more than is needed, when I with all my heart and soul and head believe a good dose of nature will do the trick just as well.

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I still feel remnants of that sense of displacement sometimes when I am among others. Far less than when I was younger. I think that maybe with time, I have come to accept it as is and to fight against it less and less. Most importantly, I believe, I keep reminding myself it isn’t something that places me apart, that it isn’t a sign of me being faulty, but rather it is just what makes me me. Do you know what I mean? And the more I let it be, the less I try to cover it up, hide it away, which in turn strengthens my sense of self and confidence when being in the company of other people. In particular when with people who are very different from me. They like different things, or the same things but other aspects of it and perceive the world around us in ways I don’t. Subsequently, I relax and am able to take in and be truly engaged with their views. I want to understand.

 

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In the last few years, with all the ups and down, nearly becoming literally empty but so full of chaos, and to finally begin to piece it back together again, I come to understand something more and more. Trying or even wishing to be someone I am not in order to fit in has been the very foundation of my unhappiness. Through squeezing myself into frames and folds of these expectations I imagined invited inevitable failure and misery from the very first day I embarked on a new endeavour to “correct” myself and be all those things I wasn’t.

 

Maybe I will one day found a wellness center here, or maybe I won’t. Either way I have this immense wish to share what I experience and for others in similar situations to find their way back to their innermost selves, to regain their very own balance and know peace. Happiness.

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I used to think what do I know? I’m a mess and my life is a mess and I can’t even go to work without falling to pieces. What could someone who is so broken as I am offer those who at least manage these simple necessities in life? And I would also think that most likely I am only one among few who has these immense struggles to manage day to day tasks. I belong to the minority, I would tell myself. I did know others exist out there who face the same challenges and fall, but living among people who go to work even when they are sick, who keep clean, tidy homes and meals on the table, laundry baskets empty, beds made, get their kids to sports and events, manage to go out with their friends and still mow the lawn and rake leaves, plant flowers, do crosswords and read the morning paper…  I felt like one in a million. And not in a good way.

At night I would lie in bed as my thoughts screamed how do they all do it?! What is wrong with me?!! And the next morning I would get up and do all those things anyway. I would then go to work, be the best version of myself I could possibly be and smile and be as social as I could muster. Then I would come home and get that meal on the table, do that washing, and sit down by my desk at the end of the day to read through masses of texts in Finnish with a dictionary beside me so that I could get my education. I went through these motions, gave it all and then some for eighteen months straight until I felt a part of myself drift to the sidelines. I watched this woman forge ahead and wondered how she couldn’t tell she had nothing left. No energy, no passion, no joy and no feelings.

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Today, I think I needed to go through all that. I believe I had to truly hit that wall in the hardest most excruciating way possible to wake up. And I did. At first it seemed all of me came alive, and I got myself so lost. I stepped onto paths that lead me through things I am so unbelievably ashamed of but at the same time grateful for. And isn’t it funny how it is when we are as lost as can possibly be we finally find our way?

I used to be so frightened blind by speaking from the depths of my innermost self. And at times I find myself getting anxious about certain things I share, the words I write and leave here for anyone to see. At the same time, I feel such relief, and then I think and hope and wish that, maybe, those very words and experiences will reach and even inspire a thought with someone who needs them. Just as I have read and taken part in thoughts and experiences of others which have given me strength or hope in times when they have been needed the most.

On a wall in my favourite café in Rauma are these words: If your dreams do not frighten you, they aren’t big enough. I chased beyond horizons and boundaries to find that big dream to lift me to heights of happiness and bliss, and I believed the answers were in some faraway distance I had yet to reach. All along, it never occurred to me to look within. But now when I have begun, and it sure can be frightening, I only gain more strength and resolve for every time I do something in spite of the fear it triggers.

I wish you all a wonderful week ahead, and that you make time for yourselves to visit whichever is your place to re-connect and regain balance when it wobbles. Much love. ❤

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.

MomsLivingroom
In my mother’s living room.
TheRose
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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wellamo-wheat-seedlings

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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ElliJuhaPosing_TractorField

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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.

ElliJuhaCloseUp_Tractor
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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