Something Special

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When he is told to stay put.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The High Coast Hotel

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

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

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

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

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The light on those trees and mountains ❤

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An Evening Of Magic And Serenity

For days now I have wanted to share the absolutely wonderful and magical evening I spent up on Skule Mountain with my brother during my visit to Sweden last week. Last night I got started on editing the photos, but I have been so tired since I came back home to Finland that I had to go to bed. Even though I added a few extra days to my stay it still seemed like I ran out of time. I was in constant motion, and my head burst with ideas–so many places I wanted to visit. I knew that I will be going back later this summer, with Lilli and Loke, but something happens when I am back in Ångermanland, among the mountains, deep rivers and old forests. If I am not outside I keep being drawn to the windows, knowing what is out there, waiting.

My brother works in a flower and gardening boutique. On my first day back in Sweden I went to see him with my mother. I even bought a couple of plants that came back to Lappi with me. Later that day we went for a drive–my brother is getting his license and does practice driving with our mother. We were out for a few hours. I had some coffee and sandwiches with me and the original plan was to sit by a lake out toward Viksjö, about 20 kilometers inland from Härnösand–another truly beautiful place. When we arrived so did the winds, and massive clouds floated toward us, hiding the wandering sun. My brother listened to me gush about the views while we huddled inside the car and drank our coffee, and we ended up driving all over while he showed me some highlights he had discovered during his drives with our mother in the past few months. Eventually it was time to go back to the apartment and I asked my brother if he wanted to come with me to Skule Mountain that weekend. And of course he did.

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They are currently doing a lot of landscaping and building at the foot of Skule Mountain, so when we arrived we weren’t sure where to put the car. One other car stood in the turning zone, though, so I parked there. And then we were on our way. We had already decided to take the Mountain Path, which is a 0,6 kilometer steep climb–and the shortest way up. Little did I remember my fear of heights. But my camera came out a few steps onto the path and my brother laughed as I crawled around on the ground to take some photos of the steep, rocky path disappearing into the forest.

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We also took the same way back down, and it was just as challenging going up as it was coming down. In different but equally taxing measures. Even though the trek down went much faster. Going up we still had fairly good light, but on the way down, at nearly 11 p.m., the sun was making its final descent below the horizon. Luckily we are in the land of the midnight sun, so it doesn’t go far. The sun lingers behind the mountains, takes a few moments rest, then begins its ascent back into the sky.

 

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Possibly our climb up taking much longer than the one back down was not so much due to my loss of equilibrium, or clinging to the mountain and railings, but more due to my camera getting pointed in every which direction. Every five seconds. Haha But that is the thing with fear–I find something else to hold on to, something else to think of, to take my mind off that which threatens to swallow me whole. This trek was definitely a glorious moment of being louder than my fears. I threw them down the mountain and grabbed my camera instead.

Before continuing up the top we took a little detour half way, to finally visit the Bandit Cave (Rövargrottan in Swedish). Every time we went to visit our grandfather as kids, we would drive past on route E4 and peer up at the dark spot in Skule Mountain towering over the road. The name comes from stories of alleged bandits roaming these mountains–a long, long time ago. In reality the cave was probably hollowed out and carved by the ocean current and waves grinding rocks against the cliff side when the shoreline was above this level. It’s just so fascinating. Incredible.

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When we left the cave I aimed my camera one last time before securing it for the final climb up the top. I needed both hands and full focus. Otherwise, who knows, we might have still been there–my brother waiting while I ohh and ahh at every drop and angle catching my eye.

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Scaling that wall, even though it is perfectly accessible and safe without climbing gear, took the breath out of me. So when we finally reached the top I planted myself on some rocks and we didn’t move for at least twenty to thirty minutes. And the view–my soul ached. I just marvelled. We had some cheese rings with us, which I was very glad I decided to as a last minute thing shove into the backpack before departure. As we sat there, I took out my phone and recorded a little clip for you all. (Best viewed in HD. And, yes, that crunching in the background is the sound of cheese rings. I wanted to add a nice instrumental piece instead but gave up. If you happen to have it, you can always turn the sound down and listen to Paul de Senneville’s Mariage d’Amour. I adore it, and it fits beautifully. Not Richard Clayderman’s version, though.)

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Done with munching and drinking, conveniently we found toilets. The toilet itself was a non-flush version, with a large hole into whatever container collects human waste, but there was a sink, a tap with warm water, and soap. And the actual restroom itself was heated, which came in handy later. Additionally, if you see the roof there in the photo–that’s a Raststuga. A hiker’s resting cabin, which was also quite warm. It had a fireplace and wood for starting a fire. Behind me sits the Top Cabin, which is open during the day. They serve some light food, drinks, and (my favourite) waffles. With cream and strawberries. Yum. Next time I will be here before they close.

Our time here had only just begun. For the next few hours we trekked all over this mountain top while I took photos of every view I found. And considering you have a 360 degree view from up here, that is a lot. You just follow the top trail that takes you all the way around.

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My original plan was to stay up on Skule Mountain past sundown and wait for sunrise. As the sun sank lower, though, the cold crept in. By the time both my brother and I agreed we should start our climb back down my fingers and toes were completely numb. I was having trouble handling my camera, and when we took a moment in that hiker’s resting cabin, it felt like my fingertips caught fire.

But the views. That sun wandering lower and lower, so skillfully, so artfully painting the sky and clouds in pinks and lilacs. And the magical haze–like a glowing veil draping the breathtaking vistas in warmth. My heart was so full of emotion I felt I might burst.

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Out of all the photos I took that day, these are my absolute favourites. I want them on our wall so I can look at them always.

We continued our journey around the top, and suddenly my brother started shouting from up ahead. You MUST come look at this! And he was right. There, on top of this mountain in a little dip nestled close to the edge was a tiny pond full of moss and water. And in it a rock stuck up. I rushed forward to set up my camera and asked my brother to pose so I could get the settings and the focus right. He also had to help me get onto the rock. When I finally sat there, though, and looked out over our gorgeous forest-dressed mountains and valleys I didn’t want to move. I could easily have stayed there and let that moss cover me, as well. At least, that was the feeling in that moment.

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It was with great reluctance I left this magical and mystical place, but the sun dipped lower and I wanted to capture the ocean view again in this light. We returned a little later, but not quite this far, so I could take some more photos just before the sun went into hiding.

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Thus, our time on Skuleberget came to an end and it was time to brave the mountain path, descend back to reality. Speaking of which, when I return with my daughter later this summer, we will come up with the lift and walk down another path that opens up officially this summer. Much more suitable for families.

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I deliberately decided to share the entire trip in one post, even if I knew it would be very long. I simply couldn’t split it–I didn’t want to. So if you have read this far, I want to say how grateful I am to have gotten to share this magical evening with you, too. My brother fell asleep on the sofa after a cup of coffee (which we requested on our drive home–our mother had fresh coffee waiting for us when we arrived at the house). I stayed up and gazed at the photos, already dreaming of the next visit. The High Coast truly holds a piece of my heart, and I hope to one day be able to get a little summer cottage to which we can go from time to time, the whole family.

I wish you all a wonderful evening. Thank you so, so very much for reading. ❤ See you soon!

An Idea Takes Shape

I was looking out the window a couple days ago–blue skies, spring birds chirping, glorious sunshine–and missed my home town with a vengeance. Even more so I wanted to get in my car and drive out into the magnificence of the High Coast, attempt the second stage of the High Coast Trail. I thought about how spoiled I became during the two years I lived and studied in Härnösand, Sweden (one of the many places of my childhood), having the World Heritage of the High Coast in my backyard.

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Gorgeous, isn’t it?

I can’t say I don’t live close to nature, now. My partner is a farmer and we have acres upon acres of fields and forest. I have but to step outside the door and walk in any direction to get my fix. But strolling through rural farmlands and forests is not the same as braving the wilderness. Flat pastures can’t compare to the steep rise and fall of forest covered slopes, and even though a softly curving hill filled with swaying wheat and barley is beautiful, it isn’t as magnificent as standing on top of a mountain to be awed by the vast ranges and realise how small we truly are. Yet we accomplish great things.

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So there I was with the pull in my chest, wanting so badly to go hiking, but then I got an idea. I may not be able to go trekking right now, not physically, but I have quite a lot of photos from my various adventures, and I am finally blogging, so why not combine the two and write about it? There are too many photos and thoughts to share to fit into one post, so to further my idea I decided that I would make a series–a blog series. Spread it out over a few posts. And I will call it My Love For The High Coast. Great!

To honor One Step At A Time I will set the goal to not get carried away with plans and structure. I know myself well enough to understand that the bigger the project the further it stretches out before me and the higher the chance becomes of me drowning in my still-lacking time management and organisational skills. But bit by bit is how we learn. And that is my motivation.

This is the beginning, then; the first stage and the introduction to a hike back in time. A trek through the past two years. Some adventures were smaller, shorter, and some bigger, longer. But they all meant the world to me.

I will begin with a long one, a hike that took me and my trekking companion, Loke–my beloved dog–nine whole hours (and perhaps even more) to complete. But–that is another post. Until then…

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“Hiking, you say? Nine hours, you say? At least you had boots for the occasion! Nutcase.” – Loke, 1 year old and ever eager to explore.