To Be In The Moment

Hello darling friends and readers! Sunday is here and I’m wondering where the weekend went. I said to myself on Friday that I would spend my weekend outside, preferably taking some nature walks with Loke, maybe even visit Sammallahdenmäki again. I imagine it’s so beautiful right now — all that moss and lichen crawling over the ancient burial grounds beneath a vibrant canopy. Lilli wanted to go into Lappi to play with her friends, so I thought it was a brilliant plan.

And then the rain came.

sunlit-rain

On Friday afternoon, Jay sent me a message from the fields to alert me to big droplets falling from sunlit skies. Even if his visions and opinions of what is a great photo don’t always match mine, it makes me really happy that he has taken such a big interest. At times it has seemed he doesn’t even notice, but he really does. He just isn’t the kind of person to verbalise or even show it very often. I tend to forget, but then it’s all the more precious when I remember. Do you know what I mean?

I sat in the doorway again to shoot. This zoom lens is amazing, but I have also noticed that I have gotten a little lazy with moving around. When I can get to my targets by a mere twist of my wrist my feet stay in one spot. No change of angle, no circling the scene — this hit me as I sat on those steps. But my camera isn’t waterproof, nor does the lens repel water droplets, so I wondered once again how other photographers manage to capture all these wonderful rainy moments. I gave the old umbrella in our foyer a skeptical glance. I already knew I am far from steady with my hands, so to balance an umbrella while keeping the camera still seemed so daunting, but I did give it a try.

What I thought I would do, then, this weekend, since I have been stuck inside, was to gather some of my rain photos and blog about it. And then I remembered I didn’t join the Weekly Photo Challenge last week. So I looked up the prompt, and when I saw pedestrian, I knew my time had come to finally share my photos from VanhaRauma. Conveniently — or meant to be? — I was in Rauma on Friday, too. I had my camera with me and got a few captures of Vanha Rauma dressed in autumn’s golden autumn tones.

park-bench-vanha-rauma

I love these little “coincidences”. Twists of fate. I release a wish and, suddenly, out of nowhere, there it is. Like the mushrooms I talked about with some friends on Thursday, how I seem to find mostly soggy or frayed specimens. For the longest time I wanted to find and capture a round little fly amanita (fly mushroom in Swedish) without much luck. And then I found one only a few steps from where I parked my car in town! The last place I would have expected to find one.

park-mushroom-vanha-rauma

I can’t even recall how many times in my life I seem to have stumbled into these moments. Let it go, let the pieces fall as they may. Give up the search and whatever I sought has been found. Even blog posts, now that I think about it. They hardly ever turn out according to plan, and most of the time when I make an outline in my head I can’t even begin. So I open up a draft and just write. That is when it all comes together. Maybe not always with the greatest coherence or a neat, red line.

architecture-vanha-rauma

Yesterday morning I was so tired I could hardly open my eyes, but I went straight to work on editing once the coffee was ready. As I sat there, I wrote in my journal if I start the day with housework, creativity suffers. If I start the day with creativity, housework suffers. This is something I have thought about a lot lately. The state of this place slowly falls into mess and disorganisation, and I think right, time to get on top of it again. Once I put my mind to it, I am efficient. But as the floors shine, the sofas are free of clothes, and the countertops in the kitchen sparkle, my camera and my computer stand untouched. There is no mud on my shoes to tell the story of long walks through the forest.

rowan-of-vanha-rauma

Anything that requires a plan, an outline, a well thought out step-by-step schedule swallows all those things needed for my artistry. Ideas and inspiration fade into the background. My entire creative process suffers. I have yet to find the balance, and I sometimes wonder if it is even possible. Just like with those moments when things just happen because I let them go, I know that when I try too hard, look too closely, I go blind. I lose my sense of touch. That feeling and emotion goes numb.

kuninkaankatu-vanha-rauma

Ever since this spring, when I visited Sammallahdenmäki (a UNESCO World Heritage site and Bronze Age burial ground on the outskirts of Lappi), I got the idea to take you on a walk through Vanha Rauma. Another World Heritage site. I thought I would do it during Rauman Pitsiviikko — an annual culture event. Pitsi translates to lace, and this event came about from the making of bobbin lace. It was once a big thing here, and I think it still might be. During Pitsiviikko there are people and markets everywhere, from all parts of Finland. I couldn’t think of a more perfect opportunity to capture the beating heart of Finnish history and culture mingling. I painted up a mental plan in my head of what types of photos I would take and got really excited about it. It seems as though I completed it so beautifully in my head that when Rauman Pitsiviikko rolled around, I had nothing left to draw from, and in the end I went without my camera.

isokirkkokatu-goto-restaurant-vanha-rauma

beauty-salon-vanha-rauma

On both occasions from where these photos are taken I had no plan, no goal. I did want to take some self-portraits and dressed for the occasion, but once I wandered among these buildings that thought vanished.

cafe-sali-vanha-rauma
My favourite café. The staff is so lovely and they have a very tasty selection of cakes, cookies and coffee breads.

symmetry-vanha-rauma

I may be a big lover of nature, but Old Rauma is very special. I have mixed emotions about Stockholm, but I love walking through Old Town and along the canals. Old buildings and architecture like this gives me a feeling of hovering in-between now and then. I imagine horses and carriages, market stalls, gentlemen in long coats and hats, ladies in their dresses and timeless hairdo’s. There is something about street musicians that always adds to this magic. Unfortunately none were seen on this day.

tullin-kaffe-vanha-rauma

cobble-stone-foliage-details-vanha-rauma

 

 

 

Sometimes I wish I could go on these adventures with all things required packed into the car. My camera gear, my laptop, and do my blog posts on moving foot, so to speak. It is when I am in the moment that the impressions of my experiences and senses have most vibrance. They are fresh in my mind and the emotion that goes with it alive.

walking-the-outskirts-vanha-rauma

vibrant-vines-vanha-rauman-kellari

autumn-glow-vanha-rauma

On these days I thought how cozy it would have been to at the end of my photo walk go to my favourite café. To sit there with a cup of coffee and my laptop to go through the photos, then write about it. Still surrounded by the sights and smells.

So, with all this said, I think the definition of pedestrian according to the dictionary is so strange. Boring, tedious, uninspired, uncreative, unimaginative, monotonous. Being a pedestrian is anything and everything but lifeless or uneventful. Being the pedestrian in the moment, no matter the scenery, is to me one of the best parts of any journey. Planning and speedy results are to me dull. But then I didn’t always see it that way. Once I wanted to get to my destination fast and without delay. And of course I still find my way back to drumming my fingertips and drawing deep sighs, checking my wrist watch and wanting time to speed up.

Luckily, these days I do have my camera. I can and even want to capture these moments. Prolong them. Enhance them. Immortalise them. And I think that it is all there in the light and shadows, the tones and stilled movement, even if I can’t always remember every aspect of what it was truly like.

Now, my dears, I would like to wish you a wonderful remainder of this Sunday, and a good week ahead. Much love. ❤

 

 

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The Meaning In The Journey

Good morning, dear friends and folk! When I got up this morning, Loke had left me a little present on the dining room floor. Sometimes, if I get up really early, he is still so tired that he doesn’t come to greet me, but if I myself hadn’t been so tired in spite of getting up later, I would have understood why there was no happy bubbas anywhere in sight to tell me good morning. He was very, very ashamed of his little accident.

For many days now I have meant to do a blog post, but as I sit here with my big cup of coffee and write, my mind is so hazy I can’t even remember all the things that have gotten in the way. And the photos, which I have wanted so badly to show you, didn’t get ready until last night. I can sit with photos for hours spread out over a few days, but I don’t think I so far have spent this much time on editing as I did with these. So today I thought I would be sharing a lot of photos. I had hundreds but managed to scale it down to about twenty. I am splitting them into two posts, though, since the words once again took me in another direction.

autumn-reflection-reed

I think I have mentioned that very often I like mellow colours and tones in my images. So it’s so rare that I touch vibrance and saturation on the colour bars in Lightroom. Other than to take it down, of course. Now that autumn is here, I realised this and subsequently how little I know of bringing out colour. Either I mess up the saturation so that it feels like everything is screaming at me, or if I want to make a specific colour pop, another suffers. Am I making any sense? And then I want to keep it true to the colour palette we see with our eyes, while still adding my feelings into it.

It’s difficult to look up tutorials; I basically just have to sit with the sliders until my heart does a little somersault and I know it’s right. No tutorial can tell me which settings are in tune with my emotions, nor any of these thousands of pre-sets for Lightroom I have noticed are around. Kind of like how no one can tell us what our purpose is — we have to figure that out for ourselves by searching within.

autumn-colours-on-branches

To have a purpose in life, as many have mentioned in books I have read over the years, is so important — if not the most important thing. Without it we seem to float through the motions as the days pass. I like to think of it as a compass by which to navigate. It gives us direction, and in any situation, if we have that, we will look at solutions that will keep us steady on our feet. When there is a fork in the road, it will give us a hint which one might be the right one to choose in order to stay true to our purpose. Our true self.

dew-frost-spruce-branches

All that said, I am not yet entirely certain of my purpose. Still I don’t think that is an uncommon thing, and especially not since I for so long have tried to dance to borrowed tunes and loaned ideals. I have wanted to appear to be on the right path, know what I want, do the right thing. Oh, those perceived expectations and notions. But I can honestly say that I am coming to be at peace with that it’s okay. We all do what we in any given moment think is right, don’t we? We go by what we know today and try to make the best of it. As we gain experience and ability to shift our perceptions, we move. I don’t know the right formula for it, but I do know all these paths — steps through failure and success — I have taken lead me to where I am today. Because I was meant to. Because I needed to.

To make mistakes, to realise a choice I made wasn’t the best but yet necessary is part of the journey I believe, and it is only recently I have been able to stop to release a breath and forgive myself for them. Some of them. Self-forgiveness is such a hard thing, don’t you think?

autumn-rowan-berries

Ever since I got up this morning I have been coughing and I still have this congested feeling in my chest. As I said, last night I finally finished editing all these photos, and first I thought I would have a date with Poldark — the newer British-American BBC series about a man in 18th century Cornwall who comes home from the war in America to find life quite changed. I love the music, the scenery, and the mood in it. But. Then I opened up a new draft and decided to eat my carrots with dip sauce and write instead. Just as I began, Jay came to tell me he needed my help outside. So I spent the remainder of my (very late) evening among rumbling machines and whooshing grain. The mist outside was so thick I could see the pillar so clearly when shining the flashlight out into the night. We both thought of what marvelous photos that could have produced, yet neither of us know how to photograph in complete darkness.

shimmering-web-branches

My job was to stand ready to run and shut hatches when the silo was full. Jay sat up close to the rafters and shouted down over the noise when it was time.

The grain dryer has been going day and night and we have used up so much fuel it’s insane. It has been so wet here, and before we transfer the grain to the silos the moisture has to go below a specific number. Jay showed me how to use the knifty meter and how to start the necessary machinery to get the grain moving in order to be able to take a sample.

It is like a maze out there, with all the stairs to the different levels and all the silos within the building, which has been expanded over the years to house more silos. I would bring my camera out there if it weren’t for all the dust. However, Jay just got a camera meant to withstand dirt and even water — he submerged it in a sink full of water and took a selfie! Haha. So I will see if I can borrow it and show you around.

autumn-forest-shimmer

As I walked around between one of the containers the grain goes through before entering another pipe system and to look up toward where Jay was, awaiting his signal, I had much room for thoughts. While I have to ask Jay to pace himself sometimes when I’m out working with him — he gets so excited about explaining and very often spices it up with storytelling — once it’s time for the actual work, I can be alone with my thoughts. I really love that about this part of farm work. Sure there is a lot of bureaucracy — rules and regulations to abide by — administrative work, and the general business side of it, but since I am actually not employed nor am I listed as a worker on this farm, there are aspects I never deal with. But I do want to learn and it is part of life on this farm. Jay’s mother did these things, too, even if she also had a job to go to.

autumn-light-lichen-wood-log

 

While I might not be sure yet of my purpose, I still have a feeling. It’s kind of like I can sense that compass, but with the daily challenges of my past and on the days I struggle extra hard, I sometimes think of it as fumbling through mist. I might catch glimpses of shapes and silhouettes, but then they move just out of reach to distinguish. They are there, though — I sense it. And that is what keeps me searching. Can you relate?

Before I go on to await my first practice session with driving the harvester, I would like to show you one more photo I forgot in my last post from my walk through the forest.

 

Since I have talked about it so much, I think you might remember my search for that forest lake? This isn’t that. But as I drove out of Lappi that day, after a few bends in the road I passed this little tarn. On my way back from the walk, I stopped here and took a few photos. Do you also remember how I said I felt I was meant to be met by failure to reach that lake on my first attempts? When I saw this little tarn, with only one little summer cottage to the left (outside the frame), I knew I had found my backup. If I can’t reach that lake in the forest, this will be the one. I was so amazed by how clear it was, which my editing doesn’t really show, haha. But how beautiful it is.

autumn-tarn-wonderland

There have been many times in the past I have been so focused on the search — the end destination — that I haven’t stopped to see what lies along the road. That day on my way home I first drove straight past the tarn, but then my foot eased off the excelerator. Something inside my chest tugged. I couldn’t leave it behind. I had to stop. So I reversed onto the shoulder and stepped out to truly take it in. Trees, bushes and tall grass stood in my way, but the shore was right there, I had but to step right through. So I did, and I sat down on the edge in the wet undergrowth. That was when I noticed the murky shadows of sea weed — so well defined in the clear water. A thrill of excitement and gutting fear went through me as I tried to imagine myself getting into that water. I honestly don’t know if I will be able to do it. But I am going to try, so long as I don’t let these colder days become my excuse not to.

It’s that feeling I have to cling to, those faint whispers of the child of creativity that so long ago stopped coming by to tap my shoulder, after too many times having been told not now. She is there, though. I sense her, and as someone said recently, as I shared briefly of these thoughts in a post on Instagram, you will dance again. I believe so. With all my heart. And this time, I will keep dancing until we both move as though I never stopped. As one.

Part of this journey are you, dear friends and readers. When I sit down to write and share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams, I feel I am connecting to that part of myself I have neglected. I may not update as regularly and often as I used to or as I like, but so very often during my day I think of things I want to tell you and show you. And when you share your own reflections, your own dreams and inner yearnings — that means so much to me. It strengthens my belief in that to give of ourselves, just as we are, is something to be treasured. It is treasured. So my deepest, heartfelt thanks for all your words. I read and cherish them and will answer as soon as I can.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend, and if all goes well, I’ll be able to finish the other post before next week starts.

Much love. ❤

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.

CliffsAndWaves

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.

CloseByCliffs

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.

CliffsAndOcean

CliffsAndStudent

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.

GlitteringOcean

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.

ScalingTheCliffs

TeacherAndStudent

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.

HighUpTheCliffs

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.

TheOutdoorGang

HappyUpTop

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! ❤

WeMadeIt

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.

seek-to-understand

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.

challenge-your-fears

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.

trust-in-yourself

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.

BauerInspired_ForestCreature
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.

one-step-at-a-time

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.

take-the-chance

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. ❤

 

Focusing Through A Storm

This week’s photo challenge couldn’t have come at a better time. I have mentioned before how much I love these challenges because of how they light up my brain and make ideas whoosh on in. Yesterday I only got one idea, but sometimes that is all it takes. One spark. One shot. Every day life is full of let-downs but also opportunities, and what matters is which one you latch on to. The choices you make. The chances you take. We have to find and nurture that one glowing ember and keep on moving toward our goals, toward our dreams. Do it in spite of how everything else seems to be working against you.

 

DanceToTheSunset

Yesterday I felt like I stepped out onto a battlefield and into the wild storm of past ghosts and spectral voices with only a fragile whisper to challenge them, and I want to tell you about it. In honour of today’s post, I have left all photos unedited, except for the very last one in this post.

Two nights ago at sunset the light was so incredibly gorgeous. I shouted out to Jay and Lilli: Shoes on, let’s go, we’re going outside to jump around like crazy in the sunset! And we did. Except Jay kind of just stood there, while Lilli, Loke and I ran around like we had ants in our pants.

I had my camera set up and took so many photos. When I got inside, though, and uploaded them I wanted to cry. Noise noise noise. Grainy colours. That was all I could focus on.

DanceToTheSunset_Cropped

The lens I shoot with the most is the one that came with my camera, an EFS 18-55 mm–a rather basic lens. I was in to Rauma some time ago to inquire about wide angle lenses, which I have read are great for landscape photography. The lady in the shop confirmed this, let me try one, and told me this little 18-55 mm I have definitely won’t do the job.

This lens has been a trusty companion throughout all these years, though, and I haven’t ever been disappointed. Not until the night I uploaded those sunset photos. All of yesterday I was so bummed out about it. It has to be the lens, I said to Jay. I am doing everything right. I am following the instructions and I am getting the hang of ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and the light metering. It has to be the lens. Right?

Is it? Maybe I am just not good enough.

Around midnight, when the sun had climbed behind the horizon, the mist arrived. Yes! Woohoo! I took my macro lens, knowing it certainly isn’t ideal for landscape, and went outside for another round. I spent most of that time staring at a spider web to figure out how to capture it. Only the faintest breeze danced along with the mist, and while I couldn’t feel it, the spider web swaying ever so slightly was proof enough.

WebInTheMist

PowerlinesInTheMist
I chose to focus on these shots littered with dust speckles.

BirchInMist

I told Jay: That’s it. I’m done. Nothing good comes out of this. I didn’t even bother trying to remove the speckles because they are absolutely everywhere.

I didn’t let it go, though. Figuring out what the problem was so I could fix it compelled me to keep trying. I sat down yesterday to scour my photography book that I ordered a few weeks ago. Apparently, the sharpest and most vivid-coloured images are created at between f8 and f11. Because of the shape of the lenses. And I had used f22 as we danced to the sunset. So yesterday evening I forced myself to give it another try.

My heart really wasn’t in it but, as always, energy filled every fiber of my body once the trees gathered around.

CareToDance
Care to dance?

DanceWithATree

Something funny happened. There I was, running up and down our little forest road, dancing and jumping and curtseying in front of a tree, asking for a dance, and out of nowhere a neighbour came walking toward me with their dog. Good evening! You get to be in my photo shoot, I said. He laughed, and then I started talking to the dog. I was so shocked that I just kept babbling, and I can’t remember what I said or much of what he said. I do remember that their dog is about to have puppies and is going away for several weeks.

Besides achieving to be bitten by mosquitoes about fifty times and getting actual ants up my skirt, I felt nothing came out of that photo shoot. I couldn’t see anything else but what I was already looking for. Faults. I felt like I was met by failure at every turn.

But then an e-mail arrived–The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. Focus, it told me, and I read the post. All my woes were pushed aside as I got the idea to log in to my iCloud and look through my older photos, from almost two years ago.

RamvikOldSawMill
Ramvik’s old saw mill, about 30 kilometers from Härnösand, Sweden. It shut down in the 1950’s, or thereabouts. Autumn 2015.
MirroredLakeCopse
On my way to school one morning, I had to stop to take photos. Late autumn 2015.
MistAndFrost
This mist was enchanting.
MistyMountains
I stayed there for a long while, entranced by the spectacular play of light and colour across a frosty morning landscape.
SunriseFog
The mist got so thick I could hardly see as I drove on. But then the sun came through and I had to stop. Right in the middle of the road. Luckily, no other cars came. And all these photos were shot with my 18-55 mm lens.
BlurryBubbas
Loke isn’t in focus, but I love this shot. Shot with my Tamron 90mm macro lens.
OutOfFocusBubbas
Also with the Tamron macro lens.

 

 

One of the most important things I have learned so far on my journey has been to get to know and understand myself. One big part of me is my tendency to strive for perfection. It is a tough one, but I am trying to learn to see and use it as a great tool and asset instead of an obstacle. Weaving it together with my creativity and artistic sides when I also have a tendency to obsess, not let things go and go with the flow, however, is probably one of my biggest challenges. This is getting to the heart of it, this is where I break it or make it.

So far I have shared so many photos with you, majority taken with that 18-55 mm lens. Close-ups or landscapes. In all kinds of light and settings. So why did I suddenly lose my head over those sunset photos? Why could I not see how great they are? Well, I engaged the old me, focused on the mistakes, the faults, the failures. I didn’t see the whole picture, I didn’t remember I am on a journey. I expected too much of myself, too soon. In turn I missed out on all the things I did achieve. That I kept going in spite of feeling failure all the way down into my frozen toes. I didn’t give up–in spite of everything, I kept grabbing at opportunities.

Sometimes, even when we are convinced we are getting nowhere, deeper processes are at work. We need to trust in those, let go and cut ourselves some slack. I know it can seem impossible at times, but I dare to promise you that even when you cannot feel the wind it is there. Step back, look for signs. They are all around you, and within. And keep going, no matter what. You will get there.

MakeAWish
Arctic Starflower / Skogsstjärna / These are among the simplest yet most beautiful flowers I know.

 

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.

HighCoastBridge
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.

CruiseShips

SunPillarsAndClouds

Marina

SomeFort

MeOnSundeck

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.

TopOfSkule
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!

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.

DasView_03
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.

YES_Made It

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…

LokeHuh
“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.