The Passing Of Time

Transition, change, and the passing of time. For this week’s photo challenge I actually had just the spot in mind, but it wasn’t until today I gave my new-found project a bit of a break. And of course the clouds decided to rush on in. So I took a stroll through my photo library and found some other photos that will do just as well.

LingonberryFlowers

I am sure I have seen the Lingonberry flower on many occasions throughout my life, but it wasn’t until the other week, when I went for a walk after the rain to take photos along our little road that I noticed them. Actually acknowledged the Lingonberry bush blooms. So simple and so delicate. Just like most native flowers here in our part of the world. I really like that. And I love lingonberry jam with meatballs (or elk stew), mashed potatoes, and creamy brown sauce. In a couple of months, those quite sour but oh-so-delicious and healthy berries will have taken these flowers’ place.

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These Dandelion blowballs will soon be but a memory of another spring and early summer having passed. We are now in July already and I cannot grasp how fast the time simply flies. It reminds me of this quote my brother used to have on his DeviantArt account (I think it was DeviantArt): Time flies like the wind, fruit flies like bananas.

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There is something about moss that is very dear and special to me. Not only is it a recurring feature in both John Bauer’s and other old Swedish illustrators’ work, but it instills a sense of mystery and magic of those days of old. I remember when I took that photo of myself sitting on a mossy rock. I forgot to mention, then, that beneath all that moss were rolls of seemingly ancient, rusty barbed wire. I sat stiff as a bowstring while taking those photos, exercising great care not to shift my weight. I wonder which generation before us left it there?

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I have both heard and read that the beard lichen only survives where the air is unpolluted and clean. With all these climate changes and chaotic articles about how we are living on borrowed time and destroying our world, I look at these lichen (and much else in nature) and I cannot help but think that nature has always been a master at adapting to change. If we cannot find a way, I have faith in that nature will. It would do us so much good to have a little faith, too. This magnificent world we live in is far less fragile than we seem to think it is. Or so I personally believe. That is not to say we should carry on with our destructive habits, and I do believe nature’s way of stabilising itself, regaining its balance, is potent enough and of such magnitude it could destroy us.

I hope you all had fun with this week’s photo challenge. It’s so great how it makes us stop and think, to contemplate life around us from different perspectives. Later this evening or tomorrow I am going to have a peek at what you have come up with. For now, I wish you all a cozy Sunday. Thank you so much for reading. ❤

Roadside Treasures

Hello, everyone. I sat here this morning and looked outside my window. I looked at the dew still resting in the arms of branches, balancing on the tips of leaves on a small maple. Every once in a while the sun broke through the clouds and it was like a symphony of light and brilliance as the drops danced. A glitter of reflection. Nature is so generous like that. It doesn’t really matter where I am. I don’t have to travel to faraway lands, I do not need to gaze at the horizon and wish and wonder what adventures await me there.

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A short moment, but a passing wind of light rain swept across the fields. How beautiful it is when rain falls as the sun watches and lights up every drop–thousands upon thousands–as they rush to the ground.

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I sat in our kitchen yesterday morning for the longest time. The house so silent, resting now in summer. As the cold sets in, the wooden timber in the walls creaks and cracks as it shifts and draws into itself to huddle against the northern winds. In spring, it’s the same, but instead it stretches after a long, hard winter, and finally exhales a breath of relief. It is still, possibly reveling in the warmth once more.

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I sat there all alone for so long, but not once did I feel lonely. Just around the corner, Loke would stretch at times, sigh, and go back to sleep. The tick-tock of the clock, the hum of the refrigerator in tune with the birds chattering amongst themselves leaking through the walls. I could see the road from across the fields, but the sound of cars barely reaches over the distance. And most likely majority of the people were still in their beds or just waking up from Midsummer festivities.

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It hit me, then, how much I adore these quiet moments. A slow morning when suddenly I just sync with everything around me. I took it all in and noted my gratefulness, listened to the scritch-scribble-sctrach as my pen followed the lines, danced along to this subtle morning symphony. I am happy. I am at peace. I feel content–right here, right now.

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Later in the day, once the rain let up, I took my camera and walked along the road that leads from our house. I don’t know exactly how long the road is, but I walked along between a hundred and two hundred meters of it and found so many treasures.

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In the evening, while marvelling at this simple beauty nestling just outside our door, I read a post on Instagram by one of the many amazing photographers I follow there. Forrest Winants Smith / @lostintheforest. He asked what gets us outside? What makes us appreciate the outdoors? I have mentioned this before, in Shaped By Thousands Of Years. I said, then, that these fields of ours, while beautiful in their own way, could not compare to the mountain vistas of the High Coast. The thing is, though, that they can–this is our beloved nature, too. The same magic rests here.

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The spirit of nature isn’t exclusive to towering mountain ranges and sloping valleys, nor does it hide in only specific places. Nature is everywhere, and its wisdom speaks to my soul wherever I may be. Whenever. I just have to stop and listen and it will open me up to all the aspects. Along this little roadside I find perspective. In these simple treasures I find wonder.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Care to dance?

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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.

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Ramvik’s old saw mill, about 30 kilometers from Härnösand, Sweden. It shut down in the 1950’s, or thereabouts. Autumn 2015.
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On my way to school one morning, I had to stop to take photos. Late autumn 2015.
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This mist was enchanting.
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I stayed there for a long while, entranced by the spectacular play of light and colour across a frosty morning landscape.
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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.
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Loke isn’t in focus, but I love this shot. Shot with my Tamron 90mm macro lens.
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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.

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

 

A Day In The Forest – Planting Trees

Good morning, everyone! I took a sort of break from running around with my camera yesterday, even though I did bring it with me to work. Work. I keep pausing at this in wonder.

When I sat back in “my office”–a pick-up truck in the middle of the forest–for a break I felt so blessed, so grateful, and so incredibly happy. Being forest owners, and having quite a bit of it, we have much to care for. We do cut some down, but we also plant new trees. Every year. It is time-consuming and not in the top-ten of my partner’s favourite things to do. So I told him that I will do it. All by myself. Why give a job away to someone else when I love the forest? Yes, it is hard work. Especially on hot, sunny days. No shade in a field of empty space where massive pines and spruces once stood. But it also feels good to do it. There is purpose in it. Rebuilding these once gorgeous forests for future generations. We give back what we take. Of course I want to be a part of that. I don’t have to–I want to. And when you burn for something, when it fills your entire soul with joy it isn’t work. It is just something that you do naturally anyway.

Saplings

PutItOn

GetItRight
All the saplings are watered so that bucket gets quite heavy.
SecureTheBelt
I had to tie the belt around my hips because the re-sizing mechanism is not working.
ReadyForWork
I have so many blisters on my hands now from continuously plunging that pipe into the ground today. The bottom part looks like a bird’s beak, kind of, and once it’s in the ground you drop a sapling into it, then step on a lever that pries the beak open.
ReadyToPlant
Little baby pines. Ready for planting.

Just before seven in the evening, my partner sent me a message: Still alive? And when he got no answer, because I had left my phone in the pick-up, he took the car and drove out to find me. I had just finished packing up when I saw the familiar Volvo coming around a bend. I may be passionate and enjoying myself so much I lose track of time, but I think I might be the slowest tree-planter, ever. Haha Either way, the job gets done and I get to spend an entire day in the forest. This was only the beginning, though. I think there are at least a couple of thousand to go.

I meant to set up the camera on the tripod to take some photos when I had only a few trees left but I will do that next time. After all, I am far from done. For now, thank you so much for reading, and see you soon!

OurForest
I won’t be alive when those little pine babies are this big, but my grandchildren might.

A Mother-Daughter Hike: Part 2

Hello, everyone! First I would just like to say that I am seriously so excited so many of you liked joining us on the mother-daughter hike. Today, before we continue, I have a (sort of silly) confession to make. My daughter was born in 2008, which means I did a slight miscalculation. She wasn’t eight the summer of 2015, she was seven. As I write this, I have to pause and count on my fingers, just once more, to be certain. Yep. Seven years old. What a little champion. Additionally, we had a little talk about that I am sharing this hike with you, which she thinks is pretty cool, but she wants me to refer to her as Lilli when I talk about her.

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Here she is, my Lilli, dancing on top of these ancient mountains.

If you only just now dropped in, then you can find part one here. Alternatively, stay till the end and read part one once you’re finished. Whichever works for you!

Okay. Let’s Do This

After Lilli and I had walked for what seemed like hours–in reality much less–we breached a clearing. We had reached a tarn connected to a mire, only one of several. A wooden walkway had been laid out to enable crossing. My camera was out all the time, so when Lilli found some leaves and told me I had gotten muddy, then decided she would clean it, I had to capture the moment. She is so sweet.

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You know, I often stop and think about how different it is out here, walking among creaking trees, the faint whisper of water as it makes its way through pathways it has found over the years. The echo of an owl, eerie yet so beautiful. This place is full of life and movement but not in the same way as a city or even a small town. It has its own pulse, though. A beating heart to which my own answers. The pace varies, but the baseline changes. A rhythm more in tune with the precious life we truly hold in our hands.

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Out here, I learn to listen–really listen. Our inner voice is so important, but it’s not the sound, not the words, not the volume that counts. It’s the bond, the trust. I acknowledge I know so little and it’s all right. I open myself to taking it all in, to learn and grow.

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Every time I have stepped into the wilderness I have come back revived and at peace. And every time my belief that nature is the best therapy grows stronger. There are even scientific studies on the benefits of getting out into the wild. I read an article recently; they measured what actually happens in some parts of the brain, and the conclusion was it lowers the production of stress hormones. I found that fascinating.

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Okay. Confession time, again. When I first talked to Lilli about going hiking, she wasn’t overly enthused. She loves spending time with me, this is true, and she enjoys picnics and doing things with us, her parents, but when it comes to trying new things she has been wary and reluctant. Some coaxing and time to think it over is required. What enticed her initially was the true fact that a movie made of Astrid Lindgren’s Ronja Rövardotter was partly filmed here in Skuleskogen. There is a big crevice Ronja jumps across at one point and it exists for real. Slottdalsskrevan. (The Castle Valley Crevice.) This kept Lilli going, but by the time I realised we wouldn’t make it and told Lilli so, she shrugged and said it was all right. She had gotten to do so many cool things already and was happy with our very own adventure, wherever or however far it would take us.

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As we continued our journey I did see changes in her. Of course it was a long hike, and kids ask are we there yet? (Adults, too, actually. Ahem.) But she didn’t ask are we going home soon? Honestly, she didn’t tell me she was tired until I started packing up our picnic and told her it was time to return home. I saw she was, though, but I also recognised that peacefulness, that serenity in her when we sat on top of a mountain and looked out over the ocean, forests, and peered down at our destination that would have to wait until another time. And since then, at the mention of a hike, her eyes have lit up. I know that belief is a powerful force in our world, but could it be, when even her teacher has said Lilli has really transformed over the past two years–more courageous, more secure in herself, and is among the first to jump up to make presentations in front of the class–could it have at least some connection? I don’t know, but I can honestly say I believe so.

And so, my lovelies, what will also have to wait until another time–next time–is the conclusion of this adventure of ours. As Lilli and I left the second tarn we came across, I turned and saw what looked like a magical gateway. I tried and failed to capture the mystique in the contrast of light and shadow. With a little help of Lightroom I managed to tweak the photo, although not at all to my satisfaction (there is so much stuff you can do though!). I actually ordered a book on photography and how to move from point and shoot to the magic of the manual settings. So maybe I will be ready for my second chance at that perfect shot this summer. Either way, I will keep on snapping photos. And I will keep sharing them with you.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure, and I look forward to seeing you soon!

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The Seasons Within

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shaped By Thousands Of Years

Preparations? I got this

What do you think when you hear hiking? Even now, although it really has nothing to do with what hiking means to me, a huge backpack larger than the person carrying it appears in my mind. I’m seeing Reese Witherspoon in the movie Wild, lying down on the floor to get into the straps of that monster of a thing. Great scene, and great movie, too, by the way.

At the time I did my first Hike with Loke, I had a normal backpack, a generic thing with a laptop pocket. It wasn’t until later I invested in a larger pack, which I tested by executing a brilliant expedition to walk all the way from Härnösand to Ramvik, along a busy road (I had to turn off and take the old E4 at one point, because you can’t walk on a motorway, which made the trip longer). I filled my brand spanking new hiker’s rucksack to the brim with anything I could find, because I had to try it, right? If I couldn’t walk 35 kilometers along the E4 and a country road with a load of 20 kilos on my back, how would I be able to manage in the wilderness where I couldn’t call a friend (or in this case my mother) to the rescue when I had more blisters than toes and the frame of the backpack was digging into my flesh? Yeah… Did I mention it was brilliant? Not-so-brilliant. What can I say? I’m a stubborn nutcase. But blisters and bruises aside, I had an great time. I had food with me that time, and climbed up some rocks along a windy road and sat there to enjoy my cold dinner and smiled at passersby.

My hike with Loke both was and wasn’t one of those not-so-brilliant ideas. Not only because I packed nothing to eat but a third of a 150 gram bag of roasted soy beans I didn’t even know about–I discovered it later, long-forgotten in a hidden pocket. I did, however, have the sense to bring several liters of water for Loke and myself. But I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. None.

The online site I visited beforehand to read about the trail told me it was a 9,8 km challenging hike, but as I sat on my father’s balcony on the other side of Ångermanälven, I did my own evaluation of its potential challenginess. Its starting point wound down the cliffs from the High Coast Hotel and snaked below the bridge and into the forest. It didn’t look that bad to me, I had walked Loke in that area before–how challenging could it be? And, hey, I had hiking boots! And layered clothing, layered socks. I got this, I thought. I have read up. Additionally, I had been running and walking 8 – 10 km several times a week for months (which never took me more than two hours at walking pace), not to mention going strong on a training program, so my body was in tip-top shape. I had the stamina, I had the strength.

Let’s do this, Loke! Not only his tail wagged–all of him wagged with it when we left the house.

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Section 1: Hornöberget – Lövvik. Courtesy of Höga Kusten Turistservice. Thank you so much!

Loke and I got in the car and crossed the High Coast bridge around 9-ish that morning, and then we were off. I took a photo with my phone of the map at the start of the trail, you know, just in case.

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So how long did it take before reality ate through my bravado? Taking into consideration I have this stubbornness, which with years of experience in its company I can readily say has in equal measures been my greatest ally and most damaging adversary, I didn’t admit to the challenging-part until I was on my way back home. Half a day later. Along the country road. Because no way in this universe was I taking the trail back, like I had planned. Loke and I would have crawled on hands, knees and haunches across my dad’s threshold long past midnight. If we had even made it that far. We might have had to crash at this charming wind shed I passed high up along the trail.

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One day I will come back to this spot with a packet of sausages, mustard, ketchup and roasted onions. You’ll join me, right? Wait till you see the view!

 

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Where Is The Trail? This Is The Trail

I mentioned I took a photo of the map before I started walking. Next to a row of parking spots facing the river and cliffs at the Hotel is a big board with various information about the area, including the trail. It tells you the trail is marked along the way. So I followed those marks. While I wouldn’t recommend hiking the way I did, I have to give it to these folks who maintain the trails–great marking. Without them, I would have been so lost.

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See the red paint smudge on the tree to the right? I followed those the entire way.

 

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But before I got to the trail-trail, I had to walk along small country roads and through a couple of small villages. Signs along the way told me I was headed in the right direction. And then I got to this bridge, one that was also built nearly 20 years ago. Before that–you guessed it–a ferry took you across.

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Here I was concerned for Loke, the shoulder being so narrow, but luckily this road wasn’t very busy.

 

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Utviksfjärden – the Utvik Bay.

 

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I remember looking at the back side of Hornöberget (Hornö mountain) and the High Coast bridge and thinking, “This is going to take a lot longer than I thought.”

To be honest, I can’t remember anymore how long it took me to get to this point, but long enough for me to get a little emotional. I gave out a shaky breath and teared up when I finally saw a sign pointing me into the thicket.

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Look, Loke! We’re going in!

 

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Loke: You’re still taking photos. Are we going or what?

The World Heritage

Remember I asked before what you think when you hear hiking? Besides backpacks and hiking boots, to me, it’s about getting away from all the noise of civilisation. Away from whirring buildings and rumbling vehicles–away from all that the Industrial Revolution brought with it. Our modern society. (Well, some of it. I do love my phone, and my camera, and my laptop. Heh.) I certainly wouldn’t have had my hiking boots without it, though–with memory foam!–and my feet truly might have been chopped pork at the end of the day. And as I write this it hits me that those bridges wouldn’t have been there, either, and I would have had to row a boat across. Or maybe there would have been a ferry man with a raft on a rope? No? Too wide across, probably. The thing is, by getting away I gain perspective, and I can see the things I take for granted. I appreciate and am grateful for what I have–which is so, so much–but don’t even think about when I am smack in the middle of it.

By appreciating what I have, I am happier, more driven, more inspired. Nothing treats stagnating motivation, nor soothes a restless soul, like arriving at the top of a mountain you spent hours getting to. I used to–and still do, though these days I catch myself, mostly–obsess over really insignificant things, ridiculous things even. Imagined things. But when my foot touches the trail, when my muscles pull at my bones as I climb up a steep hill, droplets of exertion trickle down my back, my stomach makes a fist, and suddenly I am there. Looking out over a landscape that endured and was shaped by thousands upon thousands of years, incomprehensible weight of shifting ice masses. And it rises up, proudly. Here I am, here I stand. Look at me. Even today. In spite of yesterday, because of yesterday.

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Hiking through our heritage–the wildness in general–reminds me there is value in every moment, no matter what it looks like. That it’s a process. The good, the bad, and that which escapes our attention because it happens so slowly, so discreetly. And the very real magic of it lines the soul. Heck, even now, sitting here and writing about it I am reminded. I am not there, but it’s in me. And it humbles me. How easily we forget amidst the crush of every day life.

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One of the bridge’s pylons can be seen in the far distance, but in that moment my thoughts were not on how long it would take us to get back home. I felt utterly free and happy.

The Way Down

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Speaking of perspective, as I went through these photographs to gather the ones I wanted for the post I kept repeating one question to myself: Why didn’t I take more photos? Especially on the way there and on the way home? Wandering through the villages, the dense forest going up, that shack on the waterfront, the little lake and the picnic table along the road home. The answer is I for one was too eager to get as high up as I could so I merely forgot, and secondly, by the time I got down and out of the forest, I walked in the wrong direction before realising and had to turn back. I didn’t feel tired, not yet, but my body was running on reserves. Continuous walking, and in this kind of terrain, puts the body into a crazed energy burn.

Up The Trail

Additionally, having built muscle over several months–that muscle needed more than I had given it. I am not about to do maths here, but my customary two slices of wholegrain toast that morning, and two cups of coffee with skim milk was nowhere near enough. So when I came off the trail and hit the road, and by the time I realised I had walked in the wrong direction–because where is that café?–I was beginning to feel a little shaky.

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Down that way, somewhere, is Lövvik. And a café.

 

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Can’t be seen on a photograph, but my legs were a little spaghetty-ish.

 

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Finally, the café!

 

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Shoes off, socks off, I sat and ate an ice cream–best ice cream I ever had–while Loke chillaxed.

 

Bliss

I believe that photograph was among the last ones I took that day. The camera stayed in its bag after I left the café. A very charming little spot next to the road, and the clerk inside was a warm and chatty fellow, telling me I was out hiking at precisely the right time. Later in the summer it gets really hot during the days, and, well–need I say more?

Regaining Balance & Re-fuelling

As I sat there, feet up and with Loke resting next to me in the shade, I experienced a sense of peace and serenity I can’t quite put into words. I mentioned that hiking for me is about getting away from the busy buzzing of our society. And there I was, back again among people moving around and talking, cars passing by, voices of children in the distance, boat engines… yet I was in harmony with it all. Because I had gotten back to basics and regained my inner balance. I had re-booted and was re-fuelling.

I may have had no idea what I was getting Loke and myself into when we set off that morning, I could have been much better prepared, done so many things differently. But that day I gained something truly valuable; the trail gave me a very important piece in a series of lessons that would take with me on my journey toward understanding myself and taking better care of myself. I didn’t grasp it to begin with, not really, not the way I do now–although I have a long way to go still–but I want to share what I wrote in my journal that evening, about peace and serenity, after eating two huge servings of my father’s roast beef and potato salad–yum.

I was so content, and although there were sounds all around me, for once the world was silent. I had peace. Serenity. And I want to achieve that again. More of it, and for longer periods of time. I just felt so amazing.

I did feel amazing, but what I didn’t grasp at the time was that it was within my power to gain it. My power. I claimed that power and challenged myself. I achieved that state of tranquility by dropping all the fears of not having the equipment, nor the experience, or the know-how. I put myself in a position where I allowed room for failure and mistakes. Room to gain. To learn. And it’s perfectly okay not to know.

Too often in my past I tied up my wellbeing to the actions and words of others. Aware or not, I had given over my power to a nameless, faceless entity out of my reach. I thought I was cursed, I was being punished. Every possible reason for my misery ended up in blaming something or someone outside of my power to change. Yet I now believe the only one we can ever truly change is ourselves. We can inspire and motivate, we can set an example by which to follow, but it is and ultimately always will be the choice of that other person. Knowingly or unknowingly. And many of us don’t know. I didn’t know. Maybe I still don’t understand it entirely. That is all right. The road to insight often leads through the darkest and deepest of valleys, through trials of pain and despair. Light and dark. Without one or the other there is no contrast. Without moving yourself into a different position there will be no other perspective. That light will keep on hitting the same spot, the shadows will fall where they always fall.

With that in mind, if you have managed to read this far, I want to thank you for sharing your time with me. Thank you for listening.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with this photo of a dead tree I came upon during my hike. It was so incredibly cool I had to take a photo of it. I moved all around it, snapping shots, but each and every one disappointed me, no angle did the twistedness of this dead old tree justice, and I just couldn’t figure out why. I thought I was missing something, that I was–and admittedly still am–an amateur photographer without the know-how. And that may very well be the case, so, um… Moving on. No catchy last words to see here, folks.

I do hope, however, that whoever you are, wherever you are, you take the time out to find and gain your very own balance. Sometimes a change of scenery is all that is needed. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, backwards–or leaving whichever spot you are in and going to get a cup of coffee. Like I would do, right now, except I forgot to buy coffee. The only thing I went to the shop to get and I came home with everything else but the coffee. So tea it is.

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More Reading

If you would like to read more about the High Coast Trail, you can find details here. Or if you are curious about the surrounding areas you can check out Härnösand Municipality, Kramfors Municipality and Örnsköldsvik Municipality (my grandfather is from here!). Unfortunately I couldn’t find an English section on Kramfors’ or Härnösand’s webpages, but if you turn on Google translation for the sites you might be able to make some sense of it.

Lastly, I warmly recommend visiting The Outdoor Village (Friluftsbyn in Swedish). These guys are doing amazing things to pin the beautiful High Coast on the world map.