Gratefulness

Hello, everyone! I really hope you are having as great weather as we are having right now. The days are surely growing lighter and longer, which wakes me up even before the alarm goes off, but I know I will catch up on those missed hours at some point. What I would miss if I dragged in bed is watching the world burst with spring’s vibrant colours as sunrise kisses each and every leaf and bud on its way up into the sky. Even the still-yellow grass from last season seems alive among the new seedlings in this light.

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And the field work is done! The other day I joined for the first time the yearly tradition of picking rocks. We go out with Fergu (the Massey Ferguson–my partner insisted I stop calling it Fergie, hah). Lilli and I sat on the trailer as we went to our destination. During harrowing and cultivating a few of our fields turn up rocks. Every year it’s the same. You would think that after all these generations, they would have disappeared, but still they keep popping out of the earth. Mostly small enough not to damage the harvester, but some are quite huge. Guess what, though? They will do wonderfully for my gardening projects!

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As I sat there in the back of the trailer with all the rocks we had collected, on our way home through the village, I was filled with an overwhelming happiness. Gratefulness. We walked in the foyer and stripped off our dusty clothes–it was everywhere, inside the clothes and in my mouth. I had to get cleaned up to go to shop and get milk, and my partner told me that Lilli will be coming along to pick out a reward.

Jokingly, my partner went on to say, “And this is when you ask what your reward will be.”

My reward?

“Well,” I said. “My reward is to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee.” Honestly, isn’t coffee just so good when your very bones are tired from hard work? My partner had to admit he agrees with that, too.

Gratefulness. This is my other reward. To be filled with it so completely.

Picking rocks and crunching on dust might not seem like much to be happy about, right? Such a trivial and even unpleasant thing–how is it anything to be grateful for? I am grateful because I get to spend time with my family while working. I get to crawl across the earth with a camera in my hands. All around me rustle baby leaves of spring, streams purl beneath the feet of birch, pine and fir. And Fergu rumbles along at a lazy pace as my partner and Lilli converse about history. I don’t notice the dust until the day slows its breaths because I am exactly where I want to be. And I am once more grateful I worked so hard to find a way to open my eyes and see I have been for years.

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Do you or have you ever felt like you are chasing happiness and it always seems to be right out of your reach? There is one or more things you feel you need to achieve before you can be truly happy? I felt like that. If only I had that, if only I could get to there, then–then and only then will I be happy. Then I will be able to enjoy things, do the things I really want to do.

What I have found is that it wasn’t until I began to look for the good things in my life, counted the achievements I had made–however small or insignificant–instead of looking for shortcomings and failures that happiness found me. And once I did, I spent less and less time filling my mind and my days with struggle. Of course the struggle doesn’t magically vanish, but I realised I have a choice. Either I can sit by the window and wish for all the things out of my immediate control, or I can reach for whatever is within my grasp. By doing so, I put myself in motion–and I can promise you, that motion will lead you to anywhere you want to go. Just one step at a time, one grab for something within your reach. One day, those steps will turn into a thousand steps, then tens of thousands.

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My Lilli’s journey has only just begun. Maybe one day she will sit there, teaching our grandkids to steer Fergu?

I have this book, which is one of the many things that have helped me turn my life around. In How To Stop Worrying And Start Living, Dale Carnegie mentions a story he was told once, and I am only loosely quoting, but the story goes: “Only one grain of sand can pass through the hourglass at one time. No matter what you or I do, you cannot make more than that one little grain go through at any given moment.”

Simple? Yes. Easy? No. But:

“You and I and everyone else are like this hourglass.”

Lastly, I am grateful for that first post I made here on WordPress. That I took the first step and joined this blogging community. I am still so green, but let me tell you I love being here and sharing my journey with you, as well getting to share in yours.

Until next time. See you soon!

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Photography – A Beginner’s Journey

Good morning, everyone! Or, well, it was morning and then I took Loke for a walk and suddenly it was nearly lunch time. Whenever I decide to go exploring I end up losing track of time, especially if I have a camera with me. This time I brought my phone, though, because my camera has caught dust on the sensor again. After last night’s adventure down by the river, almost four hundred photos (and manual settings practice) later, I came home to find most of them in such poor quality I wanted to cry. Not only because of dust, though, but because I simply do not understand my camera yet.

Let me tell you a silly story. This is me in a nutshell–was me. After the hike with my daughter in 2015, I was super excited to see the results of the photos I took. A few photos I had taken of the sky while playing around with manual settings had dots in them. I assumed I had dust on my lens and cleaned it, took some photos, and… no go. Still those pesky dots. So I cleaned again and again, but it didn’t help. So I changed to the lens that came with my camera when I first bought it in 2011 or -12 and… still dots! I jumped online, looked around, a little sloppily I might add, because I was already in full-blown panic.

And then I gave up.

I honestly thought I had broken my camera somehow, or the lens, or both. The feeling was a hopeless and helpless one.

So here is the silly part, the me-in-a-nutshell part–I wanted but didn’t dare to take my gear to a photography shop to get it checked out because I was too afraid I would be laughed back out. That they would ask me how I managed to break it. That they would dismiss me as an amateur and tell me to find another hobby.

After that I lost heart. I would still take my camera with me–sometimes–but I had convinced myself I didn’t have what it takes. The joy I felt rarely returned. I stuck to the presets. Point and shoot. All the while berating myself for investing so much money in something I wasn’t qualified to use.

Even as I write this I want to shake my head at my former self. But I remember the journey still–from there to here. It’s so easy for me to look at all the ways my thinking patterns limited my entire life. I guess it both is and isn’t silly–do you know what I mean?

Tomorrow I am taking my camera to a photography shop in Rauma to get some help. I have bought a kit and read instructions on how to clean the sensor, and I have done so now on a few occasions, but I am in this for real now. And with my scatter-brain I need to see someone else do this in front of me, together with me, so I can learn.

The thing is, I want to take breathtaking photos. I want to create unforgettable images–transform the images and visions I have in my mind, in my soul into actual artwork. And I want them on my wall. Heck, I would love it if you wanted them on your wall, too. But, hey–one step at a time. First I have to want to put them on my wall, right?

In light of that (or lack thereof, hah), I am going to present you with some raw material from this learning experience of mine. These are but a few from my three-hour session by the river yesterday evening. Enjoy! And thank you so much for reading. See you soon!

Lapinjoki – Lappi River

A Shed In The Sunset

Unidentified Flying Objects

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Attempting Spot Removal

…and other things!

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Now You See Me

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After a lot of editing.

Now You Don’t

Sort Of

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The Weekly Photo Challenge

Good morning, everyone!

Yesterday I checked out The Weekly Photo Challenge on The Daily Post, and Heritage instantly jumped out at me. With all the swooning I have done lately over UNESCO World Heritage sites, I guess the word heritage floats through my brain–times a million. As you no doubt noticed, this is not about my usual fawning over nature and the wild, though.

Living on a farm that has been passed down in the family through generations, and last year we had our three hundred year anniversary, I decided I wanted to do the photo challenge here. Our home. My safe haven. I had no idea what would be the focus, but I had a few days to think it over.

So I got into the kitchen this morning, started the usual routine of making coffee, totally muddled from four hours of sleep. As I looked out the window, the sunrise playing with the shadows of an old birch tree, my heart jumped. Yes! Yes yes yes. Gorgeous. I literally ran through the house to get my camera gear. I couldn’t let this moment pass, I couldn’t let the sun climb higher and lose out on this light. It didn’t even ocurr to me that I have no bloody clue how to capture it, how to use the manual settings. And Lilli still hadn’t come downstairs–turns out her alarm bell had run out of batteries. She made it to school in time, though. I had her porridge on the table before I dashed out the door.

I have no magnificent composition of words to offer, and my amateur level in photography is what it is. So what heritage means to me? I will let the results speak for themselves. I had a great time climbing around on the tractor, and this was a fun and inspirational way to jump-start a sleep-rumpled mind. I wish you all lovely day!

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This beauty is a Massey Ferguson from either 1968 or -69.
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I asked my partner if the tractor is a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. He said it’s an ‘it’. Well, I want to call her Fergie. And Fergie sure is a faithful and robust worker here, still, after all these years.

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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A Mother-Daughter Hike: Part 1

Whenever I look back on the hike I did with my daughter almost two years ago now, apart from being filled with wonder anew, I end up saying we have to go back there. Not only because we truly had such a great time, or the fact that we got to see only a fraction of all there is to explore, but the one thing that kept my daughter going, the place I promised her we would see we didn’t reach. We simply ran out of time and would have run out of daylight if we had continued. So this summer we will return; at the end of June we embark on a road trip that will take us up through Finland and then down through Sweden. More on that in another post, though.

Today my daughter and I will take you through a portion of the 19 kilometer long hike we did on the 25th of July, 2015. I was 34 and one hiking experience richer than having no idea. In other words, I still had no idea what I was doing. My daughter had turned eight some months before. But we had food. We had sandwiches, apples, carrots, hot chocolate, coffee and lots of water. Our destination: Slottdalsskrevan in Skule-forest National Park. We started at Entré Väst–the western entry. As far away from Slottdalsskrevan you can possibly start. But what is an adventure without challenges, right?

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Let’s begin!

While far from all of Skule-forest National Park is accessible to you who for any reason are reliant on a wheelchair or similar, it is quite awesome they have built ramps and constructed pathways to make some areas more attainable for everyone.

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Also, before getting deeper into the park, the trail consisted of wooden walkways, which my daughter very much appreciated. Especially on our way back. She kept asking when we would reach those wooden planks. Still, she remained in good spirits the whole time.  She continues to impress me with her valiance.

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While walking, we talked about all kinds of things. Often my daughter would ask me questions I had a hard time answering, due to a lacking vocabulary in the Finnish language. I would say I am satisfactory fluent in Finnish–so long as the topics are on every day things. I don’t believe in regrets, but if I would count one, it would be that I did not speak Swedish with my daughter as much as I should have during her first years. And my partner and I speak English at home, so the only times I practiced speaking Finnish was at work or when we would go visit my partner’s parents. In any case, with the rich and vivid beauty that surrounded us on our journey, words were soon forgotten and we settled into a slow pace, taking in and investigating whatever took our fancy.

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Compared to my hike with Loke, this adventure was much less challenging, that I must admit. On the other hand, for my daughter, it was most definitely the toughest thing she has ever done. And still she hiked those whole 19 kilometers like a pro.

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She volunteered to be my assistant and carried that camera bag all the way…
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All along the trail winding upwards…
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…and down. And back up again.
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Moss, lichen and vibrant greens wherever we turned.

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And blåbärsris! (Blueberries? Dictionary also tells me whortleberry and bilberry. Gah. Confusion galore.)

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These forests–I just love these old forests. They are like taken out of fairy tales from my childhood. My all-time favourites were the stories illustrated by John Bauer. I urge you wholeheartedly to Google him. There is such mystery in his images. Also I simply adore trees. Especially those found in primeval forests (wild-woods?). To think of the ages they have borne witness to, all they have seen and survived, endured. The feeling is equally humbling and… I can’t find a word. Mäktigt. It’s silly, right? A word in the mother tongue has a distinct emotion tied to it, and even after browsing what seems like a hundred synonyms in English I can’t find a word to which I get that same connection. Strengthening and encompassing, vast and powerful. All in the same word. What would be that word? Majestic? Vastness?

Anyway. Mäktigt can also be used to describe something that is too much. Which this post would be if I took you through the full 19 kilometers. So I will stop here and wish you who are celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend a wonderful day. I will be spending at least the first part of it in bed, as ordered by the man and the daughter. As commanded, I say! (The man also added “Prepare yourself for tomorrow now. Bring your laptop with you to the bedroom before you go to bed so you have something to do.” He sure knows me well–I have a hard time staying in bed once my eyes are open, or even only half-open. So I also decided on a precautionary Night Owl Session. You know, to force myself to sleep longer. Just in case.)

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Flowers for all the mothers out there. We passed a pond full of these beauties on our journey.

Among Fields And Smiling Finns

Yet another weekend has passed and we are gearing up for another week. A busy week. For farmers there is no such thing as weekend, though, and Nine-To-Five doesn’t exist. The field work has commenced so we are looking at a very full-specked stretch ahead of us. For now, though, may tractors, their drivers and the harrowed fields rest for a few hours before it’s time to go again. Unless that rain we’ve been promised comes pattering down.

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Looking out earlier as my partner’s father was out there, I remembered how after sowing birds come flocking. And I’m not talking a few–literally tons. Okay, maybe not tons, but a lot. Seagulls. We don’t really see them around, and in spite of being in the Land Of A Thousand Lakes, we do not have any major ones closeby. But that doesn’t matter; once those seeds are in the ground those gulls somehow find their way here. This year I will be sure to have my camera ready!

Tonight, however, I am readying my camera for something else entirely. While thinking ahead of the week to come, and what opportunities to grab to practice my photography, it suddenly hit me. Sammallahdenmäki (Moss Cove Hill). All the years I have lived here and I have completely forgotten we have a prehistoric archeological World Heritage site, practically in our local backwoods. It’s the perfect spot for light hiking and an afternoon picnic with my daughter. So once that sun peeks out again, we are off on a little adventure.

What about you? What does your week look like?

I will leave you with a photograph I played around with of my special guy–he came back from parking the tractors for the night as I was trying to catch the sunset. For now, I wish you all a wonderful Sunday evening and a great week.

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I call it “The Smiling Finn” – a rare but oh-so-charming sight to behold.

One Last Peek At Winter

Good evening, folks! Or is it a very early morning? What time is it where you are? In Finland it’s past midnight as I write, but I wanted to share something before shutting down and getting tucked in. I am currently up to my elbows in editing photos for future posts in My Love For The High Coast series, and found a few from a spontaneous hike I did with my friend. She loves hiking and adventures just as much as I do and I will be forever grateful that we found each other.

I sent her a message the other day and told her about my plans, and asked if she would be okay with me using photos with her in them. Of course she agreed. “Go for it!” I miss her so very much, so in honor of min pingla, I will give you a sneak-peek at some gorgeous winter scenery from our beloved Höga Kusten. Before spring has us overrun with tingles and the last thing we want is to think of cold winter nights and a howling northern wind.

Håll till godo, as we say in Swedish. In other words, enjoy.

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Re-channel Focus And Gain Inspiration

In my last post I wrote about perception and about getting distance in order to gain insight and appreciation for what you do, in fact, have. In light of that and the odd sense of emptiness that can come after you feel you have accomplished something you set out to do, I am going to focus on my life today in this post.

After I published Shaped By Thousands Of Years I thought “Okay, which adventure do I go for next?” I browsed some photos, visited some blogs and sites, and didn’t really do much else that evening. Although I did get rather excited when someone tweeted my post on Twitter, then freaked out because, well, I wanted to thank the person and I get anxious when I get eager. But I won’t go into that now. The next morning after Loke’s morning round, I took a big cup of coffee and sat down in the home office to look at my Google Calendar (which was a suggested goal to set up that I snatched off Daily Post’s newbie blogger advice page).

As I sat there staring at my schedule I felt totally scatter-brained. Where do I even begin? What do I do? I had my instructions right in front of me, all the photos picked out for several posts, a journal full of material and inspiration from the past two years, but it didn’t matter. I was simply stuck. And thoroughly bummed out because I couldn’t find the cable for my DSLR to transfer some photos from last winter. I had to have what I didn’t have. Typical.

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But I got the winter tyres changed, so cheers!

Glancing at my journal now for that day, I see a lone word on one line shouting at me in All-Caps: FAIL. The lines that follow consist of me writing myself back to sanity, focus and reality. And before I went to bed that night, after admitting it’s all right that I didn’t get any work done on my blog, I wrote myself a goal for the following morning. I would get my butt out of bed one hour early, before the rest of the clan, and take Loke and my camera outside, get a bunch of photos, but also enjoy the moment for what it is.

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Despite a crisp couple of degrees above zero it was a gorgeous morning; we stayed in the early hour sunshine for almost an hour before I went back inside to make some coffee. (I do love my coffee, a little too much, perhaps.) Later that day I went into Rauma, a very charming town that I will have to show you at some point. Old Rauma specifically, which is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

While in town I got myself a replacement cable and later that evening I found the old one. I laughed. You think you have looked everywhere and then you haven’t. Either way I could finally get my photos transferred, plus the ones I took yesterday morning.

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Loke hears rustling in the grass. A field mouse?

And yesterday evening I went outside to take more photos, because I was so excited about my remote shutter that I have been wanting to get for ages.

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Getting outside and staying there with my best buddy and my camera got me some of that distance I needed to rechannel my focus and gain inspiration. So once again this morning I went outside, but a little further. Down to the river that runs at the edge of our fields to the (I think) west. I have been there before but that was almost three years ago, when I was juggling studies, thirty-hour work weeks, and taking care of a huge house while keeping myself together in-between therapy sessions to treat my social phobia, panic disorder, PTSD. Now I came in search of the tranquility I remember finding there, and found it. That and so much more.

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One hour and a few dozen photos later, Loke and I wandered through the forest and walked home. On our way up the back road I stopped to take some more photos but eventually made it home. I got my customary cup of coffee and went a little crazy with the edits, thus the wild colors. I have no idea what I am doing but there is so much cool stuff you can do with RAW format. I love it.

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The field work is about to commence and soon I’ll get to spend my afternoons here, bouncing around in the seat of an old tractor.

Even though I am no longer in a work place, nor in school with times to keep and assignment deadlines to meet, I have plenty of things that fill up my day. And all the opportunities in the world, I just have to reach out and take them. Most days I believe it, most days I reach for it, but some days are more challenging than others when it comes to staying focused and sticking to my goals. We tend to reach for more and much further than what we can possibly achieve in one moment, let alone a day or a year. I wrote in my journal two years ago that all the things that last take time. I’m not sure what I meant by that at the time; judging by some other things I wrote in that entry I get the feeling I was frustrated with myself because I kept failing at something (and possibly half asleep because some sentences truly don’t make sense). But looking at it now, I see something that means sustainable results come after continuous effort has been made, again and again, over a greater period of time. Like me finally finishing my eligibility for university studies, at the age of 36. After years of trying and failing because I gave up and didn’t stick with it. But this time I did, by not accepting that voice that told me I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t clever enough, I wasn’t good enough. Instead of convincing myself I can’t do this I kept telling myself I can do this. I will do this.

So today I want to tell you that it feels so damn good to stand at the edge of these fields and remember how hard I worked to get here. Right here. I made it. And I am home.