Caring For the Trees And Our Forests

Good morning my dear friends and readers! Thursdays and Fridays are my sleep-in days but when Jay’s alarm went off this morning I woke up and shot out of bed. I went straight to the stove and started making Lilli some porridge. She usually makes her own breakfast (she likes it that way, but always loves my porridge). When Jay came downstairs a couple of minutes later, he asked me — a little groggily — why I got out of bed. My body just jumped up. Haha And it really did. I remember a time when getting out of bed was a process that could take up to an hour or more, a time when I was not a morning person. A time when I greeted a cheerful good morning with a grumpy mumble. I can still be slow in the mornings, and sometimes it takes a while to find my voice — I do like it peaceful — but it’s still fun to think about how differently I started my days. It’s something I like to use as a positive reminder of how we are capable of change. Keep working at it but give it time. Lasting change does take time to be established.

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Earlier this week I promised Jay I would go into the forest to continue clearing around the saplings I planted this summer. We were promised snow today, and if too much snow falls on the bowed down stalks having created a blanket over the baby trees, they will become crushed and suffocate with each new layer. I was supposed to do this weeks ago, but not even visiting the forest seemed to be able to reach through the chaos of stress and anxiety inside me then. I made it once but hardly got anything done. But now. Yesterday I filled a thermos with coffee, took Loke with me, and went. And I stayed over three hours until after my coffee break. I lost track of time as I ran around with the camera in my hands.

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a-slightly-bigger-pine-sapling

On Tuesday on our way home from Rauma — I take Lilli there every Tuesday afternoon for her art school — we were met by snow flakes whirling down from a black sky just as we passed Lappi. It’s not unusual for the meteorologists to get the weather predictions wrong, so I was so relieved only a powdery layer fell during the night. And it’s so beautiful like that. That luminous white against the earthy tones of autumn’s last breath and the rich greens of pine and spruce is so serene.

me-contemplating-in-the-old-forest

I knew beforehand that if I start off with getting my camera out, I won’t be as efficient. So once I arrived at the clearcut area, I got my tools — a scythe and an ice hockey stick — and went straight to work. Some of the grass I just stepped on, and some of it I beat down with the hockey stick. When I used the scythe, the tougher stalks that weren’t cut through smacked me in the face. I lost count of how many times this happened, haha. It was so nice, though, to do this. It’s very hard, physical work, but I find that the more I exert myself in body, the more invigorated my mind becomes. This is why I used to go for several kilometer runs while I studied — I would run almost every day from Monday through Friday. It kept my mind sharp and clear. Then I discovered that taking long walks through nature did exactly the same. And running in nature… bliss.

I dreamed of doing a trail run through the High Coast during my time in Sweden, but had to stop running for a while when I got problems with one of my feet. The doctor put it down to strain on a joint in my big toe, probably due to faulty running technique. And possibly overdoing my exercising regime. After that long break while waiting for my toe to recover, I never fully got back to it. But it’s all right. I’m okay with that.

 

 

loke-sniffing-a-tree-stump

Loke stayed in the car while I worked, but after my break I got him out and he was so excited about all the smells he didn’t know where to turn. Apparently even a dead tree stump entices the senses! I can somewhat understand, though, even if my sense of smell isn’t as good as his. Not only the physical labour had an energising effect, but the scents. I didn’t so much stop to think about it while working. Once I engage in something, especially something like this — meaningful work for the benefit of future generations, personally caring for the health of the forest that I love — I can lose time and space. My dad is the same when he starts a project — he keeps going until he can’t keep upright. He even forgets to eat. I remember when I lived with him in later years of my life, and he would come into the kitchen like a dying man. I have to eat something, he would say as he pulled things out of the fridge with shaking hands. For many years afterwards he has said how much he appreciated my cooking, since I started cooking for the both of us and called him to the kitchen to eat. Another thing that has changed — we used to go head-to-head in the most intense debates and arguments when I was younger. The rest of the family would flee to another part of the house until we were done. For the longest time I held so many grudges against him, for being so harsh on me. But I was just as harsh back. Today I often find myself full of gratefulness I could let it go and instead cherish the good times.

 

I had no intention of going down memory lane, but the mind fills with trodden paths as the years go by and I often get lost wandering. It’s also much nicer when we can do so and look at the scenery in ways we didn’t before, don’t you think?

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powdery-snow-in-old-forest

Every time I have come to these parts of our forests, I have wanted so badly to take photos and show it to you. Especially knowing some of them will be cut down in the years to come. Yesterday I shot over 200 photos, and with this new lens I felt I could finally capture the depth and soul in it. On the one hand it really saddens me when these old forests are harvested, but at the same time I know that when they are left for too long they die and rot. Such is the cycle of nature. Of course it is an aching sight to look at these clearings, but this is also why it truly means so much to me to be able to plant and nurture new trees. We take and we give back.

clearcut-area-against-old-forest-backdrop

So when I go out onto these raw and naked fields, even with stark reminders all around me of what once used to be, I do not feel that sadness. I feel joy and purpose in my task. For every sapling planted I drive a stick into the ground next to it. This way we are able to follow its growth. We will see if it has been eaten by deer or elk and plant a new one, just as we will also be able to track it in a sea of dead, bowing grass to ensure its survival over winter.

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As I write, clouds of steel are hurling snow down from the skies and I feel so bad about not finishing my work yesterday. I look out the window and as the day brightens I can see the world outside being covered in white. Only the taller sprouts and stalks left standing as nature goes into rest for the winter can be seen through the thickening blanket of snow. As much as I am looking forward to wandering through a winter wonderland, I can’t help hoping this too will melt so that I can return to finish what I started. I do take comfort in that I got over half of it done, and the worst areas, too, before taking my break.

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And I can’t forget the generosity of the forest, how it restored me. I think back on sitting there with Loke, having my coffee, and doesn’t it just taste the best when it comes out of a thermos? Maybe the peaceful quiet and crisp air adds to it, as well. After this photo was taken I grabbed my camera and tripod and ran into the old forest to stand among the pines and spruces decades upon decades old. I closed my eyes and just existed.

me-feeling-the-freedom-among-old-trees

I also think of that the glory in existing is to have been given the blessing of being born. Once upon a time a previous generation planted these very trees. Once upon a time Jay’s ancestors walked a raw field to place their very own little saplings into the earth — these very trees I can stand amongst and feel a part of this cycle. To know that somewhere down the line our descendants will see and feel this where yesterday existed but a field of little baby trees. In this I feel purpose, and in this I feel gratefulness.

Now I want to wish you a wonderful day. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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. ❤

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

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GetItRight
All the saplings are watered so that bucket gets quite heavy.
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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.