Something Special

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When he is told to stay put.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The High Coast Hotel

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

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

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

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

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The light on those trees and mountains ❤

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Learning About The Moments

Hello dear ones! I checked the weather map this morning after waking up to strong winds grabbing at the house. They warned of hard winds in this area and outside the snow is creating a thick veil of fog. Somehow there’s something very cozy about sitting inside when the wind howls and snow whirls through the trees outside the window. And I always feel so safe in these old, wooden houses.

On Sunday morning just gone, my mom, brother, Loke and I went on an adventure, and once again I meant to write about it earlier but I keep forgetting how these road trips zap all my strength and energy.

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If sitting still and crammed into a car for hours is strenuous for me, it is even more so for my mom who has arthritis. But she loves adventures, too, and when I asked if she wanted to come along on this trip she of course said yes. She had an SLR when we were younger and has filled many pages in our family albums with photos. Now she uses her phone and happily shoots from the seat in the car, so the photos with me in it are courtesy of my mom.

One of our first stops was at a frozen lake with the most beautiful view. I got out to climb a snow drift to get a better view, but when I wanted to get down on the other side it didn’t occur to me that the snow wouldn’t be as packed down there. Loke whined in the car when I gave out a shout as I went straight through at least one meter of snow.

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I started laughing as I sat there in my hole in the snow. Mom called out and asked if I was all right, which I of course was. I got snow into my shoes and inside my coat, which I didn’t realise until I had sat in the car for a while and the seat and my pants were all wet. Haha But I got great photos!

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You know, this area we drove through was one of the most beautiful on the entire trip. Ever since the road trip with my brother last summer I have wanted to go back toward the Norwegian border, toward the fell mountains to take photos. Now when the world here is covered in all this snow, I got an image in my head and decided to go chase it. All along the road Mom and I ooh-ed and aah-ed at the breathtaking sights. Driving a white road lined by tall spruces in their snowy coats, leaf trees bowing beneath the weight of the snow, is so incredibly magical. It’s like being embraced by winter itself. A sense of warmth and peace spreads through every limb in the body and I didn’t even stop to take photos. I wanted to continue along that road into eternity.

So often I have both read and heard that it’s not the destination that counts but the journey. It’s so true, too, I have found, but I also forget this so easily. When I get an idea and the inspiration to move, I sometimes become so focused on reaching my goal that I only give glances to what happens around me as I work toward it. In spite of knowing each step holds valuable experience in itself. So often along the drive I saw such beauty, but I only stopped a few times. I knew that we only had so many hours of daylight, and since we left two hours later than I initially planned, I would have had maybe one hour at our destination before sunset. A thick sheet of clouds also hung from the sky so the light was very mellow to begin with, which didn’t matter so much. I love the melancholy, too, that the landscape is wrapped in when the sun doesn’t shine.

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Jämtland, the province in which my destination was, is so beautiful. It’s not all that different from Ångermanland, just more. The mountains a little higher, the valleys a little deeper, the lakes a little more to count. Or at least it feels like that. And then of course the fell mountains to glimpse on the horizon as you near Östersund. Åre is situated in Jämtland, which might be if not the most popular winter holiday destination, then very far up there. My brother and I drove past Åre on our way to Norway last summer, and it sure was spectacular to me, even without its winter outfit.

These last photos I’m sharing are from Ragundadalen, about halfway to our destination Gräftåvallen, which lies about 100 kilometers below Åre.

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After having some coffee and sandwiches at this rest stop, we drove on until I had to pee so badly I feared I would wet my pants. Haha Then I wasted precious time driving around a small community called Brunflo trying to find a toilet. We were in stitches by the time we found a service station where they had four toilets. Brun is brown in Swedish, and I commented on that no wonder it’s called that; people have been driving on for hours and they come here bursting at the seams in search for a toilet and find none. I have a very childish sense of humor. 🙂

When we finally left Brunflo, the sun was disappearing behind the brief break in the clouds, and even though I knew by then we would be arriving after dark, I drove on. All the way up the mountain that looked nothing like what I had imagined. In all honesty I saw no fell mountains within our reach, only those towering on the horizon, far too far to reach on that day’s trip. At the top outside the small resort, I stopped the car and didn’t even get outside. My brother took Loke out to leave some poop on top of the mountain, and then he had a pee in a snow drift before we drove back down. Mom laughed at the fact we had driven 300 kilometers for this, which is funny. We also looked at renting a room for the night to maybe salvage the trip and take the next day to drive around, but my brother had to be at work at eight the next morning, which he said his boss would probably be okay with, but I drove us back home anyway.

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I have a tendency to think at times like these about purpose. That pretty much anything we do, things that happen have a meaning. Especially when I drove 600 kilometers there and back without barely getting out of the car. I didn’t take photos up on that mountain when I so easily could have, but I just didn’t feel like it. When I sat there I thought that this trip wasn’t meant to be about reaching a destination or a goal. I didn’t come here to find the visuals to fit the image in my head. This was about looking at how to be in the moment, how to savor the journey. The people I was with — spending time with family I don’t get to see very often. And believe me, we had the greatest time. We talked about everything imaginable and laughed so hard my face hurt. And before settling in for the drive home, we stopped at Brunflo again to get some dinner.

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After a couple of months of feeling like my passion and motivation for all things photography and going on adventures had slipped away, I am so incredibly thankful for this drive. I talked a little with my brother about these things when I picked him up on Saturday night, and he, too, has felt his own inspiration for drawing (which he is so amazing at) has abandoned him lately. Maybe this is just truly due to the seasons within us. The winter in our minds. We, too, fall into hibernation and need to do so. Our minds are capable of incredible things, we as humans have so much power and energy flowing through us, but can we expect it to be constant? Is it natural? Is it nature’s way?

I look at the river and the mountains outside my window and it lies in peaceful rest. The tall birches don’t attempt to sprout buds, no animal out there pretends it is anything other than winter. The water slows its course beneath the ice. Just the same our thoughts and actions need a little extra time to unfold.

I wish you a continued great week. Much love. ❤

A Magical Drive Into The New Year

After I finished picking out the photos for this post and began counting them I started laughing. Why do I even do this? I already know I have too many, so knowing how many won’t matter.

But, hello, dear ones! I am taking myself out of my social media silence and I’m putting my blogging pants on again. My holiday is over and as I write I am still recovering from a two-day drive from our farm to my parents house in the mid-north of Sweden. Usually I take the ferry between Turku and Stockholm, but not this time. Instead I braved the icy roads of Lapland (the big Lappi up north). I left at nine in the morning on Tuesday and arrived at my parents’ house at eight on Wednesday night. The tyres may have stopped their vibrating but my bones were still buzzing. I don’t know if you have experienced this (or even have the possibility, if you live where winter tyres are not needed), but some winter tyres have these tiny little metal buds on them and they are very noisy on asphalt. Additionally (apparently) they make the car vibrate? I carried all my luggage into my parents house right away, because it was seventeen below zero, and then went to lie down on the kitchen floor. Flat on my back. Arms and legs stretched out as far as I could reach. All of me was shaking and somehow a flat and solid floor beneath me was what I wanted. It was the strangest feeling.

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The original plan was to leave at the end of last week, but one thing after another prevented it, so it wasn’t until Tuesday morning this week Loke and I stepped out into a crisp, hazy winter sunrise to take a few deep breaths before getting in the car. Loke took a wild dash around the farm as though he knew it would be a couple of weeks before we’re back home again. I have to say that in spite of being such a dork, Loke has immense patience. I can’t imagine anyone else being able to travel in a car with me for over twenty-four hours and not be driven to insanity by my oh-wow-look-at-that-I-have-to-stop-to-take-a-photo-oh-it’s-so-beautiful.

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Loke’s face, haha.

When I packed the car I put all our luggage into the backseat and filled up the baggage space with soft blankets and Loke’s bed. He got to travel like a king and only seemed disturbed once, at a point when my eyes seemingly stopped working and rolled around in my head until I started making loud noises while slapping my mouth. I had every intention to stop the car to have a power nap, but you know those P-pockets along the road where you can stop the car? They are nowhere to be found when you truly need them. So howling just had to do. (My dad rolls down the windows and sticks his head out if he gets tired. I was already half-icicle, though, so it wasn’t an option for me.)

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It’s quite amazing how quickly the snow cover changed and grew as I drove north. Only a couple of hours away and the blanket of snow was visibly thicker. The area we live in is called Satakunta, which I creatively will translate to the Rain Domain. In Finnish we say it either rains water or snow. There’s no actual verb for it’s snowing. I guess the Rain Domain is visited mostly by falling water. At least lately. But a little further north I began fighting the urge to stop and take photos. I knew that once I start, I can’t stop.

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I came across this sign that read The Blue Road. As I drove I thought about what it meant. For a while I wondered if it literally had to do with the colour of the road. In this light it really did look blue. A deep-ocean blue — you know that almost black-blue? Yesterday I consulted Google and read that its name comes from that it follows a water course all the way from Norway through Sweden and Finland, and then finally into Russia. I love to stumble across things like these. To at first, unbeknownst to facts, wonder in cluelessness of its meaning and then visit google to find out what it might actually be. I think in this day and age, with a world of knowledge at our fingertips, it’s too easy to look up answers without first getting to ask questions and ponder them in ignorance. So to me, in that moment, knowing the light here is very special this time of the year, I thought why not? Wouldn’t that have been so cool, though? A road being named by the light that hits it during the winter months.

This reminds me of something. Did you know that in Finnish, aurora borealis is called fox fire? Revontulet. I looked it up last year and found out that it comes from an old belief in the Fire Fox, a god of some kind streaking across the tundra and hitting its tail against the ground, which is what people believed ignited those fiery lights in the sky. I thought it was the most amazing tale. Honestly it touched me so deeply I spun off names in my head for a brand name for my photography. I’m letting it live its own life for now, though. I have found that these things usually come together by themselves, in their own time. One morning I will shoot up from bed and shout of course! And then I’ll know.

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I stopped a lot in a short span of time before the sun set. The colours in the sky and the resultant light playing over the vast sheets of snow took my breath away.

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Loke and I stopped by this coffee cottage (which was closing as I pulled in with the car) to have our dinner. I don’t think it was even four in the afternoon yet. I had sandwiches packed, and Loke got a bowl of dry kibbles mixed with some wet food. He eats the kibbles if he is ravenous, so to make it more attractive I mix in a little something to give it more taste. At least I imagine it tastes better. And Loke seems to enjoy it more that way.

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When I stopped at the P-pocket to step out with my camera to photograph this sky, a big semi-truck pulled in behind me. I had to get back in to move my car forward, and then I sat a moment talking to myself out loud. I was so annoyed. Why did he have to show up right there, right now? I wanted to shoot this sky so badly, so in the end I got out and jumped into the snow to run around the truck. After that my toes didn’t unfreeze until I stepped into a scalding hot shower at the hotel in Oulu, hours later. I am so thankful Jay persisted to talk me into staying over the night somewhere and not sleeping in the car, which I said I could. Now I know I wouldn’t have, because it got really really cold. Oh, and when Loke and I arrived at the hotel room he had his very own bed waiting for him and a bag of goodies!

I wanted to sit down with my laptop that evening and write a blog post to tell you about my upcoming adventures, but after the hot shower my eyes just wouldn’t stay open. I fell asleep almost instantly as my head hit the pillow. I love that feeling. Especially after a long period of having trouble falling asleep no matter how exhausted I am.

The next morning, at six on Wednesday, I went downstairs to the breakfast buffet to eat a big breakfast. For a couple of years now soon I have been skipping breakfast — somehow I feel a big glass of water and coffee is enough. Breakfast makes me sluggish and my mind foggy, but since that buffet was included I thought I would at least give it a try. I may have overdone it, though. I ate two small deliciously crispy croissants, a little bit of yogurt with musli, and one piece of toast with salty, melted butter, marmalade, and cheese. It was so tasty and almost worth the nausea afterwards. Haha

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The drive from Oulu to Happaranda, the first little town on the Swedish side, takes about two hours — with my driving, at least. Since it was still dark when I set out I didn’t stop for more photos until I was in Sweden. This photo was taken just outside of Happaranda, and those wind mill turbines looked so mystical in the wintry haze.

I didn’t think to exchange money when I went through Happaranda. I actually got lost trying to find a clear spot to photograph the bay area in the misty sunrise. But the snow. I haven’t seen this much snow in what feels like forever. And the snow ploughs have created huge drifts and walls when ploughing the roads, so it was nearly impossible to get to a spot with a clear view. I gave up and turned the GPS on to navigate myself back onto the E4.

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The temperature meter in the car flipped out at the start of the trip, so all throughout the drive I think it showed me the temperature of the engine. As such I had no real idea of how cold it was outside. But looking at the trees in their frosted coats, I figured it was several degrees below zero.

Before lunch I decided that I needed to find a Forex to exchange money so I could have something to eat. And in case I would need to fill up the fuel tank again, even though our Volvo is very economical and has a massive tank. And I still haven’t re-fuelled it.

Google told me there was a Forex in Luleå, which is situated just a little off the E4, so I used the navigator to get me there. It was amazing to drive through the forests in this area. And the roads, though ploughed, were still white. I wish I had thought to take photos. Not only of the landscape here, but also of the city. People were out walking on the big frozen water and even cars were driving on it. They had ploughed pathways out on the lake! The thing is I got terribly lost. First my navigator took me in circles, so I had to stop in the end and walk. I went into a small food shop to ask directions, and it wasn’t until I stood at Forex that I realised I had no idea how to get back to the car! I walked the streets in search for the car on feeling alone and did find it, but in a brief moment of panic I feared Loke would freeze to death before I could find the car again.

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The funny thing is that by the time I got out of Luleå, I was so stressed my stomach had tied itself in knots. I could barely eat the mashed potatoes and grilled sausage I bought from the service station along the road. I ate a couple of mouthfuls, forced several more until half was gone, and then left the rest. I drove on in pain for an hour before it dissipated. I am not big on making New Year resolutions, but I have promised myself that I will truly work on being in the moment this year. Life is unpredictable. My moods are unpredictable, and they sway all over the map. Lists and hours of writing in my journal won’t change the seasons and weathers within me, nor how I really deal with them. I read through some posts from last year, took some time to re-read your comments, and I feel so blessed to have such wonderful readers. Your encouragement and your support has meant and means the world to me.

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I am also so thankful to Jay for suggesting I take a couple of weeks to myself. This Christmas was very different, yet so amazing. I got the bedroom done, finally, and then with Jay’s help we got some other cleaning projects done, but in the end he suggested we get a cover for the doorway into the anxiety room. So I bought curtains from IKEA which Dad helped me put up on the day before Christmas Eve. All of us — Mom, Dad, Jay and I did cooking for our Christmas dinner, and Jay’s mom brought some dishes, too. She made her amazing sour milk cheese. So good. Dad boggled at the amount of food laid out on the table, but when we all sat down to eat on Christmas Eve I was so happy it was finally done. I hadn’t run around like a decapitated chicken to get the house sparkling, there were still a lot of mess in some places, but we had the most wonderful time. I really shut the rest of the world out and focused on our own little unit. It was so needed.

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Now, for the next couple of weeks, I will focus on only me, my photography, and travel around this magical place of my childhood. Take your time, Jay told me. And I will. I will try my hardest to not feel guilty for indulging time away from my family to do something I love. To let go and just enjoy my own peace and quiet. To get in the car and drive to wherever, whenever. And if I don’t feel like moving an inch, then that is all right, too.

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I intended to write this post and share these photos yesterday, but one night of sleep didn’t help me recover from the drive, so I spent the day taking short walks with Loke up and down the road outside the house and editing all the photos from our road trip. We had twenty-one degrees below zero yesterday. The insides of my nostrils froze when I breathed, but I kind of love that feeling. It reminds me of days when my legs were shorter and my layers of clothing much thicker than now. Days I flew on skiis across the frozen river without a thought of the depths below. Careless and innocently unaware of how thick the ice is and how much weight can it really take before it breaks? It won’t give, but I still fear for it.

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I took the camera with me on our morning walk yesterday while the coffee was brewing. When I powered it up, it told me I had no memory card, so I went out again after Loke had done his business. And oh, this river. Beloved Ångermanälven. I can’t explain what it is about this place that moves my soul so deeply. Its quiet, melancholy beauty. I will spend many mornings here and just breathe in.

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Today I will go into Härnösand to find myself some gloves I can use when I’m out there shooting. As of right now some fingers are still swollen from the icy love bites from these northern winds. Even in still weather the air here burrows into the skin like a thousand needles. In spite of it, I don’t feel cold. There’s something very different about walking through a couple of degrees on the plus side, sleet and black landscapes as opposed to this icy chill hovering over pastel-white mountains and valleys. I feel oddly yet pleasantly warm in its cool embrace. Only my hands suffer.

I hope you all had amazing holidays, that your New Year was peaceful, and I look forward to continuing to share this journey with you this year. Welcome, 2018! Much love and many, many snowy hugs to you all. ❤

 

 

 

 

Walking Through The Ages

Good evening, everyone! As of right now, I am snuggled up on my father’s sofa with a cup of coffee and my laptop. I just finished editing some photos from today’s road trip to Junsele–a smallish town about 130 kilometers from where my father lives. I went there with Lilli and my brother to have a look at an art exhibition by Jonna Jinton, and I have been writing and erasing several times over now to tell you about it. I’m laughing because I feel like a sloth trying to run–gracefully–on a tightrope. Haha So I am deciding to tell you about it later.

On the way up to Junsele, however, we decided that if the rain let up, we would stop at Näsåker on our way back, another small town where next to Nämforsen (a river), there are petroglyphs dated all the way back from the Neolithic Age to the Bronze Age. I can’t actually find any information that it would be a UNESCO World Heritage site, but since it sort of is within the High Coast area, I am categorising it as such.

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A soft drizzle fell over our heads and Nämforsen roared next to us as we walked carefully across the wet wooden walking paths.

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I visited this place about two years ago, when I came here to pick up my brother from a yearly recurring folk festival called Urkult. Back then I had no idea these patroglyphs existed in this place.

The landscape up here is so unbelievably beautiful I am at a loss for words. We walked around for quite some time before continuing our drive home.

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Down by the rocky shore people passing by have made these balancing rock formations. Also called meditation rocks–I think. It looked amazing, and Lilli wanted to make her own.

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Lilli’s meditation rocks.

Would you believe that I left my camera battery charger back in Finland? I feel so silly. I realised it when Lilli and I arrived at Drottningholm Park early on Friday morning, after getting off the ferry. So ever since then I have used my camera sparingly, since it only has about half its power left. In fact, all the photos in this post are taken with my iPhone. I did however get some really nice photos taken with my camera in Stockholm, at Drottningholm, so check in on my Instagram profile if you want to have a look. 😉

When we left Näsåker, we took the so-called Tourist Route back. It ran closely along Ångermanälven (Ångerman River), and in the light rain the mist clung to the forest-dressed mountains. I kept ooh‘ing and aah‘ing as we drove, and we stopped at a couple of places so I could run out and snap a few photos.

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I balanced on the edge of the shore to reach this rock sticking up in order to build my very own meditative formation. The first one tumbled into the water.

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After these last photos we only made one more stop to fill up the tank and to get some drinks.

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Early tomorrow morning, my brother and I will go on another road trip. We will drive across the border to Norway and go visit Trondheim for the day. It’s about a five-hour drive from here. My brother recently got his license, so I guess you could say it’s a celebration. And he asked me if I wanted to join him. Since you love taking photos so much, he said. Of course I agreed. So that was also another reason I opted to save the battery I have left for tomorrow during this trip today. I do wish I had taken some photos at the art exhibition, though, but I completely forgot.

I wish you all a lovely week ahead, and I will see you soon! With a few photos from Norway. ❤

An Evening Of Magic And Serenity

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Personal Journey

Hello, everyone! I know I dropped off the radar but it seems like I have been in constant motion since Wednesday morning and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write until now. The past few days have been amazing and I have been longing to get a moment to share them with you.

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In my mother’s living room.
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A gift.

Last week I got a message from the education coordinator at Härnösand’s Folk High in Sweden, where I studied for two years–two incredible years which came to play a big part in the personal journey I began back in 2014. I have had plenty of time now to land and process all the emotions and impressions from the past few days–and since I got her message–but even as I write I am overwhelmed anew. A tangle of happiness, wonder, and such a deep thankfulness it feels like I might lift off the ground. I cannot tell you how many times I have been on the verge of tears or how many words were choked by the emotion that provoked them.

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View from old route E4/“Riksväg 90”.

As I write, I sit in my father’s kitchen, a cup of coffee beside me, and with a view of the High Coast bridge outside our window. It is the most comfy place and I am so easily lost in thought and contemplation. Even though I feel and know the changes I have gone through, even though family, friends, and teachers have seen and confirmed them, I am still kind of gobsmacked that it got me elected for a stipend. A diploma with words of my accomplishments along this journey rests in my suitcase now, ready to travel back home to Finland to be framed. Honestly, I am going to put it on my wall. I both can and can’t believe it, do you know what I mean?

You know, I almost didn’t go. After I was contacted I ran out the door and across the farm to where my partner was in the middle of cleaning our machines. I had to shout over the rumble of the compressor. I told him about the invitation back to Härnösand Folk High and he reminded me of the timing belt that needs changing before any major trips should be made with the car. And there just wasn’t enough time to get the car into the workshop before I would have had to leave. The HFS education coordinator told me I could join them over Skype, so either way I would be with them throughout the event. And so I told her I couldn’t come.

My partner noticed how crestfallen I was, and I kept trying to come up with any alternative or solution to make the trip anyway. He told me you’ll regret it if you don’t go. I don’t believe in regrets, but I knew already on the inside that I hadn’t accepted I can’t be there. I guess I needed to hear that I could risk the fate of the timing belt–and the engine–take the chance. Sometimes, no matter how far you have come to trust in that inner voice, sometimes that little extra push is needed. So I went, and the car and I had a smooth and uneventful trip, all the way from Finland to Sweden.

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I think once again on those words the speaker presenting the stipends gave, how important it is to find your own voice. For so long I lived with those borrowed voices I had collected over the years, and for so long I grew to resent the people behind those voices every single time I met failure and disappointment. So finding my own voice wasn’t only important for me and my own well-being and growth, but I have finally been able to let go of the world of weight my grudges encumbered me with. I can now with complete honesty say I do not feel contempt for anyone, no matter who they are or what they do. We are all on a journey–our very own path to find and establish that inner voice, find our place in this world. Sometimes we walk alone, and sometimes we walk alongside others. When my own voice is strong and clear, and the trust in myself sincere, I have come to see I hear and find it in me to understand and listen to others in ways I never could before.

For this, and for all the other challenges and opportunities to meet them I was given during my time at Härnösand Folk High, and to all the wonderful and amazing people I got to meet–I will be forever grateful. So this is not the end of a journey, it is only the beginning. And I eagerly and with more surety and confidence than ever take my next steps.

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At the top of Skule mountain in the High Coast, Sweden. A sneak peek of the many more photos to come from that evening. 😉

As always, thank you so much for reading and I wish you all a cozy Sunday and a great week ahead. See you soon!

A Mother-Daughter Hike: Part 3

Hi, everyone! We have arrived at the third and last stretch of the hike I did with Lilli two years ago. Living through this trip as I share it with you has gotten me all excited for this summer. Just looking at these photos coaxed that lovely memory cocktail of sounds, smells and sensations; the heat rising from rock, hovering between the trunks as we wandered, and the cool breeze sweeping in from the ocean–salt, seaweed, and minerals. Even the moss and lichen has its own distinct scent. And the pine trees. Oh, the smell of resin and pine needles is divine.

After leaving the beautiful tarn behind, the landscape soon began to rise. At one point I had to lift Lilli up by intertwining my fingers and letting her step on my palms, and at another climb I got up first, then pulled her up while she found purchase with the toes of her shoes. On the way back, though, she told me she would brave the drop herself and she sure did. I kept my camera stowed away during these moments, though, ready to pounce to the rescue. Once the trail leveled out, I got my camera out again.

Lilli didn’t get tired of me taking photos, either. She was happy stopping and taking it slow, but at a particular moment after posing for a dozen photos in a row, she turned away and pretended I wasn’t there. Hah.

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“Ugh. No more, Mom.”
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My steadfast little girl might not have said anything about getting tired, but hiking across a shifting landscape like this does wring the juice out of you. In a nice way, I think. In such a way that makes taking a break feel so good. So we found a spot with a great view and sat down to take many long breaths. And to refresh ourselves with water.

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This sky used to be littered with those Unidentified Flying Objects – aka dust speckles on the sensor.
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Taking a moment to just be.

As I am sure shows and seeps through my words as I write, wandering nature and adventuring through all that it has to offer fills my heart and soul with joy. Getting to do this with my daughter–I count myself so blessed and lucky to have been given this wonderful human being to guide and nurture. And to be part of, whether close by or from afar, her very own journey in this life.

I may have this sneaky old habit of being very hard on myself, one I do many battles with still, but I only hope that by the time my little girl wants to try her own wings, I have given her a solid foundation to push off from.

On the last stretch, before reaching our turning point, and that preciously needed coffee and picnic smörgåsbord, we both kept our eyes all but glued to the horizon. The views from up here were absolutely breathtaking.

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And this almost concludes our trek through Skuleskogen–for now. At the end of June, Lilli and I will get in the car–Loke will be joining us, too–to begin our road trip. Our first stop is Terranova, a natural science exhibition which presents Kvarken archipelago, elected as Finland’s first natural heritage site in 2006. It is a permanent part of the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vaasa. After that we will travel straight to Svedjehamn on Björkö in Kvarken archipelago, about 40 kilometers from Vaasa, and do a little exploring. I will talk more about that later in another post, since I have exciting plans to document our adventures this summer. In other words, there will be more mother-daughter hikes to come. And then some.

Some Last Words

The famous last words–no, not really. That just popped into my head when I wrote the heading text. I do want to get a little nerdy, though, and I have saved a little for the end credits. In every post I have written I have edited out my tendencies to transform my storytelling into information dumps. So, here we go. Short but sweet.

Did you know that twenty thousand years ago Skuleskogen National Park was covered by a 3 kilometre thick layer of ice? Can you imagine the weight of it? That pressure? Now, think of that melting, moving, sliding. The High Coast in Sweden, in which this park we have ventured through is situated, and Kvarken archipelago in Finland, forms a unique area. Together they are one of the few places in the world where traces of post-glacial rebound are so clearly visible. Flads and gloe lakes, deep crevices, vast rock fields, caves and tunnels carved by Mother Nature’s able hands. And watch that ancient rock rise up, still, at the pace of 8 mm per year. Skuleberget–Skule Mountain–which is right across route E4 from the National Park is impressive and definitely worth a visit. If you are into climbing, they have Via Ferrata facilities.

Lastly, did you also know that this post-glacial rebound process creates around one square kilometer of new land every year? In a couple of thousand years our descendants will be able to hike across Kvarken. It is just too fascinating and powerful to imagine. And too cool information to not add as an afterword.

If you have read this far, I want to thank you for joining us. I have honestly enjoyed writing about this and going through these photos so much, and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see your likes and follows. Thank you! As always, I look forward to sharing many more adventures with you. Until next time, and see you soon!

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Here you can not only see a gorgeous example of that–if I am not mistaken, do correct me if I am–ancient rock, but also stark traces of my newbie photography skills. Blurr-blurr-blurr.

 

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.

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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