This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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In Southeast Estonia, of all places

tartu-3In Tartu today. How surprisingly charming this little Southeastern Estonian town is. Perhaps little for me, but it is the second largest city of Estonia after Tallinn, boasting a population of about 95,000 people. Yes, really. And who knows how many students.tartu-2The vibe here is historic, hip, and smart. There are hipster cafés, cool murals, old wooden houses, and an almost Cambridge-y breeze in the air.  Naturally I am here for the smarts and the science. It’s in the air, too.tartu-1(Tartu, Estonia; May 2017)

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balloon-1One sunny eve in May we all gathered on my home island. The task was to put together the largest hot air balloon in Finland. With a basket like a small bus. It lived in a van the size of a large bus. balloon-2There were four burners and, naturally, Tibetan prayer flags. Because the pilot had been ballooning around Annapurna some time ago. balloon-4First we blew the balloon full with cold air. Then we followed with hot air from the burners. balloon-7It really was an immense bubble of air, even only half-full. And somehow, somehow it rose upright slowly and controlledly, without flying off with us all hanging from the mooring ropes. It waited nicely until we were on board.balloon-6My home island looks so friendly from the air.
balloon-8The amusement park looks friendly, too. Like it was built for dolls. balloon-3The wind took us East of Helsinki-Malmi recreational airport. But somehow, like magic, we found a wind layer blowing West, and in all that air going Northeast we drifted West, into the airport, and touched down spot on the runway. How it happened is beyond me.

In a traditional champagne ceremony all the adult ladies were given the honorary title duchess or empress. I was given the title princess, along with all the little girls. I quite liked it. And I liked the fact that most of the champagne ended up in our glasses instead of being poured over our heads.balloon-5(Helsinki, Finland; May 2017)