This is Finland – or some of it. We still have 75% of our land covered in forests. Nobody thinks of that as contributing to the “lungs of the planet”. Why is that, by the way?
Only last year I learned that it is uncommon for private people to be able to own forest. I sat around the table with some 25 Japanese, Chinese, and Korean business men – and watched their faces grow both amazed and thrilled as they heard that here most land is owned by average families. And private land means you can still walk through it, picking berries and mushrooms as you go, as long as you don’t camp or make a fire.
Nature belongs to all of us. It should be tended to by all of us. The great naturalist John Muir realized the implications of the great American private land ownership culture early enough, and bullied decision-makers to establish vast national parks like the Yosemite. So that people could still explore unknown lands without the fear of being shot by a protective land owner.
Here in Finland, we do things differently: we welcome anyone to enjoy our forests. My father’s forest has ski trails and is used by a hunting society. It’s all good – as long as our neighbors do not steal too many christmas trees.
(Photo source: Finnair Blue Wings magazine, winter 2018 issue)
(Helsinki, Finland; February 2018)
De-icing aircrafts is the constant messer-up of winter flight schedules. You can do it like they do it on Heathrow: spend 10 minutes drenching each wing, minutely combing through every square centimeter of the wing with the flashlight, causing an average delay of 1 hour for a rush-hour departure. Or you can do it the Finnish style: zap-zap-final-finishing-look and done. All in a matter of 2 minutes. It saves drenching the airport in toxic liquids, and somehow, saving time and substance does not seem to cause any more accidents. Because ice on wings can be deadly.
(Helsinki, Finland; February 2018)
The laskiaispulla (FIN), or fastlagsbulle (Swedish dialect in FIN), fastelavnsbolle (NO) or semla (SE) is one hell of a calorie bomb: sweetbread carved out to harbor a clump of juicy, bitter-almond tasting marzipan (or raspberry jam for the heretics), with a cloud of whipped cream on top. But what else do you want on a cold February Shrove Tuesday when the body craves for energy?
This is as close as we get to Carnival in the Nordics: one or several laskiaispulla before 40 days of “fasting” (over here it was mainly cutting out the superfluous) before Easter. Except I don’t know of anyone who actually fasts. It seems to be a nearly dead tradition – and why? In the middle of the carbohydrate frenzy our body seems to prefer during the cold months, take 40 days and really consider every piece of simple, unextravagant food you put in your mouth. Cut down on sugar, leave out the booze. And kick-start it all with a few laskiaispullas in the ancient fashion: served in a bowl of hot milk. This dish is called “hetvägg” in Sweden (hot wall). Try it and you’ll find out why.
(Stockholm, Sweden; February 2018)
In London, Heathrow airport closes after 5 centimeters of snowfall. If it can be expected, flights are “proactively canceled” even two days before, to ensure smooth running of most critical services. News broadcast snow warnings, and travelers are stuck on the airport for days.
In Helsinki it is business as usual after 20 centimeters of snow. Sure, it is a bumpy ride on the snow-packed, frozen taxiways. Sure, one has to jump into the freshly fallen snow and somehow drag one’s cabin bag behind, wheels locked and uncooperative. Sure, flights are a little delayed. But the eight or so huge brush-equipped snow plows zooming across the runway in formation at some 60 km/hour speed every once in a while is what makes most of the difference. Is it really not worthwile for Heathrow to invest in a little basic snow-how?
(Helsinki, Finland; February 2018)
For just one day I checked out of my own life. I reconnected with the person living that life instead. Under the skin of the person who travels 2-3 days a week for work, and consciously has to carve out time for life beyond a job she loves, are ants running around. The trick is, one only discovers them when one stops for a moment.
So today I sat down on my zafu and said hello to the ants running across my chest, on the inside of my skin. As I practised my walking meditation in 20 cm snow underneath sleeping apple trees, I could feel the ants go to sleep, too.
While I consciously choose to live than just to exist, in this context and in our culture, truly “living” usually means being active. Sometimes it is good to just let the world pass through us and truly feel it. The good, the bad, and the antsy.
(Kirkkonummi, Finland; January 2018)
Nearly frozen water moves slower than summer water, viscous like icy cold schnapps in a glass. Yet it is warmer than the air: the rocks have white berets of ice on their heads. Even last year’s reed remains have puffy dresses of frozen seawater.
Winter is silent. Pensive. A little gloomy. And so am I, too, in January and February of most years.(Helsinki, Finland; January 2018)
When one walks up the steps to the Atelier Relaxium lounge at Copenhagen airport there is an entire explanation of how the colors work: choose a space according to your energy level and needs. The explanation is needed to blunt the colors that hit the visitor at entry. All the food and most comfortable chairs are in the Red space, which is seriously RED. Hurting-my-eyes red. Actually, so is the yellow and the orange. After my initial shock I went looking for calming blue and green – and noticed that instead of calming down on a couch or chaise longue I would need to sit up straight on a blue or green dining room chair. Not much Relaxium going on there. Whoever painted this lounge did not quite get the intuitive effects of colors on people.
The Apartment lounge which Finnair uses is closed for renovation, so they shunt us here. My brain, used to the bland Nordic minimalistic color world, can’t cope with these uber-enthusiastic colors. Especially not after a busy day. Thank goodness there is a Yo Sushi at Copenhagen airport. I much prefer that as a lounge, even if I have to pay for the food and drinks.
(Copenhagen airport, Denmark; January 2018)
In Copenhagen, on a dreary day. The view would be fantastic if it were not for the fog. Not much else going on today.
(Copenhagen, Denmark; January 2018)
It could have been a Greek island. It certainly felt like it, and even the olives and the tzatziki had a tinge of sunlight in their flavors. I tried to forget it was Gröna Lund in Stockholm, Sweden. Because there was a Mamma Mia -inspired dinner show, followed by an ABBA-inspired disco, and so many happy people in summer dresses and light linen suits.Indeed, it was Greece all the way until the wee hours of dawn, when we stepped out of the wonderland into a freezing cold, snowy January night.
(Stockholm, Sweden; January 2018)
In this charming, century-old country house there is not a room of one’s own for one person, but for three. The house belonged to my paternal grandfather, who might smile knowing that it now contains the desk and chair of my maternal grandfather. Three rooms, three colors, one wallpaper pattern. In the cold winter light the ambiance in each is different. Which one is your favorite?(Loviisa, Finland; January 2018)