This blue marble

– and yet it spins


Leave a comment

The Duomo in winter

duomoThis was my first visit to Milan without visiting the Duomo. No time, you see, as I only passed it while walking to dinner. I am not a religious person, but I quite like the ambiance of this church, especially during Sunday mass.

In summer, the square is crowded and people wait in zig-zagging lines to enter a security control. In winter there is no security control, nor masses of tourists lining up. The church is still the same. As it took the best of 600 years to complete into its current state, hopefully it will still remain the same for another 600 years to come. Unless tourists of the future only care about virtual reality representations and tours.

(Milan, Italy; January 2019)


Leave a comment

About business hotels and un-mindful living

milanhotelI took this picture so I could complain about the uniformity and lack of identity of business hotels. But now I think such a complaint would sound obnoxious, privileged, and humble-bragging about my supposedly “glitzy” working life. Yes it entails lots of sleek hotels in exciting cities. Yes it entails lots of flying and yes I have two airline elite tier membership cards.

When I do not notice anything wrong with the hotel, this suffices. When I do not see torn carpets, dirty floors, and unclean sheets. A good business hotel is supposed to support a busy person’s busy day, make meals and exercise and rest smooth and easy. The sad thing is that many business hotels are actually gorgeous if one only looks at the details. But seldom people do, as they all seem to look alike these days. And so we are completely unappreciative of the way the colors harmonize, how the couch upholstering feels luxurious to the touch, and how sometimes even the corridors have a calming scent.

Humans are masters of adaptation, and adaptation means getting used to a new normal so quickly and so well that one does not even notice what is happening. Whether it is the lack of light in the winter, the bad quality of air in a city, or sleek and beautiful surroundings of hotels, we quickly begin to take the current state of things as granted and do not pay much attention to how different it was compared to where we came from. This is not ingratitude, it is survival of the most adaptive. It is also the opposite of mindful living.

And so, instead of being bored, I intend to work on becoming more mindful: of the shine of the marble floor, of the absolute comfort of my pillow, and of anything that makes me relax after a busy day.

(Milan, Italy; January 2019)


1 Comment

A deathly boring book

voleSpotted in the bathroom of the country cottage. Apparently August Strindberg can bore one to death. How the poor thing got into the bathroom and how we did not notice it, living or dead, until now is a mystery. I am so dreadfully sorry little vole, for not letting you back out in time.

(Loviisa, Finland; January 2019)


Leave a comment

Remote office in the remote countryside

takkaI am working from the cottage this week, surrounded by snow. There is no wi-fi but the invention of an iPhone hotspot can do wonders for work-life balance if one lets it. Everything but video conferencing works, and who needs video conferencing anyway when snuggling up behind the laptop in woollen socks and a thick homely sweater? Output quality trumps appearance and sense of style in my job.

And just because I feel like it: here is a repost of the wonderful poem “January” by John Updike.

The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.

Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor.
Milk bottles burst
Outside the door.

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace.

The sky is low.
The wind is gray.
The radiator
Purrs all day.

(Loviisa, Finland; January 2019)


Leave a comment

Colors seen and unseen

spectrum-1The low, early January sun found its way in through the dining room window just so. It hit the crystal chandelier and exploded into hundreds of little rainbows, all over the walls and the ceiling and the fireplace. For a long while the dining room became a crystal palace.

White light does not contain every color as such. In a way it kind of does, but when one breaks down white light into pure spectral colors there will be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Pink and brown for example are not spectral colors and are instead blends of two or more colors. But why is violet (essentially blue and red mixed) a spectral color and not pink or purple, with just a bit less blue and more red? And how many colors are we actually missing because our human eyes cannot distinguish them? Ultraviolet and infrared probably, but are there amazing iridescent turquoises and greens and shades of yellow and even entirely imaginary colors that only bees and butterflies can see? If the electromagnetic spectrum stretches from meter-long radio waves into micro waves into that tiny band we perceive as colors Рand then out into X-ray waves, what would the world look like if we were to perceive for example micro waves and X-ray waves as colors?spectrum-2(Loviisa, Finland; January 2019)


Leave a comment

Snow

snowhouse-2While the polar vortex spun around northern North America, snow settled in Europe, including Finland. These photos are from late December and a week ago, in early February, my mother described that the heaps of snow blowing against the house now reach half-way up the wall. Imagine that. I am trying. snowhouse-1(Helsinki, Finland; December 2018)


Leave a comment

The little house in the great woods

snowhouse-3That little house in the great woods is actually a sauna. Traditionally, a sauna has always been a separate building, standing apart from the main house. Possibly due to the risk of fire. Saunas used to burn down from time to time.

The two elements of a sauna are fire and water. For thousands of years they brought babies into life and guided dying ones in their last moments of this life. A flu is still often cured in the sauna, and hearts are kept strong by alternating between hot air baths and cold winter water baths. Saunas alleviate any kind of muscle ache, even women’s own kind of deep muscle ache.

And (in contrast to many American saunas) in a Finnish sauna there are no warning signs: no doctor’s consultation needed, no advice against entering if one is old, pregnant, or if one suffers of a weak heart or low blood pressure. Because there is no need: a sauna is not a dangerous place, quite the opposite. The combination of sauna and some common sense and listening to one’s body is beneficial for everybody.

(Loviisa, Finland; December 2018)


4 Comments

About Nordic winter days and energy levels

solsticeWinter days in Finland are short. Down South in Helsinki day length is 5 hours 50 minutes at its shortest, in deep December. After all, different from Copenhagen which is geographically not really Nordic at all, Helsinki is on the same latitude as Oslo, Kamchatka, Quebec, and Shetland Islands.

I thought of this when I took a walk on Boxing Day at 2 pm and the sun was nearing the horizon. In Copenhagen the length of day never goes below 7 hours and it is noticeable: there is always light or near-light at 8 am. And the cold; do not speak of the cold. I firmly believe it physically wears me out as my muscles involuntarily contract and shiver to keep me warm. Proper outdoor wear or not.

You may wonder why I write about this year after year (or you may already have stopped reading, bored). But I truly feel I was born unequipped to handle the darkness and the coldness that surrounds this part of the world 2/3 of the year. While Denmark is not exactly central Europe, I still feel a significant difference in my energy levels throughout this winter. Just like I did when I lived in the UK and in the Netherlands.

The ayurveda doctor I once consulted on Bali let me in on two secrets: firstly, I am physically an early riser. I found it difficult to believe as I could easily sleep until 11 am, but he was right: I went to bed too late, missed out on the optimal time of night to obtain deep sleep, and woke up too late and too tired to ever consider myself a morning lark. Secondly, he told me I sleep too much. “Eight hours of sleep time is enough. Eight and a half if you are stressed. Absolutely never more than nine”. The trick was, he told me, to “sleep less and rest awake more”.

After spending some time resisting this counter-intuitive advice, I decided to try it out. I began to go to bed by 9.30 pm and 10 pm the latest, instead of my usual 11-11.30 pm. And I set my alarm exactly 9 hours later, to allow for 8+ hours of sleep time. BOOM. What a difference. I began to spend my early mornings and time before bed writing, reading, crafting, meditating. Suddenly there was also time to rest while awake.

This was not just an experiment. Two and a half years later I am still continuing my new ways: going to bed by 10 pm on those nights when I do not travel late, waking up before 8 am (also in the weekends!), and spending more calm time. But the most significant difference is still Danish daylight.

(Helsinki and Brande; December 2018 and February 2019)


Leave a comment

Copenhagen, right before christmas

CPH-2Christmastime in Copenhagen means lots of mulled wine, strange sweet pasties and candies, and people still sitting outside (under gas heating). Yes, outside, because after all Denmark is not really geographically Nordic. It is on the same latitude as Edinburgh, Klaipeda, and Moscow.

Christmas isn’t traditionally a time for sushi, but we thought it could be. And if one eats too much, one can always rock one’s full belly in the swing provided by the restaurant. So did we, and so did a random couple who seemed to have a good time doing it.
CPH-1(Copenhagen, Denmark; December 2018)


Leave a comment

High above London

skygardens-2Last work trip of the year calls for celebration. Unfortunately my date for the night called in sick and I enjoyed dinner over London all by myself. It is quite a sight to see St Paul’s cathedral far down below.

Someone had the bright idea to turn the Sky Gardens bar into a live music venue, without considering the absolutely awful acoustics of a glass-domed rooftop. I was glad to be behind another set of glass, in the terraced restaurant. The Sky Gardens would be a great location for studies on how noise affects the health and growth of plants.skygardens-1(Sky Gardens, London, United Kingdom; December 2018)