This blue marble

– and yet it spins


About plants, and survival

bonsai2012Some plants become lifelong friends. Like the weeping fig I grew from a cutting from my mother’s tree when I was 17, wrapped around a rock, and grew into a bonsai tree. It has moved to Holland and back with me, and it made it to Denmark a year after I did. It looks a bit funky today as its apex is missing: half of the tree died when I spent a year in the UK. A big love was shattered during that year, too. Both it and I survived, but we are not the same anymore. The photo was taken a year after our crash-and-burn. I was doing about the same.bonsai2020Then there is the jade plant, which originates from a cutting I snatched from the botanical gardens in Helsinki at the age of 19. When I intended to bring it over here to Denmark I discovered it had been forgotten for so long that the parched soil had shrunk from the pot edges, the wire holding the roots down had corroded and snapped, and the plant had capsized, lying sideways with its roots in the air. I apologized profusely, stuffed it into a bag and flew it to Copenhagen with me. Today it looks shaven on the sides because many leaves cracked off during the transport, and overgrown because I have focused on nursing it back to life before repotting and pruning. Life mangles us all up from time to time.

Recently I caved and bought an “it-plant”. Although I suppose the fiddle leaf fig was an it-plant five years ago, and should now be considered your garden variety hipster millennial living room species. They’re supposed to be high maintenance, and they’re supposed to wither and die with too much light, too little light, too much water, too little water, too hot, too cold, too anything.

Right now my baby fiddle leaf is pushing out new leaves two at a time. I whispered a secret to her: she will not end up in a bonsai pot, wired into shape. She will get special treatment and only the room ceiling is the limit for her. I hope we will remain friends for a long time. lyrata(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2020)

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New beginnings

newcareerMy new Copenhagen slow life got to an even slower start thanks to the coronavirus. Not only did I get the chance to focus on only one job project, I found myself without a single airline booking, business or private, for the first time in 20 years. What did I do? Wake up at 7 am, have a stretch and a breakfast smoothie, and read a book before work. Go for mid-afternoon runs. Run brainstorming workshops using MS Teams and a virtual post-it note and whiteboard app. Run meetings with country operating company management via Zoom. Everybody has to use video, otherwise it’s so easy to multitask and not be properly present in the meeting.

And I have been rethinking my career. What do I like about my work? What don’t I like? In which circumstances and environment do I perform best? And, most importantly, what is the impact I want to create on this planet and the living things on it? I love the work I have been doing until now, but is it time to stretch further? Would someone believe it, and give me a chance to try?

I have lists of base-case jobs and stretch jobs. There are lists of organizations in Denmark, and elsewhere in the EU. Lists of headhunters. Even a list of alternative cities around Europe, ranked based on most livable -rankings, expat quality of life, job opportunities, and taxation. For the first time in my life I am really using LinkedIn, beyond just updating my CV and liking one or two posts from my network. Two trustworthy friends are also helping me out: a notebook from UN City which I received from my sister, and granpa’s 1970s mahogany-handle Ballograf Epoca pen. (In case you have one, too: I discovered it likes Caran D’Ache ballpoint refills).

(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2020)

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In spring

springflowersIt was a gray day for a walk, in mid-March, one of the last days before restaurants were closed for sit-down meals. But it was spring. And outside of the northernmost parts of the world, spring is a real, long season: months of slowly increasing fresh green and seas of flower colors and birds going crazy in the sunlight.

It was not until I moved to Cambridge that I really paid attention to the length of spring, and how lovely it was. Even in the southernmost parts of Finland, spring (usually still) means snow cover into March, sporadic snow showers throughout April, a few first timid spring flowers in late April and early May – and then an explosion of green during a few weeks, when everything transforms from dead into full-blown summer in June. The summer warmth sneaks in slowly and often midsummer, in the third week of June, is cold even in the South.

Here in Denmark there is none of such fickle nonsense. The days are constantly warmer, sunnier, and longer. Spring slowly stretches its limbs and warms itself in the sun for a few months, and the season can truly be felt and enjoyed. Without snow storms.

(Copenhagen, March 2020)

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About daffodils

CPH-6Poor daffodils, such uniquely beautiful flowers with so many negative connotations. Daffodils are also known as narcissus, and “narcissistic” is not a nice thing to be. Why these poor flowers have to suffer by association and name to the Greek myth of Narcissus, a vain man who was turned into a daffodil, is beyond me.

When I was little, my grandmother instructed me to never give anyone yellow flowers, as it was a sign of envy. Google tells me that in other European cultures, giving a suitor or anyone with a proposal yellow flowers was a polite way to refuse what was on offer. Daffodils are the most vibrant shade of yellow – how can anything so sunny and energetic be used to send a negative message?

And last but not least: that round trumpet in the middle of a daffodil is known as a “corona” in botanist speak. Enough said.

And yet, daffodils themselves know and care of none of the above. Neither do I. When I pass hordes of flowers on my daily run I wish I could bathe in that vibrant yellow hue.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2020)


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There are no travels on my calendar, for the first time in 20 years. My only planned travel is to the grocery store, the market, and the healthy living shop, twice weekly. Is it bliss? Perhaps. Yet, traveling has not always been bliss, either. Here is my list of recent mishaps:

2019 No mishaps. Would have been total bliss in Spain, but my grandfather passed away while I was there.

2018 Earthquakes on Bali. It just kept shaking, for weeks. We were lucky to not be on Lombok or the Gilis.

2017 Seriously infected blister on foot in Namibia. The doctor was concerned about bone infection and gave me a heavy dose of near-last-line antibiotics. I could not walk well for a week which meant boat duty every day (observing dolphins, not so bad!).

2016 Post-op recovery on Bali. I had a torn meniscus and my knee ligaments were generally mangled by too much running.

2015 Dog bite on Bali. Spent half of my time there chasing rabies vaccines across the island, as stocks were low. Even if I had been immunized for rabies previously. “WHO protocol”, I was told.

2013 Appendicitis in Berlin (and a centipede bite in Kenya). I had surgery on day 2 and spent my week-long holiday at the Charité, on the 20th floor, either in the psych ward (why?!) or the post-op, filled with dying cancer patients. It was… interesting.

There was also a work trip to Stockholm once, where I crashed in a Segway on a karting track and had a mild concussion. The next day I found out I had two broken ribs, thanks to the pain that shot through me when I laughed.

All these calamities were minor. I was hospitalized only once. There were no repercussions, and I am still alive and healthy. Also, there were good times every time. For example when I was permitted to leave the hospital in Berlin and cleared to fly home the same night, at the end of the holiday (see here for the full post):

“Outside of Charite university hospital, I heaved myself grimacing into a taxi after my sister.
She: “schloss Bellevue, bitte.”
Taxi driver with big eyes: “jetzt?!”
Me in bad German/Dutch/English: um… Ich will laufen (‘lopen’ means ‘walk’ in Dutch but ‘run’ in German)
Taxi driver: “JETZT?!”
My sister: “no she means walk, spatzieren”
Me feebly: “ich habe Urlaub in hospital… Ich muss zurück nach Finland heute abend”
Taxi driver decides it better to stop asking and just drive the crazy tourists.”

(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2020)