This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Finally, quiet in Copenhagen

Jaegersborg Dyrehaven in May feels like walking in an 18th-century landscape painting: soft hills, scraggly bare trees, and broken trunks scattered across yesteryear’s grass turfs and dead leaves. But a painting is silent. And if I stop to listen, I hear a twittering robin, a screeching jay, and a hawk calling down to all of us, hovering high above in circles.

This is where I go to escape the bustle of every single other Copenhagen city park. Biking here requires a bit of effort and time, but it is all forgotten when my Finnish soul finally finds a spot without a single car, bike, unknown person, or useless chatter.

(Jaegersborg Dyrehave, Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2021)

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All the paperwork

Got my passport, my Danish proof-of-address, my negative COVID test, and my ticket. I have now dropped bringing my rental agreement and employment contract, which I traveled with most of 2020 after hearing rumors of expats having trouble re-entering Denmark. Even in 2021 it is not easy to enter a country without a valid reason, and a lot of paperwork and planning. Looking back at over 50 years of borderless travel between the Nordics, it is quite the unimaginable future we live in today.

(Helsinki, Finland; April 2021)

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In the space between COVID tests

The lapwings, chaffinches, and skylarks are already here. I do not know how they find anything living to eat, but I guess they are the experts, not I. Thankfully, the sun warms all of us during the day, and the snow is going to be gone in a week or two.

We humans may see another half-weird summer due to COVID, but when I take a walk in all this blue and blinding light, with birds twittering all around me, I forget about face masks and hand sanitizer, and just am, in the calm, in that space between COVID tests.

(Loviisa, Finland; April 2021)

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In quarantine

Another flight, another COVID-test, and another quarantine. And yet one more COVID-test in the horizon, before I am free to spend time with family (and even get groceries). Thank goodness for my parents who pick up my grocery box. Thank goodness for this cute cottage. And thank goodness I finally got wifi last summer, ending the years of working from an iPhone hotspot.

Nothing in this cottage is minimalistic, but with furniture and kitchenware spanning a century in age, all is how it should be in a Finnish summer house: teacups from Russia and DDR, my great-grand uncle’s wife’s soup tureens, my father’s father’s furniture and my mother’s mother’s chair, and an Ikea kitchen.

(Loviisa, Finland; April 2021)

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My favorite time of week

My favorite time of the week: Friday, 5 pm. Because that is when I put away the deadlines, the sharpness required to challenge myself and others, the analyses, the business cases, and the corporate politics. And that is when I pull out my yoga gear for an hour of deeply calming yin yoga. The expansion in my joints and body slowly spreads into my head, opening up the windows, letting all the buzzing flies out and fresh air in, for a weekend of headspace and creative endeavors.

Once upon a time, I used to travel 3-4 days a week: fly in, followed by death by Powerpoint in some airport hotel or office, and fly out again, either the same day or the next. Repeated until Thursday night (or ad nauseam, it felt). A year into this craziness I informed my manager that I was going to work from home every Friday, and my colleagues that the only way they would get me into the office was to buy me good-quality sushi for lunch. During the years, I think they went through the trouble of securing sushi for me only a handful of times.

And I found that this decision was a lifesaver: unclogging my mailbox and getting a few hours of deep work done on Fridays, before simply closing the laptop lid and stepping on my yoga mat not only gave me more unwasted hours in a day, but allowed me to land after a busy week. It set me up for a restorative weekend.

Since then, I have worked 2-3 days a week from home (unless traveling), for the best of 5 years, and found this balance ideal. COVID-19 has forced most of us to work from home, and for many, the lines have become blurred and work invaded evenings and weekends. But as we nine-to-fivers go back to the office, it is easy to get sucked into the other extreme again. For me, this means having a post-COVID conversation with my new manager, as I have no intention of spending 5 days a week at my new office.

But first, and now, some deep breathing (see the routine that works for my body here). And then, weekend.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2021)


Life, turned into white stone

A short hike from the road opened up to wild sights, unlike anything anywhere else in Denmark: white chalk cliffs with over a hundred-meter drop, tropically clear turquoise waters, and rugged trees exposed to wind gusts across the Baltic Sea. Møns Klint is a UNESCO world heritage site, a Dark Sky Park for stargazing (with zero light pollution), and one of those places where I feel the quietly and slowly but steadily beating heart of this age-old Earth of ours.

The white chalk cliffs stretching over the Eastern tip of the island of Møn are all made of creatures like us, alive a long, long time ago: tiny shelled mollusks and other animals sank to the seafloor when they died and, throughout time, were compressed into white mountains. Isn’t that a beautiful mark of a short life to leave behind?

(Møns Klint, Denmark; March 2021)

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Lockdown escape to the seaside

Who says we need to be locked-down in our homes due to COVID, when someone else’s summer home is just as good (and perhaps much better)? Thanks to a lovely gentleman and AirBnB, for a little while a lovely, modern, airy cottage by the beach on Falster was all ours. The fridge was full of food, the fire was blazing every night, and the days were spent in creative introversion: reading, writing, and researching, followed by late-afternoon walks on the beach.

Creative headspace does not require all this, but it certainly helps to be looking at the forest, the fire, or the sea, instead of the floor requiring scrubbing, or the desk where all Teams meetings take place. The wild screams of seagulls and the soft patter of rain on the roof help, too. Considering much of Europe, in 2021 it is a privilege to not have to be confined inside one’s own apartment. Oh, the times we are living in.

(Marielyst, Denmark; March 2021)

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Interlude: a few boughs of pink fluff

Cherry blossoms are beautiful only for a week; then they rain down and make the ground beautiful for another few days. When nature is bare, and barely awake yet, Copenhagen is full of flowering trees. This year, the cherry tree walk at Bispebjerg cemetery was arranged as a fenced through-walk. Guards ensured that people moved on after snapping a few photos, instead of lingering and enjoying the moment underneath all that lovely pink fluff. Or so I heard, because I chose to stay away due to COVID and crowds. Instead, I brought a few boughs of that pink fluff home.

There is hope: hope for summer, and hope for another spring where we can, once again, choose any spot underneath pink billowing clouds, spread a picnic blanket, uncork a bottle of bubbly, and absorb sunlight, life force, and the loveliness of a spring day.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2021)