This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Corona walks, volume twenty-eleven

Corona walks, alone or with friends, have become a favorite pastime of mine. This crisp September Saturday I strolled Østre Anlæg and Kastellet, my two favorite central Copenhagen parks, for 4 hours with a friend. We talked about living a creative life, hormonal hair loss and what ovulating feels like, how women’s proper dress is and is not described in the Quran (veils are not mentioned, by the way), and where to get good ice cream. Sometimes I want to run a mile when such topics are being brought forward, but today they felt necessary. Especially the ice cream.

(Kastellet, Copenhagen; September 2020)


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A stilleben of pears, and a list of life principles

Observing the pretty stack of fresh Danish pears in a dish in my kitchen, I realized that I never knew pears ripen as late as September. I knew plums do, but while I work on improving favoring seasonal, locally produced food, I conclude I have much to learn still. Also, Danish organic pears are much smaller and fresher than the mass-produced Conference pears that are flown in from where ever in the world the season happens to be. These Danish ones are less sweet, and less overwhelmingly pear-y.

So how does this link to life principles, the real topic of today? Well, building life principles requires paying attention: not only to what one eats (if a life principle involves food), but being observant enough about what is going on, in order to create tangible principles that improve one’s quality of life. Such as favoring Danish organic pears when in season, if one lives in Denmark.

Last year I read Ray Dalio’s famous guide to life and business, called “Principles”. Inspired by it, I made my own list of life principles. Then I forgot about it, in the tornado that once again shook me loose from the life I knew. Recently, I rediscovered it: all the conscious and subconscious rules I play by, neatly on two pages of a notebook. Some of these have traveled through life with me for more than twenty years, while others are just a couple of years old. Hopefully some of them will inspire and help you, as they have me, in living better – intentionally.

  1. Search for a quiet inner joy, not happiness.
    Happiness brings an equal measure of grief. Happiness comes from outside; joy from the inside.
  2. Live each day by your highest sense of right.
    Choose how you live each day, consciously. Do you do the right things? Do you do things right? Live today. Do not merely exist.
  3. Recognize that the essence of fear is nothing more but an inborn will to stay alive. 
    Use fear to find out your priorities as well as your weaknesses.
  4. Stand up straight. 
    Physically as well as mentally. For yourself and for others.
  5. Make a life plan. Revise it at least every two years.
    Get it down to “next 10 years”, “next 5 years”, “next year”, and “this year”. Do not treat your life plan like a New Year’s resolution.
  6. Prioritize sleep like you prioritize work. You get paid in life currency.
    Do not underestimate the impact of years of brain-fog on your life – especially on the last third of it.
  7. Use food as fuel. 
    That said, also use food as enjoyment.
  8. Practice yoga, every day.
    If not asana (yoga on the mat), then meditation, mindfulness, or compassion for yourself and others.
  9. Never stop learning.
    Include constant education in your life plan.
  10. Never stop exploring.
    Travel, try, learn, take a chance, bend your mind.
  11. Pick your battles.
    Let the other ones go, like water off a bird’s back.
  12. When confronting an irritated or frustrated person, calm yourself with compassion for their struggle.
    It may not be obvious or even justifiable, but the person is reacting to something causing them pain and upset. Remembering this helps to steer clear from participating in their drama and getting the outcome you want, even if it is just to walk away, with calm.
  13. Remember to say you’re sorry. 
    If you don’t, your children will need to learn this all on their own, and much too late.
  14. Quoting Ray Dalio: struggle well.
    Struggling takes effort. Don’t waste that effort. Learn from your mistakes.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 2020)


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Low season at the airport

Looks busy as usual, right? The truth is, when I flew back to Denmark in late August these two aircrafts were the only ones I could see across the entire terminal and runways. But the Finnair lounge was open, in contrast to my last visit in late July. Progress? Perhaps – or just a little bubble of normalcy before the next wave of coronavirus.

I was scheduled to be in Finland this weekend, mid-September. The incidence count in Denmark is three times higher than the limit for freely entering Finland. While I can always return home with a Finnish passport, I would need to self-quarantine, or take the chance that I bring illness to my parents’ small current home town, still nearly free of the virus. So I have postponed my flight until mid-December.

It is going to be a long fall and winter.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 2020)


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The end of a hundred-year-old shed

There once was a little shed in the back of the garden. Its back was bent from carrying two layers of roof, shingles and tiles, for a hundred years. Its pair of black-painted doors were hanging at the gable end like crooked teeth. The decorative trims were more bare wood than white. On the garden side, the flower wallpaper in the milk maid’s room was peeling. Through the years, the colors of the flowers had slipped away from the greenish white base.

The shed had housed hay carts, race carts, and, later a car. No maid had lived in the little room for sixty years. The only thing properly standing was the timber skeleton inside. It was time for the shed to go.

First went the roof. Tile by tile, revealing the shingle underneath.

“Will you bring a bulldozer and one of those iron swing balls you see in cartoons?” I asked my father.

He would not – instead he carefully removed each vertical siding plank and placed them in a pile. “Your cousin is going to use these to heat up his farm buildings,” he said.

Finally, when only the timber skeleton was left, the bulldozer arrived. And when it was done, the hundred-year-old shed was gone, and Nature was back.

(Loviisa, Finland; August 2020)


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The first 90 days

Lovely ones, my intention has always to keep work away from this blog. But with coronavirus, travel bans, and a highly reduced social life in a city where I have barely built any social life, this is where my focus goes right now. And please allow me to just for once speak up and state that the first 90 days in a company are a mental and physical challenge.

Actually, I am only 30 days in at the moment. The increased need for sleep is obvious. At the same time, I wake up at 5.30 am and am unable to sleep. On Thursdays, my leg muscles are giving up the game as I once again bike 8.5 km uphill to the office in the morning. Bus and train is out of the question because of coronavirus, and because they are a slower option. Last week I checked out an electric bike from the office and took it home, and back the next morning. I hope one like it can fit it into my financial plan by christmas as it will dramatically reduce the amount of sweat, time, and work required to just begin the working day. Although this week everyone in our Danish offices around the country were sent home due to an increasing coronavirus count. For how long? Who knows.

But the work itself is interesting, and my new colleagues are wonderful. And as I find myself right in the middle of internal politics and process improvements, this little book by Michael D. Watkins is very helpful. Because often it is not enough to just sit down at your desk and do the work – instead, it is equally important to be strategic about the first steps and tasks, in order to make a runway for success instead of a path of potholes.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 2020)


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The end of slow life, still in Copenhagen

Lovely ones, I survived my first week at the new job! What a major adjustment to have to go to the office at least 4 days a week, for the first time in nearly 10 years.

And what better way to treat oneself than to have brunch in the old town of Copenhagen with a friend who came all the way from Sweden to see me.

Biking to the office every day, and having brunch in Copenhagen on a Saturday: ten years ago when I was married in Finland and had just left my science career, I would never had imagined this to be a normal week in my life at the age of forty. But I guess “unpredictable” is also the very definition of life.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; August 2020)


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Party dresses for life

Lovely ones, still a few weeks of slow living here in Copenhagen, before everything changes once again. Meanwhile, I am unpacking my boxes and discovering things from past lives.

I used to have an academic career, in biomedical research. In Finland, such a career requires several full-length evening gowns. Oh yes, doctoral thesis defenses and other appointments are serious events. When I moved to the business side of things, I recycled most of my gowns – save for two. The soft purple one is the one I wore on my own PhD defense dinner (can you tell my color season is soft summer?).

Instead, I doubled up on cocktail dresses for all the business-related evening events. I packed them all in a box before moving to Denmark. The past two years I have managed more than well with just one dress, bought at Copenhagen airport one morning, in a hurry before a flight to Rome.

Lessons learned? One dress is manageable. Two or three is sufficient. And watching all these hang side by side, I conclude I now have party dresses for life.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; August 2020)


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About inspired living

Some years ago I made a vision board. For months I hunted for inspiring images and tore them out of magazines. Finally, I tacked them all onto a cork board, added a few handwritten words to define exactly what I was calling forth, and my vision board was done.

Then I discovered that I had systematically left out the most wonderful images of them all: images of strong, creative women in the most amazing places or moments. I had been so focused on selecting those pictures that illustrated the goals I wanted to envision, and these women just… were, themselves. Most often, the image size was too large: a full A4 magazine page. These women did not fit in – rather, they stood out. So I stored them neatly in a plastic folder, in my sideboard. I forgot about them.

Years later, while unpacking my boxes here in Denmark, I encountered the folder again. I spread out the women on the floor. Together, they were still magical: strong, purposeful, creative, doing exactly what they wanted to be doing. Even if in reality most of the photos were staged for a fashion shoot (the center photo is actually an ad for Zalando), the impression they give off makes my heart sing.

There, on the floor, the women just…fit. I made a collage, easily a meter tall, and took a photo. This time I won’t forget. I won’t forget what I aspire for. And I will hunt for another cork board or cardboard, big enough to accommodate these women, because I now have the perfect place for them inside my walk-in closet. This is where I will greet them, first thing every morning.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; August 2020)


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Living among boxes

One sunny evening in August, a van arrived outside of my door. There were boxes, lots of boxes. Some furniture, and paintings. I had not taken a look at them in two years. And all had to be carried up and unwrapped.

I am living among boxes again. It has been nine years since last time around, and back then I spent the best of three years with at least a handful of boxes stacked somewhere in my apartment. For quite a while, two boxes even served as a sofa table. There was just too much life to unpack, back then. The last few only disappeared when my mother firmly took me shopping for a sideboard, which ate up my office and creativity items.

That sideboard is now here in Copenhagen. Somewhere along the way, its door got torn out by the hinges. Life batters us all up along the way. Some things are repairable, others remain broken but functional. I am still waiting for news from the manufacturer whether this sideboard will ever bear a door again, or whether the now-visible chipboard inside needs to be patched up with a piece of pretty wallpaper.

I am still patching up my own self. Sometimes it feels like a lifelong procedure, and if it is, it will be okay. Perhaps that is how it is for all of us, and we just do not speak about it much.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; August 2020)