This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Last breaths of summer

It has been a long summer: from a June heatwave through unreliable July weather to pleasant August days, and finally stretching into persistent summer temperatures all the way to the last days of September. But the leaves in the trees, while green, look worn out at the edges. Like the wings of an aged butterfly. The flowers are all done for the season, withered stalks haggardly waving in the first winds of fall. The swanlings in the Faelledparken pond look identical to their parents, save for the soft gray color of their feathers.

It has been a long day and Nature is tired. Time to cast off the party dress and go to sleep. And for me, time to light a candle, bring in daily meditation into my routine, and remember to go to bed early – because the only way to tackle dark mornings is to feel rested.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 2020)


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Back to just sitting

Some weeks ago I sat down on this one, for the first time in well over a year. The last time I meditated was last year’s December, at a vipassana retreat in England. When life gets stormy and I would need meditation the most, it is always the first good habit that slips away. I wonder why – and I wonder how its disappearance goes unnoticed, until it is way past late?

This past summer I had so much time on hand that I did not need more meditation than simply going out for runs or walks in the countryside and forest. But when August came around, along with a new job at a new company, I had to build a new daily routine. After letting the swells of newness and exhaustion sweep over me the first two weeks, I pulled out the pouf, set the Insight Timer app, and sat down. Just for fifteen minutes.

How could I have forgotten the physical sense of relief and relaxation that comes when I just am, for a while?

(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 2020)


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What a 2020 highlight looks like

Throughout history, there were many predictions for the year 2020 and beyond: moves like Blade Runner, steampunk Japanese anime, The Matrix, and of course much of Jules Verne’s imagination. So what happened?

Well, the Earth is not quite yet a scorching fireball, or a post-apocalyptic smoky mess. Cities are huge and growing, but green areas are more important than ever, such as for example in Singaporean city planning. Countries like Denmark are  pushing a climate-fronted agenda, including my current employer. Air travel has become common and cheap, but we are still waiting for the rocket fun ride to the moon and back. And the colonies on Mars.

The most unexpected “new normal highlight” of 2020 is a night out with a small group of friends. Just a handful. Outdoors, socially distanced, tapas picked up with serving spoons instead of individual forks, and with a bottle of hand sanitizer on the table. Because one can never know which friend might be seriously ill with a new virus raging. Indeed, this is a highlight – because not only were all restaurants closed for months on end, meeting people inherently carries a risk in the year 2020. Fortunately, smartphones with video calls and social media are one of those crazy futuristic predictions that became an abundant reality. Most of my 2020 is made up of social isolation, either at home or in Finland, with my family at their home.

By the way, a hundred years ago, this artist below envisioned video calls in the future – spot on! Although fortunately one does not need to smoke anymore to be cool. Now where’s my milkshake and personal aircraft?

20-future(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 2020)


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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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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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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)


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Goodbye dear ones

When I crossed the border to Sweden during coronavirus lockdown I did it to say goodbye to Cassandra, my Russian blue. Well, she had really not been mine anymore for one and a half years. I had to give up her and her friend Ramses, because Ramses was reacting very negatively to new life in Brande in 2018.

So when I got the call in May that Cassandra’s kidney disease had raised its head, after three years of slumber and medicine diet, I took my chances and went over for a day. Little did I know then that I was saying goodbye to Ramses, too.

I picked him up and made an off-hand comment that he felt very light. It was not unusual: he’s had IBD for the past several years and appetite and weight had constantly fluctuated – although he had immediately calmed down and put on one and a half kilos more after my friend took him in. That is a lot for a cat that weighed only three kilos and a bit when he arrived, stressed to the max.

My friend weighed him later, and got worried. A month later I got another phone call: Ramses had diabetes, and it was advancing fast. The only option was insulin shots for the rest of his short life (he was nearly fifteen), plus losing Cassandra anyway, which would be so sad for his highly cuddly character. The decision was not mine to make but I think my friend and her children, all heartbroken, made the right one: one day in July both cats fell asleep together, side by side in the same travel box.

I was twenty-four when I got Cassandra. Twenty-five when Ramses joined us. They have been with me for nearly my entire adult life: all the ups and downs. And there have been many. It was so difficult to give them up – it felt like giving up an arm or a leg. I am surprised by how difficult it was to hear that they were gone. Writing this now, nearly a month later, still brings tears into my eyes.

But above it all, I am filled to the brim with gratitude towards my friend and her children, who gave both kitties a loving, peaceful, nearly travel-free retirement home. Cassandra slept with my friend, and Ramses with her daughter – who used to say that he was the best thing that had ever happened to her. I just wish they had more time together. Don’t we all, always wish for more time?saturdaymorning-11am(Copenhagen, Denmark; July 2020)


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New views

brumleby-3Another month, another move. The third one this year, and by this time it was only May – and the magnolias were barely in bloom.

Disregarding covid-19, it has been a tough spring. And thanks to covid-19 I have spent it mostly alone. The person I had hoped would surprise me on my 40th birthday did not show up. Fortunately that was well made up by a good friend showing up for a walk and cakes on a park bench. I made it a rule to meet with someone face-to-face at least once a week, although sometimes, three weeks passed between such meetings. brumleby-2When I feel rootless, I can only root in myself. And try to list at least three things that have inspired me, each day. Like magnolias. Discovering I can remedy the badly worn wooden plank floor of my new apartment. And spring sunshine, every day.brumleby-1(Copenhagen, Denmark; May 2020)


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Loosening up

yarn”Pay attention to when it falls off,” the retreat lead told me last fall when she gave me this yarn bracelet. It would serve as a reminder of getting used to living with uncertainty – a topic I gave much attention during that weekend and afterward.

Well, on the last day in April the bracelet fell off. As I was holding my iPhone to photograph it, the phone rang – with a job offer in another company. I took it. And I finally quit my first real industry job, and a journey that started nine years ago, after I left academic research. It is time for another turning point in life, and a new direction.

Seems my Copenhagen slow life is going to be short-lived. After the summer, I will finally need to show up at a local office, most week days. For the first time in nine years, my team and manager will work in the same country and office as I. And I have yet another reason to update my life plan. More on that soon.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)