This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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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)

 


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New space

strandBeach, book, bike ride, and ice cream. All I need on a day off.

I lay down behind the tufts of grass, sheltered by the freezing spring wind blowing from the sea, and savored reading a book about journeys and being in constant motion by Olga Tokarczuk. This spring I have been more still than any other time the past twenty years – geographically. The constant motion within my head has been relentless, bubbling and prattling on like water in a brook. It has been a balance of raging frustrations and inspiring whispers.

And yet it has not been chaos, but the creation of something new. I belong to that half of people who discovered in the pandemic a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fill the time saved from no commutes and work trips with life planning, learning something new, and working on a creative project. Once social media filled up with protests of people who, instead of discovering the same as I ran into chaos, fear, and despair, I stopped gushing to people about all the things I could now fit into my day. But I made a daily schedule, and stuck to it – most days. The remaining few ones were reserved for beaches, books, bike rides, and ice creams.

(Amager strand, Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)


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Older, but better

booksLovely ones, it’s been a different spring and summer for all of us. All my sabbatical year plans flew out through the window: going back to San Sebastián to study Spanish in January, visiting friends in the US midwest in February, and finally walking underneath cherry trees in Kyoto in April.

Instead, in February I dove into a new work project. In March I freaked out about the job market post-coronavirus, and doubled down on career planning and job searching.

And in late March I turned forty. Forty years old. It certainly felt historic, considering the circumstances. When I think back of my 30th birthday, never in a million years would I have imagined celebrating it in a global pandemic lockdown, and in Denmark of all places.

That day I closed the door on an unexpected and difficult decade, which threw the components of my life in the air more than once. I find myself collecting books about aging, and planning a 360-health check at a private clinic once travel is possible: metabolism, hormones, epigenetics and biological age; and the whole nine yards. Oddly, floating in the middle of global and personal uncertainty it feels like a new start.

Also, there were gorgeous flowers, and a fantastic flødebolle-picnic by the lakes. I’m lucky.
bday(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2020)


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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)