This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Like an oil painting

I stopped by the little lake on my daily route around the park. With the yellow, falling leaves and deeply overcast sky it looked like from an old, English countryside oil painting. Except that it was so much more rich and detailed.

I sometimes forget I am not in a central European country but in the Nordics – because the Nordic, impenetrable spruce thickets and lofty halls of pine trees are all missing. Even on Jylland, the coniferous forests consist of trees planted in rows. But that is okay, because the parklands in Denmark are beautiful, especially now.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; November 2020)

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Brief interlude in Malmö

This warm, late September Saturday was my fourth time eating in a restaurant this year (wow!). Outside, while it still wasn’t too cold, behind the plexiglass shielding us from the Öresund strait winds.

On returning to Denmark, we were reminded to don our masks, in the train. Like all other times this year I was prepared with Danish health insurance card, apartment rental agreement, and Finnish passport, but the border control station at Copenhagen airport was closed and entry was free. How luxurious and uncomplicated, in 2020.

(Malmö, Sweden; 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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Flying in COVID-times, part II

Still six months ago one could order Kyrö distillery’s world-famous gin-and-tonic cocktail in Finnair business class. Now, going home there was no business class and no alcoholic drink service, only sachets of Kyrö distillery’s hand disinfectant gel. Times change.

The disinfectant came with a surface wipe for devices, armrests, and tray table, as well as a little booklet reassuring the passenger about the safety of cabin air. Perhaps it was required, as the two-by-two -seated Embraer 190 was packed with passengers going to Copenhagen.

For a while now, taxis in Copenhagen have had a protective screen between driver and passenger. It does lack in style compared to old-fashion limousine screens with little shuttable windows. Guess there is no going back in time.

Also, the screen carries a big bottle of – you guessed it – hand sanitizer. And as of mid-August, wearing a mask in the cab became a requirement, both for drivers and passengers.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; July 2020)

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An asylum by the sea

If the inhabitants of Lapinlahti mental hospital would have been well, I had envied them for their backyard views. Sitting there by my own free will, sipping my café-bought kombucha, I hope it gave them at least a tiny millimeter of peace and hope every day.

The Emperor of Russia gave an order to build an asylum for those needing psychiatric care, and Lapinlahti opened its doors in 1841, among the first mental hospitals in Europe. Until 2008 it has housed patients, and so so many individual destinies, hopes, fears, illusions, and disillusions.

The house is nestled in the nook of a shallow bay, surrounded landside by lush green parkland. Such a lovely place to find oneself when one is lost. Unfortunately it is never quite that simple.

(Helsinki, Finland; July 2020)

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(Nearly) no coronavirus

Over here there really isn’t much coronavirus… the cases can still be counted on two hands. And yet we are only an hour’s drive away from Helsinki. Naturally, if I would bring coronavirus with me from Denmark the entire town would know about it within a week.

Five weeks in this beautiful green bubble have gone by fast. Wish I could stay longer. Waking up to cranes in the wheat fields and crows in the spruce trees corrects my priorities every morning.

(Loviisa, Finland; July 2020)

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Sturgeons are weird creatures

Sturgeons are weird creatures. These girls are the ones who make caviar – and to whom it really belongs.

Sturgeons used to be everywhere: from the English channel to the Mediterranean, and from the Black Sea all the way throughout Siberia. Unfortunately, because catching one provides food to many, they have been fished to near-extinction.

The species of sturgeon that once swam in the Baltic Sea disappeared some 100 years ago. These days the only sturgeons out there are the Russian species which are from time to time farmed and let out into the waterways – and I have not heard of anyone catching one in a net, ever.

Curiously, these scary-looking fish lack teeth (except for the beluga sturgeon and another near-related species), and they do not use their eyes when they look for food or eat. Instead they have a good sense of smell, extended to a lot of chemical cues, and they sense weak electric signals from other living things nearby.

The Maretarium in Kotka specializes in fish found in Finnish waters – thus a lot of trout, perch, a few funny-looking pikes, and a bunch of funky eels. Even in cold Finland, where waters freeze over in the winter, there is so much going on underneath the bellies of bathing-suited summer lovers just skimming the surface of the water.

(Maretarium, Kotka, Finland; July 2020)