This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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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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Hanami far from Japan

cph-april-2This year was going to be the year I finally would experience a real Japanese hanami. I would look at the cherry blossom (or sakura) forecast, and book a trip to Kyoto to view them at their finest. I would buy a delicious bento boxful of food, a bottle of sparkling wine, and sit under the cherry trees, letting the petals slowly cover me in rosy white fluffy joy.cph-april-5That dream remains a dream, thanks to the covid-19 outbreak. Next year I will not have the flexibility to just up and go at a moment’s notice – but I plan to plan ahead. Apparently, even if it sweeps through Kyoto in just one week, sakura season in Japan lasts for an entire month. One just needs to catch it where it is at its best.cph-april-7Thankfully, Copenhagen also has two cherry tree parks, at Bispebjerg cemetery and Langelinie, that give acute relief to the longing for spring in Japan.brumleby-4(Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)


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Two little mermaids

cph-april-1Did you know there are two little mermaids in Copenhagen? One is the much-beloved statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale heroine, the little mermaid who fell in love and chose to go through much pain to attain a human soul, just to be with a prince who barely even noticed or cared about her as a person. (If you’re only aware of Walt Disney’s Little Mermaid, please do yourself a favor and read the much more layered original story!)

The second one is part of a larger installation called the Genetically Modified Paradise. This mermaid is also called The Genetically Modified Mermaid and she was placed on the other side of the quay, further down in a residential area, in 2006. It is supposed to be  humorous, although I have not quite understood whether the artist intended to show humor, sarcasm, or grief.

But I like the genetically modified mermaid. Especially her droopy breasts and big feet. Compared to the strict beauty norms of today, such “imperfections” seem friendly.cph-april-8(Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)


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Corona-walks in Copenhagen

cph-april-3Partial lockdown started March 11th. All schools, kindergartens, and universities moved to virtual classes. Most shops and services closed, including all body-working services such as hair salons, masseuses, and fitness centers. My work continued as before, with the difference that I could no longer travel to Belgium to our regional headquarters, or do all the cross-European country local board meetings I had planned. cph-april-4Instead I squeezed in daily walks or runs, just to get outside. When lockdown was imposed, the sun came out. It shone from a cloudless sky most of two months. Weekend walks turned into long ambles, thirstily seeking fringes of green across the sprawling city center. Copenhagen parks are not natural oases to get lost in. But they are reviving, and after a dark cold winter, really any trees and green grass are reviving.cph-april-6(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)