This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Sauna squeeze

Mon-6One late September night seven women squeezed into the oddest little sauna I have ever seen. There was sweat, steam, the fresh scent of birch twigs, and laughter. And there was nearly no light as candles would melt in the heat of the stove. Also, oddly, there was no water except for what was carried in in a bucket. Anyone wishing to wash themselves needed to do so outside, under the garden shower, in the moonlight (or in the main house bathroom).

I have understood these “sauna barrels” are all the rage in Denmark. And quite far removed from the Finnish purpose of sauna: a warm place to wash and scrub oneself as clean as possible. Furthermore, the Danes are currently much into “saunagus”: a scheduled program run by a sauna master in a public sauna or during a private event. This usually entails aromatherapy oils, steam, ice buckets, and potentially a relaxation or meditation exercise while people sit or lie down on the benches in the heat. Oddly for a Finn, the sauna master can also turn out to be a magician dressed in black-tie (how sweaty!) or a stand-up comedian. And if nothing else, he or she is expected to at least be able to spin towels in the air in a fancy way. All this is also quite far removed from the Finnish spartan sauna tradition, where not many words are spoken and certainly no tricks are performed as the sauna is a serious place for quiet and contemplation.

That late September night, seven women crammed into the sauna barrel. It was so dark we could not read the labels of the aromatherapy oils, so each scoopful of scented water turning into steam on the hot rocks was a surprise: mint, ylang-ylang, lemongrass, or something else? And there was much chatter and laughter, more than I am used to. Such joy took much space during that weekend, among new-found friends.Mon-5(Island of Møn, Denmark; September 2019)


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The last weekend of the summer

Mon-2The sunlight still brightened the beach sand to a brilliant white, even if it was the last weekend of September. For many hours during those three days, I sat on the cool sand watching the little swirls of water rolling in, perhaps all the way from German shores. Mon-4We were just seven women on this private weekend retreat, of many ages and cultures. The old white-washed farmhouse on the countryside of Møn island filled with moments of laughter, moments of silence, and the scent of delicious vegetarian food. Mornings were for yoga and reflection, afternoons for silent meditation and skinny dipping, and evenings for dining, sauna, and sharing.

It was as if the unusually long Danish summer ended that Sunday, when we locked the doors and began the drive back up South.Mon-1(Island of Møn, Denmark; September 2019)


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Patience is not my virtue

yogaPerseverance does bring tiny improvements, which I notice because my yoga practice is the exact same sequence every single time. Last spring, after 5.5 years of practice, I got my hand down in revolved side angle pose, with my back heel down. And since this past fall I am able to get my feet and my raddled knees safely in some kind of lotus pose for a short while.

Ashtanga yoga is a good reminder for patience, which is (still) not my virtue.

(Vejle, Denmark; September 2019)


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In Malmö

MalmoWakeup at 4.15 am in Denmark, nine hours of nonstop meetings in six languages, and on the way to the hotel the Swedish taxi driver was playing Finnish schlager artist Pate Mustajärvi at maximum volume (?!). It has been a looooong day, and it ain’t over yet.

(Malmö, Sweden; September 2019)


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In the Sil river canyon

galicia-2Deep in Galicia, the river Sil squiggles through a canyon with walls up to 500 meters high. Somehow the Roman settlers discovered that the steep canyon walls produced excellent wine, as long as one had the energy and perseverance to maintain the vine plants required. galicia-6It seems that not only winemakers liked the Cañon del Sil, as there are a number of hermitage monasteries scattered along both riverbanks. galicia-7Oaks, chestnuts, ferns, and even Galician pine make the Sil river canyon lush surroundings for hiking – as long as one can keep up with the changes in altitude.galicia-8Along the cliff edge there is also a viewpoint curiously named Balcones de Madrid, even if one cannot see Madrid from it. With a little help from Google I pulled up stories about women choosing the viewpoint to see off their trader husbands traveling to Madrid: they had to climb down the canyon on one side, cross the river by boat, and climb up on the other side. Although whether it were the women or the men who built the laid rock walls still remains a mystery to me.galicia-9(Galicia, Spain; September 2019)


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In the middle of nowhere, a monastery (part II)

galicia-3In the middle of the forest lies yet another over thousand years old monastery. Galicia is practically littered with these cute resting places for body and soul.

The Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil was first annexed to the Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil monastery (now a fabulous Parador). Later, when the Spanish government carried out a lengthy confiscation and resale of various religious assets around the country (for varying reasons, during nearly two centuries), both monasteries ceased their spiritual operations.

In a way it is unfortunate, as I am sure the Benedictine monks (and perhaps a limited amount of lucky visitors) would have continued to feel contented in this charming little monastery, for another thousand years.
galicia-4(Galicia, Spain; September 2019)


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In the enchanted forest

galicia-1Hiking in Galicia feels a little like what I presume hiking in Middle Earth (or of course New Zealand) would be. Lush, green forests, small streams, rounded boulders, and mountains everywhere.galicia-12It is as if one could expect the head of a little gnome peeking from behind the rocks lining the path. galicia-13Alas, the only unusual thing we saw today was a flower growing right out of the ground. Without stem or leaves. As if the ground itself were in bloom.
galicia-14(Galicia, Spain; September 2019)