This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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genoa-aquarium-1Teeth and bones and fins. That is what piranhas are made of. I once learned it the hard way, trying to fish for a living in the Amazon. They do not make a proper or tasty meal. I tried my best to catch arapaimas and arawanas, but all I got was piranhas. Over and over again, while our base manager miraculously pulled up delicious fish out of the living fish soup that was the Amazon in dry season. Most of the time the piranhas chewed off my bait so I lost the hook and sinker, too. I often wondered whether our base manager was using a spell or a mantra before throwing out his fishing line. Even if we were performing the exact same action I was obviously doing something wrong.

There are impressive piranha teeth – and there are possibly even more impressive sawfish teeth. Why keep your teeth in your mouth when you can grow a jaw outside of your skull and place your teeth around its outer lining? Much easier to stun and cut prey, yes? genoa-aquarium(Aquarium of Genoa, Genoa, Italy; July 2018)

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Jonathan Livingston Jellyfish

genoa-aquarium-4That one free-floating jellyfish reminds me of Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The upside-down jellyfish actually considers upside as down, and the ocean floor as home. Just like the “breakfast flock” of the gulls Jonathan once called family, perhaps they are ignorant about what freedom really feels like?

(Although how would any of these know about freedom, living in a fish tank?)

(Genoa aquarium, Italy; July 2018)

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In the garden


As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.

A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.

Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.

(W. H. Auden)

(Loviisa, Finland; June 2018)

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One country, two seas

dkbeachWith its brackish water, its smattering of islands between Finland and Sweden, and limited and slightly altered flora and fauna, the Baltic Sea is an inland sea and far from an ocean. Every seven years a huge saltwater swell pushes up the salinity gradient a notch, and slowly the rivers trickling down into the sea change it back towards sweet.

The animals and plants living in the Baltic Sea are the sturdiest, most adaptable ones that don’t mind the in-between conditions. Sweetwater perch and pike thrive in the sea. Seagulls and large cormorants don’t mind the smaller fish to eat. The herring has become a bonsai variant, called Baltic herring in English and something entirely different from herring in Swedish and Finnish.

Denmark is the gate to the Baltic Sea and its two coasts look like two separate worlds: its West coast (above) looks like any ocean shore, while its East coast (below) looks like a lake, which is what the Baltic Sea coast mostly resembles.

How convenient: if you live in Demark just pick your kind of seascape. dkbeach-2(Denmark, May 2018)

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This is Finland – or some of it

finlandfactsThis is Finland – or some of it. We still have 75% of our land covered in forests. Nobody thinks of that as contributing to the “lungs of the planet”. Why is that, by the way?

Only last year I learned that it is uncommon for private people to be able to own forest. I sat around the table with some 25 Japanese, Chinese, and Korean business men – and watched their faces grow both amazed and thrilled as they heard that here most land is owned by average families. And private land means you can still walk through it, picking berries and mushrooms as you go, as long as you don’t camp or make a fire.

Nature belongs to all of us. It should be tended to by all of us. The great naturalist John Muir realized the implications of the great American private land ownership culture early enough, and bullied decision-makers to establish vast national parks like the Yosemite. So that people could still explore unknown lands without the fear of being shot by a protective land owner.

Here in Finland, we do things differently: we welcome anyone to enjoy our forests. My father’s forest has ski trails and is used by a hunting society. It’s all good – as long as our neighbors do not steal too many christmas trees.

(Photo source: Finnair Blue Wings magazine, winter 2018 issue)

(Helsinki, Finland; February 2018)