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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Last breaths of summer

It has been a long summer: from a June heatwave through unreliable July weather to pleasant August days, and finally stretching into persistent summer temperatures all the way to the last days of September. But the leaves in the trees, while green, look worn out at the edges. Like the wings of an aged butterfly. The flowers are all done for the season, withered stalks haggardly waving in the first winds of fall. The swanlings in the Faelledparken pond look identical to their parents, save for the soft gray color of their feathers.

It has been a long day and Nature is tired. Time to cast off the party dress and go to sleep. And for me, time to light a candle, bring in daily meditation into my routine, and remember to go to bed early – because the only way to tackle dark mornings is to feel rested.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 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)


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So many rapids

Kotka-siikakoski-2

Siikakoski

Kymi river is one of the big ones in Finland – although naturally for one used to the Danube or the Amazon it is a tiny stream. But the beauty of Kymi lies in its many rapids and whitewaters, perfect for fly fishing salmon and trout. And simply purifying one’s mind in the white noise of the water.

Kymi-2

Ahvionkoski

This coronavirus summer, my father lead a family expedition to discover the various rapids of Kymi river. Every now and then we would get in the car and spend half a day driving around. How he knew how to find the various gravely forest roads leading down to obscure fishing spots along the many arms of Kymi river, I do not not know. Either he has photographic memory after studying Google Maps, or a very good memory from his youth adventures.

Kymi-1

I forget which one this was… we stopped on a small bridge.

I tried to recall all the names of the rapids, but I realized we had been to many of which I have no photos, and others of which I have too many photos. But they all have one thing in common: the fishing rules are signposted in Finnish and Russian (and, surprisingly, not in Swedish, the other national language) – signaling that the border is nearby.

Kymi-5

Hirvikoski

Many of the rapids are harnessed for hydropower use, and most do as far as I know not have fish ladders for salmon and trout to migrate upstream. On the one hand it makes me sad that the beauty is lost, but on the other hand I am grateful they are not dammed, and that fossil fuel is reduced at least a little bit thanks to the hydropower plants.

Kymi-3

This one is lost on me, too

(Kymi river, Finland; July 2020)


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Shinrin-yoku, every day

shinrin-yoku-3Shinrin-yoku, or forest-bathing, every day. The Japanese prefer slow mindful sauntering instead of aerobic hiking. As a form of nature therapy, shinrin-yoku means not only crossing through a wood, but bathing in it: letting it fill one’s lungs, ears, nose, and eyes. It means not talking or listening to music, but listening to the birds, the grasshoppers, and the wind in the trees. And it means wandering off the path to caress the warm, dry bark of a tree, just because it feels like the best thing to do at the moment.shinrin-yoku-1That is why forest-bathing is best done alone. And while I like to alternate between running and walking through the forests in Loviisa, I still do it every day. And I come out from the forest feeling very centered and alive.
shinrin-yoku-2(Loviisa and Kotka, Finland; June 2020)


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Danes sure love deer

deerpark-2What’s the deal with deer parks in Denmark? Sofar I have run into deer parks in my both hometowns Brande and Vejle, as well as in Aarhus. And I know there are several around Copenhagen. The Danes sure seem to love deer.

Deer parks are parkland or wilderness, where you go for a leisurely walk and view deer. Interestingly, none of the species I’ve encountered (sika deer and fallow deer) are originally Danish, or even Nordic. The sika deer hails from East Asia (today mainly seen in Japan), while the beautifully horned and spotted fallow deer (below) was introduced to Europe, possibly by Phoenicians some 3,000 years ago, and adopted by many medieval aristocrats into their castle hunting grounds.

The native Danish roe deer are everywhere, even in our backyard forest in Vejle, but rarely in deer parks. I have also run into the other domestic species in the forest: the majestic, huge red deer. Think of Harry Potter’s patronus: an albino red deer stag. If you would like to see one for real, do head out into the rare natural forests of Jylland, not the deer parks.deerpark-1(Marselisborg Deer Park, Aarhus; October 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 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)


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September is still summer in Spain

galicia-33September is still summer in Spain. Even in the fragas, the old-growth forests of the cool, rainy Northwest. Walking in a fraga is like walking in a fairytale forest overgrown with old oaks, chestnuts, and ferns; with mosses covering the trunks and and lichens dangling from the branches. galicia-29The water is pure and cool. I heard the Eume river is home to hordes of trout. This is probably what much of the Atlantic coastal forests looked like, before the industrial revolution. Fortunately bits and pieces are still conserved in Galicia.
galicia-28(Fragas do Eume; Spain; September 2019)