This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Only ice

icewakesThis was Helsinki in mid-March, caught underneath the ever-swirling polar vortex of the winter and spring of 2018. The cruise liner looks like one that shuttles between Helsinki and Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. All cruise liners on the Baltic Sea are icebreakers, too. One has to dress according to weather, you see.

(Helsinki, Finland; March 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)


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Saturday afternoon, 2 pm

ice-1Nearly frozen water moves slower than summer water, viscous like icy cold schnapps in a glass. Yet it is warmer than the air: the rocks have white berets of ice on their heads. Even last year’s reed remains have puffy dresses of frozen seawater.

Winter is silent. Pensive. A little gloomy. And so am I, too, in January and February of most years.ice-2(Helsinki, Finland; January 2018)


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Do not panic

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0369.JPGThe first time I dove I felt a tinge of panic: “what if I would just lose my head right now, remove the regulator, breathe in a gulp of water, and die? It would be so easy to die.” Indeed it would. And I am still trying to get used to the idea of the PADI buddy system: you travel anywhere on the planet, seek out a reputable dive center, get paired up with a stranger you’ve never met in your life and will probably never meet again, and then place your trust in this person; that he or she is going to stick nearby you during the entire dive and is willing to give you his/her alternate regulator should your air supply fail. And that he or she will stick with you and leave the beautiful scenery behind, should you need to return to the surface, far away from the boat.

Sometimes smaller things go wrong. Travel blogs describing the beauty of diving do not describe what it is like to feel sick and vomit into your regulator, but it happens. So far not to me, thank goodness. But it looks awful: fighting the urge of shooting up to the surface if you are too deep, and to just vomit into your air supply, trying to save air in your lungs so you can then try to purge your regulator. Or, like a kid did the other day, on his first dive ever: forget about safety, shoot up to the surface, remove your regulator, and throw up.

Diving is total surrender to both our ocean planet and to the people who inhabit it. This may sound beautiful but it also means confidence is a key factor when assessing a dive guest’s capability and readiness to dive. The worst that can happen is not equipment failure but panic.

The oceans are the last unexplored frontier of our planet. Even the high mountains and the polar regions have been explored, whereas there is so much unknown under the sea. And our planet is mostly underwater. Ten years ago, very few dove with an alternate regulator for back-up, which today sounds insane. And the first divers wore glass dome helmets and dry suits. They would have thought divers today were crazy. With modern equipment diving has become so safe and easy that even a 10-year-old can get certified. I can’t wait to see what new advances technology will keep bringing, to help us explore the  home of the fish, the dolphins, and the seahorses.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0463.JPG(Paje, Zanzibar, Tanzania; August 2017)