This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Look up and tell me what you see

astro-2I may have studied a little bit of astrophysics and astrobiology, but when it comes to looking up and knowing what I am seeing – well, that is a completely different thing. The constellations I know are the ones I learned when I was a child: the Big Dipper/Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, and the Polar Star. That is it. Orion? Betelgeuse? Halcyon? The Zodiac? I had no clue. How does the night sky shift (or how does our planet actually move) through the seasons, and how do I orientate to find stars and constellations? No knowledge.

Fortunately, spending one day with the local university astronomy society helps, I find. The only thing is, stargazing with equipment is not so easy. The past 3 years I have tried to combine remembering my intention to stargaze with the weather report and have not been successful at all. Every time I remember it is overcast, and every time I do not remember, there are weeks of clear skies to use the astronomy society’s telescopes. astro-3One sunny day in August I discovered that the little, old observatory was open for sun viewings. The sun is a star, right? Mission accomplished. And I have been able to stare at the sun without being blinded. Seeing its protrusions, its sunspots, all the beauty flaws it tries to hide under its brilliant light. I have seen the true nature of the sun and it is absolutely fascinating.
astro-1(Helsinki, Finland; September 2017)


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In June: nightless night

sunsetThis is what we in Finland call a “nightless night”. 10.45 in pm in mid-June, and getting lighter still, until the old pagan festival of midsummer in the third weekend of June which falls on or a few days from summer solstice. In Helsinki, the sun sets at 11 pm and rises again at 4 am. In the northern one-third of Finland it never sets until later in the summer.

This was then. Today the day is five and a half hours shorter than in June. And it will be much shorter still until the year is over. Time to begin consciously maintaining daily energy levels, so we do not burn out while it is dark.

(Helsinki, Finland; June 2017)


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Ballooning

balloon-1One sunny eve in May we all gathered on my home island. The task was to put together the largest hot air balloon in Finland. With a basket like a small bus. It lived in a van the size of a large bus. balloon-2There were four burners and, naturally, Tibetan prayer flags. Because the pilot had been ballooning around Annapurna some time ago. balloon-4First we blew the balloon full with cold air. Then we followed with hot air from the burners. balloon-7It really was an immense bubble of air, even only half-full. And somehow, somehow it rose upright slowly and controlledly, without flying off with us all hanging from the mooring ropes. It waited nicely until we were on board.balloon-6My home island looks so friendly from the air.
balloon-8The amusement park looks friendly, too. Like it was built for dolls. balloon-3The wind took us East of Helsinki-Malmi recreational airport. But somehow, like magic, we found a wind layer blowing West, and in all that air going Northeast we drifted West, into the airport, and touched down spot on the runway. How it happened is beyond me.

In a traditional champagne ceremony all the adult ladies were given the honorary title duchess or empress. I was given the title princess, along with all the little girls. I quite liked it. And I liked the fact that most of the champagne ended up in our glasses instead of being poured over our heads.balloon-5(Helsinki, Finland; May 2017)