This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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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)


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Gilded ceilings and electric lights

hallwyl-2Imagine the splendor and style of Versailles – with original electric light fittings. The bustle of a country castle downstairs kitchen – with modern, white tiles stretching over the walls and the ceiling. And an electric kitchen elevator, and three water faucets: one for hot, one for cold, and one for rain water.hallwyl-1This was all highly unusual in any wealthy, traditional-style house in Stockholm at the turn of the 20th century. But the Hallwyl couple seem to have been unusual, too: they built a palace with all the modern, sometimes experimental, luxuries of the turn of the century. They then proceeded to decorate it in the style of what can only be described as flitting from good taste to extravagant kitsch. During that time, who really chose their salon decor to mimic French gilded rococo?

The lady of the house sure did not hesitate when she bought 15th century tapestries before she even had a house, and designed the living room to fit the tapestries. She also did not hesitate in general, as she collected almost anything and everything she considered art: from china to paintings and to swords and pistols. She then proceeded to convert her newly built house to a museum for future generations, and produced a set of 78 printed books cataloguing all her possessions.

One cannot help but wonder whether this was truly the passion of a lady interested in beauty and the world, or a well-planned project to gain power through magnanimity? And how did she fit into society? Her house surely must have been the cause of many curious rumors and stories. Perhaps this was just as she liked it?hallwyl-4(Hallwyl House, Stockholm; April 2017)