This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Brief interlude in Malmö

This warm, late September Saturday was my fourth time eating in a restaurant this year (wow!). Outside, while it still wasn’t too cold, behind the plexiglass shielding us from the Öresund strait winds.

On returning to Denmark, we were reminded to don our masks, in the train. Like all other times this year I was prepared with Danish health insurance card, apartment rental agreement, and Finnish passport, but the border control station at Copenhagen airport was closed and entry was free. How luxurious and uncomplicated, in 2020.

(Malmö, Sweden; September 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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Corona walks, volume twenty-eleven

Corona walks, alone or with friends, have become a favorite pastime of mine. This crisp September Saturday I strolled Østre Anlæg and Kastellet, my two favorite central Copenhagen parks, for 4 hours with a friend. We talked about living a creative life, hormonal hair loss and what ovulating feels like, how women’s proper dress is and is not described in the Quran (veils are not mentioned, by the way), and where to get good ice cream. Sometimes I want to run a mile when such topics are being brought forward, but today they felt necessary. Especially the ice cream.

(Kastellet, Copenhagen; September 2020)


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Low season at the airport

Looks busy as usual, right? The truth is, when I flew back to Denmark in late August these two aircrafts were the only ones I could see across the entire terminal and runways. But the Finnair lounge was open, in contrast to my last visit in late July. Progress? Perhaps – or just a little bubble of normalcy before the next wave of coronavirus.

I was scheduled to be in Finland this weekend, mid-September. The incidence count in Denmark is three times higher than the limit for freely entering Finland. While I can always return home with a Finnish passport, I would need to self-quarantine, or take the chance that I bring illness to my parents’ small current home town, still nearly free of the virus. So I have postponed my flight until mid-December.

It is going to be a long fall and winter.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 2020)


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The end of slow life, still in Copenhagen

Lovely ones, I survived my first week at the new job! What a major adjustment to have to go to the office at least 4 days a week, for the first time in nearly 10 years.

And what better way to treat oneself than to have brunch in the old town of Copenhagen with a friend who came all the way from Sweden to see me.

Biking to the office every day, and having brunch in Copenhagen on a Saturday: ten years ago when I was married in Finland and had just left my science career, I would never had imagined this to be a normal week in my life at the age of forty. But I guess “unpredictable” is also the very definition of life.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; August 2020)


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An asylum by the sea

If the inhabitants of Lapinlahti mental hospital would have been well, I had envied them for their backyard views. Sitting there by my own free will, sipping my café-bought kombucha, I hope it gave them at least a tiny millimeter of peace and hope every day.

The Emperor of Russia gave an order to build an asylum for those needing psychiatric care, and Lapinlahti opened its doors in 1841, among the first mental hospitals in Europe. Until 2008 it has housed patients, and so so many individual destinies, hopes, fears, illusions, and disillusions.

The house is nestled in the nook of a shallow bay, surrounded landside by lush green parkland. Such a lovely place to find oneself when one is lost. Unfortunately it is never quite that simple.

(Helsinki, Finland; July 2020)


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(Nearly) no coronavirus

Over here there really isn’t much coronavirus… the cases can still be counted on two hands. And yet we are only an hour’s drive away from Helsinki. Naturally, if I would bring coronavirus with me from Denmark the entire town would know about it within a week.

Five weeks in this beautiful green bubble have gone by fast. Wish I could stay longer. Waking up to cranes in the wheat fields and crows in the spruce trees corrects my priorities every morning.

(Loviisa, Finland; July 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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Please walk on the grass

In Finland, park visitors are always welcome to walk on the grass, unless specifically told not to. Of course: the grass is there to feel nice and cool against one’s feet, soft to sit down on, and a cloud of green summer to lie in.

How different it was, then, to move to Cambridge ten years ago and to learn all the rules about walking on the grass. Generally, only fellows, professors, and higher were allowed to walk on the grass in Cambridge colleges. And gardeners, of course. Except for in Newnham, a college built as a beautiful but carefully guarded enclosed space for the girls coming to Cambridge to study. Because they were not allowed out without chaperoning, the college gardens were built for enjoyment – and grass was welcomed to be walked on.

At the Anjala manor in southeastern Finland, they must have seen many timid tourists who needed encouragement: Please, do walk on the grass!

(Anjala, Finland; July 2020)