This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Celebrating bureaucratic roots

Silkeborg-9Today I am consciously enjoying the longer midwinter daylight in Denmark compared to dark Finland. And the fact that I am no longer an “illegal immigrant” but actually have a registered Danish address and social security number. After six months of drifting I have bureaucratic roots again. And as I am (unfortunately?) a human conditioned to like modern society, bureaucratic roots help generate the sense of individual roots and foothold.

It is a good lesson to learn that even if a sense of belonging to a place is all in my mind, having a contract with a country about my intention to stay helps. And I just heard from my employer that I will be advised to sign up for a course on introduction to Danish culture – in essence, a guide on how to become Danish. Or at least how to understand the Danes. I have no need to become Danish. But as I also have no need for a Danish language course (Scandinavian languages are inter-comprehensible), perhaps a course on how to understand the cultural quirks of the Danes beyond “hygge” will be useful.Silkeborg-11(Silkeborg, Denmark; February 2019)


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Denmark in deep winter

brandemose-4Denmark in deep winter means some ice and snow. But not much. And some light. But not as little as in Finland. On the first of February the light was blue and on its way out by the time I arrived. On that day I thought this would be my last visit and I took two photos, to remember. I sat in silence for a long time, pondering over how unpredictable and out of control life is, and how all we can do is try to hang on from the edge and insist that we have some sort of assertiveness over where we go. Because if we don’t try to assert control we do not assert ownership of our actions. A pond is a good place for pondering.

One month later, as I write this, I am still in Brande. There is sunshine in the air. The fish no longer need to survive on oxygen stored in the water under the ice, and I have regained the illusion that I do have control of most of what I do and choose. And I am thinking of the wise Pema Chödrön’s words: “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

brandemose-5(Brande, Denmark; February and March, 2019)


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About business hotels and un-mindful living

milanhotelI took this picture so I could complain about the uniformity and lack of identity of business hotels. But now I think such a complaint would sound obnoxious, privileged, and humble-bragging about my supposedly “glitzy” working life. Yes it entails lots of sleek hotels in exciting cities. Yes it entails lots of flying and yes I have two airline elite tier membership cards.

When I do not notice anything wrong with the hotel, this suffices. When I do not see torn carpets, dirty floors, and unclean sheets. A good business hotel is supposed to support a busy person’s busy day, make meals and exercise and rest smooth and easy. The sad thing is that many business hotels are actually gorgeous if one only looks at the details. But seldom people do, as they all seem to look alike these days. And so we are completely unappreciative of the way the colors harmonize, how the couch upholstering feels luxurious to the touch, and how sometimes even the corridors have a calming scent.

Humans are masters of adaptation, and adaptation means getting used to a new normal so quickly and so well that one does not even notice what is happening. Whether it is the lack of light in the winter, the bad quality of air in a city, or sleek and beautiful surroundings of hotels, we quickly begin to take the current state of things as granted and do not pay much attention to how different it was compared to where we came from. This is not ingratitude, it is survival of the most adaptive. It is also the opposite of mindful living.

And so, instead of being bored, I intend to work on becoming more mindful: of the shine of the marble floor, of the absolute comfort of my pillow, and of anything that makes me relax after a busy day.

(Milan, Italy; January 2019)


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Colors seen and unseen

spectrum-1The low, early January sun found its way in through the dining room window just so. It hit the crystal chandelier and exploded into hundreds of little rainbows, all over the walls and the ceiling and the fireplace. For a long while the dining room became a crystal palace.

White light does not contain every color as such. In a way it kind of does, but when one breaks down white light into pure spectral colors there will be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Pink and brown for example are not spectral colors and are instead blends of two or more colors. But why is violet (essentially blue and red mixed) a spectral color and not pink or purple, with just a bit less blue and more red? And how many colors are we actually missing because our human eyes cannot distinguish them? Ultraviolet and infrared probably, but are there amazing iridescent turquoises and greens and shades of yellow and even entirely imaginary colors that only bees and butterflies can see? If the electromagnetic spectrum stretches from meter-long radio waves into micro waves into that tiny band we perceive as colors – and then out into X-ray waves, what would the world look like if we were to perceive for example micro waves and X-ray waves as colors?spectrum-2(Loviisa, Finland; January 2019)


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Helsinki (and my mind) at its darkest

helsinkidecSomewhere along the way, months ago, Helsinki grew dark. In early December it remains dark even on a reasonably clear day. This is the time for salmon soup lunches, served hot with toasted rye bread. For mulled wine made in the Nordic way with berry juice blended in wine, with or without spirits, with raisins and sweet almonds covering the bottom of the mug. And this is also the time of frantic christmas shopping, for most people.

This year Helsinki was especially beautifully dressed. And good it was, because I belong to those (few) who do not like christmas. I used to love it: the traditions, the food, the warmth inside, the candlelight, the mulled wine, the togetherness. But for quite a while christmas has been a stark reminder of a sense of completeness now lost forever. I do not mourn the loss of childhood christmas as such, but the loss of the christmases of my twenties. There have been multiple changes in our family and connections, and the christmas dinner guest setups of the past are, indeed, of the past.

Each year I try to tell myself that this is a first-world problem: a problem of a privileged mind, mourning the loss of perfection, of “having-it-all”. I try to turn it around as a reminder of the constant change in this world and my own existence. I try to find beauty in imperfection. And I try to smile, to participate in the coziness of my family’s christmas. Because after all, it was a considerable effort on their behalf to send me postal invites to a “midwinter dinner celebration” the first years after my divorce, which was perhaps the most impactful in a row of family changes. When I was seriously considering spending each forthcoming christmas in a Jewish or Muslim country, or with a tribe who never heard of Jesus.

It does not get easier with time. But each christmas is different. This year I thought it would be easier, as we spent it in the countryside for the first time. It turned out to be more difficult than in years. Even if there was snow and candles and family and coziness. Living in the present is not an easy trick to pull off. helsinkidec-2(Helsinki, Finland; December 2018)


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Leaving

lauttasaari-1Dear Lauttasaari island, you have been good to me. You have been my safe haven for years. A place to hide and to just stare at the (mostly windy) sea.

It is difficult to live in a landlocked place, away from the sea. I have done it twice and I will be doing it again. All three times have also been the three times I have lived abroad.

I have also lived in two relatively rainy, wet places: the UK and the Netherlands. Now I intend to try out another rainy (and this time windy, too) place: a little town in the middle of Denmark. For how long? For now.lauttasaari-2Dear Lauttasaari, I will miss your sea, sunshine, and the vast open space. The ships leaving for various Baltic port cities, and the sound of broken ice blocks floating on the water in spring.

But life plays out in seasons and no matter how well one plans, the beginning of the next season always comes with a twist. Growth does not take place when we feel comfortable and set in our routines. And so I intend to break my routines big time, hoping that growth will follow with equal measure.Larubynight(Helsinki, Finland; August 2018)


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Bird’s eye view

clouds-1Above the clouds, 33,000 ft up, it is easier to obtain a new perspective of things. Not because it is easier to look down on the Earth, but because I am stuck in an airplane seat for nearly 12 hours straight, en route from Singapore to Helsinki.

When I first visited Bali in 2015, I reflected on pain and how people could ever just move on. In 2016 the reflections were on the process and how many miles were still ahead before I would pull through to the other side of a disruption in my life that began as far back as 2011.

For me, travels are not only luxury me-time, but times of significant personal growth and reflection. On 2014 on Crete I stopped and stood still for the first time in 3 years. I slept more than I had in 3 years, too. So much I believed I was in severe ill-health. I was simply tired after years of pain and running.

Working with the inside and slowly turning attention outward took the best of 6 years. And this year I received a proper kick in the behind by the Universe. A year earlier I had decided that I would stay abroad during the time the apartment in Helsinki was undergoing replumbing works, along with the entire co-op building. Bathrooms torn out and apartments out of use for months.

Be careful for what you ask for, as the Universe may give it to you but not always exactly the way you imagined it. And so I return back home just to do my travel laundry, stash summer clothes away in a box, pack a suitcase with fall clothes and business wear, and head out through the door to another part of the world, to another adventure.batukaru-2(Bali, Indonesia; August 2018)