Back on the wagon

Why is it that when we need time to recuperate and be a little less productive for a while, some of us beat ourselves up for not reaching our “usual” standards? And why is it that “usual” standards are often the level we manage when we are at our peak? Shouldn’t it be some kind of middle ground instead?


Sometimes we need to do nothing. To know that yes, in a few days we’ll have to do well at something or other, but that’s way over there in the future. For now, we can rest.


Bujoing has helped me see the things I actually do instead of the things I don’t do. Maybe it can do this for others as well. Instead of constantly focusing on the future and what we haven’t done, we can go back over the pages and see the things we dreaded last week, the giant hurdle we braved last month, and feel satisfied that we pushed through.


And while on the subject of bullet journalling, why beat yourself up over the gaping holes in your habit tracker? So you needed a few days off. Who doesn’t? Be sensible: you’re not going to clean the house every day for the rest of your life, no matter how much you believe it while you’re drawing up your habit tracker.


By all means reach for the stars and reach the treetops, but don’t reach so hard that you dislocate your shoulder. It’s fine to fall off the wagon. The wagon will be there when you want back on, and guess what? You have the perfect getting-back-on list in your habit tracker. A few tasks in and you’ll feel like you were never off track!


Be kind to yourself. You never know when you’ll pay it back. 😉


Riches of the forest


Many people I know wax lyrical about chanterelles, but we prefer boletus. Every year in August and September, we go for a drive in the forest and pick them.

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This Saturday was a perfect day for it. Warm and sunny, just a faint breeze that brushed the fair from my face as I sat staring at the slowly passing forest floor, looking for that special kind of bready brown.



It’s a miracle that anything manages to grow here at all – it’s so dry, and the landscape is quite rough. The firs love it, though!


Not only boletus grows in this sandy earth. Lingonberries are ripening now too. Perfect for preserving in water and a little sugar. Nothing else is needed since they contain natural preservatives, and the result is delicious with wipped cream. I’ll have to make a post about that some day!



Hubby went back to a place where he found sheep polyporus last year, and I abandoned the fungus hunt for a while to explore the nearby stream.



Back home we surveyed our ‘catch’. Luckily most of it was okay (fresh and without too many wormholes).



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After dinner, what better end to the evening than taking a walk up the clear-cut? Contrary to expectation, the hewed forest has actually expanded our world. We never went up there before, but now it’s almost mandatory.




There were lots of crowberries up there, a berry that’s considered sort of boring and not very tasty. I have seen people sell crowberry jam at markets, but I’ve never tasted it. Maybe this will be the year?




Heading home in a cloud of tiny winged creatures. 🙂


King of all I survey


I’ve heard that an important Swedish trait is our love of nature, which makes me go “Huh? Doesn’t everyone in the world love nature?” so I guess in my case it’s true. 😀 But apparently some people are put off by the prospect of miles and miles of forest where they won’t meet a soul. To me it sounds like paradise.






Or even better than a forest: a mountain. There’s nothing like standing on the top of a hill and looking down at things that usually seem important blur into insignificance.




Maybe that’s why the elk is so emblematic of Sweden. It’s a solitary animal that goes where it wants in the woods – it has its paths and doesn’t care about the roads we’ve built – and it looks so majestic where it glides along beneath the towering pines and firs. There’s even an expression in Swedish – älga iväg (‘elk away’) – which means walk with long big strides.



So like the elk I like to roam free and feel like I own the world. 😀 And nowhere do I feel it more than in unpopulated areas. Nothing calms my soul like listening to the special kind of silence that speaks of distance: you may hear the odd car on a highway far away, but the very fact that the sound travels such a long way tells you how alone you are – how utterly peaceful. No chatter, no demands, no social mores or rituals to honour. Just you and the water and the air and the sun.







On a related note, I also love ruins and abandoned buildings. All the heartache and intrigue that once happened there is history, and all the people who struggled are long dead. You can own the place, because no one owns it anymore.


You can imagine the echoes, but they don’t touch you. Only the atmosphere of the place, the final outbreath when the battle is over.


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It’s both lovely and awful how nature takes over as soon as humans stop fighting for a place in it. Lovely because it gives me hope for the planet after we’re gone, and awful because it really takes all we have to stop both ourselves and our houses from falling into decay.

And at the same time it’s so funny how we tend to want to fight. We could easily let beautiful weeds overgrow our gardens, but we insist on ripping them out and planting things that don’t really want to be there, that crave a subtle balance of sun and damp and shade that has us toiling in our free time just to cater to them!



It’s as if the fact that we have to work for something makes it more valuable – and maybe that’s true to a point. But if we’re plagued by stress and demands, and gardening isn’t a hobby or a way for us to wind down, maybe we should lower our standards and be okay with a little wilderness.


Finally, I can willingly trade a cluttered beach on the Riviera for the peaceful solitude of a tiny strip of sand by a northern Swedish lake.






And yeah, alright – I might be persuaded to share it with a tiny little frog. 🙂


Going to the chapel

This weekend, hubby and I went on an outing to an old chapel in the middle of the wilderness. It was built in 1891, and the spot was chosen to be accessible from several surrounding municipalities – even though people had to travel 25 miles’ worth of primitive forest paths to get there.


Back then it was also used as a school. There was no central heating, but there was a fireplace that the teacher or the beadle had to stoke.

The house was really pretty both on the outside and the inside. It recently won an award for ‘most beautiful building in the county’. It almost had a viking feel, probably because it was built during a time in Swedish history when people liked music, literature, art, and architecture that smacked of romantic nationalism.


The afternoon light really did the room justice.



Outside the chapel there was just endless forest – and miles of winding road flanked by wild flowers. It was almost ridiculously picturesque.


But then on the way home the weather turned really dramatic, veering from violent winds and pelting rain to the brightest sunlight. I almost couldn’t snap these pictures at all, because the wind kept buffeting at me, my camera was drenched, and I had no time either to compose the images or adjust focus and exposure.

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Chucking the ballast

What are you carrying around that prevents you from picking up new things?


If there’s one tip I should take to heart – not only as related to writing, but other stuff as well – it’s that sometimes in order to move forward you need to chuck things out. Even though you’ve put in a lot of work on them. I mean, I’ll keep snippets of deleted scenes for years, trying again and again to include them in new stories – and it never works, because the tone is off, or I’m not thinking through how the old scenes fit into the new timeline.

I know this, and yet I keep making the same mistake. I’m so loath to throw away things I’ve toiled over for hours and hours, but sometimes… you just have to. Put it down to a learning experience and move on.


I don’t know why I don’t do this more often. I mean, I love writing, and yet it’s like I avoid writing by reusing old stuff. As if I can’t trust myself to come up with new words.


Or is it just laziness? I don’t know. But today I came across an amazing writing tip on Tumblr that really spoke to my fetish for logical hierarchies, and I decided to try it out. START FROM SCRATCH for once, instead of trying to squeeze a stagnated WIP into a new structure and ending up with an even bigger mess than before.

So. I brought a pen and notebook into the garden and got to work the old-fashioned way. And after ten minutes or so I had to run inside and continue on my laptop, because my longhand couldn’t keep up with all the brand new ideas that kept popping into my head!


At the end of the day I had an entire new novel mapped out, and it turns out that I can actually use minor scenes from one of those pesky WIPs in this new story. But the thing is that this time I started with the structure, with a departure and an arrival point that guided everything else, so when I use old material I know exactly where to put it for it to make sense in the dramaturgy instead of just cramming it in any old where.

Now, I won’t lie and say that structure is everything. It’s a tool that takes you some of the way, but not all the way. Sometimes you need to break the rules you’ve set up to move forward. The plot is a map that guides you, but sometimes you need to ignore the map for a while and trust the terrain. The whole process is like a pendulum that swings between structure and anarchy. Use the tool until you get stuck, then chuck the tool and improvise until you get stuck, etc.

That’s how you build a story.





Without a particular subject


Tonight I just had to document the sky. I discovered the spectacle much too late, so I missed most of it, but there were loads of small, golden clouds towering over each other like spangled dollops of clotted cream.


Never mind finding a subject and an angle, I just had to snap away.

And here, suddenly, this pink calm.

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If you don’t mind travel sickness, here’s a really shaky video of my walk.