My whole world

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No matter how small the creature, it’s always at the centre of its own world.

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Hubby and I sometimes talk about this in relation to spiders and flies: how they must view the world so differently from us – not only because they have more eyes, but because they hang upside down from tent ceilings and windows. Wonder how this garden looks from their perspective, we say. Do they even have a concept of it, or do they just see their immediate surroundings and ignore the rest? Is the ant’s world comprised of the blade of grass directly in front of it – an obstacle to overcome – or do they think about the ant hill and dream of reaching it faster than yesterday?

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Every single organism is at the nave of its own universe. It’s the receptacle for sun and rain, for wind and weather. Everything that happens to it happens in relation to their unique self.

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Even in a field of endless waving grain, every seed is an individual.

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But what about fungi? Their self resides under ground, and the bodies we see poking up through the forest floor are only satellites revealing a larger presence beneath the surface.

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And we humans – can we see beyond our immediate surroundings? Can we grasp the concept of the garden even though we can only see the blade of grass that blocks our way?

Are we individuals, or a seemingly unique expression of something else – something constant, something whole?

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King of all I survey

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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Small and unassuming

This post and the links in it contain advertisements for my book.

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I turn to see Henrik smiling at something on the ground. I walk over and peer down at the carpet of tiny white petals. “Ah, the arctic starflower.”

“Chickweed wintergreen,” he playfully corrects me.

“I prefer the arctic starflower. It sounds so….” I gesture vaguely. “Mysterious,” I settle for, but it sounds so ridiculous that I blush. It makes Henrik laugh, but it’s not a mean laugh. It sounds knowing. As if, once again, we share something.

“Yeah, it’s supposed to be seen in twilight, isn’t it?” he says.

I squirm. “Perhaps. It’s just… it’s such a small and unassuming flower. You can walk right past it and not even notice.”

Henrik raises an eyebrow that looks disconcertingly flirty. “Is that a metaphor?”

I give him a look. “You think I’m small and unassuming?”

His gaze flickers down to my belt and then back up. “Well, you do kind of apologize for existing.”

(The Seventh Flower by Ingela Bohm)

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Christer isSeventhFlower[The]FS_v1 too old to believe in fairy tales. He’s not the kind of guy to pick the proverbial seven flowers on Midsummer’s Eve so he can dream of who he will marry, and he certainly isn’t the type to fall for someone he’s just met. Especially not a womanizing blogger named Henrik.

Besides, Christer’s previous marriage didn’t end with a happily ever after. Therefore, he has no interest in gifting his heart to someone who lives five hundred miles away and probably isn’t even gay. His family is right: it’s time he grew up and stopped dreaming.

But Midsummer’s Eve in Sweden is a magical night, and Henrik won’t stop flirting. As the midnight sun shines down on the misty woods, maybe there’s room for one last dream.

Available at Dreamspinner and Amazon

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Goodbyes

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This weekend at the cabin became a little different. A new couple has bought the house next door, and the previous owner harvested all the trees that he owned in the surrounding forests. We came there just in time to see it happen.

Some trees are always left so that they can drop new seeds and secure the rebirth of the forest. They were marked with these red ribbons of salvation.

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It reminded me of the song Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree, which I kept singing all through the weekend. “Do you still want me?” Yes, these happy few were still wanted alive.

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As an aside, down by the stream a different kind of forester had made short work of the best birches. If all goes well, I’ll have a post about beavers sometime during the summer. I just need to muster the patience to sit there with my camera and wait…

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Paradoxically, everything seemed to be fading and dying, wilting and withering. Maybe to make way for the new.

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A sunshiny day

And finally we got a glimpse of what May should be – on a Saturday, no less, and on the weekend when we decided to pay a visit to the cabin. Couldn’t have asked for more.

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We moved a bit of stuff from the house that hubby’s mum is selling to the barn by the cabin, not only because there’s room for it there, but because we’re planning something big for that place.

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Right now the interior looks like this:

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But a space like that can be made into something cosy, and a kind of museum where you can also sit on warm days and eat. So in the future, when all our other million projects are done, we’re going to clean it up and put olden thinges on the walls!

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I really long to do these kind of really physical, concrete projects. I guess five years of living exclusively in my head does that. It’s so nice to see things take form in the real world as opposed to just a text.

And that’s probably why I still so enjoy snapping pictures of natural beauty as well – of which there was an abundance this weekend. First out, the forest floor. New grass struggling out of the old, and moss, moss, moss.

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The sun cast a whitish glow on the pale yellow grass from last year.

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Later it turned into gold and copper.

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Merging into coral and purple as it dipped below the horizon.

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Sunset 4

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Wow.

Looking closer

Well, that’s nothing new of course, but you know… I have to think of titles. Bit hard when it’s all backlit closeups. But hey, you can’t get too many of ’em, so.

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Look at those fine, fine hairs!

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A devoured pine cone from yesteryear.

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Me in the centre of things.

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Moss is the perfect cushion.

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Just a typical view on my walks.

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Yours truly.

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Something old, something new

From a distance the world is grey and brown right now, but move closer and a shiny spectacle takes centre stage.

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Because most of nature is still dead at this time of year, it’s better to see individuals than a crowd. Like this withered lingonberry that no one picked last autumn. With the sun filtering through it, the leathery skin glows as if alive again.

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Or these perfect catkins.

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These delicate stems form a tiny forest against the background of an actual forest of pine trees and firs.

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Sometimes it feels like cheating to take these close-ups, because everything becomes so much more beautiful. This isn’t what we normally see when we take a walk in the woods, after all.

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But maybe we should. Maybe we don’t need a camera to get down on our knees and view the world through the shining prism of a melting ice crystal, hanging like a chandelier from last year’s grass.

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On the other hand, a simple dried leaf that dangles from a twig in the sun can be quite as lovely, and we don’t even have to make an effort to see it.

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It’s all about perspective. About where the light comes from.

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So the moral is, I suppose, not to see ‘the bright side of life’ exactly, but to put yourself in the right position in relation to the light.

Right now I’m in a phase where I’m trying to leave the past behind and start a new chapter, and part of that work is deleting a lot of stuff in my computer, archiving old WIPs I will probably not finish, and sorting (getting lost in) blog pictures from the past year. And looking through my folder, I found that with a little distance, I enjoy some pictures more than others – and not the ones I would have thought at the time I took them.

So as we await spring here in the north of Sweden, and also drawing near to April, which was when I bought my camera last year, I thought I’d celebrate/mark my new chapter by reposting the photos I love best. They may not be anyone else’s favourites, but this is an entirely self-indulgent post, so I don’t care, haha!

First out is me in the forest, where I belong, with the sun just barely filtering through. That golden green light… *sigh*

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Next is me by a nearby lake, backlit and calm like I almost never am. 🙂

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My very first experimentation with light and water. It’s a love that endures.

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Quintessential summer photo, and all the more precious now that it’s just a memory.

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Just grass and sunlight, but beautifully fragile.

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Spider’s threads among blueberry bushes, caught in setting sun.

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More backlit stuff. 🙂

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Just around the corner is all you ever dreamed of.

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Dawn filtering through every single pine needle.

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Seeds let loose on the wind like babies learning to walk.

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Frog and leaf.

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The warmth of the sun on a forest path.

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Beard lichen at dawn.

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Dandelion with half melted frost on top.

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More grass in sunlight.

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Happy accidents in cloud form.

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Northern lights over the same water.

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Death, played by me. I’m really pleased with the colour palette.

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Another me in another forest and another season. This reflects the feeling exactly.

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Nature’s jewels.

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Sod silver linings – I want them to be gold.

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More jewels.

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Spring-winter.

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The pastel-iness of a warm winter.

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The joy of capturing movement and spraying snow.

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Golden hour extraordinaire.

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And, of course, my avatar. 🙂 Who knew yours truly could look cool?

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The perfect winter’s day

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Finally. I’ve tried to keep my chin up, but we’ve really not had much of that winter wonderland-y stuff this year. I remember my childhood, when the first snow came in October. By the first of Advent, the woods had fallen that special kind of silent that is only possible when there’s a thick layer of snow over everything. So far, we haven’t had that, but only frosty mornings and slippery ice on the roads. I’ve hardly dared venture into the woods at all for fear of falling and breaking my neck.

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But today I got my fill of wonderland. I walked the same path I walked this summer, when the dewy grass swished against my calves and the sun didn’t set until half past eleven. The only thing that reminded me I was on the same planet as back then was the sky. It was pink and golden, just like it was six months ago. But what it shone down on was very different.

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In July it was all misty forest and leaves and flowers. Now it was the same forest, but with all the branches weighed down by snow.

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Crunching along in the tracks left behind by a skier with his dog, I felt alive again after a week or so of being completely wrung out, dish rag style. I believe they call it the postdoc blues…

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I didn’t realize how much I needed it until I got it. It’s such a big part of Christmas, of the big wheel that turns through the seasons: this period of rest, of sleeping seeds and muffled quiet, that reminds you why it’s called ‘the dead of winter’.

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Perhaps some wind in the trees, or the crunch of your own boots in the snow, but other than that – nothing. As if the world is waiting to be born again.

Which I guess it is.

Shower the world…

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There’s a Tori Amos song that tells us to shower the world in pink and glitter, and that’s exactly what the weather gods are doing here. Every day is like a study in pink. The sun just barely makes it over the horizon for a short time between ten and two, but the reward is that every hour is golden.

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Frozen beard lichen hangs from every pine tree bough. The rising sun filters through the needles.

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It’s just cold enough to freeze the droplets but not enough to melt them. Absolutely wonderful. Some of them look like Christmas tree decorations where they hang in the fir branches. I went a little crazy with the camera when I saw it, so bear with me… 🙂

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But I must admit I was glad that there was a kettle to switch on when I got home, because the cold tends to creep into your very marrow. It’s beautiful but not harmless, you know? And maybe that’s part of the charm: a terrible beauty that you must watch from a distance in order not to get hurt. Look but don’t touch. 🙂

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