Oh my God, finally! We’ve only had clouds, clouds, and more clouds for longer than I care to count. And okay, yes, we need clouds if we want snow, but come on. The sun is only up for four and a half hours this time of year, so a sun that’s actually visible is very much appreciated.

And today it was. I headed out before lunch to catch some rays before they disappeared behind the mountains. I chased the sun up snowy forest hillsides and got all wet and cold and snowy, but lord was it worth it. Everything was so beautiful.

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Frozen droplets in the trees.

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Yellow rays on the bluish snow.

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Mist over the snowy lake.

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Fluffy clusters of ice crystals in the trees.

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Clouds turning pink as the sun disappeared behind the tree tops at one o’clock.

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And on the subject of ‘the things we do for a photo’…

But it was a wonderful day that really wiped my soul clean of all the weariness I was carrying around. Now I’m tired in a more physical way, which is better. Time for some mulled wine and Christmas decorating!

What a difference half a day makes

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Normally when I travel to work instead of working from home, I’m away for a total of twelve and a half hours. And normally I try to actually work all that time on the bus and the train, so as not to waste it. Needless to say, I’m exhausted when I come home, and there’s nothing of the day left. All I have time and energy for is dinner, an episode of a TV series, and bed.

Today, inspired by the new insights my bullet journal is giving me, I decided to change it up. I mean, is it worth it to run myself into the ground just to be able to shave off a few hours on Friday? No. So today I worked an ordinary eight hour day instead, and the results were amazing.

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I had so much time! I could photograph, and edit, and write, and all sorts of creative stuff that really is my lifeblood. And as if to cheer me on, the sun came out the moment I came home, and it stayed out while I strayed through the woods and snapped my photos. It felt like I was out there for an eternity, and yet only two and a half hours have passed!

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No matter how tired I am, the forest always manages to rejuvenate me.

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I can never get enough of these seeds!

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I’ll be honest: once I got home again and started loading all my photos into the computer, I did feel a teensy bit tired again. I mean, I did wake up at 4.30 this morning. It’s just that I forget about being tired while I’m out there in the forest, crouching in the moss to capture those backlit leaves.

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But being tired is fine, because you know what? Tomorrow I’m changing it up again and taking the 8.40 bus instead of the 5.35 one and staying later at work.

Variatio delectat!

Riches of the forest

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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

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Yum.

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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.

 

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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?

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Heading home in a cloud of tiny winged creatures. 🙂

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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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