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Why get up at 5.30am even though you’re working from home and can sleep until 7am?

Because you can freeze to death at a brightening twilight beach.

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Because you gradually realize that the dots out there aren’t clumps of grass, but geese.

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Because of honking swans in the thin veils of mist.

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Because the sky turns pink.

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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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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.

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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.

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The afternoon light really did the room justice.

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

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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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Midsummer at the cabin

The first thing to greet us as we approached our middle-of-the-forest paradise was a startled reindeer that obligingly ran alongside the car so I could document it.

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The second welcome came from the wealth of buttercups that dotted the entire lawn.

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The first day was lovely and bright, the kind of day when the sky is white and endless.

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On my walk, I was accompanied by a fearless butterfly that fluttered along in front of me and landed to let me snap dozens of closeups. Look how the light filters through those gossamer wings.

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And look at its tiny, furry face! How often do we pay attention to the faces of butterflies? We’re too seduced by their colourful wings.

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In this one it looks like it’s stumbling home after a night on the town!

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The lingonberry bushes were flowering.

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Back at the cabin, we made a miniature maypole in the garden.

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Dinner was served on the fire. 🙂

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The buttercups glowed in the light of a torch.

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And afterwards I went up to where the forest used to be and watched the clouds blush at the setting sun.

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And somewhere here, among the fallen trees and under the dramatic sky, I lost my battery charger, so the rest of the weekend went undocumented. Maybe it was for the best. It rained the entire time and I needed some rest – the kind of rest I call non-days, that is days when time passes from your first coffeecup to your final glass of wine without even touching you; when you somnambulate through the afternoon like a ghost through the grey gauze separating us from eternity; when there’s just a big Nothing where you usually live your life.

Sometimes I resent these days, because I like to pretend that I can live two lives at once, at the speed of light. But after a period of high activity, I always find myself in these empty slumps, as if they’re the price I must pay for living too much, for hoarding time and experiences. It’s a balance sheet, and I never get away with too much greed – or too much work. I guess it’s my body’s way of making sure I don’t exceed my ‘income’.

And today I took the bus into town to buy a new charger. It’s as symbolic as it gets. 🙂

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First day of summer

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Yes, I’m branding this a summer’s day, because I wore a dress after nine pm and wasn’t cold!

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All the snow has melted and the lake is swollen with water.

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It was 25 degrees during the day – too hot to function, but it made for a lovely, sunny evening.

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The birches are covered in a light green mist. Soon they will be heavy with leaves that give shade and hide these views.

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En route

A lake full of swans and geese against a sombre autumnal background.

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A bird in flight – my first! In the local dialect, it’s called “skwakan”, which is actually sort of onomatopoetic and corresponds to the English “squawk” – ie “the squawker”!

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A last stop before leaving us for warmer climates. The water looks so cold!

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These damn swans

Or should I say, “This damn telezoom that’s all I could afford and that’s NOT living up to any kind of expectations”?

Weeell, never mind. Photography is more than crispness (I’m told, but…). And it’s not the lens’s fault that I stubbornly left the ISO on 100. But oh, how I would have wished this one to be sharp!

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But who knows, maybe in a while, I’ll even think these are quite nice, with that Constable vibe they’ve got going.

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