The sun doesn’t wait

In my last post I talked about how the road will wait for you while you give yourself the rest you need. But there’s something else that doesn’t wait, and if you want to catch it, you have to agree to its terms…

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The sun.

Now, I’m the first person to rebel against the idea that “The sun is out, so you have to go out too”. But if you long for the light, here’s a thought: grab it while it lasts.

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Your duties may have deadlines, but so does life. Maybe it’s time to take that break and give yourself a reward.

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Is the sky blue today?

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Is the world an open book, glittering brightly?

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The time for twinkling snow flakes will be over before you know it. The time for moving freely through the woods will be over before you know it.

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If you can, steal that moment today. Because on your deathbed, you won’t regret the time you went out to see the world.

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Misty dusk

Some days are heavy and dark.

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You move like a somnambulist through your life. You don’t see your path.

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Everything is a bluish grey, and the lines all seem blurred.

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It’s the ebb and flow of energy, the presence and absence of light. It’s the long sleep before renewal.

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What if you too dared to follow that ebb and flow, if you dared to take the time to rest?

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The road will still be there when you come back.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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Wolf winter

So this year is a real “wolf winter” with lots of snow and cold. Way overdue if you ask me. The only thing that makes six months of darkness worth it is the glitter of snow and days like this, when an icy breath rises from the stream and hovers in the sunlight.

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DSC_0115I love when the sunlight picks out each branch and twig in the forest. It happens on days when they’re covered in frost.

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But a winter like this also brings specific challenges. Snow weighs a lot, so today we had to remove some of it from the balcony so it wouldn’t break!

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We borrowed this electric thingumajig from a friend to deal with the worst of it, but I also used a big bucket meant for making wine. Use what you’ve got!

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Phew.

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And afterwards, make sure you hang your clothes up to dry!

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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!

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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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How to experience life (abridged)

This blog post and the links in it contain advertisements for my books

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As an INTP, I’m wired to question received wisdom, and there’s one thing in particular that’s been preying on my mind lately – something that’s specific to one of my functions. It’s about Introverted Sensing (Si).

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You often hear that you should ‘experience the moment’ instead of photographing it and experiencing it later, through your photo. That you cheat yourself of, say, a holiday if you live it through your camera.

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But there’s another truth as well, one that I’ve been made aware of during this past year when I’ve truly lived life through my camera: that I live more intensely when I take photos. That I see the world differently – actually, that I see the world full stop. Things I would ignore if I didn’t take photos of them. Things I would miss if I didn’t search a scene for a subject. Wonderful places I would leave early because I would be bored with them if I didn’t try to create something of my own out of the atmosphere in them.

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I’m a restless person, and I’m not much for sitting in the sun and just feeling the warmth on my face, or just looking at pretty views without doing anything. But with a camera in my hand, I’ve got a project. I document and transform, I convey an impression. I engage with my surroundings, I melt into them rather than distance myself.

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I think this is because of Si. A Se user (Extroverted Sensing) can experience the world more directly. They can take in what’s around them without trouble. But at least for me, Si needs time to digest. I don’t realise that a ball is whizzing towards me until a split second too late. Likewise, I can’t fully be in the moment when something wonderful happens. There’s always a kind of delay, so that the memory of it is almost more palpable than the experience itself.

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The camera changes that. It gives me the key to Nirvana, and I think it’s because I’m engaging Extraverted Intuition (Ne) as well as Si. Ne helps me ‘get at’ reality by exploring it and trying to create something new out of the familiar. It brings me out of my thinking shell and lets my hand pass through the veil and touch the Now. By making something, I exist in the moment.

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I always need to create in order to live. If I can’t see the creative use of a thing, I’m not interested. I loved Shakespeare for years without caring about the particulars of his life, but then I suddenly decided to write a book about him, and then there was no end to the ‘facts’ I devoured in order to be able to pull it off. So now I know that his neighbours Hamnet and Judith Butler lost a string of children, that Shakespeare’s parents had a legal dispute over a piece of property with his aunt and her husband, and that his childhood ‘friend’ Dick Field signed a petition to stop him and his company from converting a building in Blackfriars into a theatre.

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Talk about trivia. And the only reason I learned those things and not, say, the capital of Albania, is that I had an immediate use for it. The day I write a novel set in Albania, I will learn the name of the tiniest village if the story needs it.

And, um… well, true to my explorative auxiliary function, I’ve now strayed from my original statement about Si to the nebulosity of Ne, and I’m struggling to tie this text together with a catchy summary. But maybe I should just let it stand like this: unfinished, left hanging, with possibilities sticking out of it like stray hairs. It’s not wrong or sloppy or pointless. It’s just another way of being.

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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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