Has the Christmas spirit kicked in yet?” a friend asked me the other day.

My spontaneous answer to the question was no, because quite frankly, it has not manifested yet. Maybe it has lost its way somewhere between train rides, lunch boxes, yoga sessions, organising a new home, etc., etc.

I do suspect it might not  make it on time, because tomorrow is already Christmas Eve and I am not sensing anything particular in the air.  The fact that I am behind schedule does not help.

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I’m telling myself that the festive season is not about a date, but about a time of the year and a state of mind. And it is not a big deal  if fireworks do not crack, because true magic is in everyday life. Being here, being healthy and surrounded by my loved ones. Still my mind is racing making lists of things to do and planning family get-togethers.

Last night I went to bed early, thinking I could do with some beauty sleep. It only resulted in me waking up  at 03:30 am. I got up, made  myself a cup of hot cocoa and finish up sewing a set of curtains (by hand). Am I subconsciously stressed, secretly excited, or is my system just running out of melatonin?

Mornings are pitch dark and so are afternoons.  The light is elusive. Nevertheless it is this introspective absolute calmness of early winter that I really appreciate. Despite the fact that my vitamin D levels must be as low as the breasts of a ninety year old woman.

A bit before 06:00 am I was ready for my 4 km  morning walk to the station on my last day of commuting for the year.  Please read the word yippee between the lines.

Christmas spirit or not, I am thinking that  this weekend is only a lead-up  to the 7th of  January whereby I will be in full celebratory mode as per the Gregorian calendar.

 

 

 

 

 

I was in Finland some weekends ago and it was still November. Now it’s December, a week before Christmas and time goes by unnecessarily fast.

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Right now, I just want to get organised, spend some quality time nesting and catch up with myself. Looking back at the pictures of my recent trip to Helsinki reminds me of what a nice thing it is to travel knowing that you have a home to return to.

 

Monday after a weekend of mini visitors, leisurely yoga, long walks in daylight and in the not so bright early afternoon, late breakfast, cooking, baking, washing dishes and meeting family for an advent fika.

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A kind of Monday when landing behind your desk in the morning feels just a bit out of place.

After work I had decided to run some errands, but I sensed my own reluctance and secret wish to beam myself home to reconnect with the base unit. That’s the backside of modern, urban life – schedules, minutes and minute planning slowly corrupt our systems from within. 

I decided that I might as well slow down and savour time, including that spent sweating in a queue to return an item at a store. I put the future aside and enjoyed every meter of my 4 km walk back to the “village”.

I quite accidentally dug into my pocket and found a handful of kryptonite. And what’s more, on a regular dark December Monday, just because I decided to think a bit differently and take on a tiny challenge. I shall remember not to forget this.

I recently moved after a temporary, yet long, stay at a flat on the fourth floor of an apartment building. As of a miracle, my new abode is located within a stone’s throw.

I live on the same street, only two numbers further away.

My new apartment is on the same floor and it has the same number. It is of the exact same size and orientation.

Of course, there are also differences. My flat is differently laid out for example. My building goes in terracotta colours, as opposed to the various shades of green of my previous home.

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Also very importantly, I formerly used to bump in to this amazing fur-ball, Max the cat, who would sit at the staircase, overlooking the lobby, radiating the purest of zen qualities.

Tonight, as I walked through the entrance of nr. 16, I was met with the realisation that there is such a thing as a parallel universe…

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The proof has four legs and a long fuzzy tail.

 

 

 

Came home. Unpacked groceries. Sent a couple of messages. Was planning on doing some yoga. My spirit was dull, my body even duller.

I made some caffeine-free coffee, unfolded the mat on the living room floor. I went up in a head stand and admired the view from upside down.

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Yoga is indeed an art of self-exploration; it makes you more attentive to your inner voice and to the space surrounding you; it also makes you discover the layers of dust hiding under your fridge and your bed. It gives you new perspectives in so many ways…

In the end, my practice evolved unhurriedly, peacefully, patiently. To quote Pythagoras, The beginning is half of the whole – well begun is half done.  I am very happy I was wise enough to begin.

The charm of the unknown familiar

I am in Helsinki, or Helsingfors for the Swedish speaking.

I cannot really count the times I have been to, or transited via the Finnish capital; they just feel many. Keeping count is quite difficult as my visits to Finland are all a familiar blur….

Figure that it takes 45 minutes to travel from Arlanda airport to Helsinki, compared to my daily fourty-minute train ride from home to work. I read a couple of articles in the inflight magazine, snoozed for a bit and and before I knew it the pilot was announcing our descent.

I landed with a small rucksack packed with necessities and loose instructions on how to reach my friends place. I did not want her to pick me up at the station, as that would spoil some of the fun of traveling. I ended up taking the wrong train-line from the airport, but I was not too worried;  traveling is not fun if you don’t allow yourself to get lost once in a while.

The man sitting opposite me was the typical shy-looking Finn. He took my situation quite personally. We studied the train diagram together; he consulted a fellow passenger, a distinguished-looking woman in her fifties, and asked her for directions on my behalf. After some minutes her husband, a smiling middle-aged guy with a fancy scarf, came back to us with additional information that he had looked up on his phone. I could picture the two of them eating croissants with coffee for breakfast before going to an art exhibition. Finnish people may appear distant and closed, but in reality they are helpful and down to earth people.

After a comfortable detour, I walked to my friend’s place and found it very easily. While I was walking in the new neighbourhood, I was once again amazed at how different Finland is to Sweden. Not only is the feeling different, but also the light, the landscape and the architecture. Same, same but different could not describe it better.

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It is Sunday morning and I am sitting on the mint-green couch of a funky little apartment built in the fourties, located in the Olympic village. The next door neighbour is either having a huge hang over, or dying of a stomach bug. The wall opposite me is painted in electric blue, a batch of laundry is drying and I slept until almost nine o’ clock EET.

Yesterday we had sauna at the Löyly, a public sauna by the sea and dinner at the fancy Yume restaurant, followed by a night cap at Harry’s bar, which smelled like a carpet populated by happy fungi.

It is almost noon, my host is having her beauty sleep and I am sipping on a cup of tea, but getting quite ready for breakfast. Let’s see what this grey November day has to say.

Last week would have been my grandmother’s ninetieth birthday. The youngest of four siblings, she was born and raised in a small northern town.  Her mother was a widow and a hard-working woman, providing for her family. As a child, my grandmother spent a lot of time with her grandparents who were running a bakery cum coffee shop which was a pit-stop for trading traffic. That really explains her great fondness for coffee and cafes.  

She left us in January but she had been gone already for a long time. Despite her solid constitution, she finally stepped into immortality; hadn’t it been for her dementia, she would have been  a remarkably youthful ninety-year old. 

She never called for attention, but she was the kind of woman whose presence does not go unnoticed. Petite and slender, but not frail. Rather classically feminine and strong despite her small size. With dark hair and the most beautiful eyes; big and of a colour deserving a poetic name like violet or azure. Eyes that would so easily well up when we had to say goodbye. The azure would overflow and trickle down her crease-less soft cheeks.

If I had to use one word to describe her, I would say refined. She artfully filtered beauty through practical moderation to produce an approach to everyday life that made the mundane less ordinary.

Making a three course meal was not only reserved for special occasions and the table would always be beautifully set. She was coquette, but in a down-to-earth way. She inhabited every piece of her clothing, filling it with her personality. I remember her light blues and pinks, her bright greens and earthy yellows. She could miss-match patterns and still look stylish.

Grandmother had a special kind of humor. She was verbal and witty; not particularly talkative and any way, my grandfather would use up some of her speaking quota as well when we were around. 

My grandmother adored us, but her feelings were greater than her words. My grandfather verbalised the big emotions. He would say I love you, I miss you. My grandmother’s love could be read between the lines. In the letters that she wrote us. In the Christmas packages she sent, in the picnic bag packed with cucumber sandwiches, tea and cocoa. I understand; the big words can break you if uttered aloud.

Grandfather and grandmother had great love and respect for each other, but he would always take a bit more space. Once, while visiting us, my grandmother really decisively put grandfather in his place, responding to something he had just said.

Appreciatively, I told her that she obviously had some temperament, whereby she responded: “Well, if I did not have a temperament, I would probably be milking cows somewhere in the middle of nowhere”.

You always tried to be correct, but you were never boring dear grandmother. And yes, life took you on a journey from the north to the south of the country and also to many more exotic places and destinations. You were open to what life had to offer and adventurous in your own way. You were loyal and non judgmental.

I so cherish the image of you in your long nightgowns, your softly permed brown hair framing your face, your beautiful eyes alight, your lips always in a light shade of artificial pink, coming to wish us good night. No matter how old you are, a grandmother is always a grandmother.

You are loved and you are missed. You have put a dent in the universe of all those who loved you. I hope you feel and know that, wherever you are. And also, I do wish you had told us more of your story. But maybe the most important things are those that have already been said.

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