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Tears. Gratitude. And Change.

As you may have seen, I have already unpacked my recent travels in Italy. I started fromme 4 years old ud142_edited-1 the top of my suitcase right after opening it. But there is more. And it’s much harder to unpack. The bottom layer of my ‘virtual suitcase’ is heavy with memories all the way from my childhood. Some now wrinkled, others still vivid.

After having to say the final goodbyes to both my dear dad and husband last summer, I had to go back to Finland mid September to take care of dad’s estate with my sister. That’s where my recent trip started. At my childhood’s lake house in Finland. The quiet, peaceful place in the north that’s had a great influence on who I am today.

I have always felt that the many moods and expressions of and around the small lake reflect my life. Dark skies, bright skies, strong colors, soft colors, fire and passions, peacefulness and sadness. I love them all. And I will remember them all.

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lake after sunset Finland Aug16 UD142

sunset 2 on the lake Finland UD142

sunrise fire at lake sulunjarvi finland ud142

sunrise on the lake finland UD142

rain on the lake ud142

moon lake Finland Aug16 ud75After losing our mother to cancer in our teen years, we “the sisters”, were blessed to have the world’s best dad with us until this past July. A WWII veteran, despite of failing health in the last couple of years, he was sharp as a knife until the day he passed on. Here pictured at 19 in his military uniform and on his 90th birthday a few years ago. An ironman with the heart of gold. His love is still vividly felt and his wise counsel missed on a daily basis.

While going through all the papers and photos gathered over so many decades we found remarkable things. Among those was an old newspaper article about our dad. He was carrying the Olympic torch as it traveled through Finland to the 1952 Olympic Summer Games in Helsinki. I had heard of it, and knew he had been a great athlete, but never before seen this ‘evidence’. It made me proud…and teary-eyed.

Olympic flame carried by Mikko in summer 1952 UD142_edited-1.jpgIt was hard to put dad’s house on the market, the house he built with his own hands and where we grew up. But since none of us could live there, it had to be done. My sister and I remembered how we used to have a ‘grocery store’ right under the enclosed front porch. Among other neatly packed goods, we ‘sold’ sand in used wheat flour bags…to whomever walked by. Great for pancakes, we used to advertise. So many happy memories.

Mikkos house at night 2 Finland Aug16 UD75In the last picture I took of the house, the wild wines seemed to form a colorful heart on the wall. Symbolic of the love that lived in this house. And that is how I will always remember it.

koivuranta finland home ud142I packed what little I could carry in my suitcases, the most precious memories. When I left for the last time on that overcast Saturday morning, they were filled with melancholy and gratitude.

two suitcases ud142The old Loon I had seen on every visit in the past few years made an appearance far out on the lake, as if saying goodbye.

the loon finland ud142I traveled to London. I would have a Sunday stopover in this familiar city before continuing to Milan for work early on Monday. I would pull myself together.

That evening I took a long walk on the darkened streets and ended up at a small restaurant reflecting on life. Full of twists and turns, but at the end delicious like calamari. If we had the courage and took the time to taste it.

late night snack in London ud142_edited-1Sunday was a gorgeous autumn day. I rode double-deckers, took a boat ride on the Thames and walked for miles. The brilliant fall colors in Hyde Park reminded me it was the season of change. But that was hard to accept.

hyde park ud142I wanted to dwell on memories crafted with my husband in this city. I revisited places I remembered from our honeymoon and several subsequent visits. I passed the Trafalgar Square, where were used to walk among the pigeons. Nelson was still there.

Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square London UD142I passed the Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, where my husband had photographed the beautiful interiors such a long time ago.

Westmister Abbey London ud142_edited-1

st pauls Cathedral 2 London ud142I walked around the Tower of London, where we had fun adventures as newlyweds. The landscape around it had changed remarkably. The famous Gherkin, the Shard and other modern glass towers now filled the skyline.

tower of london and the gherkin ud142_edited-1

tower of london and the Shard ud142The newest tower was still under construction, but already invited prospective buyers to visit model apartments. This reminded me that while the old and familiar was still there, new experiences would be added to the fabric of life.

londons newest glass tower apartments UD142The Big Ben at the Parliament buildings had fallen silent. At some point age tends to catch up. But hopefully, when the extensive repairs have been completed in 2021, its famous chimes will be heard again.

the houses of parliament and big ben london ud142The 3500 years old Egyptian obelisk at the Thames, Cleopatra’s Needle, brought back both our honeymoon and our last visit to this city just a few years ago. I could still see myself behind the camera and husband sitting on that sphinx on the right.

cleopatras needle London UD142And passing the London Eye, I realized I had to learn to look into the future, however difficult and meaningless that may feel at the moment.

the London Eye ud142I knew that sooner or later I had to cross that misty bridge to the next phase of my life.

tower bridge 2 london ud142And with that I was on my way to Milan and my Italian experience, grateful for what had been and what was yet to come.

the shard and the plane ud142It was, indeed, the season of change. And I had to accept that.

hyde park in fall colors ud142_edited-1

My Quest for a Forever Home.

I found what I was in search for. I know, it’s a spoiler. But I couldn’t possibly be sitting here at mom’s laptop writing to you if I was still pursuing my quest, could I ? Truth to be told, mom picked me up from my foster home on Friday, April 1. Almost six months ago now. But I can assure you I’m not an April Fools’ Day joke.  I’m a survivor.

dylan-when-he-was-found
Photo from March 2016 courtesy of Constanza Bryant, Florida Poodle Rescue.

You see, I was abandoned by my first family. I lived on the streets. And it was hard. Although I became good at sniffing for food people had thrown on the ground, I was always hungry. I could smell a half eaten chicken leg or a piece of hamburger bread from 50 yards,  but such treasures were few and far between. I lost a lot of weight. It was not obvious because my hair grew so long. If anything I looked fat. No hair cuts, no baths and no love do that to you. But it was even worse with water. Fresh water is something you take for granted when you have a home. I learned the hard way that it doesn’t rain in the spring in Florida. Finding even a small pool of dirty water was a challenge. I learned to get by with very little of it, mostly licking the trickles that reached the street when people watered their lawns. Recycled water. Not too good for you.

I can’t tell you how long I lived on the streets. I lost count of the days. And the long nights. I hardly slept because it was not safe. I had to stay alert. So I slept only for a few moments here and there when I collapsed of exhaustion.

dylan-in-march-2016
Photo from March 2016 courtesy of Constanza Bryant, Florida Poodle Rescue.

And I was looking for my family all the time. My mission was keeping me alive. I ran towards young couples pushing baby strollers. If they let me close, I would gently sniff at the baby’s toes. But it was always some other baby. I couldn’t find my family. I had always believed I was part of the family. Obviously I was wrong. They were gone and had left me behind. I had no idea what I had done to deserve this, but there I was. Homeless. I was so sad.

Then one day a car stopped next to me. It was not the car I used to ride in and hang out from the back window my ears flapping in the wind. Not my car. And I had learned to avoid cars. But the man was friendly so I finally agreed to ride with him. A milestone. My new journey had started. Hospital stay. Food. Water. Love. Florida Poodle Rescue. A foster family – and more love. I was grateful to have a home, but still grieving the loss of my family, if that makes sense.

About a week later, mom knocked on the door. She came with a friend…to visit me! I knew right away she was my mom. That’s called intuition. I jumped onto her lap. I’m not sure if I even thanked my foster family well enough for all the love they gave me, I was so eager to go with mom. And like magic ~ I found myself in her car. I remember sitting in the back seat with her kind friend. Mom kept telling me we would go home to dad. It took a couple of hours, but she was right. I’m home now.

dylan-april-6-bI’m always with mom in her office when she works. Or blogs. I can make my bed of the old blanket on the sofa, redesigning it until I’m comfortable. Sometimes I just chill on the floor next to her desk.

dylan-3-ud82I’m an avid reader, and sometimes mom lets me browse other blogs too. Nothing short of amazing. So much interesting stuff!

dylan-at-computer-2-ud82But I’ll tell you what I love the most. Going for long walks! The faster we walk, the better. But running is the best, of course. You see, I’m mom’s personal trainer.  And I take my work seriously. She really needs her exercise. At least three miles a day. Sometimes even four or five, if I can trick her.

dylan-in-the-parkAnd she’d better take her work seriously too. I appreciate my rewards, ever so small. Be it a couple of baby carrots or a piece of my favorite cookie. Even a tooth cleaning treat will do. Mom, give it to me already!

dylan-1-ud82I have developed many new tricks to test on mom and dad. Some of them work, some don’t. I’ve noticed a few more tricks work on dad. But that’s another story. See you later. Be good now.

With love, Dylan (or maybe I should say Bob Dylan, but that’s also another story)

Hiking. With Serenity. And a Dog.

Immersed in serenity. Whispers of the forest. Beholding the dance of the clouds. And tasting the air. Fresh. Comforting. It fills my being.

forest in Finlandlichen in the forest Finlandsmall stream in FinlandHiking. We pass the childhood “river”. At both ends of the lake. And the picnic “island”. Destination for countless boat trips. Lunch bags and shared secrets. The two sisters. Rain or shine.

islet in a lake in Finlandlake in FinlandAnd later, I marvel about the snow flakes as they slowly float towards the ground. Others eager to discover what might be hidden underneath. Like fallen apples.

a pudel in the snow Or happy memories of childhood winters. When the earth was cooler. And the snow made itself comfortable on the trees early in the season.

snow falling on trees in Finlandfirst snow on the montains in FinlandSunrise after morning coffee. Well after. Calm lake announces a beautiful day. The reeds hum a familiar tune. And the bird of the week jumps high up in the sky.

sunrise over the lake in Finlandsunrise over the lake in Finlandgreat tit FIThe hiking companion comes flying on the ground. Checks on those in his care. Covers three times the distance.  Nine miles instead of three.

dog runningAnd so the days go. Until the fire in the sky announces tea time. Jam filled donuts. Warmth inside and out. Childhood home.

sunset over the forest in FinlandI’ll see you soon. Around tea time.

 

Up Close and Personal. Going Home.

During my recent trip to Europe, I went to see my dear dad for a few days. At the respectable age of 91, he lives in his house at a beautiful lake in Finland.  He built it himself when I was about four years old. I grew up there until my educational pursuits and work brought me to the big city. And later to Sweden and around the world.

other end of the lake
Our lake around sunset time…

It’s good to go home. Apart from having some wonderful quality time with my dad, these visits are always relaxing and pleasant. With quiet time for reflection, nature walks, deep conversations and sauna baths. This time my visit was also a tad nostalgic. I saw many places I hadn’t seen for a long time. Like this church where we lived in the side wing when I was born.

the church my first home
My first home was in the “west wing” of this church…

My first memories are from here. I manage to climb out of my crib for the first time and surprise my mom by running into the church where she was preparing for a mass. A little later, I “paint” mom’s green kitchen chair with fresh apple sauce. And I’m very proud of my accomplishment.

Then my elementary school. It’s still standing and proudly providing education for the kids in the village. When I stood there in the school yard, I got another, not so pleasant, memory flash.

my first school
My elementary school…

I’m on my back on the gravel looking up to faces staring at me in a circle. I’ve been hit on the nose by a baseball bat swung by a fellow second grader. Sporting accident. Blood. And a very swollen nose. Most of my field of vision is filled by a huge nose. Luckily it didn’t stay that way.

My dad drove me around to see houses where I had played with friends, all of whom now lived elsewhere. And beautiful spots that I used to frequent. A full day of nostalgia. Everything changes.

partly frozen river
Lily pads frozen in the river….

Although it was still October, winter was clearly on its way. Some rivers were partly frozen, and one morning I saw a hint of snow on the ground too. Just a hint in a shady spot in the forest. It’s kind of treat for a Floridian. Provided one is appropriately attired. My pea coat was no match for the wind chill, but luckily my dear sister had left some warm clothes there for me to borrow.

hint of snow
A hint of snow!

We did many walks in the nature and although most of the colorful foliage was already gone, it was still beautiful.

fall colors
Some autumn colors were still there….
ice on the river 2
A frozen river…
Rowan-berries in the forest...
Rowan-berries in the forest…

Some of you may wonder if I saw any birds. Yes I did. Two different kinds. Although the migratory birds, like ospreys, swans and swallows, had left several weeks earlier, I found many Great Tits congregating around feeders or looking for rowan-berries.

The Great Tit 2
A Great Tit

And I saw a rooster 🙂 Mind you, it was not an ordinary rooster. But one that made a lasting impression. I was visiting my cousin’s house and snapped this picture with my phone. Just to have evidence.

the rooster 2
The handsome rooster…

He was impressive! And although he was not a bit scary, I’ve asked him to serve as my “Halloween bird”.

It was a wonderful visit, but it’s good to be back too. Happy Halloween everyone!

 

 

Born and raised here. A few ponderings on independence.

Hi this is Bumble again. I know. I’m on the wrong blog, but mom asked me to write a short greeting to all our readers on this Independence Day. She said that since I was the only genuinely American member of this family, born and raised here, I was best placed to do it. To my best knowledge that is true.

Lounging on the terrace
Lounging on the terrace

I was born in Maryland, close to the nation’s capital. I was raised there, abandoned, lived in a shelter, and was finally rescued by mom and dad. Then we moved to Florida together. It all turned out really well at the end, but it could’ve gone south. I mean ended badly.

In my philosophical moments I sometimes ponder about independence. It’s a difficult concept for me to grasp. I once asked mom if it meant that we all could live as we pleased. She said yes and no. What kind of answer is that? I didn’t get it. I guess my jaw dropped and my eyes must have been big as saucers ’cause mom tried to explain herself.

Sporting my new scarf
Sporting my new scarf now that my stitches are gone…

She said that, for example, we could eat whatever we wanted provided we could pay for the food we liked. I was thinking that I could eat chicken liver in cream sauce every day provided mom was rich. But if she was poor, I might not have anything to eat. That explanation is not cut and dry in my book. So mom gave me another example. She said we had the liberty to live wherever we wanted if we could pay for our home. For me the if was a bit disturbing. What if mom and dad couldn’t pay for our home? Would we all live in a shelter, like I did before, or not have a home at all? But I understand we have the freedom to come and go wherever and whenever we want. Like many people who want to come to our beach to celebrate today. Or like me waiting in the kitchen when mom is cooking. Just in case she drops something. Anything.

Sand Key beach Clearwater
Our beach

Then mom said we all have a voice, the freedom to say what we think. That was a bit easier for me to get. We could bark whenever we didn’t like something. Or wanted something. But the latter would need to go with an enthusiastic tail wag.

Then mom said we had all these liberties as long as we lived within the rules we set for ourselves. We all, together, she added. That was good. Nobody else would set the rules. But it still didn’t sound very easy. What if we didn’t agree what those rules should be? Like when it was okay to bark loud on the street, and when it was not?  I might never grasp this, but I think I got the gist of it. Independence is being able to decide for ourselves. And the better we do it together, the better we all have it. Including us dogs, who have voluntarily given up some decision power to our people. Please note I said some. In exchange for love, good food and belly rubs. That’s always an intricate balance.

july 4 scarf
My new July 4 scarf

So now I’ll just enjoy my freedom. And the big bag of treats I got from our friends for Independence Day. I’ll also wear my patriotic scarf today. It’s hand-made by my lovely friend. She’s not only good at sewing beautiful things, but she’s excellent in giving me back rubs. I know.

Last year's fireworks
Last year’s fireworks

Now I look forward to a nice dinner. Followed by treats and fireworks. Happy Independence Day weekend everyone.

Lots of love, Bumble