Tag Archives: Life

New Year. New Dreams.

Mama Sandy is flying high. It’s January and that always brings a new proposal from her faithful husband Stanley. A brand new nesting season. And new dreams.

mama and papa oprey flying together January UD147Early on Sunday morning Papa Stanley brought her the proposal gift. A big fish she enjoyed on the perch while Stanley was watching her feast. I witnessed this annual ritual from my living room window while having my first cup of coffee. In the afternoon I went out with Dylan and found Stanley eating his own fish on a lamp-post close to the nest. We wished him Happy New Year and he nodded in response.

papa osprey eats fish UD147Sandy was watching him from the perch at the nest.

mama Sandy UD147And when he had finished his meal, he flew to the nest. Before long Sandy sent him back to the ‘home depot’. While there was evidence of hard work already that morning as large branches were sticking out from the nest, more building materials were needed.

papa and mama osprey in the nest UD147After Stanley left, we walked around the marsh and wished Happy New Year to Sandy too. She looked a bit stern, but I’m sure she was just inspecting Dylan’s new haircut.

mama osprey looks at us UD147The salt marsh was quiet. Most birds were still in hiding after the week-long cold spell. We found one Black-crowned Night Heron in a sunny patch close to the nest. He was wide awake. That was it.

black-crowned night heron ud147Walking back home we spotted only one Cormorant at the Sailing Center, where they usually like to congregate in large numbers. It was still very cool and windy.

cormorant ud147_edited-1Yesterday the weather had warmed up somewhat and we went to the dog park again. We noticed the salt marsh was getting more lively. Mr. Mayor was huddling right below the Osprey nest…

the mayor UD147… where Sandy was having lunch on the perch, while Stanley observed her from the nest. I noted considerable progress in their remodeling effort.

Mama osprey eats fish UD147

papa osprey at the nest UD147Some Wood Storks were visiting again. And a little Snowy Egret bravely shared their accommodations.

wood storks ud147_edited-2The Reddish Egret had recovered from his New Year celebrations and was doing his magical dance in search of a bite for lunch.

reddish egret 2 UD147_edited-2

reddish egret fishing UD147

reddish egret UD147And finally we spotted Miss Rosa on the other side of the marsh. But she didn’t see us. She was taking a nap in the sun.

Roseate spoonbill UD147Walking back towards the nest we noticed from afar that Sandy was in the middle of her daily exercise routine. Right foot up, left foot up. Dylan sat down and I tried to capture her movements.

mama osprey morning gymnastics UD147From a nearby islet a Tri-colored Heron was watching how it’s done. She stretched her neck to get a better view.

tri-colored heron ud147And a Blue Jay was paying attention too. He was exercising his neck trying to find a straight line of sight between the branches.

blue jay ud147Walking home, we spotted a small songbird with raptor’s habits. A Loggerhead Shrike was waiting for lunch to appear in his line of sight.

loggerhead shrike ud147_edited-1Exciting times! We will be sure to follow the highs and the lows of Mr. and Mrs. Osprey’s nesting season. I am certainly hoping there will be less drama and more highs than last year…for them and for us humans.  Thanks so much for visiting the salt marsh gang.

Christmas. And Stockholm in My Heart.

Darkness fell early. Around 3 p.m. But it wasn’t really dark. Stockholm, my former home town, was lit up for the holiday season. Chandeliers and Christmas stars lit up almost every window of the respectably old buildings in the city. And the streets were decorated with Christmas lights.

drottingatan X17 UD146The day before Christmas Eve, I decided to take a pre-dinner walk down the memory lane in the historic Old Town. Coming up from the metro station I was happy it wasn’t raining. My puffer jacket proved its worth in the near freezing temperatures and I felt ready for a long urban hike.  A man selling Christmas flowers greeted me from inside his tent.

flower stall X17 UD146I walked the narrow cobble stone alleys admiring the old buildings, a few built as early as the 13th/14th century, most in the 15th to 19th century. All of them modernized for comfortable city living.

Walking on one of the main streets, I made a nostalgic discovery. Our favorite Italian restaurant from the late 70s and 80s, Michel Angelo, was still there.

restaurant Michel Angelo UD146.jpgI walked closer and snapped a picture of a very special table. Husband and I sat there one cold night in February over 30 years ago. And got the fastest service ever. You see, I was expecting our son. And it was obvious he would arrive soon. The waiter politely asked me when the baby was due. I responded truthfully that he was due two days ago. I will never forget the expression on his young face. Needless to say our pizzas arrived in record time. Quattro Stagioni with different toppings for each quarter, like the four seasons.

rest michel angelo table ud146Here I was, so many years later, a reflection in the window of my memories.

I continued my walk trying to find my way to Stortorget, the main town square in Old Town, where the traditional Christmas Market has been held every year since the 1920s.

street in old town 2 X17 UD146My sense of direction has always been poor so I ended up enjoying many an old building on my way. I came to a smaller square, Järntorget, where a big tree lit up the surrounding buildings. And tomtar, reindeers, dala horses and viking helmets filled the shop windows.

jarntorget gamla stan UD146_edited-1

shop window in Old Town UD146I crisscrossed a few more alleys and finally heard the music and saw the familiar sights of the Christmas Market.

xmas market X17 UD146I lingered there between the stalls for quite a while. I was looking for a Yule Goat, just like the one husband had bought over 30 years ago. And found the last remaining one! It is now continuing the tradition in our son’s family glogg UD146_edited-1home. I also found warm glögg and enjoyed a small cup with a ginger bread cookie in the company of visitors from Japan and Poland.

It was all so familiar. Heartwarming. I felt at home right there standing in the crowd sipping my glögg.

Now all warmed up, I continued my journey through the Old Town finding many interesting buildings and churches built starting in the latter part of the middle ages.

And finally arrived at the Royal Palace. It has over 600 rooms, but looking up from the darkened court-yard only a few windows were lit here and there. A soldier stood guard at one of the entrances.

royal palace X17 UD146

Royal palace court yard UD146_edited-4From there I walked down the castle hill and continued towards another island, Riddarholmen, the Island of the Knight. You see, while the earliest findings of human activity in the Stockholm area date back to the stone age, about 6000 B.C., the city of Stockholm was built starting in 1180 and was officially established in 1252 on Stadsholmen, or the Town Island now broadly referred to as the Old Town. The city then gradually expanded onto several other islands connected by bridges.

slottsbacken X17 castle hill UD146From there I could spot Kungsholmen, the King’s Island, were we used to live in our early years in Stockholm. And where we got married at the City Hall seen in the distance.

mot kungsholmen X17 UD146From the bridge to Riddarholmen I also spotted the Royal Opera House lit in changing colors for the festive season.

the royal opera house UD146I then walked over the bridge to the beautifully lit city center…

bridge to old town X17 UD146

sergels torg 2 X17 UD146…and took the metro a couple of stops back to my sister’s home, also located in a century old building in central Stockholm.

gathorna X17 UD146 Once inside, I was wrapped in the warmth of the Christmas spirit…

xmas cheer X17 UD146

xmas star in te window X17 UD146

amaryllis X17 ud146…served delicious traditional meals, loved and hugged by family.

julbord X17 UD146 And I was kissed by a sweet boy. He did a great job in comforting me when I missed Dylan. my sweet boy UD146While being the first without my dad and husband, this Christmas truly nurtured my heart and soul.

Thank you for being here, and for all your encouragement throughout 2017. I wish you all good health, renewed joy, love and peace. May your light burn bright in 2018.

fire X17 UD146_edited-1

Yule Goat.

Snow boots. A hooded winter coat. Gloves. Leggings and jeans. Wool sweaters. Layering tops. Christmas gifts. My trusted carry-on refuses to collaborate. It will not close. And don’t dare to sit on it. I give up and go to fetch my large suitcase. The Florida girl is going to Sweden.

I feel emotional. Browsing my photo libraries for pictures of Christmases past. I travel back in time. All the way to our son’s very first Christmas. He’s crawling under the lower branches of our live Christmas tree. Mesmerized by the lights and the sparkling tinsel garland. It’s Christmas in Stockholm.

MJ first ChristmasOur home is filled with seasonal aromas. Ham and rutabagas, potato, carrot and macaroni casseroles. Meatballs and spicy sausages. Jansson’s Temptation and herring salad. I’m in the kitchen cooking traditional Christmas dishes for my little family. Husband and son play in the living room. The camera clicks.

Christmas foodsSnow. I taste the word. Cold. Fluffy. Beautiful. And again I’m back in Stockholm. Playing in the snow with my son. Husband taking pictures. Those precious moments frozen in time.

Mom and son StockholmAnd soon I will be there again. Same city, different time. Christmas. Hopefully white. Long walks with my sister’s family and their poodle. Beautifully decorated streets and shop windows. Delicious traditional dishes. Christmas market in the historic Old Town.

I look at the old yule goat on my dining table. Its yellow straws and red ribbons are still fairly intact, after faithfully standing on whatever table it decided to jump onto for over 30 years. Every Christmas, on three different continents. It asks me if I remember. I nod.

yule oat 2It is a crisp, snowy December evening. The Old Town is wrapped in Christmas spirit. Seasonal music streams from the market stalls. Warm glögg and lussekatter. Husband stops at a stall and the yule goat becomes part of the family. Life is good.

Now silently conversing with the yule goat Love wraps me in a warm blanket. So much to be grateful for. I wish you all a wonderful, soul-warming Christmas and a happy holiday season. Feel the spirit.

From My Diary. Fall 2017.

Hi there. This is Dylan. Long time no see. And a lot has happened since then. Not all good.

In July dad went to heaven. One day he was here, the next day he was gone. All his things and clothes remained just where he’d left them. His smell was still here. He left without taking anything with him. And he didn’t tell me he was going. Like mom, I’ve been very sad about that. I remember the love he gave me. The back and tummy rubs. And the silly routines we had perfected together. I’m trying to teach mom, but she’s a slow learner. It will take time for her to grasp everything. Dad was a natural. I miss him.

Dylan sadI have a bout of separation anxiety every time mom leaves home without me. I know exactly when she’s planning to leave. And even the thought makes me fearful. Already before she grabs her purse I’m busy hoping she’ll come back. And not go to heaven like dad. To help my anxiety, mom bought me a Thunderskirt. I have to admit that while I don’t like clothes in general, that one makes me feel a bit safer. And it’s warm too. Just right for days like today when it’s windy and almost freezing. Only 55F/13C.

Dylan in Thunderskirt_edited-1And then a hurricane hit our area in early September, the first in almost 100 years. I was not born at the time of the last hurricane, but mom might remember it. Anyway, we took an impromptu trip to Philly. Just hopped on an airplane and left. That was quite an adventure.

philly studio ud137_edited-2It was my first time to fly. The security check was easy, I had a tick mark on my ticket so I just ran through the metal detector before mom. Then I checked out the Admirals Club, but there were no dog treats. Mom gave me a small piece of cheese. Then I flew like a pro. To tell you the truth you don’t actually need to fly. The big metal crate has large wings and it does all the work. You just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Dylan flying_edited-3The hardest thing on this trip was to go to the restaurants with our friends. I had to lie low and be quiet in the booth next to mom. I smelled chicken, bacon, cheese, you name it, but had to keep my head down. No sniffing. It was hard. But somehow I rose to the occasion. Nobody even knew I was there. Right, Gladys?

I have to tell you that I’ve never seen so many geese in my life. They patrolled the vicinity of our hotel every day. Again, I had to practice self-discipline.

Canada geese in Philly_edited-1All in all, it was a great trip. I realized I like to travel. And I hope mom gets me a frequent flyer card. Oh wait, that might not be such a great idea when I think about it. Smells like a double-edged sword. With more miles mom might travel even more. And there’s no guarantee she’d take me everywhere. Like earlier in the fall and again recently. You know, she’s been away twice in the last three weeks. First time she told me she’s going to look for a new home for us. New home? What does that mean? I love my home, my sitter and all my friends, like Bentley and others, at the dog park. I’m not moving. Full stop.

Bentley_edited-1I have to come up with an emergency plan to get that out of her head. All tips are welcome. I just hope it’s not too late.

After coming back, mom took me for a nice outing. We went to see some birds at Fort de Soto Park. We walked the trails near the beaches and found many different birds, big and small.

two willets FDS_edited-1

snowy egret FDS

GBH at FDS

ruddy turnstone FDSBut the most interesting part of the trip was sniffing around at the old fort. By far. The smells were fascinating. Markings of dogs long gone mixed with faint traces of gun powder around the old canons. I like that stuff.

canon and osprey FDS

canon at FDSThen we found another fort. And the soldiers were still there. Mostly pelicans and cormorants. They were guarding the island. Who knows what might come from the sea.

pelicans FDS

skyway bridge FDSOne pelican even gave me the look. Like questioning my right to be there.

pelican at FDSAt the end of the day I was happy, but exhausted and hungry. My dinner time was dangerously close. But mom said she didn’t want to leave before she found at least one osprey. Right away I pointed out several of them for her. They were pretty far away, but she should have spotted them. Then we finally drove back home. And I got my dinner 30 minutes late.

osprey FDS This past week mom left again. For work, she said. That word always sounds iffy to me. I don’t like anything that smells work. Bad smell right off the bat. I suspect she was doing sightseeing. Who can work four days in a row anyway? Impossible. And my hunch proved right. I caught her looking at pictures that didn’t look like work. Even I recognize the building. I watch the news. MSM. And mom’s not working at the White House, is she? I hope not. But here’s the evidence that she was there. Both day and night. Sometimes she’s so difficult to read.

white house DC

white house at night DC_edited-2

national xmas tree day time DC

national xmas tree at night DCWhatever the whole truth, the main thing is she came back. That she’s here now. Giving me tummy rubs. I just hope this lasts for a while.

Take care now. With love, Dylan

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.

lake-in-the-fall-2-ud78-16x9

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

Birthday. Solo in the Fast Lane.

My birthday was coming up. Again. And it would be the first one my husband would not be there to take me out to celebrate the day. I knew I would feel it in my bones. To start a different tradition in the new normal, I decided to take myself out. Way out. I would go to Rome for my birthday.

Frecciarossa RomeI would take the Red Arrow, Frecciarossa, from Milan where I had been working. Two hours and 55 minutes from city center to city center. 297 km/h. In birthday style.

frecciarossa executive class seat RomeAfter a hearty breakfast and a short nap, I arrived…to a different time.

I took a red double-decker ‘carriage’ to the Colosseum. I was intrigued by this massive amphitheater measuring 190 by 155 meters (620 by 513 feet) built in the city center on the grounds of the former palace of the decadent emperor Nero. It was opened by Emperor Titus in 80 A.D., only a year after the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii.

old ruins in Rome

old and new in RomeTraveling through the city center, I passed many beautiful structures. When I could see the walls of the Roman Forum, I knew I was approaching my destination.

Panorama from behind the Roman Forum RomeI got out of the carriage. The horses looked exhausted after navigating through the city.

horses at the colosseum RomeIt was a gorgeous late September day. I admired the great works of the Romans, and was in no hurry at all …

next to Colosseum Rome

gate at the colosseum Rome…to enter the Colosseum. I decided to linger outside for a while.  I knew the hunts and wild animal fights usually took place there in the mornings. I could almost hear the cheers of the crowd, over 50,000 people packed inside…watching the combats and waiting for the public executions that usually started around noon. Later, in the afternoon and early evening, they would witness gladiator games and combats.

panorama of colosseum Rome_edited-1Finally I went inside.

colosseum from inside RomeLooking up from the ground floor, I could ‘see’ the elaborate private boxes where the noble and upper-class families enjoyed non-stop entertainment. The more gruesome, the better. The plebs tightly packed on the marble seats of the upper tiers.

the many leyers of colosseum Rome_edited-1Although there were about 100 drinking fountains for the spectators sprinkled on the upper floors, the underground hosted most of the facilities. colosseum underground chambers Rome

There were fresh water pipes of lead, cisterns for gathering rain water, latrines for the patrons and an elaborate system to handle all the waste generated at the arena on daily basis. The stalls housing wild animals and the gladiators’ chambers were also underground.

Most of the gladiators were slaves, condemned criminals or prisoners of war, but there were also a few freed men who wanted to become famous and rich…by keeping up a winning streak. Looking up from the lower levels at the ecstatic spectators must have been frightening. The masses expected bloodshed.

view from the base level colosseum RomeI climbed stairs and walked the ancient corridors pondering about the four centuries this arena was in active use. The entertainment here was elaborate and expensive. At some point the cost accounted for about 1/3 of the Roman annual revenue.

Over the centuries, this amphitheater was damaged by storms and earthquakes. It fell in disrepair by the 6th century, and finally became a quarry for building materials for forts, palaces and churches, including the St. Peter’s Basilica.

colosseum base level RomeAs a result, about 2/3 of the original structures were destroyed, until the restoration efforts started in the 1990s.

Now I needed to balance all these past horrors with some beauty. I hopped on my ‘carriage’ again and traveled through the city center past the impressive Parliament building.

Italian Parliament Rome_edited-1I hopped off at the Castel of St. Angelo and decided to walk to the Vatican.

Piazza and castel St Angelo Rome

castel st Angelo RomeIt was quite a walk, but luckily I am well-trained by Dylan. Approaching the St. Peter’s Basilica, I was suddenly thrown back in time.

approaching st Peters Basilica Vatican RomeI briefly ‘saw’ my husband happily sitting in that square all those years ago.

raimo at vatican RomeBut that picture had already been taken. He was not there. Instead the place was very crowded. Hundreds of people were lining up for entrance.

the crowd in front of Vatican RomeI decided to continue my walk and visit the Vatican museums instead.

Vatican building B Rome

guard at Vatican RomeI needed to experience beauty. Art. Food for my soul. And there was plenty. Like this famous painting of Adam and Eve by Wenzel Peter.

Wenzel Peter Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden Vatican Museum RomeFantastic paintings in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

ceiling painting at sistine chappel Vatican RomeAnd many sculptures, ancient and modern, like the “Sphere within Sphere” by Arnoldo Pomodoro in the museum gardens.

room with statues Vatican Museum Rome

statues at vatican museum rome

arnoldo pomodoro Sphere within Sphere Vatican Museum RomeNot to mention a large collection of icons and other paintings.

Icons at Vatican Museum Rome

another painting Vatican Museum RomeWhat surprised me was the sizable collection of Egyptian artefacts.

egyptian artifacts at Vatican museum 2 Rome

egyptian artifacts at Vatican museum 1 RomeAt the end of the day I had seen a lot. I had also walked a lot, over 20,000 steps. I was completely ready for a meal freely allowed on birthdays. Quattro Stagioni. Pizza at an Osteria next to my hotel.

IMG_1888I wish you all…a Happy Birthday if you happen to have one, or just solid, ordinary days this coming week. Those days are the best. Be here and breathe deep.