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Julie\'s Nordic Island

Space & Time for Your Wellbeing

Posts Tagged ‘time’

The eye of spring

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

The eye of the spring

The eye of spring peered through the frosted reeds. The thought of this delicate time of year, with its fragile flowers and pastel colors, often seems so far away in mid-winter;  but on this January morning at the water’s edge, the power of its steely light held all winter in a trance. Winter attempted to flex its muscles with -7 Celsius, demonstrating that it could still force us to wear warm clothes and thick-soled boots. Yet, like a child’s laugh which brings the world to a standstill, the yellow light broke through the cold mist that rose from the water’s surface and magically turned it warm.

I’ve waited so long for this morning to come. Since the waning light hours of October, I’ve thought of this January morning with Ellie the dog in the park when we would witness the magnificence of nature turning. It has been worth the wait; indeed, without it, this moment would not at all be the same. Everything to its time.

As my husband and I have both grown a year older this January, I have been thinking about time. During the first thirty years, one cannot hope for it to move quickly enough, releasing the reins on it like a thoroughbred on a race track. Thereafter, there is a short peace with time until one begins to hold the reins increasingly tightly. Life becomes more like dressage, with a greater respect for the dignity of restraint. Then there is a zone somewhere beyond 80, which I still haven’t quite understood, where the horse has been put back into its stall and where the whole business of release and restraint is a memory of the struggle. One goes more deeply into the beautiful simplicity of the child’s laugh and the effortlessness of the light that penetrates the mist in mid-January.

The snow in the back yard is marked by the shape of a sunken heart. In the evening it burned with many candles as the society of sauna brothers (a very exclusive club in our neighborhood that meets weekly to sweat and philosophize together) sang a Swedish Happy Birthday a capella from behind the fence. The sound of a male choir, with men and voices of different ages, is robust and full of musty vitality. There is a confidence in it that we will ride out the years with spirit.

Despite the rising years, I am alert once again these early mornings in January. As soon as my eyes open, I catch that glimmer of spring that breaks the coal black mornings of Scandinavian winter. The eyes that wanted to close again as soon as they opened when the light hours were on the decrease, are now open wide to milk the early mornings of their increasing light. The urge to get up and greet the day has returned and, like the bear, I leave my hibernation.

The bare branches of the fruit trees on the hill chirp. The silence of winter has been broken by the birds who know. The bulbs underground have been broken by small shoots. All of creation knows what we do not yet see. There is a revolution brewing under the surface. The birds fly into the blue sky and perch on a television antenna where the light warms their wings. On this static creation of man they can watch nature unfold.

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For more about Julie Lindahl’s books and other projects, please visit www.julielindahl.com, www.storiesforsociety.com and www.nordicwellbeing.com.

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A trip to infinity

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Sacred mountains

I’ve come to the mountains to escape the idea of the last day. In the ancient mountains there are no last days, as the mountains go on forever. As we drive up, the giant spruce tower over us on either side of the road like attendants at the portal to this land of infinity. Their size should make them initimidating in the rapidly darkening skies, but it doesn’t. Their white coats of snow make them look like sad angels, overgrown children tasked with standing together and greeting newcomers at this entrance to the land that never ends.

From my cottage window I can see the sacred mountain. It gets in the way of progress, they say, because no one is allowed to build on it, over it or around it. One becomes quite ill climbing up this mountain, and one wonders why since, like most of the Swedish mountains, its altitude is not remarkable. Perhaps that is because its very being clashes with our need for speed; our inclination to divide life into the old and the new. On the mountain, old and new dwell together; they are a part of the same whole and change is constant.

In the nearby village it’s the time of peak business; time for excitement, hustle and bustle. Yet, the manner of speaking of our local hosts, the townspeople, remains constant. While happy to see us, the shop attendants find our ecstatic lowland approach to New Year’s puzzling. They’ve put out the fireworks for sale for our petty amusement, but the mountains will continue at the midnight chiming of the clocks and time will go on.

Out on the cross-country tracks, which are themselves an endless white, it occurs to me why it is that I long to escape finality and the ideas of old and new this year. It isn’t as simple as ageing. The challenges that we face today seem so final that opposites don’t matter any more. Young, old, this, that matter decreasingly as we begin to wake up to the fact that we’ve used up the earth. In this dark thought I come to an even space, as even as the land that stretches between the low, undulating Swedish mountains: when finality becomes great enough, contradictions and opposites seem to collapse. Old and new become time, time and infinity become the universe and, most importantly, you and me become we. My skis keep moving me forward in space and time through the white, but I hold onto this thought which seems so deeply entrenched in the spirit of the mountains.

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Learn more about Julie Lindahl’s books and other projects at www.julielindahl.com and www.storiesforsociety.com.

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Timeless in summer

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Timelessness on Lake Mälar

Ellie the dog and I trundled down the path with the contributions to the evening “knytis” at the beautiful mansion on the hill overlooking Lake Mälar. For those of you who do not know it, a “knytis” is a lovely Swedish term for a potluck dinner which translates more directly as “a little knot.” It was tricky balancing the basil and orange salad with Ellie’s need to explore the high grass, but after some time I managed to convince her that the dirt path leading through our magical settlement originating in the 18th century could be OK.

The soft summer breeze caught my wide, sailor-style white cotton trousers and called my attention to the fact that I was dressed like Lauren Bacall on a casual summer evening with her artist friends in the 1940s. It is funny the way that a piece of clothing can transport one’s thoughts through time and personalities. The small gatherings of friends in their magical gardens here and there upped the feeling of living in another time.  I was beginning to think that people’s schedules didn’t allow for this sort of thing any more, but here they were, and my faith in the transformational powers of humanity was restored, once again.

As we arrived at my artist friends’ beautiful home on the hill, we noticed the party was gathered in the clearing to the right of the house. Here, we entered into a mood that was distinctly 1970s. People reminisced about revolutionary urges and the rejection of convention. I had been a young child in those days and admitted that my memory of that time was my third grade teacher, who sported a gigantic afro and beard (one saw very little of his face) and started our classroom days with Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” having smoked a joint or two.  I find that the spirit of that time is coming back to us again, as young people awaken to the mess that the older generation has left behind on this planet. One young man told me he was going to spend a month in the forest this summer, living close to the earth, with thousands of others who are choosing to do the same thing.

The “knytis” was a wonderful success. A long table was heavily laden with all of the dishes and delicacies one could possibly desire. No one had co-ordinated their contributions. The buffet seemed a perfect example of the strange and unique order that can emerge spontaneously out of total chaos. Since most appeared to be vegetarians, Ellie enjoyed the meatballs.

As the sun moved westward, the group shifted towards the gazebo overlooking Lake Mälar. Ellie and I wandered down to the waterfront  and found a woman meditating naked on the dock. A few minutes later, when we had hurried back up the hill, so as not to interrupt pure thoughts, we heard the most beautiful, seeking cry come from this very same woman. She hurled out her arresting voice across the surface of the lake and sang to the sun. No one moved. My thoughts were cast back into a primal time, when man’s needs had been basic and song was uncluttered. Perhaps we were in the Stone Age or further back somewhere on the timeline of all life.

I wandered home, the sensuous feeling of no time all over me. The garden parties had gone inside and all that was left was the sounds of the night. As we approached Midsummer, the birds seemed never to stop singing, as true darkness never came.  I stood in the garden and listened one more time before closing the door for the night. The world was full of the most extraordinary things.

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Living in Sweden? Take advantage of the special offer available on Julie’s books just now by visiting www.julielindahl.com. If you live elsewhere, visit the site to learn about where you can purchase her newest award-winning book, “Rose in the Sand” about a decade lived on a Swedish island.

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The conversion of a speed tyrant

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Have you come to your senses yet?

As I’ve been walking around under a cloud of volcanic ash wondering, like many, when aircraft are going to restore that reliable sense of speed we have got used to in our lives, my dog Lucy has been concerned with developments on the ground. As the earth softens and emits the many smells of the life within it, Lucy is in sensory heaven. It has been a long, dull winter without the aromas of the earth and only endless amounts of white snow that, to her chagrin, leaves her fur sparkling clean. For a dog, not walking around with something ill-smelling in its fur is the height of unattractiveness.

So far I have managed to stick to my new regimen of a long early morning walk in Drottningholm Park. It is a wonderful new habit but I fear that Lucy and I have objectives that are at odds. While I am seeking to break into a sweat, burn energy and tone muscles by keeping up a goose-step pace strictly between 6.30 and 7.30 am (when I have to be home to ensure that the children get breakfast before I start work) Lucy is in a timeless search for the smell of all smells. Like a connoisseur, she slows down at each tree to appreciate the many great smells that a tree bears: the smell of birds, squirrels, deer chewing at the lichen on the bark and of course canine buddies who have previously baptized the tree. Like a speed tyrant, I drag her forward and reprimand her for inattention to our schedule.

On one of the back paths we run into Crown Princess Victoria looking athletic in black followed by two noisy lifeguards. “Hej”, she comments gently to Lucy who naturally captures the spotlight with her timeless sense of joy. Then it occurs to me that not even a rushed crown princess who most likely has no desire to greet more beings during her precious early morning hours can resist being drawn in by that affectionate space that a dog creates. Even if dogs physically live in our harried world, spiritually they preserve that original authenticity of joy in the moment that just then seems to have no limits.

Lucy is all done with her pal the Crown Princess and has now found a snail to focus her attentions upon. The snail is crossing the road at a pace which is painful to observe. There isn’t a great deal of traffic here but all it takes is the occasional vehicle to send the snail to purgatory. My urge is to lift up the poor little critter and move it to safety on the other side of the road, but something tells me that we should let nature take its course. Lucy and I watch the snail with ears pricked until finally its trail has left a shiny line across the road. We look up and find that a vehicle has been waiting for us to be done with snail hour.

Although she can be annoying I cherish my dog. How else would I learn to appreciate the delicate progress of a snail?

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For anyone contemplating purchasing a furry friend check Svenska Kennelklubben. If you are interested in a Lucy check Golden Retrieverklubben.

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Welcome to Wellbeing

Monday, April 6th, 2009

During the past decade I’ve been writing about wellbeing inspired by my natural and cultural surroundings on a small out-of-the-way island in Sweden. The truth is that I never expected that an island that is about 400 meters from one side to the other and built upon barren pebbles could give birth to all of the books, columns, blogs and other projects that I have produced during all of these years. However, inspiration crops up where you least expect it, and when I found that several of Stockholm’s historical buildings were constructed with sand brought in from this now-derelict sand-mining spot in Mälaren, I concluded that it seemed to be a place that gave rise to things (no pun intended).

What did I ask myself and discover amid the silence and the spruce? After a harried, high-speed career as a management consultant in no particular place, I stood on this small speck of earth and asked myself: What is a good life in the 21st century? What does wellbeing mean now and into the future? As I pulled out the weeds, chased the hares from my cabbage patch and listened to the woodpecker chinking away at my proud Swedish flagpole, I began to gain a perspective on what we’re missing in our highly practical technology-age schedules: space (mental, emotional and physical) and time. Not only that, I began to feel that the modern yet nature-oriented Scandinavian culture that I had come to live amidst during the mid-1990s offered its very own philosophical and practical solutions to our modern wellbeing dilemmas. I began to write about them and gave them the collective title, Nordic Wellbeing™.

So what am I doing here at The Local taking up more of your space and time? Today I divide my time between my rocky, stony hermitage and an island considerably closer to the center of things. I spend time in the Tunnelbana (subway), I rush to meetings and, several times a day, I am accosted by people trying to sell me things that I don’t want to buy. Suddenly, as a result of this change in my own life, I see the acute need for 21st century ‘islands’ where we can share thoughts and perspectives about what it means to live well in our times. This is perhaps less for our own sake than for future generations (can you tell that I am a mother of young twins?). Still, this isn’t an unselfish blog – it’s about our lives too.

A warm welcome to Julie’s Nordic Island at The Local. Let us create an island that we believe in right here.

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My other islands:

www.nordicwellbeing.com – the world’s first e-magazine for wellbeing with Nordic inspiration.

www.julielindahl.com – my personal pages

My book (of which there is an upcoming sequel): “On My Swedish Island: Discovering the Secrets of Scandinavian Wellbeing” (Tarcher Penguin, 2005), available at www.amazon.com and other online bookstores in Sweden and elsewhere.

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