Monday, December 27, 2010

The Sun in Winter Solstice

I was a little disappointed when I missed the lunar eclipse in December 21. I had been waiting for it but unfortunately, the sky was thick with clouds that time. 

However, I felt blessed the following day when I looked at the horizon and noticed something different where the sun should be. A conical glow shot up from behind the forested horizon. I took the bus to wherever I could see it without distraction, and that led me to the city river. And I was glad I went there because what greeted my eyes was something I've never seen before. And then I realized that it was the beginning of the winter solstice. I'm not really sure whether the sun looks like this during the start of the winter solstice, or it just happened to look different that day.  But nobody seemed to notice. Or is it a common sight among the people here? Or they just don't care? For me, it seemed almost phenomenal. And so I took several shots in different angles. It was 1:00 in the afternoon of December 22.

In the evening when the moon showed up, I also noticed the same conical glow above and under its disk, as seen in this photo. The glow could be more striking in this photo if I used a tripod. Without tripod, this is all I got. 

I felt that it was a day filled with marvels. Another day that declares the presence of a Powerful Creator who has filled the universe with astonishing things that can move his intelligent creation to attribute power, glory and honor to him, like these verses penned down by an ancient psalmist,

"To you the day belongs; also, to you the night belongs.
You yourself prepared the luminary, even the sun.
It was you that set up all the boundaries of the earth;
Summer and winter—you yourself formed them."
- Psalm 74:16,17

Friday, December 24, 2010

-23 Degrees Celsius

It had been snowing for the most part of November, and mounds  of snow have been piled up everywhere. We have around one meter high snow now. And it's still snowing.

However, there were those days in early December when the sun appeared and the sky was clear. Two of those days registered a temperature of -21 to -23 degrees Celsius.  Too cold to go out, but the glorious sight of the trees lured me out. I put on layers of clothes and set out for a little photo expedition. Just around our neighborhood. 

After spending about 30 minutes out there and drinking in all the white splendor, my feet felt frozen. I went home for a break and waited until the stinging pain subsided. Although I've taken about a hundred photos, I still felt that I hadn't gotten enough. And so I went back to look for more spots and things to shoot.

So far, I was happy with my expedition. The bare trees coated with thick frosts were the ones that beckoned me to go out. I had been wishing to see and photograph white trees against the blue sky. Last winter, I wasn't fortunate enough to have a glimpse of such thickly frosted trees, but this year favored me by granting my wish, which made my heart dance even while my feet were frozen stiff. Again, I felt the great love of our Creator for blessing this earth with such facet of loveliness that sings in the hearts of those who appreciate these little things.

Words are not enough for me to describe the beauty of all the little things that the winter outdoor held out to me this particular day. So I just let my pictures speak for themselves. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

When the Sun Doesn't Rise

It's this time of the year again when people living within the arctic circle and its outskirts don't see the sun rise any higher than the horizon. As early as the first week of November,  snow started to fall copiously in this northern part of the country,  which heralded the onset of winter. The days became darker, colder and shorter. Darkness dominates the whole 24-hour day and night cycle.

On days when the clouds are impenetrably thick,  gloom covers the land, which can also be  illuminated by the whiteness of the snow.

On a cloudless day, when the pale blue sky promises the incoming of the smiling sun, the light of the day starts to glow over the horizon at about 7 or 8 in the morning.  A faint tangerine glow hovers above the trees. 

At about 9 a.m., the orange glow becomes more intense as the sun starts to peer through the foliage of pines and spruces.  

As soon as the sun crowns the tree tops, it doesn't rise any higher, but begins its horizontal journey across the skyline, moving swiftly to the right until it would come to a halt where it starts to sink slowly behind the trees.


And that makes the day so short, and darkness much longer. At past 2 in the afternoon, darkness sets in, and street lights come out.

But no matter how short the day is, it is certainly a day filled with colors when sun is out. Even when the day is gloomy, the charming beauty of the snow can fill the day with joy. 

And even when the sun doesn't rise, its slanted radiance gilds the trees, the buildings and the snows that blanket the ground.  Wonderful things still abound everywhere.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Preserving Autumn

I wouldn't let autumn pass by without having a tangible memento of its glory that has been photographically etched in my mind and has bathed my whole being. I gathered leaves from different trees that thrive here, but not all of them, and preserved them between the pages of thick catalogues given away by some big stores. At first, I didn't know what to do with the leaves apart from just keeping them there or making some cards. Later on, I came up with this idea.

This one too, which is entirely made up of maple leaves in different shades.

Now I’m quite satisfied with my simple handiwork  which I hang on our wall, a perpetual reminder of the first autumn that I have ever experienced.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Wonder and Magic of Trees

A few weeks ago, I submitted a link of my blog to the Festival of the Trees, without knowing what would be done to it. That matter completely slipped my mind after a few days. 

Just recently, I received an e-mail from the website, showing the result of the "festival". When I opened the link, I gasped in wonder at the parade of pictures of magical trees and the stories behind the pictures, which can be read by clicking on the individual blog links. It's a blog posted by Silvia at Windywillow. She did a wonderful job in compiling the blog submissions and creating a highly interesting carnival for the enjoyment of trees lovers. The link below is worth-visiting:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Bend in the Road

I’ve reached my first bend in the road in this country the last week of October. Before then, it’s been a straight road for me since I came -  getting settled, acquainting myself with the highways and byways of the city, and formally studying the language and a little about the Swedish society in SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) school.  It was about seven months (three terms) of formal schooling. I finally completed the course by the third week of October.  After the language course, we students were encouraged to pursue further vocational training at Viva Komvux, which is the main provider of adult education in the municipality of Umeå in northern Sweden. Even those of us who have university education in our homeland may take such courses if we want to find jobs. Almost all of us cannot practice our professions here because the educational standard in our homeland cannot meet the higher standard here.  So we may end up taking more units at the university for a few years, or learning a vocation at Konvux for some months.

Choices, choices….

To study further means walking through the same straight road of schooling. And I have had enough of that. On the other hand, if I’d try to find a job, even just a humble one, I would be embarking on a new journey with some adventure. To study also means to receive a substantial amount of financial aid from the government, called "bidrag" or study aid, which one doesn’t need to pay back later. And one can also avail of a loan, which he would pay later when he has a job. But to work means to earn over three times as much as the study aid. And no study hassles.

I set my heart on finding a job first. But if it wouldn’t bear fruit, I may go to school again, even if it would incur discomfort. Honestly, I cringe over the thought of doing student’s lessons and homework. I have gotten rid of such things years ago, and if possible, I don’t want to have them back, not again. I'd rather work hard than sit in school for many hours a day, then at home again to study the lessons and do the homework.

Fortunately, a few days before our classes ended, I got a temporary part-time job offer from a cleaning company operated by a good friend. Sure, I grabbed the opportunity! I started right after our last days in school. And I like the work of going to different business enterprises and work for them.

That was my bend in the road. It was quite a change, an entirely new experience for me in my new home. Not that I haven’t tried such works before. It’s just something new for me here, to have a real job that will get me paid, and one that I also enjoy.  And I hope that I can keep this job even though it’s only part-time. At least I have something more to do besides my regular responsibilities. 

Gladly did I turn to this bend and joyfully will I keep on walking. And I know that as I move on, I’ll discover more things waiting somewhere, more opportunities, surprises, exciting adventures, or maybe new choices. I will also make it a point to gather little bits of happiness along the way, to find beauty in simple things, and at the same time, to leave a trail of sunshine that will warm the hearts of those who might wander in this same road.

And I will try to make each day and each step count.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Full Circle

This day completes my one year stay in this country. Is it really a whole year now? Wow, how time flies!  It feels like it wasn’t so long ago. The memory of my arrival is still fresh and vivid in my mind. I can still feel the icy coldness and see the eerie darkness that greeted me that morning when I set foot on this land so far away from home.  I found myself in the thick of a frosty weather that would usher in the coming winter, the first that I would ever experience.  The trees were bare, but not the evergreens. The dead leaves that I trod on were crisp with the frosts that glazed them.  The gloom, the cold and the unknown silence seemed ready to swallow me up, but without success because my excitement and fascination acted like a protective shield for me.

My first day here may not sound like a good beginning.  But in another perspective, it was a good one.  Those days of cold and darkness kept my anticipation of good things to come burning in my heart. My eagerness to discover new things in a world that is quite different from the one I’ve lived all my life intensified each passing day. I knew there would be wonderful things that lay ahead of me and countless surprises that would amaze me.  And yes, as the days passed, then months, then a year, an array of pleasant, novel things paraded one after another.

The marching seasons are the main spectacles that I had been so enthusiastic to watch out for. The absence of four seasons in my country of origin had made me long to actually see what I had only seen vicariously.

First came winter with its all-white glory and sparkling glitters that earned its epithet Winter Wonderland.

Spring followed with the popping up of flowers that I’d only enjoyed watching in my daydreams, flowers that I wrote about without actually seeing them. My dream trees too came alive when their young leaves started to shoot up.

More wonderful flowers bloomed when summer took over, filling the air with different scents that invigorated the senses, and painting the days with a rainbow of colors. Different wildflowers softly carpeted the summer landscapes. The trees also turned into marvels of beauty as their leaves matured and their shapes came out.

Then came autumn with its dazzling tapestry of vibrant colors that captivated the hearts of nature-lovers and inspired photographers and writers.

Now, I’ve seen the complete cycle of the seasons in all their splendor. The sensation of actually seeing them and being a part of them is completely different from just reading about them and looking at them through photos and movies, which I was contented to do before I came here.  It’s far more blissful and magical to be personally immersed in such seasonal changes. I can’t pick which one I love best, because each season has its distinctive loveliness and enchantment that evoke inspiration.

Not surprisingly, throughout the year, I have taken thousands of pictures of diverse things that the seasons have presented. And I usually felt like I couldn't get enough photos  despite the multiple shots in different angles that I had taken.

Within this year too, I have travelled fairly enough, though not so far and wide yet. Just around here in the north. I’m sure there are more wonderful places to visit throughout the country, but it may take more years to reach them considering its geographical size, its length about 3 times that of the Philippines. Factors also include travel budget and the brevity of ideal travel seasons, like summer, which is so short, not enough to go to all the places one wants to visit. So far, I’m satisfied with my first batch of travels.

One of the most enjoyable activities that I had was berry-picking, which I could never do in my homeland.  I finally tried picking blue berries, raspberries, gooseberries, lingon berries, red and black currants, and cloudberries. So exciting!

I tried to eat some of the traditional foods here, like the northern Swedish dish called surströmming , or soured or fermented (Baltic) herring.

The crayfish, which is usually eaten with family festivities.

I had a regular taste of the lingon berry jam, which is usually present in every meal, the mashed Swedish turnip, the kroppkakor or potato dumplings, the Swedish meatballs, etc. 

In another angle, I  feel a sense of self-satisfaction that comes from being able to keep a simple life despite the material affluence that is prevalent around here, and for this, I have maintained the joy that has always been in my heart. I also have the confidence that I haven’t lived my life in vain as I keep on serving my Creator as best I could.

One remarkable leap, too, is that my hubby has been healed dramatically from the sickly and depression-stricken person that he used to be in the Philippines to a happy and energetic one that he is now. I also gained some new friends in replacement to those that I’ve lost back where I came from, though not as close and familiar as the ones I had back home, not yet. It also contributed to my peace of mind to know that my family that I’ve left had fared well and had survived another year of the usual crises that afflict most Filipinos.

So now I can say that my first year in this country has been a blessed one.  This became the first chapter of my life in another country, which I call my other galaxy. I will make each year a chapter, and tomorrow will be a new one. And I will do my best to fill it with more interesting and inspiring scenes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To Catch a Snowflake

Snow came early this winter as was predicted, and it keeps falling almost everyday, adding new layers of snows that blanket the ground. Watching the falling snowflakes always gives me a sense of bliss and serenity that somehow metaphorically transforms the gloom to sunshine.

Snowy days remind me of the first simple poem that I wrote about snow after my first experience to see and observe the snow.

To Catch a Snowflake

Floating, swirling, in sync with the wind,
Delicate snowflakes are descending,
Veiling the land with glorious whiteness,
A shower of beauty that is a blessing.

Childhood dreams that have been long buried
In the vast ocean of my memory:
To walk and play in winter wonderland,
Have come alive in such a flurry.

To watch the snowfall by the window,
To catch the snowflakes in my hand,
To walk and bathe in lacy showers,
Can whisk my soul to ecstasy-land.

(27 December 2009)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Merry Aspen Trees

One of the trees that I've come to love is the aspen tree. I see the thick foliage as its crowning glory, as it changes hues from spring to autumn. In spring, its yellow-green leaves bespeak of a fresh beginning with a promise. In summer, the leaves mature into darker green, though underneath each leaf is lighter, almost silvery. Finally, autumn bequeaths it with dazzling colors - yellow, orange or red, vibrant hues that never fail to delight the nature-lovers.

Its loveliness is even more striking when it stands alongside the evergreen trees under the deep blue sky.

Gazing at such vibrant scenery makes me feel like floating in space on the wings of ecstasy.

But the thing that completely mesmerizes me is the flapping of each little leaf when a wind passes through them. Especially in summer, when the leaves are still green. The silver underside of the leaves turn up as they unanimously wave at me, flashing their silver smiles and airing their musical greetings as they click one another.

Here is a short video I recorded one windy day at the onset of autumn. I just got off the bus and walked past a little park near our apartment. The merry sound that the wind generated from them caught my attention. (Note: the last sound came from a passing car.)

Now, the glorious colors have withered as the trees were totally stripped of their golden foliage. But they keep standing majestically, waiting for the whiteness of winter to coat them. And here in this blog stands a monument of these cheerful trees in the peak of their splendor, a monument that is created through the lens of my camera.