Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Amazingly Tiny

Since I moved to this country, I've been discovering flowers that I've never seen in my homeland. Many that I've seen only in pictures are not really as big as I had thought them to be. I'm often amazed at the sight of how tiny a flower that seemed big can be. And I keep discovering other kinds that  I've never known before.

I just find them out accidentally. Like whenever I walk, and I see interspersed among the grasses some white dots that don't seem to have any design at all. But after an up-close scrutiny, I realize that they are tiny flowers with amazing designs.

Here are some examples that I photographed.

the eyebright weeds

These look like forget-me-not but each flower is as tiny as each petal of forget-me-not

pink weeds, don't know the name  too


tiny white weeds, less than 1/2 inch


Such meticulous designs in tiny things speak about how much love and care our Creator has put in them and how unfathomable his wisdom is. And if these tiny things deserve all his love and care, how much more so with us humans whom he created in his image?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Showers of Blessings

It's been raining for over a week now, but not the kind of rain that we have in the Philippines, which is so strong and destructive. Here, it's only a gentle shower that is just enough to saturate the ground and rejuvenates the vegetation. One can go out without an umbrella at all and will not be drenched, except when the rain is a little more than a shower.

The sky is thick with rain clouds and the ground is wet but not flooded at all. And yet, amid such gloomy atmosphere, some wonderful things are in the making. 

The ground that has been parched by the summer heat came to life after drinking in the summer rain. The grasses that had been withered by the sun are being replaced by young offshoots that once again carpet the landscapes with fine blades in their verdant splendor.

The mushrooms too are breaking out through the thick mosses that blanket the forests, providing delicious foods for the mushroom lovers. 

They also thrive in groups under the trees lining the roadsides or pathways.

The leaves of trees glisten as the rain clings to them,  transforming them into silver beauty. 

Tiny raindrops perch on or around the leaves like strings of crystals. 

Others dangle from the tips of the leaves or from under them like teardrops that reflect the objects behind them.

And yes, all the lovely flowers are aglow with the rain's refreshing touch while the twigs of trees mirthfully sway with the rhythm of the wind. Everything is alive and dancing with the music of the rain.

Ahhh....blessings keep on showering! 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Weekend Trip to the Inland

Over the weekend, our unquenchable wanderlust sent us hitting the road again. This time, my hubby and I headed to a small community, called Storuman, which is also a popular place for the fishing enthusiasts. We took the  route via Lycksele, also a famous tourist destination  in the north of Sweden, and headed westward deep into the inland.

Being a travel buff, I felt my whole being ablaze with excitement, hope and anticipation for the new things that might be added to my thickening file of travel memories. Once again, I would step on new soil, enjoy the sights of new scenery and be awash with the magical air that nature breathes out in that place.

We set forth from Umeå at 1 p.m. Saturday and traversed a distance of 230 km to our destination. The weather was unfavorable, with dark thick clouds hanging low and rain gently pounding on our car. But that didn't thwart my pleasure of traveling.  En route, we drove past some little communities and villages and immense tracts of forests and farmlands, which cover most of the country's land area. As we traveled on, my eyes remained wide open, devouring all the idyllic cycloramas that surrounded us, and painting them in my mind. Sometimes, I would snap photos of landscapes from our speeding car whenever I had the chance.

We stopped off somewhere in Lycksele for a brief rest. We took a look at a restaurant with an ethnic architecture and an old hotel.

As we moved on, I spotted these lake scenes by the roadside.

We reached the town of Storuman at around 4 p.m. We bought sandwiches from a grocery and headed up to a hill where we could eat our food. I kept wondering why we must go up there to eat when we could just pull over in a corner for a while and eat. He only said,  "You'll see." Then it dawned on me that perhaps, there's a nice view up there. So we drove up the hill and stopped before a wooden platform with semi-spiral staircases. As I got out of the car, I asked, "Where's the view?" to which he replied, "Look back."

When I did, I let out an audible gasp and an exclamation of elation at seeing this breath-taking lake scene below us. We mounted the flights of stairs to the view deck erected especially for viewing that panorama, and I took these photos.

After devouring our sandwiches, we moved on to the camping site where we booked a little cottage days earlier from the internet.

That was the only available cottage that time, and all the others were occupied. As soon as we deposited our things inside, we immediately proceeded to a nostalgic lake where my hubby would have a tryst with the past. This was where he used to fish many years ago. We had to drive a few kilometers  and then walk through a forest in order to get to this lake.

A few boats lay there along the bank of the lake waiting for voyagers to set them gliding across the lake.  We unlocked one and hopped in. We took turns paddling to the middle of the lake where we lingered for quite some time. While there, I felt the stillness and the peace of the surrounding wrapping me up, the sensation of which made me feel lighthearted. I feasted my eyes on the evergreen trees that surrounded the lake, their reflections dancing across the glassy water. I peered down at the cloudy sky that the water painted over its surface.  I listened to the sound of waters splashing against our boat. Everything felt magical for me, the sensations unfamiliar in my earlier existence. I relished the moments of togetherness with my hubby and being hugged by the beauty and serenity of nature.

When we got back to the camping site, I proceeded straight down the lake just a few steps away from our cottage. Again, nature had a big surprise for me there. The sun had started its descent to the horizon. The water was so calm that it sharply reflected the surrounding vegetation.  Nature's mirror at its finest! I felt jubilant over this since it had been my dream to see and photograph a mirror lake, the likes of which never existed in the the country where I came from. And then I was  face to face with it. It was so marvelous that I couldn't help taking several photos from different angles.

We slept soundly that night in our snug  little cottage. The following morning, we decided to travel back home.

It was just a brief holiday but it had been a day full of excitement and wonder. A day when I and my hubby were embraced by the tender arms of nature. A day when I felt, as always, our Creator's great love palpitate through his marvelous creations, sending its invisible but heartfelt pulse to my soul.

A day that I will always cherish in my memory.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Echoing a Writer's Creed

"Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs." –Charlotte Bronte, from the book Jane Eyre 

When I read this book for the first time, over twenty years ago, it became one of my all-time best-loved books. The line quoted above instantly struck a chord in my heart, and I also adopted it as my personal credo. The message is clear: life in this world is so short that we should not waste a moment of it dwelling on negative things and feelings. Such thoughts cannot do us good at all, but can only pull us down.

I’m not blind so as not to see the negative things around me. I’m not a robot so that I can’t feel the arrows of hurt and pain. But I’m trying to keep myself out of this unpleasant side of life, and I’d rather stay on the sunny side. I don’t  ”keep account of the injury” nor do I intentionally injure anyone. I don’t allow any bad feelings to remain in my heart, for doing so will only weaken my spirits and make me sick. I’m doing my best to focus on things that are pleasant and keep myself busy with activities that nourish my spiritual being, and other worthwhile endeavors so as not to give room for any negative thoughts and feelings. I’m always looking for beauty and the good side of everything, even in little things, in unpleasant places and in every person I meet. There are so many beautiful things to do and think of, so why should I waste my time on things that don’t benefit me at all?

Having such outlook makes me at peace with everybody and helps  keep my joy in serving my Creator and my fellowmen amidst adversities.

Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane Eyre (1996 film version)

Friday, August 20, 2010

My First Blueberry Pie

In a country where blueberries don't grow, one may have never heard of blueberry or baked a blueberry pie, let alone tasted it. There are a few expensive bakeshops that sell blueberry pies or blueberry cheesecakes, but they use imported bottled blueberry jams, which only the affluent consumers can afford to buy. The majority of the population is not aware of the existence of blueberries.

I have read so much about blueberries and even tasted a blueberry cheesecake. I have seen bottled jams in big supermarkets. But they meant so little for me then. Now that I'm living in another country where blueberries grow abundantly, I have come to appreciate these little berries and have experienced the pleasure of picking them myself.

And of course, with  much fruits that we have gathered from the open field, I have had the chance to bake my own blueberry pie. I used the fresh blueberries that we have picked that same day. My hubby helped me up with the recipe, but I actually did the baking.

blueberry pie, ready for baking

It went well, and I felt exultant over my first blueberry pie. It tasted good, the best that I have ever tasted (hehehe...). We had it for dessert along with vanilla ice cream. A blend of warm and cold....mmm.....

blueberry pie, ready for eating

The taste of it was novel to me and it appealed to my palate.  And so the following day, I gave in to my urge to bake another pie. And with all those berries that we have picked and frozen, I can make more pies, and probably muffins, in the future.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Far From the Madding Crowd

This is not about Thomas Hardy's book, though I like that novel. I'm just using the title because I have always found this phrase so appealing. It gives me the feeling of remote solitariness and tranquility, away from the cacophony of urban environment. 

This phrase always comes to mind every time we are headed to the countryside and I see all those farm houses and lake houses scattered throughout the boundless green fields of grass, grain crops and trees. They stand there at the far end of the fields, or in the middle, and alongside the lakes. 

As I look at them, I try to imagine what kind of people live there, and how they spend their days. Are they aware of their delightful natural surroundings, and do they enjoy their beauty? Are they happy with their lives there? Don't they mind the distance that separates them from the glittery attractions of the city? Are they the ones referred to by Thomas Gray in these lines from Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard?

"Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way."

As I see it, they may be far from the madding crowd, but they are not without advance technology. They have nice houses, cars, internet and other latest electronic gadgets, beautifully designed gardens and outdoor dining sets. It seems like those people living there are sophisticated, and yet they just love to be away from the noisy confusion of the city. They live in their own serene paradise, their kind of retreat that is far from the madding crowd.

Still, I wonder how they truly feel about living there. And I wonder how I personally feel if I live there. The stillness and the remoteness evoke in me a sense of enchantment.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Deer Sightings Along the Way

One summer day as we traveled around the countryside, a distant brown object made us turn our heads. We looked at it carefully. Was it a deer or what? We could not determine since only the upper part of the body was visible, the rest being hidden by the tall grass. I took out my camera and tried to zoom in but I couldn't really get a clear shot of it. As soon as my camera clicked, it whisked away into the forest where it apparently came from. The way it moved, it could be a deer.

And here's another sighting while on our way back from our trek to the "fjällen" - a couple of reindeers, apparently a mother and her calf. They were about to cross the road as we drove along, and we slowed down to let them pass. But they seemed scared and just stood there motionless and stared at us warily. Then the mother started to move slowly toward the other side of the road while the calf lagged behind in fear. This slow motion afforded me the chance to take this shot.

These are my first deer sightings so far. I'm still looking forward to seeing more of them, especially a whole herd of reindeers crossing the road, and to take real good pictures of them.