Thursday, April 21, 2011

When the Birds are Merrily Singing...

.... then certainly, it's spring!

When spring finally entered the portal of time the first week of March, it was fully clad with the brightness and comforting warmth of the sun which traveled across the blue sky and escorted by a host of silvery clouds.

There were still hills of snow, but the sun shone brightly on them.

There were days when heaven piled more snowflakes over the shrinking snow that still covered the ground. 

But shortly afterward, the snow clouds would clear away and the descending sun would start to glow, kissing the fresh layer of super-white snow.

Some days later, the snow started to melt.

The ground had been dotted with patches of water from the melting snow.

Spring bulbs have finally wakened from their long sleep and are springing out.

Many of the their flowers are in full bloom, like these crocuses,

the snow drops,

the glory of the snow,

and the winter aconite.

The pussy willow bushes have put on their spring colors,

and their little velvety flowers are popping out.

The evergreen trees stand majestically against the clear blue sky, flaunting their fresh green foliage.

The butterflies are also coming out to bask in the warm sunshine.

Different kinds of birds are flying overhead, perching on the twigs and singing their spring songs.

The moon's silvery face lights up even in daytime as it smiles down on the earth.

The sun stays longer in the sky, and it still lingers in the horizon even at 8:00 pm.

Sunsets are always a joy to behold.

And now, the last of the snow is  melting speedily.

Soon, the last vestige of winter will completely disappear, and the botanical sphere of creation will flourish once again. 

Meanwhile, I keep watching at the sky with its constantly changing arrays of multiform clouds. And as I look up, I hear the birds singing their merry songs which proclaim that spring is indeed in the air.

“The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling. Into all the earth their measuring line has gone out, and to the extremity of the productive land their utterances.” -Psalm 19:1, 4.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Season of the Northern Lights

Since I came here, I’ve been hunting for the northern lights, or aurora borealis. Actually, ever since I was young, as soon as I learned about such phenomenon, I had been hunting for it, not in the sky, but in nature magazines and books, which I voraciously read and collected. Seeing a real aurora seemed a remote possibility for me. It just remained a dream, the realization of which never crossed my mind.

the dream

Then I came to the northernmost part of the northern hemisphere, within the arctic circle where the northern lights perform their colorful dances. (For more information about auroras, follow this link:  wikipedia/Aurora )  So I started hunting from the moment I stepped on this “aurora field.” Night after night, month after month, and then a year.  I had never seen a single aurora at all. I even found an aurora forecast website, The Geophysical Institute, and I have been regularly following it. It turned out that March and April are the months when aurora activities are more frequent. Such activities range from quiet - low - moderate - active - extreme and to maximum, a scale of 1 to 9.

There have been days in March when aurora displays were active, but  I haven’t been fortunate to see them during those nights because bad weather or cloudy sky usually interfered, which made it impossible to see them. Then one day, on the first week of March, somebody posted in a Swedish online newspaper an aurora picture captured over Nydalasjön, the lake around here. Oh my, how come I’ve missed it!

Aurora over Nydalasjön, 
(not mine, sorry I cannot locate the photographer's name for credit)

The following evening as I went out to the laundry room, I searched the sky for possible sighting. I saw some faint green pillars moving slowly. Was I imagining? Well, there was another man out there looking at the sky. I watched closely, and yes, it was that light, though not so clear and luminous anymore, probably because I came too late, when it was about finish off its dance, which usually lasts for about an hour. I tried to photograph it, but to no avail. It was too dim.

The following night, as I was about to go to bed, I checked the sky through our window, and saw a bright pillar of green. My heart hammered forcefully as I went out, so excited to watch and take pictures.  Right outside the main entrance to our apartment, the sky above the roofs of the buildings was covered with the green lights of aurora, with the patterns constantly changing. Actually, the aurora hung low in the sky and it was directly overhead. It was too big to see its entirety, and I only viewed one part here and one part there in whatever corner I positioned myself. So I didn’t get to see the whole view, neither was I able to photograph it, just some parts of it. The perfect vantage point was in that part of the lake that I have mentioned and in the countryside. And since I didn’t have a tripod to hold my camera, which is a MUST to get a clear picture of aurora and other celestial objects, my images are not in good quality. But I’m happy that at least, I have captured a few images.

(my fragmentary images, taken with a mere compact camera without tripod)

Just a few nights ago, another big one loomed overhead, and as before, I couldn't capture the lights because they were too faint. The clearest that I took is this one with the constellation Auriga. (By the way, the brightest star here is Capella.)

The real thrill of witnessing such phenomenon, however, is the feeling of being struck by awe as I stood there, being bathed by this brilliant light that is one of the “fringes” of God’s dynamic energy which He expresses in such beauty and grandeur. 

And as I gazed at the night sky, my heart sang joyful praises to our Creator while my spirit danced in sync with the northern lights.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Athlete in Me

I had forgotten how athletic I had been when I was younger. In high school, I used to join the 100 meter dash during our school’s Intramurals, and became a member of the volleyball and baseball teams. I didn’t really like sports. I wasn’t into competition either. I was just picked up by my teachers to put me into these sports, and I just complied out of obedience. At least, I fairly enjoyed playing.

As I grew older, I left behind me all those school sports, and I just played recreational games with my friends in the congregation whenever we had outdoor gatherings.  The only sport that I really loved to play was table tennis, and I usually played with my brother and some of my friends who had similar fondness of the game.

I haven’t played for a long time. And it’s true, I had forgotten that I used to be an athletic person.  However, last February, a popular winter sport here has awakened the sleeping athlete in me. These past two months had been an ideal season for skiing. As I watched the skiers on  TV or those who ski just around here, I felt an attraction to this sport, and I wanted to learn it. 

And so we went to buy a second-hand set of  ski paraphernalia.

For a start, I must first learn the cross country skiing. Good thing we have one ski trail right beside our apartment compound. I only need to walk a few steps to the starting point. Before I set out, my hubby warned me that I would surely fall, so I should be careful. But I confidently said that it would not happen because I had always been very careful.  When I started, I wondered why my skis wouldn’t slide at all. Later on, I found out that I should follow the lines in the snow that had been pressed by other skiers. After covering only a few meters, I already perspired a lot despite my multiple winter clothing. But I went on, determined to learn the sliding techniques. When I came to the first slope, I didn’t know how to get up there, and so I waited for other skiers to see how they’d do it. But when I tried to slide down, I realized how easy it was to… FALL.!!! And I fell many times.  

Well, it’s a little hard to learn, especially to control one’s balance. The skiers say that one must fall many times before he can learn. Of course, it’s easier for little kids than for older ones. But then, nobody’s too old to learn, so I know I can learn. I have started last February and have tried since to ski at least once a week for only an hour. So far, I’m getting familiarized with some of the techniques, though it’s still hard for me to keep my balance when I coast down the slope. As long as we still have snow, even right now in spring, I can still keep on learning until it’s no longer possible to ski. When I will have learned enough of the cross country skiing, I’ll start with the downhill skiing, which looks more exciting to me. Then someday, maybe I could join other skiers to go to the “Fjällen” to experience the real downhill skiing.

The athlete in me is fully awake now and I enjoy  the new adventures that I’m presently experiencing. For me, this is a kind of sport that can pass as a wholesome recreation, good exercise and an activity that brings me closer to God’s wonderful creations that flourish around the skiing trails.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Swedish Return Policy

A recent event at the grocery has impressed me. The grocery had some beef called entrecoté from Germany sold at low price.  We took advantage of the sale and purchased two kilos, which we would store in the freezer for future use. When we got home, my hubby was inspired to prepare our dinner. When it was finally time to eat, we were both disappointed to find that the meat was so chewy that we could not eat it.  It was supposed to be tender, but something was obviously wrong.

The following day, we took the remaining meat back to the grocery to let them know how it was. The service personnel went to her boss and asked about it. When she came back, we got a big surprise when she gave us back twice the amount of what we paid for, explaining that the company pays double for anyone who complains about their products. Wow, incredible! But then, maybe they want to compensate for the inconvenience that the products bring to the customers. I salute!

I also heard about other return policies in some stores, which are really impressive. One clothing store has a return policy for 6 months. If you are not satisfied with the clothes you have bought there, you can return them to any of its store throughout the country within six months, and you could choose another or get your money back.  

There’s also one big plant boutique with a one-month return policy. If you buy non-flowering plants and you don’t like their effect on your home interior design, you can give them back within one month and get another, or if you don’t want anything else, you can have your money back. 

I know there are other stores out there with similar return policies that I haven't discovered yet. Perhaps other countries have the same policies, but not where I came from. So this is something new to me again, and I’m truly impressed.