Thursday, July 28, 2011

Across the Galaxies

This is the third sequel to my narrative To Hold a Sunlight, which tells about the life story of my bosom friend. In this part, I write in a language best understood by "alien beings" like the two of us. 

In a parallel universe that lies within the bounds of my imagination, I have been roaming the space in quest of my dear fellow alien who I thought had been sucked by a black hole. She is nowhere to be found, not even in her own galaxy where I tried to scout around. I don't know how many eons more should I travel across the galaxies to find her. I won't give up. Even if it would take an eternity to locate her, I would do it.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm drowning in an ocean of cosmic loneliness as I wander alone in my spaceship, searching every corner of the intergalactic space. Is it worth all my undaunted efforts to find her and bring her back again to the comfort of the galaxy that we'd chosen as our home? Does she still exist? Or am I merely chasing after an insubstantial stardust that would only lead me to the farthest void of the universe? Has she found an entirely new galactic home where she is happier and more comfortable? Has she met any kindred spirits there and has completely forgotten about her loyal fellow alien who has never given up on her even though everyone else had abandoned her?

I've been missing my fellow space voyager, my alien buddy, for a long time now. I can't find anyone like her in this corner of the galaxy where I landed. All I'm dealing with here are creatures whose nature is that of an ice with impenetrable hardness. Okay, they're also good, but being with them suppresses my true self. I can't speak with them the way I did with her;  can't let out my inner child to play; can't act and talk in a comical way; can't exchange views on subjects we so loved to explore; can't  open up my heart to them; can't hang out at all with them. Well, there's one I met actually, but of the opposite gender. I believe he's also a kindred spirit, from the "race of Joseph". And he appears to have an alien blood too. But then, I can't spend time with him and do our alien stuffs because he doesn't live nearby, nor does he live permanently in one place. I call him a "space-trotter", who lives a life of sacrifice to see about the spiritual needs of other beings and gives of himself to them. So this sends me back to my solitary self, constantly wandering solitarily in the wilderness of space.

Now, I can't help wondering whether my alien buddy still cares about me.  Does she miss me too? Does she still remember how I used to be? Do all the beautiful and dramatic moments we have had still flash in her mind even once in a while? Does she still recall our dreams to spend eternity exploring the universe and discover more cosmic elements yet unknown to earthlings? How I wish I knew the answers. But I need to find her first. But where in cosmos could she be? I don't know where else to look for her. Wherever she is, I hope that somehow, she will hear about her old buddy scouring the universe in search of her. Perhaps she will do everything she can to get out of the black hole that has trapped her, or she would come out of whatever galaxy she has landed on, and meet me in one rugged stellar path somewhere in Messier 31, NGC 224.

Until then, I will keep sailing across the galaxies to find her, while praying for her safety wherever she is. If no one cares at all to rescue her, I'm here to do the best I can to snatch her from the invisible tentacles of infinite darkness that may threaten her very existence. And I keep hoping that we will see each other again soon, and will forever frolic among the stars as we journey through the galaxies.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

One Fine Summer Night

Actually, summer nights here are almost always fine.  The sun lingers high above the horizon, spreading out its soft golden glow until late at night, long enough to enjoy the evening's serenity, and then sinks down at around midnight but leaves behind a profusion of its sunlight that remains all night long until it slowly intensifies again in the morning. The blue sky is either devoid of clouds or painted with them in gloriously diverse  forms.

It is one of such nights, at past 8:00 p.m., when I went out to our little backyard patio, armed with pen and paper and ready to write a draft of a story that had been hatching in my head. Usually, when I want to write something, I'm sitting in front of the computer, busily pounding my fingers on the keyboard. But that night, I didn't want to sit in this dark corner of the room and let the glory of that summer night slip away. 

And so, I laid down my pen and paper on the table, sat comfortably on one of the stools and looked around for a few minutes before penning down my first word. Our little flower bed magnetized my eyes and I found myself admiring the plethora of colorful flowers that filled that barely 1/2 x 2 1/2-meter plot that we have cleared to plant these summer flowers. I was amazed to find them yield flowers in such unexpected opulence even after leaving them for about ten days without anyone watering them at all.

My hubby also came out barefoot, pulled out unwanted weeds and watered the flowers. It was actually he who arranged  this flower bed. 

For over a year since we moved here, we had been longing to have a little flower garden in our backyard, but since we were unsure whether we would stay in this unit or find another later, we put off the plan. But this summer, we decided to plant anyway, just to have something nice to feast our eyes on, something that would relax us when we come home after work. It's amazing how such a little flower bed can do wonders to one's psyche, just as it did to us that lovely night.

I completely forgot my writing project, but instead, I kept on taking macro shots of our little flowers.

After reveling in such floral pulchritude, I turned my eyes to the sky. Another beauty loomed overhead!

The rowan tree standing nearby had its twigs swaying with the soft breeze that wafted in the air while basking in the light and warmth of the evening sun along with the clovers that dotted the grass surrounding the tree.


A group of frolicsome swallows were  flying around in circles and back and forth.  Their flight was so fast and erratic that I had difficulty capturing them. I tried so hard for several minutes until I gave up and ended with this blurry shot. Anyway, it gave me sheer pleasure just watching them playing blithely.

As the night advanced, I spotted this couple just a few steps from us, obviously allured by the loveliness of this night, to savor their togetherness outdoor. My hubby  approached them and had a short friendly conversations with them. They were from Colombia. They didn't mind him taking this picture of them.

That night wore on but the magic of it trailed behind. My writing project totally abandoned, I went back inside the house, still feeling high for these little blessings that abound everywhere, which only those who have the eyes to notice them and the heart to embrace and appreciate  them can truly get to the pinnacle of joy and satisfaction that such things bring.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Out Fishing

Fishing is also one of the popular past times here. Since Sweden is a country with thousands of lakes and rivers, it's obviously a perfect place to satisfy the delight of a fisher's heart. Umeå alone offers a wide range of lakes and rivers for fishers to choose from.

From springtime to autumn is the ideal time for fishing. Since night time had started to be bright in spring, many people go out fishing in the night. Some are able to catch while others may be less fortunate because of the presence of several fishers. Still, they enjoy being out there, casting the fishing rod, being with nature and being together with friends with similar interest.

One evening in Skeppsvik, a bay where fishers love to go, including us, the sight of these ducks that seemed to enjoy the "sunny" evening caught my eyes, and I took several pictures of them.

My hubby fishing in the same bay at 9:00 p.m.

And here in another lake.

Another evening in Skeppsvik, where fishing enthusiasts keep coming even later in the night.

Here are two other lakes on the outskirts of the city.

All these keep reminding me of Jesus' words:

"And he said to them: “Come after me, and I will make YOU fishers of men.”  At once abandoning the nets, they followed him."
- Matthew 4:18,20

Happily, I'm one of those who accepted his invitation to follow him and become fishers of men.

An Unforgettable Summer Journey

Sometimes, one who has been to cloud nine may find himself still floating there even weeks or months thereafter. The memories that sent him up to that level of elation retain their bright sparks that inspire him to go about his work, no matter how hard it may be. He keeps moving on and working hard, but with joy, as he reminisces on those memories.

That's how it is with me and my recent adventures. It's been weeks since I was in such bliss, and until now, that feeling of walking on air lingers as those memorable scenics parade in my mind. While others  feel exhausted after their vacation and become too lazy to go back to work, but instead long to go on another holiday again, I get spurred on to work again and light-heartedly go about my daily routine. For me, such holiday is a "spice" that gives good flavor to my life.

Here, I'm going to recount and relive those beautiful moments in the form of a journal which is expressed mostly in pictures  that I have taken.

The main purpose of our travel was to attend a three-day English convention in Oslo, Norway, to strengthen our spiritual well-being. Since we had the chance to travel that far, we decided to maximize that opportunity by extending our vacation leave from work in order to see some of the most popular travel destinations in Norway, and some parts of Sweden.

Here's the map of the places we've been to. The blue line indicates the route that we followed. Our starting point is in the upper right corner, Umeå, then down, then left, then up and then right, and back to Umeå.

June 21, 22

We started from Umeå, followed the coastal highway down to Hudiksvall, where we turned inland to get to Dalarna. We stayed there for two nights. Our activities in this place can be read here .

June 23

We dismantled our tent and moved on to Oslo. Our arrival in the city reminded me of Manila because of the traffic jam that stranded us for quite a  time. We stayed for three nights in this cabin.

June 24-26

We attended the District Convention with the theme, Let God's Kingdom Come!, a three-day spiritual gathering with Bible-based discourses, modern and ancient dramas, experiences and songs of praise. Those who attended came from 85 different nationalities. We  met some of our friends and got to know many new ones. This convention, like all the others that we have had, brought us spiritual rejuvenation, which is essential for living a meaningful and satisfying life. Here are some pictures of the assembly hall in Oslo, where we gathered.

We also got the chance to look around a little in the city center. The weather was not good, so we just drove around the city and took some walks along the harbor by the fjord, where throngs of people filled those restaurants lining the alley along the harbor. 

Here are some drive-by pictures of the city. 

June 26 (after the convention)

On the road again. Northward.

We reached Lillehammer in the night (a bright night around midsummer), where we camped for just one night in this beautiful camping site before proceeding to our journey. We hired the cabin here with a veranda overlooking the river. Like the other camping sites, this is also full of trailers that  looked like real homes because of the fences and flowers that the vacationers set up there. They stay there for a long summer holiday.

June 27

The thrilling part of the journey began as we reached Romsdalen. The highway along this dale runs parallel with walls of cyclopean mountains on both sides and a river. The grandeur of the mountains is simply staggering! As we drove along, all I did was turn my head from right to left, spell-bound by such awesome sceneries that kept on changing their beauty as we shifted perspectives. They evoked that kind of awe that made me either say "Wow!" most of the time or just gaze up open-mouthed.

Large waterfalls and powerful rapids with clear green waters also abound along the highway. 

The majestic winding road finally led us to Åndalsnes, a Norwegian town where we had planned to camp for two nights. That would serve as our base while exploring some of the popular tourist destinations in the country, which lie around this area. This town is not so big, and the center not so attractive, but the surrounding sceneries - the green fields, rivers and lakes, towering snow-capped mountains, make it a charming and pleasurable place to stay.

Once again, we set up our tent in this cozy and adorable camping site, Mjelva Camping, just beside a rocky mountain. Included in this photomosaic are the views surrounding this camping area.

In this composite picture are some of the sceneries in Åndalsnes.

After fixing our tent, we went to buy something to eat and found this fresh pink salmon, which we fried for our lunch before we set out  to Trollstigen and Geiranger. 

The weather was not favorable but it didn't spoil the splendor of the landscapes. We could still feast our eyes on them with much enjoyment. 

We passed through several tunnels, which fascinated me. I was told that Norway is one country that specializes in making tunnels. The longest that I have traversed so far is 6.7 km. long. Here's one of them that appealed to me.

At last, we have made it to the top of Trollstigen after driving through those sharp turns of the narrow zigzag road that almost seemed scary. The view from the top is magnificent! I could see with bird's eye-view where I had been, the vale so green and the meandering road. 

Massive waterfalls stream from the top all the way down the valley below. As we stopped by to photograph the falls' entirety, another busload of American tourists came out to admire and to take pictures of that spectacular sight. There were also several tourists with their private cars who came to see this renowned place.

And what awaited us there at the top? (Well, not really top yet because there were still endless mountains higher than what I thought was the peak.) Here, where one can hike around like he is on top of the world looking down with amazement at the sceneries below. It's just so staggering!

After getting ourselves intoxicated with all the beauty and wonder that surrounded us, we moved on to our next destination: the Geiranger, a small village located at the end of the fjord. This fjord is one of Norway's most visited tourist sites and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To get there, we had to get our car into a ferry to cross a section of a fjord.

Finally, the Geiranger fjord! I just let my pictures speak about the glory of this place. The weather was not good, but the views were still great anyway. Just imagine how it would be when the sun was out and the sky blue. Could be magical!

It started to rain hard as we drove up the winding road back to the ferry. But when we got to Trollstigen again, there was no rain, and I took these photos while driving by.

Back to our tent that night, we found some more tourists who checked in for camping, some of whom had set up their tents beside ours. There was a Scottish man who came all the way with his dog through his bike. There were also Germans, French, etc. One German said that he liked the mountains of Norway better than the Swiss Alps, because Norway's mountainscapes or the Norwegian Alps were more dramatic.

This day gave me more than my fill. Memories of this marvelous facet of creation are etched indelibly in my heart. And I had a sweet, restful sleep.

June 28

It was raining when we woke up. Some call it the Norwegian weather, that is, when the weather is bad even in summer. We had planned to visit Ålesund, but we hesitated on account of the weather. But then, we finally opted to go and see this city which has been dubbed as the most beautiful city in Norway. Its location is great, being at the edge of western Norway and jutting out into the North Atlantic Ocean. One could ride a train to go around the city and up to a hill where one could see the aerial view of the whole place. But we didn't take that ride thinking that the foggy/cloudy atmosphere might obscure the view.  Well, the ground views were good enough to see.

On our way back to our tent, we went up to a mountain to see about a well-publicized gigantic waterfalls only to find that the falls had been diverted into a dam. We were disappointed about this especially after the long, perilous drive that we had taken. Anyway, we were compensated by the views up there. We hit an altitude parallel to the tops of those snowy mountains in the distance. As we descended from the mountaintop, thick fogs had already filled in the valleys below, revealing only the mountain peaks.

June 29

Time to dismantle our tent again. On the spur of the moment, we decided to take a short look at another popular city, Trondheim, in the northeast of Ålesund. We hadn't seen all of it since this was only a brief visit.

After spending a few minutes there, we were on the move again. It was time to say goodbye to Norway and go back to Sweden. The weather finally turned better as we started to leave Norway and about to reach the boundary between these two countries.

We entered Jämtland, a western province of Sweden. We passed by the little town of Åre, a popular place for downhill skiing in winter.

After driving around a little, we proceeded to Östersund, where we would camp again for one more night before heading back home. We crossed a bridge over the lake to get to the island within that lake where the camping site was located. The view over the lake from this island was so stunning. We set up our tent late at night, cooked our late dinner with our portable kitchen and took a walk down  the field of weeds and meadows that would lead to the shoreline which we never got to reach.

We had another good night's sleep. Yes, I find it so relaxing to sleep in a tent, and so pleasant  to wake up in the morning. 

June 30

After breakfast, we packed our things up and explored the city first before going on the road again.

We took the road to Sollefteå, the same city we visited last spring. Now in summertime, the whole place is so lush with  summer vegetation. 

In another locality, we had a stop-over in this resting place beside the lake and took our lunch.

We also found this noteworthy scenery called "reclining elephant" nearby.

Then we dropped by a beach in Örnskoldsvik and found it huddled with people during this hot summer day. We didn't stay there long, and I only took a few snapshots of the scenes.

Our final stop-over before driving straight home was this attractive small fishing village in the same district.

And the journey ended here. We were back to our humble city (but also rich with rustic natural beauties) that afternoon. Back home, which is still the best place to stay. "East or west, home is the best!"

Well, actually, the journey goes on. Within the confines of my mind. I'm still traveling here, still being awed by all the grandeur and beauty of our planet, still soaring in bliss, still echoing the words of a psalmist,

"Praise Jehovah from the earth,
YOU...watery deeps....
YOU snow and thick smoke,
YOU mountains and all YOU hills,
YOU fruit trees and all YOU cedars,
YOU wild animals and all YOU domestic animals,
YOU creeping things and winged birds."
-Psalms 148:7-10

I, too, will keep praising our Creator and telling about his marvelous works, his greatness and his love all the days of my life.