Saturday, August 27, 2011


One morning as I was sipping my coffee, some flutterings in our back patio drew my eyes. When I looked carefully through the backdoor pane, I noticed a butterfly flitting among the slender twigs of our potted mint bush. It darted from one flower to another, sipping their sweet nectar. (I wonder if the nectar has minty taste too.) I ran for my camera and took several shots. Minutes later, some more winged creatures joined in, so that there were exactly two butterflies and two bees making up the party. Watching them flutter around exhilarated me even as I kept shooting their frolics.

A bee nearby is also busy combing the flowers for nectar.

Now he is coming to join in the feast.

Now they're flocking together in such proximity. The other bee is somewhere in one of the flowers.

This gathering of the four little creatures is like a feast in my point of view. They too have a share of this bounty in this beautiful sunshiny summer day. It's their turn to partake of the saccharine provision of this lowly mint bush. 

We have had our fill of drinks from this same plant before it blossomed profusely. At the time we purchased it, the plant was just a mere three- or four-twigged young bush grown in a small plastic pot, though the leaves were already so lush. From that, we nipped off some leaves and boiled them to make a sweetened minty beverage which we enjoyed drinking at night while watching TV.  Now, it has grown tall and blossomed  copiously. The minty scent and flavor also diminished at this stage, but the nectar from the flowers obviously gave these winged creatures some zest.  

Ahhh....just some of the little blessings of everyday that add more beauty and pleasure to life!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A River Runs Between

31 July 2011

From Seskarö camping, our convoy set forward to Finland, with our boss' car leading the way.  Our plan was to go over to Finland and follow the Torne river (Tornionjoki in Finnish and Torneälven in Swedishthat runs between  Sweden and Finland and just drive up north until we'd reach the exact starting point of the Arctic Circle.

Here's a section of Finland's Tornio municipality taken from the Swedish side.

We crossed this boundary between the two countries. In just a fraction of a second, time leaped to one hour ahead of Sweden due to the one-hour difference between these countries.

Our boss' car leading the way.


My drive-by shots of the Finnish countryside landscapes

The exact point where the Arctic Circle begins. We didn't go beyond that point as it would take a long, long time to explore this Scandinavian part of the Polar/Arctic Circle. But by simply setting foot on the circle gave me a sense of thrill and adventure.

Since this boundary has become a landmark and a tourist destination, a souvenir shop has been launched here. Like all the other travelers who have ventured this far, we also stopped by and looked around. The store has every kind of novelty one can think of, with the print Arctic Circle, of course! I bought a couple of postcards as keepsakes and the kids bought some stickers.

Time to go back to Sweden. This time, we had to cross a bridge nearby and drive along the Swedish side of the river. But before crossing over, we had to find a parking place along the road where we could eat our "fika" or snacks.


From our Finnish vantage point, I took this photo of a Swedish town just across the river.

We could also view this bridge that we were about to cross.

On our way to the bridge, we met these reindeers lazing right in the middle of the road, which halted all the passing cars because these creatures didn't mind the cars at all. That gave me a chance to take these pictures, and I got so excited to see them this close.

Time to cross the bridge. As soon as we reached the other end, which is already Sweden, we gained back one hour of the day, which meant that we had more time to look around and go fishing. 

We were now on the Swedish side of the river, and I took this picture showing Finland just beyond the river.

Oooppss...there seemed to be something wrong under the car, and so we stopped to check it out. This scene amused me. There was nothing wrong with the car after all.

We dropped by Kuokollaforsen for a few minutes to see how it was there that day. There was still a remnant of the preceding day's grill-festival. In this picture is a rough boardwalk leading to the middle of the rapids where the fishers would catch fish for immediate grilling.

Two countries in one picture. Foreground is Sweden and background is Finland.  

At this point, we went back to the island, Seskarö,  and spent the remaining afternoon fishing.

This is all about this blog. I'm just fascinated by this geographical set-up, how one can easily travel from one country to another and how time leaps suddenly in just a few strides.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Missing the Perseids

Despite the popularity of the Perseid meteor shower, I have never been fortunate enough to witness its full splendor. Being an astronomer at heart, I've always been watching out for upcoming celestial events, especially these numerous meteor showers that annually visit our atmosphere. I've seen just a few of them, the best of which was the Leonid meteor shower in 1997. My experience can be read here:  The Painting in the Sky.

As to Perseids, I've never seen it in my whole life in the Philippines. The month of August in this tropical country is a rainy and typhoon-battered period, when the sky is thick with dark storm clouds. So I had no chance at all to have even a little glimpse of it.

Here, I missed it last year on account of the cloudy night that time. This year, in August 12 and 13, would be my chance to see it as the sky was clear. But then, the full moon was out and its intense brightness intervened and blocked the meteors from exuding their luminous streaks. Furthermore, past midnight is still a little bright here, though a few stars and constellations are visible.

Regardless of such conditions, I went out to our back patio anyway, desperate to see something remarkable in the sky. The night was a little cold but I waited patiently for some minutes. I saw at least three small meteors dashing swiftly across the sky. Not much of a spectacle. Even then, that night was not altogether devoid of celestial show. The moon burst in glorious radiance despite the thin bands of clouds that tried to mask its face, and thus illuminated even the far reaches of the night sky.

Looking closely above that silver disk, I noticed a band of light arching over it, and wooh!, I got so excited to the point that my hands almost quivered as I mounted my camera on the tripod. This is my short-exposure shot of the moon.

Then I tried another shot with a longer exposure, precisely 60 sec.

In this image, the moon has moved to the right, and I took this long-exposure shot, which also captured some star trails nearby,  before saying goodbye to these brilliant sky shows.  

I may have missed the Perseid meteor shower's supposedly spectacular appearance, but I was compensated by the astronomical beauty and radiance that graced that night. Then I went to bed and slept pleasantly among the stars.

“Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name. Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one of them is missing." 
- Isaiah 40:26

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Seskarö Camping

After checking out of the Storforsen Camping at noon of July 30, we moved on to our next destination: Haparanda-Tornio. These are two municipalities that belong to Sweden (Haparanda) and Finland (Tornio) but considered as one city sharing the Torne River that borders the two countries. Haparanda-Tornio became a common term for these contiguous municipalities.

When we got there, first thing we did was look for a camping site where we could set up our tent before going on a sightseeing expedition. The sites we searched from the internet beforehand didn't seem promising, and so we had to see for ourselves how they looked like. We started scouring from the north, looking for the much-advertised Kuokkolaforsen Camping, which is also beside a rapid. Unfortunately, it was too crowded that time on account of the fish-grilling festival that was being held. So we crossed that out. 

Then we went as far as Finland, to the municipalities of Tornio and Kemi, but that didn't yield good results either. It looks like camping is not a popular thing in this country because we found only one in each municipality, but no tenting allowed.  It's not like in Sweden and Norway where camping sites are found everywhere.

We went back to Haparanda not knowing what to do or where to go. The funny thing is that as we went back and forth, I realized that in just a matter of minutes, I had been to Finland twice. The telecommunications too must have been confused as we kept receiving SMS welcoming us to Finland, as soon as we  crossed the bridge that bounded the two countries, and then again to Sweden, and back again.

At this time, we had established contact with our boss, who happens to be our friend too, and they (he and his two kids and his nephew)  finally made it to Haparanda as he had planned before, though  a little indecisive at first. And so we agreed to meet at Ikea and discuss about where to stay. 

My hubby said that he knew of one camping site in Seskarö, which is one of the numerous islands at the northern tip of the Gulf of Bothnia that divides Sweden and Finland. At first, we were hesitant to go there because it would take us over ten km back from Haparanda, but since we had no other choice, we settled on that. That was not a bad choice because it turned out that the island has several interesting natural spots and fishing areas. The camping site too was cool and almost fully occupied by vacationers. 

Night had set in when we got settled, I and my hubby in our tent, our boss and the kids in two small cabins. It was too late to cook our foods then, so we just ordered our dinner at the camping restaurant and ate outdoor where two musicians entertained the diners that Saturday night. Later on, a boy asked if he could sing with them, and he sang some Eric Clapton's songs with a voice like that of an adult. And yes, he was really good!

We slept soundly that night despite the continuous flapping of our tent as the sea breeze whipped against it. 

The following day, we all agreed to travel around  the Finnish side of the city right up to the north in a convoy. I'm going to write about this trip later.

Hours thereafter, we went back to Seskarö and stopped by a bay to see if we could catch some fish. Unfortunately, the fishes were too small at this time. This one here is so far the biggest that one of the kids caught, though still too small for one man's meal. 

Anyway, just sitting there and watching the evening sun that lingered above the water and looking at the beautiful surroundings felt almost like heaven already.

Back in the camping site, I strolled along the beach with my camera, always on the lookout for something to shoot. The kids went boat-pedaling while my hubby and our boss were sitting beside our tent and conversing happily.

The retreating sun behind the pine trees had cast a soft warm glow over the sea and the sky above it. It was already about 10:00 p.m.,  a cold and windy night, and we hadn't taken our dinner yet. And so we grilled some marinated pork and sausages, which we all gobbled with great gusto. We piled up more woods over the remaining fire to keep us warm and stayed there for some more minutes before we finally retired for the night.

That day was indeed pleasant and full of fun and unspeakable joy. It was our first time to spend a holiday with friends in almost two years since we came to this country.  And that was something new for me, something I'll never forget. May it not be the last time....