sunrise, 5:25 am

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Up on the cliff, you can lie at night, watching the dark sky — feeling, paradoxically perhaps, a closeness to the stars that, ultimately, encompasses a closeness to the earth. And knowing, for a brief moment, that there’s nothing more to ask for. It’s all there — between me and the universe.

It’s been a warm August week, presumably summer’s parting gift. The rocks, charged during the day by the rays of the sun, still emit some of the heat hours after sunset.

(A few more new pics to be seen, by the way, over at flickr.)

17 augusti

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Nu kommer hösten med svamp, varma soppor och rostade kastanjer. Den är välkommen, trots allt, även om vintern alltid blir ett par månader för lång.

Vi har tillbringat nästan en vecka på ön. Fjärden är mörk om natten, och någon gång då och då magiskt stilla och blank. I måndags natt hade vi tur att få se perseidernas fallande stjärnor. Därtill flera vackra solnedgångar och en kväll ängen, med dess lila tistlar, i så tjock dimma att man inte hade kunnat se sin egen svans ens om man viftat med den framför nosen, som herr Hund skulle beskriva det. Nästan varje dag passerade åskoväder, i alla fall på avstånd. En av fjärdens och den stora himlens förtjänster är möjligheten att se oväder på håll utan att alltid uppleva dem själv.

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brushing teeth in the presence of swans

130518eWe’ve been away for a few days, mr Dog and I. We’ve been to the island. The silence has been a relief. Well, there was that ship whose music we heard, one evening, until it arrived in Latvia. Or so it seemed; I’m sure it got all the way to Sandhamn and beyond before the noise died away. Sounds travel far over the surface of water. Waking up in the mornings, taking silent walks, is a blessing. Brushing teeth on the gravel beach in the dark blue dusk and in the company of swans is another. And the silence — the silence is like a drug. The silence is everything. (To the left is a rather crappy picture of the beach with the swans. I just wanted you to see them.)

The magnificent old oak tree is producing leaves, it’s turning green. It’s late, later than, for example, the birches on the island. There are cowslips in people’s gardens; not in our. Wood anemones are still glowing white from underneath trees during not so dark nights; on the other hand it’s now too light for gazing at stars in the sky, except possibly the very brightest of them, which can still be noticed. Evening walks are full of scents. Even for humans without particularly good noses.

Every winter, the beach rearranges the rocks and stones. In spring, you must disagree with how nature has taken care of things, and you risk the safety of your fingers and begin to move the rocks about. It’s ok, but, in the end, pointless. Next winter, things will be rearranged again, according to the whimsical predilections of waves and ice… and ships.

One evening — wednesday — and the two subsequent days were summer, and yesterday the air was ever so slightly stuffy, and it felt more like august than may; today, there was a shift in weather and we woke up to a splendid mist, which gave the sea a different appearance. All the other islands were gone. And the ships were blowing their fog horns.

I don’t want to be picky, but even though spring is wonderful, and certainly welcome (especially after this long winter), to me, autumn has more charm. I always feel more alive during autumn. And despite all the sprouting and blossoming of spring, I think nature does too. (See what old Rudi said!)

130518bmagnificent yellow flowers growing in dark ditches

130518amorning walk

130518cmr Dog waiting at the steamboat pier (though most of the passenger vessels are no longer steam ships)

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dimma och sol

DSC_8405exVaxholms fästning

Vi var uppe tidigt i morse. Bussen gick vid 8, båten från Vaxholm redan innan 9. Då vi närmade oss skärgården vällde dimman in; jag tror den kom från havet. Tjock, vit dimma just ovan marken och ovan vattnen. Det måste ha haft något att göra med vattentemperaturer i förhållande till den starka solen, tänker jag, men det är bara spekulation, jag vet inte. En av de tjockaste dimmor jag sett i alla fall, och rätt fantastisk på grund av solskenet. På en del håll såg man inte många meter framför sig. Ännu tjockare kändes dimman då vi kom ut med passagerarfärjan.

På grund av det låga vattenståndet måste båtarna nu gå en omväg via Oxdjupet. Det lustiga med dimman var att den, trots sin tjocklek, förekom i sjok. Åt ett håll såg man relativt klart, åt det andra knappt något alls. Och det förändrades på några minuter under färden, som färdades man in och ut genom dimman. Samtidigt var den varaktig; den håll i sig fram till 11-tiden på förmiddagen, då solen hade jagat bort de sista resterna.

DSC_8495exSol och dimma i Oxdjupet

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DSC_8420exStrax utanför Vaxholm

DSC_8440exRaserade solenergianläggninar, Ramsö

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Ängen på öns mitt, en sänka där den lilla ön en gång delades i två

Väl framme på ön, rådde en blandning av vinter och vår; på de inre delarna av ön var ännu ovanligt vintrigt, men annars märktes den sena våren tydligt av. Hos oss, på sydsluttningen, var nästan all snö borta, förutom lite snö och is på stranden och vissa bergssidor. På förmiddagen såg Saxarfjärdens is fortfarande imponerande ut. På eftermiddagen var stora delar av fjärden blå och isfri; glittrande i solen.

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DSC_8589exVägen över ön

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DSC_8607exFjärden

today (archipelago visit)

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In the sunrise, on a frosty february morning, even the dreadful suburbs, scattered along the freeway with their highrise buildings from the 1960s, acquire a certain romantic shimmer.

We woke up early today. Went to catch a bus. The sun was rising. Lovely colours, lovely light (I wish I hadn’t been on the bus — I decided I should take very early morning walks more often! I really should).

By noon, I began to sense an oncoming headache and mr Dog was exhausted and cold. Perhaps it was not such a bad idea as it first seemed that the last boat home left already at 3, before it had got dark.

The island was its usual self. Ideally, one would spend the autumn, winter and spring in the archipelago — those are far the best seasons. For some peculiar reason, which I cannot fathom, most people have decided that summer is it. It’s not.

There was snow still, on most of the island, and it was cold. But on the southern slopes and rocks, where our house is, not much snow remained. And the sun was warm, and you could feel spring was preparing its arrival. 130203d 130203a130203c 130203e(Photos from the island.)

‘nature leaves man alone with himself’

(fire spouting dragons like these colours, I imagine)

Some people know, some people don’t; some people don’t really care, but who cares about that? Today is michaelmas. Which is supposed to be important, and I suppose it was. It may still be. I’m not going to write about michaelmas, or how it’s celebrated (for children: reenacting or telling the tale of Michael’s victory over the dragon). But a while ago, I searched for some quotes and came upon some other passages in a lecture about michaelmas. I thought it more appropriate to save them for today and, oddly, today I remembered I had saved them (what a marvellous coincidence! It usually doesn’t happen). And they were worth saving. I’ll get to them, right after this road with a disused phone booth (the little white shed).

Steiner says, this is late september 1923, and I think we are transported to Dornach:

‘And now, when conceptions of this kind were living in a man’s soul, how must he look out upon external Nature? The time of the approach of Autumn must needs recall the fight with the Dragon. The leaves fall from the trees, all the flowering and fruiting life of the plants dies away. In gentle and friendly guise did Nature receive man in Spring; tenderly she cherished him through the long Summer days, nurturing him with the warmth-laden gifts of the Sun. When Autumn comes, she has nothing more to give him. Her forces of decay press in upon him, through his senses he beholds them in pictures. From out of his own being man must give himself what hitherto Nature has given him. Her power grows weaker and weaker within him. From out of the Spiritual he must create for himself forces that shall help where Nature fails. And with Nature the Dragon too loses his power. The picture of Michael rises up before the soul — Michael the opponent of the Dragon. That picture was dimmed, when Nature, and with her the Dragon, was all-powerful. With the oncoming of the frost, the picture looms up again before the soul. Nor must we think of it merely as a picture, it is a reality for the soul. It is as if the warmth of summer had dropped a curtain before the spiritual world, and this curtain were now lifted. Man partakes in the life of the year, he goes with it in its course. Spring is his earthly friend and comforter; but she enmeshes him in that kingdom where the ‘adversary’ sets the ugliness of his invisible power within man over against the beauty of Nature.’

Some passages later, in the same lecture:

‘Our experience of Nature is incomplete as long as we partake in our inner being with her ascending life alone — seed, shoot, leaf, bud, blossom, and fruit. We need to have a feeling also for the withering and dying away. Nor shall we thereby become estranged from Nature. We have not to shut ourselves up from her Spring and her Summer, we have but to enter as well into her Autumn and her Winter.’ [Source.]

Anyway. I’m not sure what this is supposed to tell us — even less sure what it’s going to tell you! –, so if you want to, do tell me. What I do know, however, is that here in the north, winter is approaching rapidly. It’s much colder than last year, in fact, it’s colder than when Melanie was here, in late october.

The season is really over now; people are taking their boats up on land, most of the island is deserted, the cottages are empty. Life in the city seems cosier, unless you like the grey, and unless you actually like solitude. In which case, the archipelago is still tolerable. Even more than tolerable, nice. On the night of the 26th, last week, a white-grey fog enshrouded the sea. Despite the darkness, there was a peculiar presence of an odd light, and the soft mist appeared like diluted milk, only air-borne; perhaps it was the moon behind the clouds, but you could not detect it at all. The lighthouse disappeared in swathes of grey, airy cotton. If you’re inclined that way, it was a virtual fairy conference (I think they would have liked the tranquil waves). On thursday, the internet connection disappeared, too, for hours, which caused an eerie feeling that perhaps the world had ceased to exist. You just never know. There would be no way to tell. (There would. But let’s imagine not.)

photos from a week in mid-september

the walkways on the island have become so familiar by now that I walk them in the dark at night, without flashlight. It’s a fascinating thing to do — it’s as though the sense of smell becomes more vivid in the absence of vision. It’s like, with a sharper sense of smell, I become more like mr Dog (though not anywhere near as superior, he adds, slightly insulted by the thought). A heightened awareness of mushrooms, decaying fruit, molding leaves, and other scents of autumn. After rain, the smells are even stronger, they’re damp and deep and strangely alive. Then, returning to our place, the garden and forest scents yield to the scent of sea.

the sunsets are the colour of strawberry ice-cream…

… and the double rainbow, one evening, spanned the entire universe.

soft and golden autumn sunrise arrives later and later each day

… and dying nature sparkles in the setting sun.

the season for exotic cruise ships is over, now there are only the ordinary, mundane passenger ships (people never stop going to Finland, apparently).

the jungle is still green

… but the colour of the sea is constantly changing, with weather, with time of day with… all these things, and it’s never the same.

it’s like a christmas tree, isn’t it, with sparkly, shiny things!

also slightly… christmas-like, is it not?

(crazy light effect, not really sure what happened or it it’s cool or not…)

the past week

Early autumn days when summer returns, sun glittering in the sea, and the approaching winter is revealed only by the position of the sun in the sky, the reddening of the blueberry bushes, the withering purple heath, the dark evenings. The sky, at night, black and star-spangled, infinitely beautiful; the Baltic sea, already wintery and ice-cold, as though it had never been summer (and, in fact, it hardly has). The darkness feels, somehow, liberating; it is soothing, too. The days in the beginning and middle of this week were such days: warm, sunny. Then, suddenly, summer left again, perhaps for good, it’s hard to tell yet. (I’m in the city now, though, and it matters less here.)

I keep watching how the appearance of the sea changes during the days — deep blue, silver, green, slate, turquoise… there are endless varieties, contingent on weather, time of day, and other factors known and unknown; the manifold ways the sea manifests hold immense fascination for me. Not so for mr Dog, who prefers to think about bunnies. And the neighbours’ cats, which he will — so he says — have for dinner. Unfortunately, he hurt his paw, which is why he looks a bit down in the dumps in the picture. He tried to make me chase the cats, and was upset at how useless I am. ‘I’m not at all sure why I ever got you!!’ he yelled. ‘You’re only a burden and don’t even have instincts enough to chase, kill and cook our food!’ I, possessing some insights, even if limited (by my limited human mind), had to admit he was basically right.

Anyway. There’s no tap water, no hot water (unless you boil it first); you have to get water from a communal pump a hundred or so meters away. That is perhaps the downside, but really, it works quite well, surprisingly well. On the other hand, you can brush your teeth on a beach while watching stars. You always have sand, gravel and dirt in your shoes, and feel like a forest troll most of the time. The world outside the cottage is black at night, and when you brush the bread crumbs off your tray you realise you brushed them off over and into your shoes. And so on. I’m trying to convince the gnomes they need to wear warning lights, so that I don’t accidentally trample them to death. The elves are much more cooperative in this regard, but they’re sort of shiny by nature, in a translucent way.

silver moonlight, coming in from the east, gently stroking the sea

autumn

On Sunday, the rains were heavy — I don’t think I’ve ever seen the archipelago as heavy with rain, so grey, so burdened with water — , but as the week progressed, weather improved, until yesterday when summer made a welcome return, or should I say appearance (there hasn’t been much summer to speak of in Stockholm this year). It’s a weird thing to come back to the city; people everywhere, traffic, noises… tap water. Not having to drag buckets of it from the water pump; a heavy and delightfully primitive way to organise things. But to return to people — how it feels so natural to be where there aren’t any people around. To be in silence, except from the sounds of nature.

You watch so-called civilisation pass by; the ships coming in and leaving Stockholm. They create waves, but otherwise they can’t touch you. They may be full of passengers, but they aren’t people. They are anonymous, contained in enormous monsters of steel, kept safely at distance. Sometimes you can hear their loudspeakers, if they’re really loud and you’re in the right spots, where the ships pass the island at the closest distance; then you’re reminded of something that resembles to the city. At night, in the dark, they glow like christmas trees. I prefer the cargo ships. They’re silent except for their busy engines, they’re unpretentious despite being essential, they’re mostly dark in the darkness of night — they don’t demand attention, they don’t want it.

On Wednesday night, the moon was almost full; the sky a bit misty, helping the moon to glow like a sun but much more gently. The fjärd and the beaches were lit up, providing a remedy for the need for torches during these black August nights. The day, as I mentioned, had been sunny and warm. The night was, too. And then, as were not the light and soft mist enough, a thick fog rolled in over the vast surfaces of water, obscuring the already dark — lit only indirectly by the moon — islands on the other side. Soon you could no longer see the moon; nor could you see the beacons and navigation marks; even the nearest lighthouse — a tiny one — disappeared into the fog, only a very faint dot of light from it still reaching the shore and myself.

I think, you know (you probably got this about me already), that absence of people cleanses the mind, it washes out the clutter. You go outdoors, and the world is empty of people. Occasionally, of course, you meet someone, even in the countryside, even in virtually deserted areas of summer cottages. There are people, a few of them, some with dogs. Perhaps you chat for a few minutes. That’s alright, overall. Unlike in the city, there are no hordes of people, no thousands and thousands (and thousands more) of people filling your mental space with — vast amounts of nothing. Thousands and yet thousands of people with whom you have no connection whatsoever anyway. Blank faces that mean nothing.

Some more autumn photos; different days, but most of them in the evening. There’s no doubt autumn has arrived, is it?

lingonberry!

rain, sea, dog, et c

The sea was unusually calm on friday afternoon. The weather, shifting between sun and rain. But much of the time, last week, the sky was heavy with rain; funny is how the fogginess makes the islands far away appear also to the eye as individual islands — separated into darker and into lighter — rather than as a solid mass of land. Everything out there is really islands (floating around in the sea, as you all know islands do)! Sometimes the areas of rain are distinctly separated, too — sun, ran, sun, rain… and you know that those who have sun will soon have rain, but from their perspective they may not yet be aware of it.

Luckily, on two nights, the clouds vanished, revealing a starry sky (one evening, I was even lucky to glimpse, from the corner of my eye — it happened so quickly! — a falling star). It’s pitch dark around 10 pm now. The amount of stars is just staggering, yet it’s too close to the city (it’s not far at all), so it isn’t exactly the genuine experience; it’s never as black as it could be, in a world without or far away from electriticity. Or so I’ve understood it. Watching the stars the other night, as the sky was without clouds above us — mr Dog was asleep already, however, dreaming of a moon made of cheese (strong cheese, to complement the deliciously barbecued cats) –, I could at the same time see lightning strike, rip the black sky apart, again and again, far away over the Baltic sea in the east. There was no sound of thunder; it was dead silent. (Apparently — I had to look it up — thunder can sometimes be heard 40 kilometers away, depending on conditions, but is usually heard 15-20 kilometers away.)

The tiny swan would never be so silly as to call himself Celebrity Eclipse.

As a bonus, a few pics of the mighty mr Dog himself:

He saw a cat, a sea-cat.

Watching the sea, feeling huge and important.

We were once again arguing about wheather to cook the neighbour’s cat for dinner; Mr D expresses his disappointment at my pathetic lack of co-operation and predatory instincts.

days (and nights) by the sea

The old farm, on the northern side of the island. 

So I have been away. Not from the ethereal kiosk of course, I’ve been present all the time. But I ran out of ink and had to stop writing, which meant there was all the more time for drinking champagne (or hot coffee and hot tea). The kind of thing that happens, occasionally; we do rely on ancient technologies, being, as we are, located in the higher worlds. Not that modern technology doesn’t work there, it does. Even the elementals have their own smart-phones, which they use in distinctly dumb ways, just by the way. And the dear, old esotericist is quite fond of his Google Sky Map. Still trying to locate Vulcan.

Don’t think I’ve forgotten you or that the kiosk is abandoned; it isn’t. It never could be. We’re all there in spirit. Mr Dog is a bit sleepy, though — in fact, I think he fell asleep standing up today, much like a horse –, he can’t guard it, so he trusts you to help! Lest the evil spirits fly in. Yes, I know Michael is at the gate, but frankly, he was never that good at anything except random wing-flapping, seemingly lacking purpose. And eating cheese, which isn’t good for his capacity to fly. Perhaps it made him phlegmatic?

Mr Dog and I went out to the sea, and spent three days there. Three days and three nights. Mr Dog has been hunting rats. I’ve been lugging pretty but heavy rocks around. For good reason, one hopes, but can’t be sure. In any case, it will have been my karma.

There is a lot to be said for primitive life by the sea. It’s eminently peaceful. (Except when mr Dog spots a cat, or (in other words) a devilish intruder, on canine territory, that is the entire island and, in fact, the entire universe. Probably even Vulcan.)

There are a few things to be said against primitive life by the sea in Sweden in early may, however. One of them being — it’s sometimes cold. On the positive side of that — when it’s cold, you’re alone, the island is pretty much deserted. The archipelago is silent, very silent. Modern day boat people are not sturdy vikings. I’m not either, but I can take the cold. With some extra wool blankets.

It’s kind of nice, after all, to brush your teeth on the shore, by the sea, in complete silence, while watching the moon cast its light over the black surface of water. It’s kind of nice, even if your feet are frozen stiff.  It’s kind of nice washing your hands in ice-cold Baltic sea water, with its taste of salt and subtle scent of seaweed. Even if your hands turn into ice, it’s lovely. It’s nice to look out of the window by the bed and see the sea and the moon, and to open it — despite the chilly (but fresh) air — and hear the very soft sound of cautious waves working their way over the cold, almost still, water at night.

Isn’t that odd, by the way — how the water turns so still after sunset? Sometimes the fjärd is almost as calm as the water in my glass. Why is that? Cosmic forces? The work of elemental beings? It’s as though the sea turns tranquil, seeking its own kind of rest. Not always; some nights, it remains fairly active. But that night-time stillness — you never experience it during the day.

Anyway, you lie there, and listen to nature so silent you can hear every little noise, even a needle of a rugged pine tree falling to the ground, hitting the cold barren rocks. Oh, that’s exaggeration. But you know what I mean. I mean a silence that is magic. That makes you realize what silence can be, not just the absence of someone talking or the lack of a television bellowing out its usual nonsense. A silence that makes you think you can hear the stars whisper.

Sitting on the veranda, reading a good book (or playing with your smart-phone), random thoughts pop into your head. I imagine, one day, when I look up, I’ll see Rudi sitting on this big chunk of rock in the water, playing enchantingly on his violin, sea-weed adorning his hair and stuck between his toes.

Or maybe he’d be further away? There’s a very tiny islet a fifty or hundred meters away — perhaps he’d prefer that? I know this doesn’t make much sense to you, although apparently similar beings also exist in Sussex! You will have to read this (make sure you read about Scandinavia, it’s worth it!). This isn’t a lake, of course, or a stream. And Rudi is not a water spirit, he’s a dead esotericist, whose spirit — albeit not a water spirit — is ever so present.

But don’t you think he’ll sit there one day, the seductive old occultist?

some more autumn photos

I’m very fascinated by gates, so I thought I’d post a few of them. (As you might remember, before the tulips, there was a gate and a garden in the banner.) On the island, I often take pictures of other people’s gates and gardens (someone will appoint me the local loon one day, no doubt; I also crawl around in ditches and do other bad and inappropriate things). We have our own gate, of course. Unfortunately, I never manage to make it look mysterious enough. I assume it has to do with a lack of vegetation, but I don’t know. Nevertheless… I have this dream of a walled garden. A wall made of stone — perhaps even old bricks would do? — clad in ivy and roses. And there would be a wooden gate (like a proper door). Not on the island of course. This idea does not work very well on a barren rock by the sea. (You see, I need to sneak up on other people’s gardens.)

This was one of my favourite stories as a child — The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson-Burnett. I think that’s significant. But I don’t know how and why.

Naturally, the ethereal kiosk has a gate… or let’s be anthroposophical, and call it a guarded threshold. But it’s more like a gate really, a gate in a wall. It’s pretty, but that’s not all there is to it. A wall serves a very serious purpose. Well, we do need to protect the champagne from getting stolen or our favourite visitors from wandering off drunk in the darkness of the night. Also, there are those who chase after bunnies in quite a mindless fashion.

Here are some other people’s gardens. Because the light was splendid. It’s always about the light, you know. In the physical world as in the ethereal kiosk.

[Larger version.]