Thursday, 5 July 2018

War Is Not for Human Beings



29/52 Michael Ondaatje. The English Patient (1993). I enjoyed reading this multi layered and abundant novel full-heartedly from the first page. I have never read anything from Michael Ondaatje so his work was a wonderful surprise. I read another book from him right after this one, Anil's Ghost, because I enjoyed this so much. This is perfect summer read. I found the novel entertaining because it has many interesting details and lots of happenings. It also enlightened me about the history of Second World War.

The happenings take place in Italy in 1945 when the Second World war  is still having it's influence on people who have survived.  I have had my schools in Finland so my understanding about the history is very Eurocentric and focused on Finland's role and relations with other countries.  All four main characters come from very different backgrounds bringing their own history and interests. Hana is from Canada and has worked as a nurse in the war. She has lost both her child and father. The English patient has traveled through the desert and has now lost his memory. He has no idea who he is, where he is from and what he was doing before the Bedouins found him badly burnt from the desert. Caravaggio is Hana's father's old friend who has worked as a spy during the war because of his skills to infiltrate to the most difficult places. Kip is an Indian Sikh whose job to undo bombs doesn't end at the moment when the war does. Mines of many kind and dud explosives remind that the scars of war can't be forgotten in a day or two. What has been done can't be undone without a sacrifice.

I felt like this party gathered in an Italian villa is making an effort to collect themselves after the horrible events that have drained them. They close the world out and concentrate on what is left. They all have still work to do. Hana is still needed as a nurse and the ground is full of explosives for Kip to broke. But at the moment they need time of to realize where they are. Like they have gone through a series of incidents they have had nothing to say and now they need to make peace with their decisions to cope with the future. Hana has lost her father and in the moment of her grief meets the so called English patient. A badly burnt man whose history is not known. She decides to concentrate on taking care of the man the best way possible. She is first left to the villa alone with the man but soon Caravaggio and Kip make her company. Caravaggio says Hana is in love with the burnt man but as I understood it she is processing her grief and bad consciousness about not being able to help her father.

What comes to the burnt man whose past is unclear I was not sure if  he really didn't remember or if he just tried to forget. When the past years begin to unravel it becomes understandable why he might have wanted to bury it all and start as a new person. In the middle of war people have been making decisions that looking back seem immoral and wrong. When evaluating the circumstances it becomes possible to understand the real motives behind the actions. This novel doesn't use war as an exciting background for dramatic love stories. It literally tells how great love stories end to dust and bone in cruel world that is not made for human beings at all. The war comes to destroy the lives for all four main characters and nothing beautiful comes out of war.

The English patient has been making a search with his colleagues at the desert when barbaric war arrives making the members of the scientific community enemies to each other. It is absurd how people who are sharing a passion together and who have been working together for ages can become enemies because of the politics. It is artificial how these politics search to keep people apart by the rules of war. The researches of the desert are studying ancient cultures and focus on happenings far back in the history. The new war is surprising, plain stupid and irrational. I thought it was an intelligent choice not to romanticize the lost love that the English patient has had. I think it would have been dangerous to do such as make heroes of war and love. War makes you lose and war is always ugly and unnecessary.

Mines have been planted to places where people should be able to live. Explosives under the ground are so unjust because you can't see what you are fighting against. Also one who has planted those bombs can never know who they are killing or harming. Civilians become the sufferers too often. Also what makes those so horrible is that you can't switch off the mines when the declaration of peace has been run on the radio. Even after that someone will be harmed or killed. A lot of work has to be done to clear the Earth off from danger.

What I like about Ondaatje's style is that he doesn't over explain but trusts the reader to understand and feel what the characters are going through. He uses subtle hints when he describes the choices the characters have done. One can come to a decision by self when reading and learning about the characters. The novel focuses in the moment when all four are living under the same roof. There are no clear or simple relationships. The reader is left to sort out what was all about again and make their own interpretation. I don't want to open the plot too much so you will have the amazing reading experience but I have to say that I found that many of the relationships left questions we might all answer differently. For example the English patient's and Katherine's love story that is revealed piece by piece made me question what was it about? They both seemed very surprised about their emotions  towards each other. They did have some kind of relationship, but where they in love and would they have become a couple if things would have gone in a different way? This book is written for people who like to read carefully and ponder every nuance of the text to make a conclusion. You also have to be prepared that you might not get an answer at all.

30/52 Michael Ondaatje: Anil's Ghost (2000). Just few words about this novel I read right after I finished The English Patient. The happenings take place in Sri Lanka where there is a war going on and people are disappearing. Some of the people are found dead some have gone missing and their relatives are left to uncertainty to what has happened to their loved ones. Anil has been born in Sri Lanka but lived fifteen years abroad, mainly in United States. She is a forensic pathologist and sent to make a research about what has happened in the war. In Sri Lanka she gets to work with Sarath who is an archaeologist. Together they try to sort out who is the person they find from an old grave but is proven to be a victim of a more present violence than the others found from the same place. The two professionals are forced to work in circumstances where they have to be afraid that by doing right thing and revealing the truth they might get harmed. The people of the society are coping from day to day in uncertainty what might happen. It leaves the question how to succeed to do the right thing when keeping silent might keep you safe? Yet the whole situation won't change if  everyone in staying scared at home trying to survive. Someone has to do the first action towards justice. But how much can you expect an individual to be ready to sacrifice for the sake of better tomorrow?

Hope you have wonderful and thought provoking reading experiences with both books! 
Happy Weekend!

Sannu

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Cold and Beautiful Era


28/52 F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby (1925). This is one of the classics that has been on my must read list for long. This is not a long book but somehow every time I have picked a read it has been left to the shelf. I have seen the new movie version that has absolutely miraculous visual world plus amazing song by Lana Del Ray. It describes the tragic happenings of one summer in a minimalist way. The narrator is a friend of Jay's and Daisy's and evaluates both characters perspective on happenings.

Some might disagree with me but I would say this novel is not a love story. Jay Gatsby and Daisy have met in the past and now they meet again after years. Daisy has left a mark on Jay who feels they still have great future together. When they were younger they got separated but Jay has worked ever since to get luxurious living conditions that would fit for Daisy. It sounds romantic story at first but after a while I came to think it over. Maybe Daisy has a different understanding about the matter. She has moved on in her life, sometimes she might think her first love but actually she lives in the moment. Jay's love is mixed with obsession and one goal that drives him in his life. It is a bit scary how he has built everything in his life to the game to win Daisy's love. He has collected money and luxuries and status to be fitting spouse. Daisy's character is difficult to sort out. My first impression was that she is bored in her life and unhappy in her marriage. But Jay is not the savior she is waiting for. Daisy is slightly reluctant from the beginning to leave her marriage and go with Jay. I guess she is amazed how Jay comes and begins where they left their relationship years ago. In some parts she seems cold person who uses people and then chooses the option that entertains her best.

Jay organizes big parties where lots of people attend. He is the hidden ringmaster who runs the whole circus and organizes all the fun. His house is not a home, it is an amusement park for the rich who don't care to know the person behind it all. He seems very popular when you look at the number of people attending to his events. His success is limited, when the fun ends the doubts about his past become the first thing people remember. Fairytale like parties, New York, the pace of the jazz era, high society and money is all a scene that has no roots or reality. People and their emotions are a play and most of them are aware of this. For them who take it real it might be dangerous. What I have heard about twenties generation and the characters of that time I understand that this novel captures the era very well. It is beautiful, bubbling, light and the undertone is tragic like people would be waiting for it all to collapse. It is like the last hours the bar is open, everyone tries so hard to have fun it becomes sad.

In his own play Gatsby is an outsider. He doesn't get to participate to all the fun he puts there to others. His mission is to build a stage for him and Daisy to perform. It is sad how he has left to live inside his own head. He has let the dream about Daisy grow too big and he has modified a living person according to his own desires. Life has made Daisy a different person than she was and she can't be found same as she was years ago when they were younger. What Jay has not understood is that life doesn't wait for you to get the best of resources. Life is the thing that happens at the moment with the people around us. He spent too much time isolated in his own imaginations what life should become and used his time collecting the haberdashery he thought is needed in perfect life. People are keen to see plays like this but it is just a day in amusement park, then they return back home and their own life. It is a cliche but friends that come with the matter do not matter.


Monday, 25 June 2018

Batik and Wood Ornament Tablecloth






I think I have found the secret of a relaxing weekend and learned to live according to this great discovery. Whether it is weekend or some other holiday I want to use purely for relaxing and gathering energy, I won't make any plans. I don't take any meetings or book activities that are at a certain time. I might make a mind map about things that I would like to do. I try to catch the mood that I currently have but I don't make a schedule like finish that DIY project or read two books. I just want to figure out what would make me happy in that particular weekend.

What comes to blog posts I love to write and create but I have began to feel that all my weekends and free time goes to blogging. Because my blog is small, indie and gives no income, keeping it should be fun. Spending all weekends and evenings in front of the computer was not enjoyable anymore. So I made a rule that Monday-Thursday are my writing and blogging days and other days are free from blogging no matter how few posts I get published. It would be different if this was a work that I could do as my day job and if it would offer me the basic income. I haven't earned a penny from this. It has been also a conscious choice not to fill my blog with ads and sponsored posts. I have spent so much time to this that I won't sell my hard work cheaply for example advertising products that have nothing to do with this blog's focus and values. I have nothing against collaborations with people or companies that have similar ideas and values. Still I have felt it has been also a good thing that I don't have to please commercial interests. I have been able to express my own opinions more freely, create content that I hope inspires you my dear reader and choose what ever topics that come to my mind.

I have often thought about my blog and social media focus. I feel like there should be a coherent idea that can be pressed into one sentence that would express my whole blog. I know that if I would want to become successful I should concentrate more and write about DIY projects and maybe combine that with home decor. That was how I started blogging. This year I have been reading more than usual because I took 52 books challenge. Because this is a lifestyle blog I thought it sort of goes to the theme. For some it might seem like there are too many things going on. I have read some guides for bloggers and one rule has been that a good blog should answer to readers needs and try to help them. In search results blogs that have a focused theme might succeed better if I have understood correctly. There is like more hits for the word reader is looking for. But then there is the thing about inspiration and what the blogger wants to give for the world. And blogger's own need for self expression and to spell out the thoughts blogger wants to share. There are as many bloggers as there are readers so there is plenty to pick from. I have always loved blogs that have many themes, crafts, opinions, culture, art, home decor, books, movies etc. It is like the blogger opens the whole world that inspires them.

Sure in fast paced world it takes time to find these gems that really put time and effort to create, explore, write and take inspiring photos. It is against click baits and fast consumed culture. But for me nothing is better than a writer who challenges, provokes thoughts in a sophisticated manner and who seeks to inspire people to think and act differently. I don't know what the future of blogging is or if there is even a future for this. The quicker ways of consuming creative content have taken the lead. What I see as a problem is the huge workload that falls to indie content creators. There is an appetite to have more and more great texts, pictures, video, sound.. and that all should be easily achievable. Watching TV  has become rare but that doesn't mean we are not after entertainment or eduntainment anymore. We carry phones that are huge online libraries full of creative content that we are allowed to enjoy for free. We spend a minute or two browsing hundreds of interior pictures of craft ideas. It might be a micro second we spend on a single picture. But behind that picture might be an indie content creator who has spent hours creating the post without receiving a single penny.

Time used for a single blog post is enormous compared to how much attention it gets. Sure some get more attention than others and there are also professionals, solopreneurs and teams that really do content creation as their day job and get their salary from it. Still I see the culture social media has created is not based at people getting paid of their work. It is based on millions of people doing social media as their hobby or second job. The dedication these unpaid professionals have to their so called hobby is high. This really makes me wonder the earning logic and what we wait people to do for free. If there is no money transaction could there still be a good practice how much time, as readers, we give to this work. Is it possible to do against the fast consumed culture and decide that, wow this idea is amazing, I am going to read this post through, watch the pictures again, comment and share. Or do we instantly seek the next wow and take for granted what has bee spread in front of our eyes.

I have felt that concentration instead of a massive load of stimulants keeps me more relaxed, productive and creative. What comes to this blog's content it is going to be the same mosaic it has been for the past two years. I don't see a reason why books, opinions and DIY projects could not co-exist. For me making crafts and DIY projects has always been empowerment. It is a wonderful feeling to create something yourself and make a piece that is 100% what you want it to be. Using upcycled and low cost materials has been one of my main principles. Crafts and home decor is for all!

I had planned to write few words about past days atmosphere but ended up writing more about my current thoughts. It has really circled in my head lately if there is any sense of writing this blog when it would seem more clever to spent the same time on social media posting pictures and videos that get more attention than posts that take huge amount of time. That is something I need to ponder during this summer.

So with this long lead that took us to side track it is time for part 3 of how many projects can you make from one broken shade! I have already made this Nordic Style Plant Wall and Decorated a Box with Upcycled Material. Now I show you how to upcycle an old tablecloth with washing machine color and little wooden ornaments that are made of the scraps of the broken shade.

Batik and Wood Ornament Tablecloth

You will need:

An old white tablecloth
Color that is attached in washing machine 
(read from the package how much do you need to dye the tablecloth)
Strong cotton yarn
Some wood from old shade

Japanese saw
Sanding paper
Drilling machine and 2 mm drill
Scissors
Clothespins
Needle



Step 1. Use clothespins to mark the first row of batik patterns.


Step 2. Cover the tablecloth with knots: twist the fabric and bound yarn thickly around the fabric and make a firm knot. To get a pattern where there is two circles make two knots as shown in the picture.


Step 3. More patterns you want the more knots you have to do. If you want just few patterns you don't have that much work to do. It is according to your own design. Then dye the tablecloth according to the instructions given on package.


Step 4. This is a piece of an old wooden shade (pictures here!). Make one model according to the measurements shown in the picture. Using the model draw the cutting plan to the piece of wood. Saw of the pieces and sand the edges. Drill a hole in every piece with 2 mm drill.


Step 5. When the tablecloth has been dyed open the knots and let the fabric dry, then iron it properly. From the knots you get beautifully colored yarn to attach the wooden ornaments! You can use both dyed yarn and yarn that is not dyed.


Step 6. Put yarns to the ornaments so it is easy to attach the ornaments to the tablecloth.


Step 7. If there is a pattern on the fabric, like on this tablecloth there are subtle stripes, use it as a starting point when you design how to arrange the ornaments to the tablecloth. Use a needle to attach an ornament to the fabric and make a firm knot.







Inspiring New Week To You All!

Sannu

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

When Those in Rule Abandon Rules



27/52 Anton Chekhov: Sakhalin Island (1890-1895) In Finnish Sahalin was published in 1972. This book contrasts with the life I am living and the summer day that spreads around me. When I picked Anton Chekhov's short stories from library I came across one of his less known works, a report from Sakhalin. In his thirties in 1889 Anton Chekhov traveled through Siberia to Sakhalin. It is an island near Japan where criminals were sent to prison and/or forced labor. This report is melancholic read. It pictures a place where nature seems cruel and bare, nothing is working and ideals are buried deep. There is little hope and only motivation to live is to get away some day.

It took me a while to realize that this book is actually about the history of Finland and Finnish people too. When this book was written and Chekhov visited Sakhalin Finland was a part of Russia. He mentions Finns as one group of people among many who populate the island. People from all parts of Russia were sent to Sakhalin to serve their punishment. The place is geographically so far that I had difficulties connecting the history in my head.

And that is one of the characters that made punishment to be sent to Sakhalin so horrible. It was a place in nowhere. Of course it is on the map and nowadays when the world is connected it is one place among many where people live. Back then it hold long mental distance. In the book prisoners and people in forced labor dreamed about getting back to Russia. They felt they were cast away from their motherland to nonexistence.  One of the most horrible things one can imagine is to be completely isolated and forgotten. They were forced to leave home, from one's nearest and dearest, the place where everything is familiar, their own cozy nest on earth to go to a place where nothing is functioning and circumstances are horrible. When they were taken from their homes they were taken from their traditions and their own history. Life on Earth is short and it means a lot to be part in something bigger. We want to know about our family and where we come from and who are coming after us. It is not always question about family generations, it might be meaningful work that we do on our lifetime. We want to know we have done something meaningful and that after us someone is carrying our task forward. In this island it sounds like their life is a short blink of an eye with no before and after, there is just the moment they live.

The reason why people where sent there was that they were criminals and the isolation and work was planned to cure them from their bad habits. Chekhov criticizes the success of this task and shows how the good ideals have been forgotten. What has taken place is the interest of individuals and companies that take advantage of the poor state of others. Instead of learning how to be part of the society they were forced to work in too heavy tasks, basically in slavery. It makes us question the punishment and whose right it is to give a punishment. Ideally a punishment is meant for criminals to ponder and rethink what they have done and as a result learn a new way of life. Inhuman living circumstances and cruel slavery turns the look to those who say they are on the right side and curing the criminals. The line between a criminal and a person living according to the rules is very thin in this case. Because the right to give a punishment becomes from good intentions and pure belief in just society. It is not free status that allows to use those who have lost it. In Chekhov's cruel example the prisoners working in the coal mine are used as slaves, the company does't do it's duties or follow the agreements, and yet the company is supported by government. Blinded by the dichotomy of who is good and evil the company's behavior is not questioned at all. Makes you think about right and wrong indeed.

In timeline these happenings take place near the turn of the century. It is very close to our time yet the methods used in Sakhalin are far from modern practices. Or that is what I truly hope. It is not only that 1890s Sakhalin contrasts with the world in 2018. Sakhalin looked old fashioned and against the morals of 1890s society too. But what people don't see they find difficult to believe and criticize. That is why Chekhov wanted to bring reality in front of the eyes of his contemporaries. In some parts Chekhov seems to be writing a statistic and only gives numbers without explanation what those mean. He moves from place to place giving facts about how many women and men lived there and what was their status. It would have been interesting to know more about the people behind the numbers.

What is the common theme all along the book is the total lack of interest and ethicallnes in Sakhalin. The rules and laws of society do not apply and a place that should teach a new way of life has become criminal institution per se. Officers do not follow common guidelines and they have their own questionable practices how things are done. When the understanding of good practice has disappeared during the years the end result is devastating. Human beings are beasts and surprisingly easily forget what is good and precious for the whole humankind. Own interest comes first no matter how noble we think we are. That is why we discuss together about how we want to live and according to what rules. Right and wrong blurs quite quickly creating a world where no one has possibilities for good life. In the isolated island there are criminals and those keeping eye on criminals. After a while the lack of rules creates small violations against law that turns into common anarchy. In Sakhalin slavery, violence, hunger and prostitution had become reality because common right practices were abandoned.

When Chekhov analyses how in the island children and poor ones could be helped the best way he says better to be betrayed than to betray oneself meaning everyone who seems to be in need of help should be helped without a fear that they are using the money wrong. I think it sums up the whole book quite well. One should not consider if good living circumstances belong for all. One should not be afraid that someone takes advantage if we do good. When we see that something is done wrong we should try to work our best to make change and not to betray ourselves with words that make wrong right.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Adventure Began at the Age of 28




26/52 Karen Blixen: Den afrikanske farm (1937). The book is called Out of Africa in English. In 1913 Karen Blixen was 28 when she moved to Africa to marry baron Bror Blixen-Finecken. She spent 17 in her farm in Kenya near Nairobi. During that time she learned a lot and got to know local people and their habits. She also fell in love with Africa wholeheartedly and also found her true love Denys Finch Hatton (he was not the baron she married). Her time in Africa was over when she had to leave because her coffee farm didn't make money and she was forced to move back to Denmark to live with her mother. That is when she began her career as writer and became world known author. I found her story inspiring because I always struggle with my own life decisions and feel like I have to hurry. I find myself thinking that everything should be done before 30 or at least something remarkable. If one is talented and hard working some results should be visible at young age.  I am 28 and it is wonderful to think how awesome adventures I have in front of me. Some are child wonders, they know what they want to do and do it. But we are not all the same. Some of us have to live first to be able to make our grand move. Karen was over forty and not in the most flattering circumstances when she began her creative career. She had made a bankruptcy, love of her life had died in an accident and she also had problems with her health. Quite a life she managed to live without hurrying. And no one can say she was not creative even though she didn't make a breakthrough in her early age! I relate to 28-year-old Karen in the step of her future but your adventure can begin at any age.



First of all the book is about Karen's love to Africa and it's way of life. She is keen to know locals and attends to many of their happenings. She uses exceptionally beautiful language through the book and all the places she goes and interesting people she meets come to life like the reader would know them too. I was fascinated by the nature that offers so many contrasts. Dry season and heavy rain, all the wildlife, extreme conditions and painted skies. Reading the book made me feel Karen's love for all that and made me understand why she put her roots to the African soil. This was a book I carried with me and just looking at it made me dive in her world. This is not neutral or odorless, it has passion for the land that it's wonders. It sounds like Karen deeply loved her life there even in the difficult circumstances. I have heard that when you find a place where you want to die and settle there you become very happy. Maybe that is it, she was in the place she had to be and even if the end would have come she could not want to be anywhere else. Perfect state of calmness. She doesn't complain about what life offers or say that she would like to be back in Denmark where she was from. In her attitude there is openness to learn more about the land and it's people and she is interested to take part in the local life. The time when Karen lived in Kenya the land was under the British rule. Because I don't want to romanticize too much I have to say that in some cases she takes a role of a ruler. In some parts there is a patronizing tone in her writing when she describes the locals. She tries to solve problems and works as a link between colonial authority and local people.  She also says that she hit her workers to make them learn their tasks better and that makes the reader ponder how on Earth could she do that and feel that she had a right.

Another theme in Out of Africa is Karen's love to Denys. Karen mentions her husband Bror only once in the book if I read it right. Mostly she describes what is around her and what they do with the people living in her farm. Then Denys sneaks into the picture. First it is not clear that they are lovers. There are so many people visiting in Karen's farm and Denys is just one of them. I had seen the movie, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford on it, and I knew to wait for Robert. I didn't remember what he was called in the movie so when Karen wrote about Denys I thought she was one of her friends.  They are equal partners going to the most exciting events. If in the movie Robert had to save Meryl from the lions, then in this real life story they go lion hunting together. Karen is a strong woman who has learned to hunt and she trusts her own capability to survive and make wise decisions. Her strong mind, curiosity and self esteem becomes clear from the first pages. When with Denys they share experiences together. I guess they were soulmates who knew each other's capacity and limitations. When they go for lion hunting they trust each other completely. And I still have to remind you about the flying scene in the movie, it makes me cry every time, it is so touching. In the book they fly too and it is equally beautiful when they explore the nature from the sky. When Karen died in 1962 the same Psalm (121, if I understood correctly) was read on her grave like in the grave of Denys. That was her will. It goes I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills.. They both loved the mountains and wished to be buried there. In the end only Denys was left resting in the African soil.

I had to read more about Karen Blixen and I had Pohjoismaisia taiteilijakoteja (book about nordic artist homes) edited by Finn Jor (1999) in my book shelf and there is a chapter about Karen and her home in Denmark. Karen doesn't tell much facts about herself in the book and I was keen to know more. The facts I told in the beginning and in the end are something I learned from Pohjoismaisia taiteilijakoteja.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Summer Between Covers

I will dedicate this week for summer reads. Last weekend was wonderful what came to weathers. I spent hours reading outdoors on my balcony and in a park fetching some ice cream every now and then. Now we have a minor storm here and not a day too early. Grass is yellow because it has been so dry past months. Last week I finished three books and now I have already started the fourth one. I am bingeing books now and have huge appetite to read more and more. Maybe it is summer and long days that make it possible to read longer terms before it is too dark to read. I have made notes to remember what I thought during the reading experience and I will share those notes with you this week. This means a short book post every day this week! I hope to connect with you and discuss more about books so don't forget to follow me on Instagram @sannu_cns. I would love to meet new people and find inspiring accounts to follow <3


25/52 Tove Jansson: Sommarboken (1972) is to start my summer reads series. And what could fit to this category better? This is so far the best attempt to put summer between covers and a successful one. The essence of summer is as I can remember my summers from childhood: Long days, sometimes even a bit too long with nothing special to do. Time was to be spent, wasted even, not to be preserved or managed. Nature was in bloom and we picked flowers almost every day. There were new flowers to be found daily and we were curiously wandering in nearby woods. We went to the beach, there was a long path through the woods that lead to the water. There we lay and swam, juice in a bottle and maybe chips or some other snack to keep salt levels up in the heath. I went to the library many times every week and took huge piles of books. I remember once that me and my friend went to the library and took tens of books. We were amazed by all the titles and fun stories and we had time to read. Though I had challenges taking all those books home, something that has not changed ever since. In Finland, that time, the summer holiday from school was 2 and a half months. Two and a half moths to spend with friends, summer around us, no duties. It sounds like a universe far away! 

And Tove Jansson gets this all. There is a young girl with her grandmother and they have a whole summer to spend together. They mix together what is real and what is imagined. They make their own magic world by looking carefully what is around them.  In the haunted forest there are skulls and other creepy things. They know birds that die for their love. The old and the young one imagine and play together. They have no boring limitations. Summer gives the best environment to find a door to this world of fairytales. At times they go too deep to their imaginary and one has has to pull other one out when it becomes too exciting. All kinds of days have their own activities and moments of fun. Nature is not the same for two days it changes itself for every morning creating a new scene. It is like in my childhood, every weather had it's own character. Rainy days were for reading under the blankets listening for the rain. Sunny days were for biking and exploring the streets, biking pass the suburbs, countryside, fields, pretty yards and forests. Young girl Sophia has secret places, she spends a night in a tent, goes swimming and explores the attic. Her grandmother keeps her company as they are on a summer cottage in an island in coastal Finland. 

In the eyes of the child adults are tired. They want to sleep all the time. I remember this too from my childhood. One is like an energy factory that has endless amounts of capacity to go and play. I was all the time doing something and it was very difficult to comprehend why adults didn't have energy to participate 24/7 or why they sometimes were absent-minded. Sophia sees everything clearly as only a very young person can. When her grandmother escapes from her son to smoke Sophia comes after a minute to her hide knowing exactly where she is and what she is doing; smoking secretly from her son.  Children have no expectations how things should be and thus they seem to see things as they are. They observe and see what adults are trying to hide or don't want to see in each other. The grown up son doesn't want to believe that his mother goes to hide in cave for a smoke but granddaughter can see it. If Sophia is frank because she hasn't yet taken the boring manners of adults, then her grandmother is frank because she is beyond caring. She has shaken off all the norms and good behavior. Now she gets to say as she thinks and be as annoying as she wants. In her character it is pictured in a fine way how adults want their own space and privacy, something that is difficult with kinds that are curious and energetic all the time. Sometimes adults want to be in their own thoughts, hiding, without the role of a grandmother who has to answer to every demand. This grandmother goes to smoke in cave or buries herself under the moss in the haunting forest. She has a need to rest, she knows world will go with it's own pace even without her taking part of it. 

These peculiar friends, young girl and her grandmother are careless and irresponsible. They do what comes to their mind and don't ask a permission. It is not clear at all which one is taking care of the other, maybe they are a pair that survives together filling each other's weaknesses. They express things in a blunt way. It is impossible not to laugh for grandmother's sayings that are packed with live's wisdom: who cares! They are not polite to each other. They question each others capacity to manage everyday life. I loved how women where described in this novel. Father figure is on the background and  they hustle together what ever they like without limitations. Everything is all right as long as you don't get caught, could be their motto.  They go to places they are not allowed to go and do things they really should't. Grandmother being on the lead they break into neighbor's summer cottage and when they get caught they crawl in to the bushes. It is said that when you are old enough you become child again. There are hints that the grandmother has lost her adult status and become someone that needs to be kept an eye on. But this doesn't stop her a bit because she is cunning enough to play her grandmother's role when needed.

Early Spring turns into Autumn in the island and it is all so very poetical and beautiful. It is like summer is. First lush green, then August heat and small steps toward storms and days spent indoors. Between these pages summer in all it's glory is ready to be experienced again even in the middle of the winter. 



Thursday, 14 June 2018

One of My Favorite Authors



Tove Jansson has been a part of my life since I was a kid. She is one of those authors who has so much to give through a lifetime. When I was a kid my mother used to read me the Moomin books and when I grew older I read the same books myself. Every time I read those timeless stories I open a new layer. When I have grown up I have found details that I could not possibly understand as a kid. When I was a teenager I kept a school presentation about Tove Jansson. Because I was thorough back then as I am now I found an article that opened the characters of the Moomin valley with a more grown up perspective. I had just realized how philosophical the books actually are and how well they describe humanity. Then was the presentation day and I explained how according to the article Groke is actually Moominmamma's dark side that arrives every time when mamma has a hard time. I also remember referring that Stinky is an alcoholic. I got a great laugh because my school mates were in the belief that Moomin books are children's books and children's books don't include stuff like that. Well, now being more adult I could endlessly analyse the characters of the Moomin books. I have to say I haven't yet read a book or series of books that would picture us humans with such clarity and honesty. 

What I have read about Tove Jansson is that she wanted to be known from her other works as well. She wrote more than Moomin books and was a talented painter and cartoonist. I have read Bildhuggarens dotter and Rent spel years ago in Finnish. (I put the names of the books in Swedish because I think that with the original names you can find easier translations to a language you can read.) Now I have had a long pause that I haven't read anything from her. On my last library visit I went through shelves to find something interesting and came across her books. I took two novels and this collection short stories that I am talking today. 


24/52 Tove Jansson: Docksk├ąpet (1978) I read this in Finnish Nukkekaappi ja muita kertomuksia. Tove Jansson is a sharp writer of short stories. She pictures the everyday happenings carefully and clearly. The way you can write about seemingly neutral expression and show how it is all but neutral. How one can say there is ingredients in the fridge go help yourself and how it is obvious in that situation that person stating this means he is mad. She also knows how things lose their portions and small disagreement goes to a quarrel and how silly and serious we human beings are at the same time.

The name story Docksk├ąpet is about a couple who retires and finds it difficult to adjust to the new phase. It is challenging for them to figure out how to fill their days and be together all day long. Alexander has worked as a upholsterer and to get the days pass better he begins to build a miniature house with all it's detailed furniture and small objects. What begins as a small hobby turns into a project that he crafts with all his preciseness. Time and space consuming project closes Erik outside and that is where the conflict begins. When Boy arrives to help with miniature's electricity it is not obvious anymore to whom the house is built. The story is serious but has so much bitter sweet comic in it. Their small gestures express so much about their dynamics. The miniature house is more than a dollhouse, it is a symbol about their future and how it is going to be, and how they will manage and sort out the challenging phase to adapt to the new lifestyle as retired couple. They both have time to think their relationship and own life which makes them grow insecurities. The pattern of work and free time divided life has kept them functioning. In the end we are all quite insecure and the smallest of actions can start a snow ball effect that builds a bigger conflict. Also the story brings up how different personalities we are and how various ways we have to show our appreciation and love to each other. Alexander wants the house to be perfect and sees the end result as what matters the most. He forgets to do the project together and doesn't see how Erik peeks on the background to be part of the project that has gotten a more symbolic value. Even though perfect might look pretty it's cost might be too pricey. It can't be that only one person in the relationship is qualified to take the lead and the other one has to do minor tasks like mold mini bananas and apples from clay to get the time pass better. Even though the theme is serious Jansson's wry humor makes it amusing read.

The humorous style carries through the collection of stories and I enjoyed a bit anarchistic approach to life that Tove Jansson has written to her characters. Old sculptor lives with his monkey who he calls monkeydevil (apinasaatana in Finnish) and other not so flattering words. It feels refreshing how cranky he is and how many swear words he uses. Like his vocabulary has become restricted during the years living with the monkey who actually doesn't understand the meaning of the words. It is wonderful how he pets his monkey to blankets yet calls her by names. The ugly names he uses for the monkey are without the last sharp edge and though meaningless. The monkey is dear to him and even the reader loves the little evil monkey. I think these kind of love hate relationships are not uncommon. At the same time the monkey annoys him but it is a part of his life and taking care of the monkey is somehow emotionally important for the sculptor who lives alone. It also seems that the monkey is his only friend and they have formed a way to cope days. When he reads the critics the monkey helps him survive by loyally ripping off the difficult pages. He ponders how similar people and monkeys are with their urge to hit to person's vulnerable spots, what is different he thinks is that monkeys are forgiven. Maybe we all have an animal urge to destroy like monkeys have. The difference is that in a monkey it is pure and comes as an instinct to rip a paper or create a mess. We know when these actions hurt another person yet we do those things intentionally and it makes our actions even more evil. Maybe it is an egoistic urge to destroy pretty things someone else has done because the applause and appraise is not for us. Still even if we are horrible to each other and get to taste our own medicine we still try to success according to civilized manner. Like the monkey that sculptor pities we still climb, make an effort, even though the world is not always so welcoming. 

Rosa and Elena are planning a trip. Rosa reluctantly tries to dream about same things as Elena in a fear that she will leave her if she is not courageous and adventurous enough. At the same time when they are together she is bound to her mother with whom she still lives with. Before she and her mother have dreamed about travelling together and she feels that something is still incomplete before she can move on with Elena. It looks like she has to choose between her childhood and adulthood and that is where she struggles. But in the end those two things are not so divided and one keeps part of the childhood  even though the adult side begins to dominate. Little by little the company of childhood family is in minor role when partners, friends and professional life begins to fill days. Elena puts high pressure for Rosa to move on with her life and challenge herself because Rosa has adapted a pattern that feels easy but unexciting. It is sometimes impossible too see how stuck you are before someone pushes you to see your own life more clearly. It is horrifying to jump to the unknown and try to learn new instead of same old. When Rosa is afraid that Elena leaves her, maybe she is also afraid skipping life as a young adult. Elena has an open minded and curious attitude towards life and it looks like she believes her skill to cope and achieve in life. Maybe Rosa sees the risk that she will become her mother too early and misses the essential part of life if she doesn't dare to jump for their relationship with full force. These decisions to act are lonely (big decisions in life are in the end always made alone in one's head) and hard ones but inevitable to move on in life. That is why the push forward feels so painful because it can't be avoided. 

The rest of the stories have equally interesting themes. There is a grandmother who has a different concept of time than everyone else which makes it difficult for her grandson to adapt to the average lifestyle. A cartoon drawer is haunted by the disappearance of his predecessor. A party of elder women have a great time outdoors when they remind each other from the old days and observe the youth. Truly recommend this collection of stories!



Monday, 11 June 2018

Decorate a Box with Upcycled Material




Happy new week everyone! Today I feel particularly well rested and the reason is simple. Yesterday evening I closed my phone for few hours. It is surprising how much energy an open phone can take. I tend to browse it quite often, check the weather and time, see whats happening in the social media, write messages, read some news etc. If it gives a sound I will go and see whats up, usually a new e-mail is in question and then I begin to think what ever is the subject of the message. You know how people send e-mails in weird times even though they would be living in the same time zone. Before these phones I saw the messages when I first went to computer in the morning. Now those might wake me up at 2 a.m. Also I guess that the thought of being online all the time uses our energy unconsciously. Smart phones are great for connecting and getting inspiration and support from other creatives. It saves time not to be forced to open the computer all the time. But then the opposite side  of the coin is that immediate reaction is required. And that readiness state consumes energy. 

I have been drawing and writing a special summer bullet journal. I made a mind map about things I want to do this summer. Most of the things I listed where relaxing and offline activities. I want to read books all day, bike, craft and, what really woke me up, to spend a weekend with no plans at all. These days it is challenging to have a weekend without plans in advance. Always someone sends a message and demands a meeting when you have planned to spend a day without responsibilities. I don't dream about spending the whole weekend doing nothing or meeting no one. I dream about empty space I can spend as it feels like in the moment. That in the morning when I wake up I don't have a booked calendar but possibility to read til afternoon, go to thrift stores, attend to an event, call friends, pick flowers or clean the house if I choose. These empty spaces are easily broken. First there is one meeting, then a task and another. This is a question about personality too. I am an introvert and need days when I can load batteries without a need to be social. Some might get more energy when they know they can fly from meeting and task to another. It is not being selfish or difficult if you say no when you need time to relax and go according to your own plans.

Getting inspired and doing creative work consist of stimulation (for example object, material, picture, voice, scent), time to ponder and hard work. When one of these factors is working an idea might be born but to get it finished is quite impossible. To turn a rough idea into a diamond I need all these three. This is a second DIY post where I use the same material, wooden shade I found from garbage. I have plans to make a third post too. In the first post I showed how I made a Nordic Style Plant Wall. Today I show how to use the left over material in a smaller project. Smaller just in it's physical form because this project requires more time. In the third project I will use left overs of this material. Material should be appreciated and used well even though it is upcycled and I want to provoke thought how many inspirational uses there are for a very common product when it goes broken. So the stimulation for this project was an object/material I found from garbage. Then I needed some days and empty evenings to look at the material and test it to process the ideas that occurred to my mind. I had and idea about a wooden box that could be decorated with the wooden pieces from the shade but how will I make it? Then it was hard work to go through ideas, choose one and make as neat finish as possible. I am very pleased with the end result. 

I had this wooden box that I had bought seven years ago. Back then country style was very fashionable but after the trend the box has served as storing box in the closet. I have been keeping Bullet Journal for an year now and thought it might be practical to have all markers, pencils, stickers, rulers, post-its etc. in one box that I could easily reach from table and spend few hours drawing. The box had to fit my home decor so I don't need to hide it back to a closet. Old box was perfect what came to size but it looked a bit silly with my current style. I wanted to give it a makeover and use upcycled material.


This is how the box looked before. I took the pieces apart and began to work with the box first, leaving the cover to wait. I measured the height of the box and began by sawing pieces of wood with the same size.


Then I used wood glue and glued the pieces side by side to cover the sides. When the work was dry I sanded the uneven ends.


Then I took off the framed chalkboard from the cover. I sawed a bit shorter pieces that matched to the cover better. I draw a line in the middle and glued the first line of herringbone. Then I worked the sides. Little gaps in the edges I filled with small leftover pieces. Then I let the work dry properly.


After the work was dry I sawed of the parts that went over the plate.


Almost ready. I still wanted to change the color of the frame to fit better to my home and it's colors. I used leftover coconut paint and painted three layers. Then it was time to put the pieces together. 


I am pleased how beautiful and stylish this box looks like in my living room. It hides the pile of BuJo equipment but keeps it near so I can anytime spend an hour of two drawing. Writing letters is trend these days so this box could also work as a keep for envelopes, papers and pencils. Or you could store in remote controllers, tissues, keys and all sorts of small stuff that lies on desks and on top drawers. Handy and pretty!




Hope you found this post both  inspiring and thought provoking. I wish you an inspiring summer week!

Sannu