Thursday, 19 April 2018

Love Story. Changed Ever After

This novel got me on the first page with it's beauty that is not in the loveliness but rather in the roughness of life. Still it holds lots of romance that has something similar with the worlds most read love stories. I often disagree when people describe a novel as romantic. I have read many books that have been said to be romantic and been very disappointed. I don't like love stories where the main participants just know each other from far away and then the other one dies and the one left behind spends their whole life thinking about love they had. I don't think it is romantic, it is plain cruel. Though I don't question the love that these characters have but I think romantic tale has to have something promising, some great moments even though the end would be tragic. The other way how romantic stories have let me down has been being too sweet, pure and easy. When a story is too sweet it begins to lose it's power to describe life holistically and human emotions in the broader scale.

16/52 Julian Barnes: The Only Story (2018) Paul is having a summer break from the university and goes to a tennis club from his parents suggestion. In the club he meets Susan, married woman in her fifties. In the novel Paul looks back his life and tells their love story that became his only story. Julian Barnes' novel has some elements of a classic love story. It is old fashioned in a good way and doesn't seek to hide it with cheap tricks. The Only Story is based on the romantic thought that there is one love story in every life that holds more meaning than the others. It doesn't give limitations or requirements what kind of love it should be. The novel makes it simple to believe in larger than life love.

It is easy to think that this story could take place in the real world. Their love story doesn't make you envy them, it has too much realism for that. But the main thought about one true love is something minimalistic and modest in this world of maximalist experience and rush to do more than one actually needs. It is stated as a fact in the novel that that is how it tends to be, one has single story that holds more in the mass of other stories. It is not idealism, it is realism. Truly fascinating thought. Especially if you think you only know your story when the end is closing and you can look back your stories and see what has been the theme in your life so to say. For Paul it was Susan who filled his life even when they were separated she had more meaning to him and his life than anyone else he met and was with. I wonder if we want to rule our life in advance and be in control when the name of the game would actually be to live and see and then make the conclusions. It is tricky to do it the other way around. Like if you write and try to close the summary first and then do the ten chapters before to match the summary you already printed out. Either you bury the leads the text could take or you still have to go back to the summary and write it again.

I liked the attitude Paul has as he looks back his life and ponders how it is to be at his old age and what kind of person he was at young age. He understands the young and their thinking patter and doesn't judge their omnipotence and belief in life. He sees how it belongs to the phase they are having in life and lets them be in their own reality. He sees the humor and irony in every phase of human life. I loved the way how Paul wonders that young people think the reason for the existence of old people is to envy the young.

Paul also thinks about age as an abstract phenomenon. Paul and Susan had a big age difference but it doesn't show in their relationship or their being together. They are the same age in their minds even though Susan has more years and that way more experience of life. Having lived through those years doesn't mean she knows more about how life should be lived. What she knows are some of the facts of life and realism about human being. She doesn't guide or influence but tells her notions that Paul will come to understand as he gets the same years behind him. There is no package about life one could pass and teach to other person to make them better and more ready. Experience comes through the years and with no shortcuts anyone could pour to one's head.

What comes to attitudes and values those are not connected to age. For Paul Susan is different generation by the values than the other members of her generation. Life values, political opinions and attitudes towards fellow humans and what is happening in the world is not bound to age. There are values that are more represented in some generations maybe because of the shared reality and experience. Still it is personal how one sees the world and what values they keep precious. Paul notices when he meets Susan that she is not like other people of her generation or as it could be put, like other people of the social circle both Paul ans Susan are members of. Young people are not always free and open minded as it could be thought stereotypically. Age can give more permissible approach to life and other humans. One is quite cruel and one sided when young. Through the years one comes more familiar with one's own faults, mistakes and dark sides and doesn't view other people so critically but with more mercy. Also what you know about world as a young person doesn't disappear. You still know it as you become to know what it is to be in the middle and old age. Maybe Paul and Susan meet in the circle of age in a perfect time. Paul has still the knowledge, eagerness for life and self-esteem of a young person and Susan has learned to view life with more open perspective and acceptance.

Still even though they meet on the minds level the years Susan has behind her begin to separate them. The life someone has lived can't be wiped away. Love or any other relationship doesn't  begin from an empty table. They both bring their own package that they have to accept and learn to live with. What has been has it's effect no matter how great you build your life together. The passed years continue to live in us. What has been the problem of one's own becomes a joint problem because it might develop a problem of a different kind for the other member of the relationship. It is difficult to see near and with small steps of acceptance both are in the same situation. What keeps together is remembering the wonderful moments and collecting more of them even though they become sparse.

If the other books I have been writing about have been about relatively young people in the phase when one decides what path to choose in life, what to become when grown up and how to spend life well then this book offers a different angle. In this novel one looks back life lived. There is no more pressure to make good decisions and spend life effectively. It is what it became. This novel examines life and love and makes both feel grand and meaningful. Like there is destiny and bigger picture we take part in with our own life histories and love stories. Paul's and Susan's story is not fairytale and that makes it raw and emotional. As Paul ponders there are things in life you can't get deleted even though you decide to forget because those things have already changed you. This is a romantic novel that lifts love high without offering a ready picture to keep as an ideal. It doesn't exclude anyone with it's happiness and easy answers that lead to happy ever after. Maybe it is more changed ever after and remembering why one has become what one is and keeping the story in mind.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Quilt Art: Everyday We Wake Up

Everyday we wake up and a new day is ahead. A day that will never come back after we have spent it. Time doesn't make difference between Sundays and Mondays. It is wonderful to wake up on a  Sunday morning when you have a free day to spend as you like. But time is spent on Monday too and Wednesday. Precious time of ours that is never coming back. They say a human being only wakes up to die. How I have thought that quote is that we can't actually understand how limited our time here is and we are kind of surprised when it actually ends. It is an abstract thought that we live and then we don't. 

To actually treat everyday with the importance it holds is a difficult task. Time goes so quickly and weeks just float away and that is how it is. It is part of life as time is not tangible. From the view point of time there are no class A and B days. Of course some days have more meaning to us than others. Most of the days hold so much routine it is difficult to tell days form each other as same activities take place in same order. But these are not class B days. When we go to sleep today we cross one day from the calendar. One day of our life that is not coming back. Do we think about it that way or are we waiting for something to happen so that we want time to pass quickly? Is it more important to focus on those days that are more special, more enjoyable? Tomorrow is one ordinary Monday, should we hope that it goes quickly? To get to the next day and finally reach the weekend, if weekend is the one holding more expectations than the five days most of our calendar is filled. 

Tomorrow is a lovely Monday, a start for a new week that waits to be experienced. It is motivating to think what we can do tomorrow, who we meet and what unexpected things may happen. We have had and will have moments we want to wipe out of our memory. But to wipe complete weeks in advance, just because we think those mundane days will have nothing to offer, is quite radical. So tomorrow when we do some everyday task we do it once in a lifetime at that time, at that age and in those exact circumstances. Special day, tomorrow is, as was today. 

This is what I have been pondering when sketching and sewing my latest quilt project. Time and everyday life and how great all days are when you come to think about it from the right perspective. This quilt project is going under the name Morning Puzzle. I have been practicing on focusing and enjoying every day equally as much. I try to book time for things I enjoy the most: crafts, reading, writing, walking and cultural events. I don't have time to make these all every day, it would be impossible. Yet I do some of these things on every week day. It is inspiring to think all the activities that the day at hand holds and make it meaningful. The geometric patterns you can see in the quilt symbolize porridge bowls and sandwiches. Round shapes and the color palette for this work came from my everyday breakfast. Porridge beige, lingonberry yoghurt pink, orange and pale blue, because a book that I was reading one morning had a cover of that color. 

Here are some project pictures. Every part of the process has it's own beauty and it is pleasing to see how the quilt begins to take an actual material form step by step. I will put more pictures when the work proceeds.

Have a truly inspiring new week my dear friends!

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Entertainment Society

15/52 Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
The main character Guy Montag is a fireman living in a dystopian world where literature is banned and when books are found from someone's home the whole house is burned down. In Fahrenheit 451's world societal discussion has a veil of liberalism but it is just a surface to misguide people from seeing what is actually going on. Writers have been restricted from writing what they think so that their writings would not hurt anyone's feelings. Because literature has become neutral it doesn't interest anymore. The world seems fine but hides a wide spread anarchy. There is lots of violence going on and people don't pay attention to what is happening to other human beings. Empathy has vanished and entertainment is filling the emotional vacuum with rough and aggressive content.

This dystopian picture of the humankind is current as ever when we look at how media works today and the ways of common discussion. We have more platforms to use to say our opinions and social media has made it possible to use our voice in a very achievable methods. Yet our time is such that one might be afraid to say their opinion in fear of being misunderstood. In social media, that  is quick in it's moves, a clause can be cut out from it's context and given a new meaning. Even well meaning and constructive discussion openings can be turned upside down. Instead of continuing the thought and evolving it, a lot of  energy is used to examine it's form and weaknesses. We avoid conflict but at the same time people are divided into two separate groups in many public discussions. In fair discussion we could actually find the things we disagree and agree in disagreement. Then we could also concentrate on living together and constructing communities to those multiple things we agree. Because disagreement doesn't have to mean that the other party has to win and prove oneself right. In civilized and democratic community we can choose to see issues differently. Also in honest discussion we can learn. Like Faber says to Montag "If you hide our ignorance no one will ever hit you and you'll never learn." If we don't have the courage, or place, to say what we think and show where our thinking process is at the moment we don't expose ourselves to new knowledge and chance to get criticized and challenged to re-evaluate what we think is true. The world holds as many truths as there are people. Also it is part of life that what one holds as truth changes during the life. It is as it should be. Otherwise we have not exposed ourselves to life and it's influence on us. Today's societal discussion has a resemblance with what Bradbury describes in Fahrenheit 451. There seems to be need to have simple black and white answers to complex issues. Instead of acknowledging that an issue has many sides two opposing parties are built. Then these parties can yell each other from the opposite sides of the room. Rough contrasts are good entertainment. But it is not entertainment without a cost. When public discussion about societal issues is modified to a gladiator battle it doesn't lead to solutions that would benefit the common interest. When public speakers are pictured as flat characters in a game there is a danger that good points for discussion are muted just because of the part that that character is put to play. Behind the scenes of entertainment society someone uses power when we stare the show. 

Another interesting theme Bradbury brings up is the way we understand the difference between entertainment and real life. The main character Montag's wife Mildred has become talented in reading from the lips because she has some sort of headphones on all the time. She also follows keenly the life of her so called relatives, that are as I understood it, characters of a TV show. Montag suffers from the lack of communication in their relationship and also ponders how little people really talk with each other about subjects that matter. Commercial talk has taken the place of private discussion. Word of mouth is maybe the oldest form of advertising so there is nothing new. Still it is a scary thought if in the future we would become nothing more than brand talking and consuming machines. I also thought about how our brain functions when we binge series. Can we actually understand that it is a play? Films and series are entertainment. They are also art forms, some having more ambitious artistic goals than others. A good film for example can open a new world and help to understand other people and also make us learn something new about ourselves. Its the same with other forms of art as well. Yet the amount of programs we can watch is huge and it is easy to stop living one's own life and just stare life from screen. Favorite series' character's fortunes and misfortunes become important. I have often told about how I was watching films a bit too much over on year ago. One day I came to think that wait a minute, these interesting things are not actually happening to me, I am just sitting here and watching a play. 

Technological improvements are making entertainment feel even more real. Think about virtual glasses for example. Can our brain actually register what is real or fake? In the moment binging entertainment might feel great shortcut to experiences. It is question of values actually and if we appreciate reality. The classic test to evaluate our priorities is the rocking chair. When old, sitting in the rocking chair watching back life, would you be satisfied to memorize all the great moments of love, friendship, courage, excitement, fear that you experienced through screen or what ever technology we might have coming. Oh my! That time when I voted with my phone who should win in that reality show. Sweet memories about that perfect person built to match my dreams that I saw through virtual glasses. Did we have great time! When I think about these scenarios I can't help how the world around us and our physical body is left somewhere in the matter of universe. Have you seen Spike Jonze's thought provoking film Her about the same, lack of real communication, theme?  In Her people are wearing headphones where they can hear an operating system that communicates with them. The operating system sounds like real person and is able to talk and it has a sense of humor. People begin to fall in love with their operating systems and in one scene they walk through the city streets passing each other concentrated to what they hear through their headphones. The picture is not far from what we see around us in today's world. It is the same world Montag feels anxious and alien in. In Jussi Valtonen's novel They Know Not What They Do family's daughter sits in the dining table looking  front of herself expressionless. By a new technology she is surfing from site to site and sees all in her brain. With the technology one can move to a new site before even knowing consciously what one wants to see. 

The world Montag sees around him is bound in front of TVs. People don't know how to practice criticism and they take everything as given. All materials that could provoke one to think have been vanished. It is easy world with no need to criticize or evaluate controversial messages. But it is not a happy place. There is a war going on all the time and people are just cleverly distracted and manipulated. What we see on media is human made and can contain mistakes and misunderstandings. To have background knowledge, sense of context and skill to question what is said is essential so we don't build our life and decisions on lies. It is appealing to keep one authority over all, to think that they know all and that we can trust their word. But even the well meaning people are human beings and make mistakes. That is why we need to see the effort and use our brain: see what other people have thought and read about their views, study the backgrounds, meet people, have a discussion, criticize, learn and act. And it is actually quite pleasing to be in a world and fully see it how it is, not just it's limited presentation.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Private World Of Unhappiness

Sylvia Plath's work has been on my must read list for long. Before Easter I finally took her novel, The Bell Jar, from a library. I have wanted to read this novel and at the same time I have been avoiding it. I thought it might be too depressing, especially knowing how close it is to her own life story that had a tragic ending. To be frank I was a bit scared that I would feel anxious after reading this novel. I knew I wouldn't be able to take distance from the subject and just read it as a merely fictional story. What I found, when I took the risk and read the book, was that it was actually liberating to read about the main character Esther's experiences with mental health problems. Plath describes happenings honestly and brutally. The liberating point is to find from the book a person who has gone through same peculiar thoughts as you even though life stories and experiences are otherwise very different from each other. Like what has happened/ is happening to someone right now/ might happen to anyone of us some day are all shared experiences. Something that maybe not everyone but quite many people after all might have to go through and live with. Over an year ago I watched a documentary about the history of Finnish mental hospital Kellokoski. The documentary is called Hulluus kylässä and it can be seen at Yle Areena (here), it has no English subtitles though. It is a documentary that gave me a great dose of healing laugh. I hope I tell this right because it is some time from when I saw it but a man in the documentary told about his experiences with depression. He said how he slept through nights and days for some time. And then he said, "the quality of sleep was quite poor then". And I laughed. This is all very serious, the documentary had many interviews with patients and healthcare professionals. It didn't mock or understate mental health problems. But what you need sometimes is to be able to laugh. To think that even this dark matter is part of life and belongs to the day light. Sometimes you have to cry and laugh at the same time to get over it.

14/52 Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar (1963)

The main character Esther is a hard working and talented student who has gotten a chance to spend summer in New York and work at the magazine. In the middle of her summer of dreams she begins to loose her grip on life. Esther has a pressure to achieve a lot. She is ambitious and trained to chase goals she has put to her life. It is easy to relate to her hurry in life. All the possibilities that are waiting to be taken.  I think a lot of people these days have similar feelings especially when social media informs us from different exciting ways to spend a lifetime. So many possibilities from career options to travelling the world searching for oneself. Esther describes the options with a fig tree and how she tries to choose which one of the figs to take. When she is stuck in the phase of choosing she begins to loose her options. One by one fruits get spoiled. The pressure to choose and choose wisely is too much. At some point rules in life change and one has to make decisions. During the school years and studying life is still quite forward. You just do your best if you want to achieve your goals.  Then comes the big question. What would you choose to demand from life? The ambitiousness has not disappeared anywhere and all that you know is that you would like to have an extraordinary life. Some of the pressure is self made, one knows there is capacity and will to do better and it creates a circle of trying too much. Until someday energy has disappeared from every limb and even the most simple tasks begin to feel impossible. This would be a good point to stop and take a breath. But instead of that you look around and the people around you seem to move from one part of life to the the second and you are left out and try to reach the same pull to the future.

Plath describes truthfully how little by little Esther notices how things she could do before with ease start to feel impossible. She looses the edge she has had. World begins to feel unfamiliar and looks like other people have some extra dose of energy she doesn't have. She has imagination and she can think of different ways to spend a lifetime. Yet she lacks the last push to live. She would like to write but she hasn't lived yet so she could write about her experiences. The novel is a cruel and honest picture of what it is to be a young adult. World is actually quite sick in one way. A perfect individual is both young and achieved a lot. Some can perform this combination. Some are clever not to even try. Some get tired trying. I think when you begin to compare you don't compare yourself to one person at a time. In your mind you have a bunch of people whose best features and achievements construct an image of perfection. And against that perfection you compare yourself. Like Esther you see the fig tree of possibilities and you can't choose because you actually want to achieve it all. And that is where the last drops of energy are drained out trying and pushing too hard to stay on the surface.

 With no energy mundane activities begin to feel too demanding and even irrational. What is the point to wake up every morning when you have to go to sleep and wake up the next morning. Esther nails it with her thoughts about going to shower and how exhausting it is. She questions why to go to shower when this same activity waits you the next day. She would like to have it all done at once and for good. Every routine in life just comes as the same every day leading you through the boring and dull life that has no meaning. It feels strange where do these people get the energy to do all these things. The bell jar is a private bubble with it's own rules, logic and way of behavior. When one is inside the bubble other people are left outside. They will continue to live their life and do the things they have always done. Question is how many people are waiting when one comes out of the time capsule?  Life with mental health problems is hidden from the gaze of others but it exist to the one who is living through it. After the months, years, decades that have been spent inside the capsule/ bubble/ bell jar there might be a bad consciousness about the time wasted. Because time spent inside the bell jar disappears when one comes to the world outside. It is not one of the most cheerful things to bring up in a conversation that you spent years xx dealing with mental health problems. Not that many people want to hear about it. World wants healthy and able people. Like Esther's mother who suggest they start again from where they left as if Esther's mental disorder doesn't exist at all. When actually who is healthy after all? The line is narrow and one can't predict the future and what it brings and how you react to that. In the end of the novel Esther's ex-boyfriend Buddy asks "I wonder who you'll marry now, Esther" and refers to the mental hospital that is part of her history now. Maybe the question is actually larger, who and what kind of people will surround you in a new situation with the experiences you have had?

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

One Life. Preserved in Brine.

Some books create a living scene in front of your eyes. Like you had just watched a film. Of course most of the books give some sort of feeling about the place and environment. But some more vivid than others. I don't like it when every detail of a muslin dress or home decor is described in a novel or story. It leaves so little for the imagination. And one thing I really hate is too detailed descriptions of the characters looks. I wonder how it would be to read a novel about people whose looks are not described at all? It might be interesting if there would be only about the personality, thoughts and how the characters react and act in the situations and circumstances given. I guess we see the characters in a very different ways. It would be actually an interesting book club topic to talk about the looks and personalities that people give to the characters. I think that when we read books we unconsciously try to find people we know. Not precisely connect fictional characters with the ones we know but maybe we add some extra to what is described by the author by the experiences we have had. Also it is good that the reader has a chance to add features that one wishes to see in the characters. Have you ever read for example a romantic story where the one who is supposed to be the target of dreams is described wrong in your opinion and you can't get over it? Like you question who an earth would fall for that? Well, maybe some people share the same taste. It is also difficult to identify with the main character if they are described too precisely. I have to tell you one example. I was reading this novel years ago and wanted to identify with the main character. But the main character weighted 50 kg and I am a way heavier. Sounds silly but it spoiled some of the great story and the plot wouldn't have suffered if that detail would have been left out. 

13/52 Leena Parkkinen: Säädyllinen ainesosa (2016) Best books reveal their world and characters in a subtle way. Like you don't remember reading about the rooms, objects, dresses, looks of people, you just know like you would have been there. Leena Parkkinen's Säädyllinen ainesosa is one of those novels that introduce a fictional world so that after reading the book the real world around you seems unfamiliar, so deep you have dived to what is seen by the characters. The novel's happenings are mainly set to fifties Finland and memories take back to second world war era. Saara is a housewife who has decided to do things right and create a good home for her son and husband. In challenging circumstances she counts the pennies economically and prepares good meals for her husband and pays attention that the home shines. But inside her head she is deeply unsatisfied with her life that is based on the norms of the society not her own will. To stay in her decision to be a good wife she tries to get rid of anxiousness by medication that numbs her. 

In the same neighborhood with Saara and her family lives charming Elisabeth who seems to be a centerpiece of her own social circles that consist of different kinds of creatives. She has an unknown background and it is whispered that she could even be a spy. She does have a personality of an action hero that goes from adventure to another. Even though at first Saara and Elisabeth seem different quite soon they get to know each other better and start a love relationship. The novel is an entertaining page turner that goes on with a fast pace and is spiced every now and then with cryptic recipes. Yet the novel is not as light as it first seems. Under the surface is a world were not everyone is free to fulfill their dreams and be with the person they love. Saara brought to my mind another fictional character, Marja-Liisa Vartio's Mrs. Pyy from Kaikki naiset näkevät unia. The main character Mrs. Pyy is unsatisfied with her life as a wife and mother and seeks for adventures and intellectually interesting social circles. Like Mrs. Pyy Saara is also suffocated by the life that she is put to live. Vartio's novel is written in 1960 and it describes the same era as Parkkinen's novel. It is interesting to find the same atmosphere in both books. That time's societal issues that had an influence on people (the post war era, strong gender norms) have been transmitted to both life stories. I think it also tells something about our time that Parkkinen's novel is written in 2016 and that Mrs. Pyy's emotions are relatable and current for today's reader, not only part of history brought us in a form of a book.

No matter the circumstances it is impossible to be something one is not. In some situations it is easier to play a role to get over it with as little harm as possible but for longer term acting is a job that takes of all energy and will. Saara plays the role to keep safe but ends up breathing from day to day without actually living. Her life doesn't look bad for an outsider who doesn't get to know her. And that is the point. It is easy to say that someone is having a good life what comes to appearances and tell what is good for others. But we can only make decisions for ourselves because we can't know anyone else so thoroughly that we could tell how their life should be. And that one goes another way round, all those well meaning people who try try guide us to achieve our best self  might get us to a wrong direction if we can't sort out what is good for us. 

This novel also made me think about how women are expected to behave. Elisabeth has something similar with traditional action figures. She stylishly goes from situation to another, survives and charms people pushing them out of their comfort zone. Sure her character is deeper than that of an average action movie hero's but why I make this comparative is that usually different norms guide our thoughts what is right for women and men and how we interpret their behavior. Women are supposed to be loyal and stable but who questions what happened to Bond's last lover when he is already in a new situation and mission to save the world. Elisabeth's skill is to change people's lives and get them act their own. Like all action figures she has her tragedies that keep her in a constant move. Instead of feeling sorry for her and thinking that she lacks something that would make her happy and content it might be that she is as she is supposed to be, person who appears from nowhere, shakes things up and then carries on to land unknown.

Some of Leena Parkkinen's books are translated and Säädyllinen aineosa novel's rights have already been sold to Italy. 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Adulthood and Other Abstract Concepts

This week I have developed a huge reading appetite. Some books just demand to be read as soon as possible. They refuse to close and keep one reading through a night. These kind of books also don't want to be left alone. Even though I know I won't have a minute to read a book during the day I will carry it with me in a backpack, just in case I have five minutes between one activity and other. At least when I open my backpack to get keys, phone, wallet, the book reminds of it's wonderful existence.

It doesn't happen with all books that I want to read all night. It becomes rarer the more I read. I am not very critical about books. I don't want to criticize. If I don't like some book I can leave it and choose another. No need to spread bad vibes. If someone can write a book and after that is brave enough to get it published and that way demand people to read it I give my highest respect. Especially the part to press publish button is the most difficult thing in all creative work. It is still relatively easy to create just for yourself and maybe understate your work if someone happens to see it. But to really expose your work to people's gaze and stand behind it is another thing. And I think every book has it's reader, the one who it is written for. Not every story can speak personally for all.

You know that special moment when a book you have just opened tells the tale of your life, in every detail, like you feel that it has been written of your life. Every word and phrase could be from your mouth. If given the same situation as the main character in the book you would act exactly like that. When I read Saara Turunen's first novel Rakkaudenhirviö over a year ago I felt it was the novel I had been waiting for so long. I had not heard about the novel when it came out and actually found it from a thrift store. It was easy to relate the main character's life story from early childhood to young adult because the world she lives in is so familiar. The novel gave a realistic picture of what it is to be a woman looking for a career in creative field and what kind of pressure comes with it. I felt all the insecurities she describes, ponderings what path to choose in life and how to make your own mind in the middle of expectations of the others, were easy to relate.

12/52 Saara Turunen: Sivuhenkilö (2018) novel continues the main character's story from the point that she has just released her first novel. Writing a book has been a big goal in her life and she has hoped that it would change her life and people's attitudes towards her completely. But nothing seems to happen and she begins to feel ashamed of her book and questions her book's worth. Instead of her book getting respect in her social circles she finds out how people have moved into so called adulthood. One way of adulthood that makes her feel outsider because she doesn't have a partner, kids, solid paychecks from work and pretty home. Still in these modern days there seems to be one ideal picture of happiness that everyone is supposed to achieve and if not one is a failure. Maybe we wish something grand and become surprised how mundane the world is. I would like to have croissants with jam, macarons, coffee and orange juice for breakfast when there would be silent classical music coming from the radio, I would love to travel more, attend to cultural happenings and collect art and antiques. And all this is actually possible, it doesn't even require huge amounts of money. I didn't say I would like to have a penthouse from boulevard. If I make a savings plan I can buy a trip, antiques table or art. The croissants are 49 cents at the grocery store and my heritage radio from the 80s plays music with the cost of electricity. But somehow there is a right way of doing life, a plot for everyone to live as written in advance.

If you step out of the plot your co characters will continue to live according to it and you are left out. Like the main character of the novel who waits publishing parties and ends up alone in her home receiving baby news from her friends and relatives every now and then. One would think life as a single would be an equal choice among others but it still has a stigma. It is connected to loneliness that is followed by some problems with cats, collecting too much porcelain or otherwise peculiar behavior. I like how the novel questions the ideal picture of human life, one that ends up in a happy family life. It also brings up the needed question if being single is not a phase before the ideal but the end of the journey. We are living in a time of feminism that questions many norms. Still in 2018 a person that approaches thirty easily confronts the situation where friends around you have disappeared to family life and you see them less and less. It makes one question the goals in life and if the decisions made have been the right ones. Like the novels main character I know how some people begin to assume favors from you because you are a spinster who has time (and especially if you a woman you should have an inbuilt will to serve others). It would be drastic to use that time for yourself (it is wrong when everyone else sacrifices so much for the sake of their family) so they give you tasks to make purpose for your poor single life. And in the end the single life you have, whether chosen or not, gets tones you don't want.

Being single and working in the creative field, keys for social exclusion? It was interesting to read how differently the main character, the people around her and society in general qualify her creative work. An artist has a need to express, people seem to have a need to know the worth of that expression in money and society in general seems to value certain kind of work that describes universal themes. Or as the main character points out, universal themes that men have written about through the history and that have gotten the status of great literature. This is a societal theme that deserves attention. It might be pointless to divide literature according to the sex of the writer. But there is a way of writing that backs from the history where men have been in better position and the word of men has been more appreciated. I remember reading that Virginia Woolf got feedback from her writing style, maybe she mentioned about it in some foreword. Stream of consciousness questioned the way of writing. Who is writing and to whom it is written. I was surprised how fluent and easy Woolf's novels are, I get to the stream I guess.

In Sivuhenkilö the themes of the book main character has written are questioned by the literature world. Is there a grand theme that everyone wants to read about and that deserves to be lift up? I doubt that. It is a question of equality that books talk about various themes. At east I have a need to read about characters that live a life that I can relate and have the same thoughts I am dealing with. It is no one to say that the theme brought up is not relevant because it is not about the life of the majority, or what is thought to interest the majority. And I also think it is healthy to respect others and read about people who live a very different life. I have read novels and stories about people who think very differently and who have very different experiences in life than I have ever had. It builds understanding to give a thought why someone thinks as they does or lives as they does. It gives a new meaning for what we think as given and universal. In a narrow way of seeing we can't notice how strong meanings we give to concepts that are actually quite abstract and many sided. Like adulthood we are pushed to achieve. It holds many unspoken meanings that we just feel and we also know deep inside if we think we have failed to fulfill the norm. If different perspectives are not respected we bury a grand part of reality and let one interpretation of the concept win. And that means there is no discussion or re-evaluation but the old myths are left to prosper.

This book is written in Finnish and not yet translated to other languages (correct me if I am wrong). If you can read it in Finnish I truly recommend!

Happy Weekend!


Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Wall Plate Installation

Permanent markers. A pile of old plates that are originally from a thrift store. And few pictures from inspiring views. 

When I make my long walks I tend to stop and take pictures if something interesting catches my eye. Some weeks ago it was bright sunny day and I saw tracks on ice. Tracks looked like a graphic print to my eye. Back then I was making a quilting project and all that I saw connected to quilting. You know, I have quilting weeks (or months) when I quilt a lot and then I have a break and do other projects. So when I looked at the surface of the ice I thought it might work as a stitching pattern. I let this thought rest and went to plan next projects. 

Then two weeks ago I came across two white wall plates that I had in my cabinet. I had all sorts of ideas to decorate the plates but then I remembered the pictures I had taken of the tracks. I actually first thought about making these plates black and white. But why if there are all these spring colors to use. Free hand I began to draw the tracks that snowmobiles, skiers and people by foot had made to the ice. Then I colored the drawing. Working with permanent markers was a good school about accepting mistakes. It was not that easy to go and correct and I just had to let go and draw. When I followed the circling paths people had made I came to think about how it is said in Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago that "Life is no stroll through the field" (I like this saying and I wrote about it before when I talked about Cheryl Strayed's Wild). Actually these colored patterns on ice look like pictures taken from fields. I still think I might draw black and white version on paper using very thin marker. It would look like graphic print. It would be also easier to work on paper compared to slippery plates and permanent markers. When you scroll down you can see the two pictures I used when drawing the plates.

Monday, 19 March 2018

DIY Easter Twigs

Easter twigs are an essential part of traditional Easter decor. Here in Finland it is still winter on Easter. Easter twigs have been used to count how many days it is till leaves arrive to the trees. If I remember correct the number of days it takes for twigs to get leaves when brought in is the number of weeks it takes for the spring to be here. Because Easter twigs have been used to wish good luck for friends, relatives and neighbors I came up with the idea to decorate twigs with cute little gift tags. To the tags I wrote words that come to my mind when I think about Easter and Spring. You could also write short poems or wish good luck for the one you give an Easter twig. On an Easter table setting these simple and beautiful words work well and bring positive associations.

This is a fun and relaxing one evening craft. The materials are easy to get from store and you don't need to go to a specialized craft store if you don't have time. At least here in Finland bigger grocery stores sell cardboard paper and Easter craft supplies like feathers.

You will need:

Cardboard in subtle pink or white
Feathers in white, natural white and brown
Cotton yarn

Black marker

Step 1. Make a model for the gift tag. Draw 4 cm high and 2 cm wide tag and cut 0.5 cm from the corners. Then draw gift tags to the cardboard paper with the model. Write something to the gift tags with black marker.

Step 2. Cut out the tags and use a needle to add a hanging yarn. Hang gift tags and attach the feathers to the twigs. Choose a vase that goes with the natural hues of the paper, twigs and feathers.

Happy New Week to You All!


Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Secret History. When reality becomes blurred.

I don't know what took so long with Donna Tartt's The Secret History. I had a similar reading experience with A. S. Byatt's Possession. Both novels are enjoyable and have an interesting plot that keeps a reader hooked. When reading The Secret History I was keen to know how things will end up.  Still it took over two weeks to read this novel of 629 pages. I read Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina in eight days (as a challenge) but with this one I had difficulties to read more than 50 pages per day. I have been quite busy these past weeks and as a result I have been tired in the evenings when I usually do the reading so that might be something to do with it. Yet normally when I find a good read I tend to binge it quickly no matter what the circumstances. In the beginning this book made me anxious and I might have tried to avoid it's heavy atmosphere. When I got into the story it didn't feel that oppressive and I learned to read it as a good story. Also I liked that it took place with a group of classics students as I have studied both Latin and ancient Greek, many years ago that is, but still I found it as a fascinating detail. I have already forgotten the most I learned and I never went so deep in my studies that I could have spoken in Latin or ancient Greek (It is not usually even the point to learn to speak those languages). Neither were my study group in any way like the one described in the book which is only a good thing. 

11/52 Donna Tartt: The Secret History (1992). Young Richard is looking for a lifestyle that is completely different from his background. He works hard to attend to college as his parents are not willing to support his studies. When he hears about a group of special students that are studying ancient Greek he wants to get in. Other members of the group have some kind of elite upper class background and Richard lies about his parents to fit in. When inside the group he is drawn into a different way of thinking and seeing the world. Because the group spends so much time together they don't seem to operate with the same terms as the rest of the world. It is both fascinating and scary how the ancient culture and language they study begins to effect their logic. 

Ancient tales have been born in a culture that is different from the one we know now. Even though the Greeks and Romans have had a huge impact to the way our culture has formed it has still been a society based on norms and logic we do not share these days. When the group of six students and their teacher dig deeper and deeper to the ancient texts they begin to loose the modern world and their sense of reality. Closed groups are seductive with their power to make one feel special from everyone else. I began to think of a short story by Susan Sontag that I read some weeks ago, Old Complaints Revisited (I wrote about the collection of her complete Stories here!)where the main character has been part of a group and evaluates how it has affected to their life. It is good to find an interest of one's own and people who share the same passion. It is in human nature to need a group but sometimes groups can be too closed. In The Secret History it is described in a stylish way how small steps apart the classics group from other groups, other students and other thoughts and how fatal effects it has.

The small group twines together in a world of myths and ancient deities. The members of the group don't seem to find other students as their equals and communication with the others is sparse. Instead their thoughts are inspired by the classics they are studying. They are a group of absolute hedonists who want to live the roles given by ancient myths. This rises a question whether anyone has a right to demand divine experiences to fulfill one's own sense of superiority? Is it right to demand the knowledge about the essence of life that no one else has or to seek to live forever on the Earth when everybody else has to die? Is it right to keep oneself wiser than everyone else? And all this with the cost of others. It was scary how they sort of lost their sense of reality and began to see themselves as superior who have the power to evaluate others. It is the danger that lies in every group that is too closed and works just in a small circle not allowing anyone in to criticize it's logic. In a group where people encourage each other to think in a certain restricted way it is possible to create an own system of right and wrong. 

When the irreversible acts have happened the group of students begin to deal with guilt in different ways. If the reality was blurred for a while then after the horrible events the world and it's rules and laws begin to look clearer.  Their act that felt justified for a moment looks unforgivable in the daylight. It was interesting to follow the group's thinking process and the way they rationalized and made right something that is wrong in every aspect. What was justified according to the group's interest's was in huge contrast with the moral codes of the rest of the world. It is shocking how wrong decisions the group can lead itself when there is no one to bring in a new way of seeing things or to give objective opinion. An example of a different kind, one can try to find a solution to a problem but nothing comes up or the solutions are poor. A brainstorm with few people make one see things in a different light and find better solutions. When the members of the classics group become a one unit that comes up with bad solutions they should try to get a different perspective, but they don't. Also it is a good bad-example how group can lead itself to a sick decisions when all the members back each other and the group's inside reality becomes the only reality. They seem to lose their empathy for a while and act like in a game where they want to win without counting the costs. Afterwards the bad things they did to others begin to haunt the groups coherence. They begin to see each other as potential enemies. If the group could come to a such decision against one of it's members who is to know if that kind kind of joint decision is made again and I am the victim.  

Excellent read, truly recommend! Have you already read The Secret History? What kind of thoughts it provoked in you?

The open books in the picture are Latin to Finnish dictionary and The Bible in ancient Greek.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Comb Ceramic Inspired Easter Eggs

Easter is not so far away and I think it is time for a small Easter DIY project. I am not taking huge pressure about Easter decorations. Although I have to tell you about a nightmare I had in January. I saw a dream that Easter had gone and I hadn't decorated any Easter twigs and in that dream I was very sad about that and thought that now I have to wait another year to make things correct. It is a bit funny actually that after that dream I knew it was a nightmare but now that I think about it it would't be that tragic if I don't have any Easter twigs, laugh. But because of that dream and the feeling of disappointment I had in that dream I have already bought feathers to make Easter twigs. Also this Easter my friend from the other side of Finland is coming to spend the holidays with me so I want my home to look festive. Some decorative eggs, Easter twigs with feathers, Easter grass and a bunch of chocolate treats will do the thing. I have a storage full of decorations I have made during the years so I might bring some of my favorites to display. 

My recipe for a relaxed celebration is to spend some time with a simple craft that goes with the theme. Every now and then I like to put hands in clay so to speak and mold and ponder what shape the it will take. When I concentrate on some simple project it allows me to focus that moment and forget all the busy thoughts that sometimes occupy the mind. The best thing about this Easter Egg DIY is that the technique is easy and materials needed are minimal. In this DIY project you get to examine nature's own patterns, plan what kind of pictures to draw and feel the material taking shape. I got the inspiration for this project from the current terracotta trend and old comb ceramic objects that have the most interesting patterns. 

You will need:

Plastic Eggs
DAS Modelling Material in Terracotta Color

Tools to make patterns:
Get creative and look what you have in your cupboards. 
Look for example shells, wooden sticks, forks, knives, buttons, pearls, yarn..

Step 1. Cover the egg with modelling material. Put some water to your hands to make the material work better. Use knife if needed to make the surface about even.

Step 2. If you need guide lines to make the decorating easier, yarn is a great help.

Step 3. Decorate the egg with some pattern tool or draw triangles and lines with a toothpick. Here you can see some examples of tools that make interesting patterns. Shells are wonderful and create beautiful organic shapes. With a chopstick it was easy to make a fun dotted egg. Herringbone and triangles I have drawn with a toothpick. 

Step 4. Let the eggs dry about 24 hours or more. Turn the eggs to make them dry from all sides. Now you have trendy terracotta colored Easter eggs that go to different styles from minimalist to bohemian.

Inspiring new week to you all!