This Moment Right Now

…eight, nine, ten, I count the flower pots on my balcony. They leave delicate patterns of shadows on the floor. Thin and curly ones, distinctly flowery ones, leafy ones. They could be a pattern on a dress, like Manja’s poppies and other Tuscan flowers or Amanda’s rosemål prints.

If I had an endless amount of time to dispose of at my leisure, I might design a print of my own. Anyone can do it now. I might design baby clothes with cute round elephants and deep green jungle adventures. Maybe a blue-eyed boy sailing on a boat and then a big wave would catapult him into space, on his boat, and he would meet the most amazing figures there after landing on a friendly ice cream planet. Oh, all the directions my imagination could take me!

Summer has arrived in the far north of Europe, Helsinki to be exact. It’s no longer spring – how do I know? Well, for one, all the flowers have bloomed, all at once, efficiently. They are here now, ephemeral. Soon they will be gone and no one can predict how long this summer will take. It could be days. Weeks, if we’re lucky. It’s not rare to for sleet to greet Midsummer’s Eve.

Another indication of summer having arrived is that it’s as warm as it gets. 24°C counts as extreme heat and has the locals complaining immediately, after just one day. Local urban culture doesn’t include water sport-y activities so there are only the same grey concrete pavements and commercial options that winter has. Not many ways to embrace the warmth, which probably leads to all that complaining – people don’t know what to do with it. Plenty of bars. But if you don’t want a drink, what then? Wait til it’s over and you’re back in your comfort zone? But these days are so precious, please don’t spoil my joy in them.

9 p.m. sunlight

During the fleeting moments they are freed from work, locals flock to their summer cabins outside of town, unaware of their good fortune in owning a second property, often lakeside. Those of us less privileged cabin-free urban dwellers are left to our own means to conjure summer without splashing – you see, for a girl who grew up in Australia, water is very much a part of my idea of what to do when it’s a nice day. As a solution, sans cabin and sans splashing options, I planted a garden on my balcony which only sees a slice of sun for two hours a day. The plants are still here. When the sun comes, they create shadows.

But are there really no water sports? Well, my dear readers, Helsinki has grown and continues to grow. And as I’ve become more and more absorbed in my own toddlers-and-playgrounds world, I seem to have lost touch with current events. It appears Helsinki now does have a few summery things to do, more so than in my youthful days of wishing I was elsewhere.

Day’s over

Last night, I was walking downtown through a park with a pond-like little bay. The pond water is dirty but there is talk of cleansing it one day. Several companies now offer stand-up paddling there, an activity I’ve wanted to try since I visited Hawaii but somehow something always gets in the way. Waveless and calm, that pond must be the perfect place to try it (providing you don’t fall into the dirty water). It looks very serene.

Flamingoes – just like Manja’s in Tuscany!

Walking past the pond, there were high grasses attracting insects and exuding a distinct buzz, blocking any city view. You could have been somewhere in the countryside for all you knew. There were couples there having champagne picnics with baskets, blankets, and little fluffy dogs. New green areas that didn’t exist before, and the wind brought me a faint melody of Iron, Lion, Zion. There was a playground with toddlers playing in it, taking my thoughts immediately to mine, who were already at home, snuggly tucked in their beds asleep. The sun was high and if you didn’t know better, it looked like daytime.

Downtown Helsinki (Really!)

The brevity of summer highlights how special it is in this part of the world. To see blue sky is such a treat after the endlessly long winter months of nothing but greyness. As if to compensate for its short durance, summer has elongated its days and the sun refuses to set much before midnight. Midsummer is when the days start getting shorter again.

Butterflies and squirrels, grown-ups riding scooters with a thrilled expression, hammocks on balconies, and bikinis in urban parks. And also strong, cold winds and loud, rowdy drunkards and unseeing druggies, trash spread around, overlooked and cropped out of photos.

Hipsters and youth in inexplicable clothing, making me smile because style here used to be very uniform and now it has exploded in a happy way.

Summer is here right now, and though sunlight hours are longer, the days still don’t seem to have enough hours in them. So much to do, so little free time. Office work feels like a sin, a punishment right now when the sun is finally here. You get sun-stressed, feeling that you must not waste one second of it.

But the flowers on my balcony don’t look stressed. Their shadows are still and they don’t feel the cool wind. They reach towards the sun, briefly but surely approaching them each day, and they soak it in. Admiring it like it’s their last chance.

Here today, gone tomorrow.

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56 responses to “This Moment Right Now

  1. Well, this was a very pleasant read (illustrated with picures as summery as it gets). I remember (a) large quantitie(s) of water in Helsinki, and the sea of course. So, no shortage of water I would think, but when most of the year is cold and drab I can understand that puddling is not the main activity in the city. We had our first ‘tropical’ day (above 30c) after a cold spring. No complaining from me, although the weather is long back to normal again, around 20 c with the occasional shower. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds familiar, 20C with the occasional shower. And yes, plenty of water here but its potential isn’t really taken advantage of in my opinion. And it’s not as clean as it was 20 years ago when I used to swim in the sea each summer quite happily. Now it doesn’t tempt me anymore, unfortunately.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ❤ Beautiful. Sun-stressed but exploding in a happy way. 🙂 Thank you for the link. My flamingos are long gone, you're the only one who has them right now. 😉 I really hope you get to try the SUP, without falling in. And I like the idea that now that summer has arrived, days refuse to end and last till midnight. Happy summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a beautifully written post. I feel your pain being an Aussie who lived for ten years in the far north of Canada. I’m in Vancouver now and we do get a better summer than Helsinki by the sound of it. We have a week of mid to high 20’s coming up. Yippee!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh that sounds lovely! Yes, while I enjoy and appreciate summer here, I always feel like something is missing, something important… swimming and soaking, rowing and snorkeling… Enjoy your week, Alison! Thanks for dropping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Aw summer for you finally! Yey! 24 degrees in Singapore is rare, only when it rains just before dawn, and even that is really very seldom. It would be the talk of the town, a headline on the papers a couple of years ago. 🙂 Hope yours last a little longer this year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I fear I would struggle with only a weeks-long summer! Even in Chicago, we could count on 4 nice months, and of course now I live in almost perpetual summer, to the point where I look for summer weekend escapes to cooler climes! Hope yours lingers for longer this year!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never been to Finland but I have spent a few summers in the Swedish countryside… it truly is magical! Luckily I’ve never had to live through the winter there though, hahaha.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I hope summer stays in Finland for a long time, Snow! We’re still waiting for it here in Switzerland… Now at least we’re having 2 good days every week, the rest is just storms and grey skies…
    Uuummm… that pond looks so summery! Hope they really clean it! Do people bath in it anyway? When I was living in Dublin I always though that the river Liffey and the sea in Sandymount (south Dublin’s beach) were disgusting… but people loved to swim in the Irish sea anyway and they were swim races in the river and the canals in the city! I”ll never understand how could they get in those waters… hehehe.
    And now that you mention midsummer… do Fnnish people do something special in midsummer? Midsommer was one of the things that I loved during my Swedish years!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, Midsummer is a big holiday, as big as Xmas, I’d say. Everyone goes to their countryside cabin for Midsummer, dines outside on their terrace and has a sauna from which they dip into the lake. Everyone except us, it seems! We have no cabin and they cost a LOT to rent so we are always stuck in town. Helsinki is usually closed, no shops open, nothing. Boring. What did you do in Sweden for Midsummer?

      Like

      • A few years ago, we had a 25 year reunion of the climbers of Mont-Blanc. (tell me if you haven’t read the story, I’ll send you the link). Reunion was in Italy, in July. We were in Paris, so I decided touring Tuscanny first with my wife. The plane ticket to Milan cost 80 Euros. On Air France! So, yes. Go somewhere Mediterranean. Why don’t you plan something this summer? Don’t worry about the little ones. They’re very adaptable. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I thought of you today as I was driving on the coast and saw two paddle boarders coasting along, passing between palm trees in the foreground! I do hope you have a decent summer, but not too spectacularly hot. That would not bode well for the world. I love swimming in warm water here, but cringe when it feels too warm. I know that’s terrible for the coral, which is already badly stressed, but I fear it might just be a sign of things to come. At least enjoy those extra hours of daylight. Long summer evenings are a special treat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean. Last summer was almost tropical over here and while I enjoyed it, it was also very disconcerting. This time the weather seems more normal. Sunlight alone is so energizing, even if it’s cold, so I’ll happily take whatever kind of summer this turns into weatherwise. – And those paddlers you saw, in another life I must’ve been one of them!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes, the sun makes a big difference. It’s one reason I moved here. I’ll look out for more paddlers and try and get a photo to post! Don’t give up the dream.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi! I made a comment yesterday evening and when I pressed “post” button, an error message occurred saying my site was undergoing some updating process. Just let me know if you haven’t received it. 😊

    Brilliant post! 🌸

    Liked by 1 person

      • Let me test my memory 😊

        Reading this post feels like taking a little stroll through some beautiful scenes, or watching a lovely film on a late Sunday afternoon.

        Living in the far north myself, I resonate with your thoughts. The summer is so short here, every single sunny day is precious. You illustrated the mood and scenes beautifully. 🌸

        I’ve been working on some writing projects at work and have taken a break from blogging. I really don’t want to publish something that’s not good enough and waste people’s time 😊

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Complaining at 24??? What would they do if they had 46 degrees like in India at the moment! Do people complain about the extreme cold weather also or that’s considered the enjoyable part of the year 🤔. In India, summer brings mangoes 😋 and that controls the complaining, at least during the time one’s eating the mangoes 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hahahah!! Better eat those mangoes slowly!! 😋
      But yes, I agree with your thoughts! I really don’t see why they need to complain about such pleasant weather. You know, indoors temperatures over here are controlled through central heating in the winters (in cities). The temperature central heating is set to is 22C. So it’s really only 2 degrees more than what people are used to anyway!!! Maybe it’s the sunshine that confuses them?
      During winter, I’m a big complainer. But most locals seem to have fond childhood memories of winter (which lasts most of the year so it’s understandable that’s what they’ll have memories of) and they don’t seem to mind too much. They think it’s a part of life.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A very Poetic post which explains the Scandinavian lust for Summer. The pingback went awol so thanks for alerting me, I missed this one.
    In a way, it brought back memories of Helsinki and midsummer in Scandinavia, which makes me sad because at the moment travelling there is impossible. So, thanks so much for taking me there with words.

    Liked by 1 person

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