Memories Of Warm Summer Days

Fireweed in the summer night light

dry moss

Baltic sea beach

strawberries from the garden

gray sky over the river

Mountain lake and sunset

Mountains and orange sky

Butterfly

rapsberries from the garden

drought in the forest

summer sky

baltic sea rock beach

beetroots from the garden

Fireweeds and gray sky

noctilucent clouds

Never had I seen the forest so dry or heard the moss creaking under my feet.

The dust from the dirt road to the seaside was flying around the car, falling on the wild blueberry bushes and staying there, a coat of gray on the forest floor that no rain came to wipe off.

Nestled between the forest and the Baltic sea were little summer cabins, little summer paradises, brought back to life for the warm weeks of July. The sun was hot, the wind was warm and it felt easy to get into the water. I’d thought it wouldn’t be warm enough for anything but a quick dip, but it was delightful to bathe and swim for a while. It felt just like when I was a kid and my family spent the end of our summers by the Mediterranean sea.

The grass in the garden had stopped growing long before Midsummer. The raspberries started ripening so early that we pondered cancelling our trip to the mountains and stay at home on jelly duty.
As we picnicked by the river after an unexpected pause to set up the spare tire, we watched the sky darken and wondered: will there be a thunderstorm? Will we get rain to cool the air a little? Or will the thunder start another forest fire?

We set the table in the garden every day. When the sun had turned and we could be in the shade, we picked the raspberries. Late at night, when it was a little cooler, Mom and Dad and I cooked many jars of jelly.

There was a watering ban, so we collected water went we showered and carried watering cans to try and save my vegetable patch. We couldn’t do miracles. But there were few pretty beetroots and some delicious strawberries.

Come August, there was a warning for cyanobacterial bloom at one of the nearby beaches.

The night sky got slowly darker. I was the days when you gaze up and spot a star and think: funny how I’d forgotten about that! I got a text from my brother one night. “If you look North, you will see noctilucent clouds”.

 

 

Fresh Thyme And A Pile Of Books

Cotoneaster

Happy New Year, you all!

2015 ended with family gatherings and picking fresh thyme in the French alps, long walks in a city filled with good memories and a pile of books I had never read before.

The alarm went off in the wee hours on the first day of 2016, for we had a plane home to catch (well, technically, two).

Blame it on the lack of sleep, I still haven’t realized that a new year is there. One of these days I’ll sit down with a cup of coffee, looking back into 2015, dreaming about 2016 and I’ll write down a thing or two. Things for myself to remember, and things I’m looking forward to. I’ll make resolutions I will stick to, and crazy ones I probably won’t, but who knows?

But so far, I’ve been cozying up next to the wood burning stove, sipping a warm cup of ginger, thyme and honey tea and devouring another good book. Catching up on sleep and waking up to fresh snow. It’s been such a nice, peaceful start of the year.

And for now, thank you, thank you so much for your visits and comments here! I’m sending you warm wishes, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the words and images you’ll be sharing this year. May 2016 be a good one!

Some Things

wild strawberriesSomething red. Didn’t I tell you I like red?

peonies Something blooming.

flowers on the doorstepSomething on the doorstep.

raspberry Something just ready.

familyAnd something good to remember.

Have a good weekend!


other things


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Mountains And Coziness

sled

frozen lake

reading

shadow

We drove to the mountains expecting gray skies and snow. We woke up to blue skies and sun. It’s time for walks in the snow, sledding, reading, playing, cooking, and sitting around the table, catching up, speaking a crazy mixture of three different languages. Then, we’ll be ready for spring.

shadows

frozen lake

On Sewing And Having a PhD

sewing basket

One of the hardest barriers I had to overcome to leave academia and make a big life change was the incomprehension of some of the people I have always trusted and whose opinion I value.

Around this time last year, the news spread out in the family that “Marion was living her job.” Some said I was right to follow my heart. Some disapproved. And although I had been announcing my intentions for at least a year, others clung desperately to the idea that it came as a surprise.

For the record, I technically didn’t leave my job. Believe me, I would have loved to quit with great fanfare, shouting loud and clear what I couldn’t take anymore about scientific research, but I didn’t have the guts for this. The truth is that like most young academics, I was on a fixed term contract, which eventually expired. There was no possibility for an extension, which saved me from another hesitation, and I didn’t look for another academic position either because I wanted to do something else with my life.

I have never regretted this decision, not for a second. In fact, honestly, I’ve been congratulating myself every single day for taking it. I have spent a year learning and growing and along the way I have come to understand things I wish I had been aware of when I was still considering whether to stay or to leave.

I had never measured how spectacularly people filter what you say to remove anything they don’t want to hear. When I said I was unhappy, I was answered it wasn’t that bad. When I said I was suffering from contradictions between what I thought my job should be and what it actually was, I was told to be philosophical about it. When I said I only had a temporary position, people convinced themselves that there would always be another extension. When it became clear that there wouldn’t, they insisted that surely I could find another position. For one thing, it’s not that easy, but anyway, I didn’t want one. I didn’t want one. “Thank you for forwarding me this offer,” I wrote to my advisors “but at the moment I’m not looking for another postdoc”. Still, the same emails kept pouring in. “No,” I told people “I don’t want to look for a job in the oil industry”. “Yes, I understand” they said, “but then what? What? WHAT?”

Even though people had the best of intentions, these reactions had a devastating effect on me. Being faced with the involuntary but systematic denial of my problems or tentative choices made me doubt. I trusted these persons. Maybe they were right. Maybe I was wrong. But then I knew I wasn’t wrong. I knew I how felt. This perpetual contradiction was painful and paralyzing. I was unhappy and wanted a change but I was unable to think serenely about what else I could do.

I did have a bunch of ideas, but none of them seemed to be taken seriously. I remember mentioning sewing during a family meal.

“You have a PhD and you want to sew?” one of my uncles said affectionately.

“What’s wrong with sewing” I asked “it’s not a shameful activity, is it?”

He readily agreed.

Indeed, I’m sure, his question didn’t conceal any disdain for manual activities. But he meant, like others, that there are career paths to follow and that every new step must be the logical continuation from the previous one. I thought it was astonishing to see this generation think in terms of hierarchies between careers and standards for success that are set by social conventions they were once so prone to reject as outdated.

Career rules were even more overwhelming in the academic world I belonged to. Despite the well-known fact that the number of tenured academic positions is decreasing alarmingly, getting one remains the standard of success. Timing is crucial. Are you applying this year? No? No? Getting a job in industry is a very acceptable way out provided that it comes with a salary that ridicules academic standards. As a last resort, teaching is perhaps ok. But it’s the very last limit before decline.

I felt that unless one already had a lifelong calling for classical singing or something equally noble to go back to —  or for women, the “excuse of motherhood” (!) — any move out of this world was seen as an unfortunate affair of nervous breakdown. I have been trapped by this kind of conception myself for quite some time. At some point, though, I had to admit that the accumulation of disillusions simply smashed these ideas to pieces. I had enough disagreements with this system to swallow my pride without to much difficulty.

What I’ve learned from this past year was hard to accept, but liberating: often, when people ask you what you’re doing, what your plans are, or if you’re happy, they don’t really want to hear what you have to say. They already have their own very precise idea of what your happiness should be made of. They have a whole theory about what you were made for. Fundamentally, they want to hear the confirmation that you are indeed on a track, this track you’re meant to follow, working your way up.

I’m the only one in the family to have a PhD, and I will always be infinitely grateful to have been encouraged and supported all the way there. I understand that people perhaps expected me to do something that provided secure employment and decent money. But I can’t believe they ever wanted me to resign myself to doing something I don’t like or want. I’ll admit that it would save them from worrying and wondering if I will end up starving if I had a well-paid job making atom bombs or destroying rain forests to pump more oil. But it wouldn’t make me happy. And I know that all they’ve ever wanted for me was happiness.

Sometimes, people who care for you worry so much that they urge you to give way to the very social conventions they’ve taught you to criticize. It’s perfectly understandable. But I’m glad to see that I’m learning to recognize these situations, and disregard expectations that aren’t mine. Making life choices that make me happy is up to me.

This weekend, I sewed another pillow case from an old shirt. Perhaps one day I will make a batch of them to sell. I don’t know. Who knows? But it made me happy. I am happy.

pillow01-small


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Handmade Gifts And Letters In the Mailbox

scandinavian mailboxes

this is not a hat

“This is not a hat!”, the note said. The card was handmade. A little red house in the woods and sweet words from my mom and dad.

The birds have been pecking at the saddle of my bike. I unwrapped the tiny package to find a lovely patchwork saddle cover my mom sewed for my birthday.

It made my day.

***

Many years ago I was reading Sophie’s World. I remember being very intrigued by this little detail, the fact that Sophie opened her mailbox by lifting a lid. In France, where I lived, mailboxes had doors. It was funny for me to understand, years later, after moving to Scandinavia. “Oh, that’s why! That’s how Sophie’s mailbox looked like!”.

Random, insignificant details to you. A reminder, to me, of how incredibly important mailboxes have been in my life. I often think about these times when all the mailman ever brought me was long handwritten letters from dear friends. How I treasure these memories!

***

The day before my birthday I went to the mailbox with a lump in my throat and lifted the lid wondering what administrative hassle was waiting there this time. But there was no dull grown-up mail. There was a package from a lifelong pen pal and friend.

It was a soft, cozy scarf. I thought, “oh, funny how it exactly matches the sweater I’m wearing today!”. It was a cute little pouch – well, exactly the kind of pouches I like. In her letter, my friend asked for my indulgence, saying she was still learning to sew. She was being very modest, but anyway, I was barely reading, busy as I was jumping for joy. Again.

You know me well, people. Thank you!

bag02

handmade pouch


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unwrappin’

birthday_presents{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
{Inspired by SouleMama}

happy new year

champagne, glasses and candles

{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
{Inspired by SouleMama}

a table for four

a table for four{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
{Inspired by SouleMama}