Now

a bowlful of dandelion flowers

in the field

by the old mill

lying in the grass

No matter how long the days have gotten, time seems to fly way too fast. Here I am digging garden beds and turning the compost pile, while golden dandelion jelly is bubbling on the stove. Nature doesn’t wait.

So, business has to wait. Oh, sure, it’s frustrating at times, and yes, my laptop charger died on me as I was editing this goddamn business website.

But my life is so, so much better this way than the other way around. For nature doesn’t wait and dandelions are blooming now.

after sunset


more glimpses of life


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On Being Creative And Putting More Wood On The Fire

window

Earlier this month we came back from Southern France to find our water pipes intact despite a week of bitter cold temperatures. I would be lying if I said that the issue of frozen pipes didn’t worry me a little while we were away, but as I now know, our electric heaters, set to the minimum, actually can do the job of keeping the plumbing frost-free. So next time, I’ll be absolutely serene.

When we decided to buy our little red house, we knew that spending our days working from home in the heart of Scandinavian winter relying on electric heaters only was out of the question. As we pondered the different wood stove options, our friends strongly recommended going for a programmable pellet stove. “It’s very convenient”, they insisted, “because you can tune it so that the house is warm when you get home, and not worry about it.”

It is indeed. Yet at the time we were less concerned by tunable thermostats than by finding a stove we could cook on. In such a climate, we argued, that would be a serious asset in the event of a power shortage. The argument was granted.

In reality, we were looking beyond these exceptional cases. We actually planned to cook on our wood stove on a daily basis, at least during the months when heating was needed in the house. I understand that coming from people like us, who’d always been living in cities, heating their apartments with electric heaters and cooking on electric stoves, the idea can have sounded like another crazy let’s-go-live-into-the-woods nonsenses.

Our friends, who’d made the big city-woods move before us, were more concerned about time management. Living frugally, they said, shouldn’t be taking all your time, and making green choices should not impinge upon creativity. “How will you manage to get things done”, they asked, “if, every hour, you have to put more wood on the fire?”

As someone who’s very attached to the idea of making room for thought, creativity or introspection in everyone’s schedule, I do get the point. But, just as I wrote in my post about cooking dried beans, I think we shouldn’t systematically take for granted the idea that freedom and creativity are always to be found in technologies and social structures that supposedly liberate us from the trivial necessities of domestic chores, the latter being the source of all slavery and alienation.

Of course I’ll willingly admit that when you get up early every day, drive to your job in the dark, spend the day with your annoying colleagues before driving back home in the dark, adding to this snow-shoveling, windshield-defrosting, grocery-bags-carrying-on-icy-parking-lots and other Scandinavian winter delights, you do need a warm house to get home to. Period. No going back and forth to the wood pile and waiting to the stove to heat up. I get that.

That is actually my point. For most of us, “liberating technologies” are not magic. They come with a cost: the financial dependence on a nine-to-five job. It was also the case for me. So last year, when my contract at the university ended, I decided that instead of looking for another unfulfilling (for me) academic job, and being unhappy, I’d rather spend time living frugally while figuring things out.

Spending a chilly but happy spring in our friends’ summerhouse, in which the old wood stove served both as heater, cooker, and water boiler – a versatility whose merits struck me as pretty obvious – gave me time to find a new routine, doing things I find more meaningful and setting up my own little business.

Now I’m working from home, by the wood stove. It turns out that a programmable pellet stove was way out of our budget. So, we went for a classic cast-iron one. So far, remembering the gloom of coming home to apartments lacking a fireplace after spending Christmas at my parents’, having to put wood on the fire every hour or so still feels much more like a luxury than like a burden.

Sure, when I’m not there, my house is cold. It is also cold when I get up in the morning. But then I have time to seat and read by the stove while the room heats up, gathering inspiration for the day’s work while the water is boiling for tea. And I really, really like it so.

On knitting socks and running your own business

Bygdøy, Oslo

During Christmas break I asked my grandma if she knew how to knit socks. Of course she did. We couldn’t find any suitable yarn in the house or in town, but I traveled back home with her detailed explanations memorized, a precious old pair of hand-knitted socks made by my late great great-aunt to use as a model, and the promise of Skype rescue sessions if I ever got stuck.

In 2015, among other equally important things, I will turn 30, read every morning before switching on the computer (ahem), sew lots of stuff, run my own business, renovate my little red house, finish a philosophy book for children, grow vegetables, reflect upon dialog between natural and social sciences, take better pictures, live frugally, write more, buy even less stuff, make illustrations and learn how to knit socks.

Now, it does appear to me that 1) all these things sound really disparate, that 2) some also sound crazy (finish a book, really?) and 3) seriously, am I putting the question of dialog between natural and social sciences and the art of knitting socks on the same level?

But what I learned from 2014 is that:
1) however disparate these things might appear, there is actually a coherence in this list: work/life balance issues? Be gone. Plus, I really love all these things. I don’t want to choose between them. I need them all to be happy.
2) Er, you’re turning 30. Thir-ty, Marion. You’re allowed to turn “crazy” into “real”. Or at least try to.
3) well, darn yes I am. All these years, I’ve somehow contemptuously tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t, which has only made me frustrated.

There. I said it.

Happy 2015, friends!