Tuesday, 31 May 2011

"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant."

(From the tenth episode of the fifth series of Doctor Who. Forgive me my Whovian tendences, this line is just incredible. I keep coming back to it, after all this time. Because one of my biggest difficulties is learning that things don't have to be perfect in order to be good.)

English speakers, look away. I won't even attempt to translate this, it simply can't be done.

(Niinkuin vierasta maata by Pentti Saarikoski. Mitä tapahtuu todella?, 1962.)

Friday, 27 May 2011


"One should be able to buy perspective and consume it intravenously."

Erlend Loe: Naïve. Super.

(I translated this myself from the Finnish translation of the Norwegian original. So it might be a bit off.)

You know the times when life itself just feels impossible? Like everyone else was handed a manual at some point explaining how to exist, and I missed it?

I need perspective and I need meaning. I need to lift myself out of this slump, because by now I've learnt I can't expect anyone else to do it for me.

(I think maybe I need just a few days of complete quiet, I need a few days of complete selfishness. For just a while I need space around me, a cocoon, so I don't have to think about anyone else's problems. I just can't do anything to help anyone right now and it's one of the saddest ways to be. I can barely take care of myself.

So I dream of having a small apartment with white walls and lots of light, a bed large enough for me to spread out my limbs like a starfish, enough food to last me for a while, and books. I could sleep and let my voice go hoarse and emerge when I finally feel human again.)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

on love #1

From the preface of Michael Ondaatje's novel In the Skin of a Lion. Things like this should not be read casually on the tram, they should come with a warning. (Everything Ondaatje has so much as grazed should come with a warning and yet I never seem to remember.)

(This begins a series of my favourite love poems [yes, poems; The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient work of epic poetry, despite the prosaic translation], which I hope will measure up to some kind of a standard and not go the cliché route. We shall see. Please inform me if I ever stray into the roses-and-honey territory.)

on learning

See that picture? That's what I wish my life were like right now. Balcony railings to lean against, striped shirts and flowers.

In fact I'm treading through the final exam week of this school year, revising (or thinking about revising while actually being a genuinely great procrastinator) on trains, in cafés, in the library.

And since this is my tenth exam week and the days seem to be running through my fingers like powder, and because I still haven't learnt how to sit down and open my books and shove some smarts into my brain, and because I just want something to do instead of studying French for tomorrow, I thought I'd give you a look into what happens to me during exam week.

Ready? Here we go.

Every time an exam week traipses along, I plan to windmill kick it in the face. I make smug revision timetables and plan on spending hours at the library. I feel confident. I can do this.

Then come the distractions. Non-school books are never as good as during exam week. Baking is never as much fun. The weather couldn't be better for photography. It couldn't be more high a time to clean my room. And the blogs I follow never seem to post quite this much.

Every time. Every single time.

I get through my day going, oh look I have so much time left, easy-peasy, no need to worry, I'll get down to studying in an hour or so.

Suddenly it's ten p.m. and I still haven't opened my psychology book and I realise I've left my notes in my locker at school and I really should sleep if I want to do well in this exam and I cram last-minute information into my head until I fall asleep with my glasses still on and wake up in the morning with dread weighing me down, distractedly trying to study on the train but ending up staring out of the window trying to understand how it came down to this yet again.

Then repeat the following day, because I never learn, do I.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


With the breeze blowing in from the window beside me and a neighbour mowing his lawn (nothing smells as good as freshly mown grass), these pictures by the Selby are perfect for today.

(Yesterday marked yet another birthday so off we went, clutching ukuleles and flowers and bottles of wine, slotting our legs through the balcony railings and watching the seagulls at sunset, dancing on slippery floors, conniving in bathrooms and collapsing onto beds to get over our fits of laughter.

Windows opening onto a courtyard with a fountain. Cobble-stoned streets, spontaneous bouts of spoken-word poetry after midnight. The silly blues that strike me sometimes at parties, easier to bear when there are good people around me.

And when I got off the train sometime after three a.m. after what felt like the longest-ever journey home, the birds were singing and the sun had begun to rise. This marks the beginning of summer.)

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

the taste of air

"If I should have a daughter, instead of 'Mom' she's gonna call me 'Point B'. Because that way she knows that, no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me."

This and a hundred more sparkling thoughts. I don't think I have ever watched anything more powerful and beautiful than this video. Please click play. This is astounding. Don't mind me, I'll just rewatch this for the rest of eternity.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Things people have told me lately:

My therapist: "People like you should never doubt their abilities, because there is no question about whether or not you'll make it in life. The problem is whether you'll be happy as well as successful."

Friend #1: "I really do care for you, you know that?"

A teacher: "Don't crack your head open over this essay. I already know you're smart and capable and lovely, you don't need to try and prove it by working too hard."

Friend #2: "Oh, you sexy thing."

(Sometimes people just know exactly what to say. I almost can't believe my luck, being surrounded by all of you lot.)

Sunday, 15 May 2011


Last week, Finnish class. We were studying the Finnish modernists, and suddenly, in the middle of a poem by Haavikko, this glorious phrase appears.

kaikki ovet on lukittu auki

which I would (badly) translate as all doors are locked open

This is, of course, modernism and thus nothing is as it seems. But it also allows me to dig out my own meanings. And the meaning I find in this exquisite phrase is something along the lines of, there are possibilities and they can't be got rid of, not even if I wanted to. Every door around me is permanently open.

Possibly the most beautiful thought I have ever stumbled across.

(The poem is called Neljäs runo, from Talvipalatsi by Paavo Haavikko. Published in 1959.)

Saturday, 14 May 2011

songs for road trips

A summary of the past few days: homemade ice tea, charcoal-coated fingers, missing a bus, missing a train, getting lost on our way to a museum, finding said museum ten minutes before it closed for the night, thrifting clothes, sewing late into the night, essay-writing, playlist-making.

Here is the result of said playlist-making. Those of you who have Spotify can find it here. Those of you who don't can go the YouTube route below. (They aren't completely identical though, due to Spotify and YouTube not being as omnipotent as could be hoped for.) Enjoy!

songs for road trips

1. Noah and the Whale: The First Days of Spring
2. Scandinavian Music Group: 100 km Ouluun
3. Phoenix: Summer Days
4. Regina: Jos et sä soita
5. Gomez: See the World
6. The Moldy Peaches: Anyone Else But You
7. Angus & Julia Stone: Mango Tree
8. Anna Järvinen: Götgatan
9. Charlie Winston: Soundtrack to Falling in Love
10. Noah and the Whale: Blue Skies
11. Death Cab for Cutie: Passenger Seat

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

a hand to hold


Some days it almost destroys me. Some days the disappointment settles into my chest with the weight of several anchors, dragging me down.

Some days I need a hand to hold and a tummy to lay my head on, and some days I need other people to believe in me.

Because although I'm trying to learn to feel better without needing to constantly rely on other people, some days are too heavy with tears. Some days I just need to be told who I am and why I am worth keeping around.

(Also, this Noah and the Whale thing is getting out of hand. How can a band singing I do believe that everyone has one chance to fuck up their lives and accompanying that sentiment with violins expect me not to fall head over heels in love with them?)

Monday, 9 May 2011

hands / seaweed

Seaweed from Tell No One on Vimeo.

Today I'm in need of some solid ground. A few things to make me feel human again: this spectacular video (25 seconds well spent), soaking in the sun for hours after school and getting to see my little brother (he is one cute kid).

Happy Monday!

i'll do anything to be happy

In the middle of all this progress I've been making, a bad spell. A blue spell. A smattering of maddeningly slow and sad days, days that make me wish I were invisible.

It creeps back, silently, the hopelessness I've been curbing. (Everything I dream of seems too big and unachievable and I want to forget it all and live in a state of no dreams. But then the not-dreaming turns out to be impossible and even worse than the original hopelessness.)

It creeps back, and all I can do to control it is to lie on the floor of my room in a slice of sunlight and stare at the ceiling. Maybe read a bit. Slow down my existence, my heart rate, my too-quick thoughts. Write silly lists to keep my mind off things, sit in class and doodle, lie down on the grass during recess and tilt my head back to look at the sky.

It creeps back and I don't notice it at first. I chalk it down to another bad day, because bad days come and I try to welcome them and believe in tomorrow.

But then comes the time when I'm on the train going into town and suddenly a tear drops onto my lap. And then I'm crying silently but uncontrollably, stuck in public without a single tissue, wiping my cheeks with the backs of my hands and trying to calm down. Embarrassed and kind of scared.

Eventually I do calm down, tears still running down my forearms. I cradle my head in my hands and just breathe. (My therapist has told me to focus on my breathing and I'm finding he's not just being New Age, there's some truth to it.)

These things happen and I just have to weather the storm. At least I'm learning that there are far worse things than breaking down in public, there are far worse things than my body telling me something is wrong. I will feel better, at some point. Until then I'll listen to this song and try to believe.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


My mother and I picking rhubarb near our summer cottage circa 1999.

Today is äitienpäivä (Mother's Day) in Finland, so my mother and I digged through some old photos and reminisced. (I cannot believe my parents' hairstyles and clothes. Shoulder pads, really?)

My mother is the singular most important person in my life. She has been my rock throughout my childhood, the most stable and present thing in my life. She raised me as a single parent - there are so many things to be grateful for.

Growing up is difficult and it's such a relief to know my mother will always be there for me. Kiitos, äiti.

My mother and I three and a half weeks after I was born, a lazy morning at our home in Reading.

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Austin Kleon (yes, the one who's so brilliant it almost hurts) blacked out some horoscopes for those of us who usually find them dull. This is mine. (Probably the first horoscope I've ever liked, believed and appreciated. Also the first one ever to make me cry.) Find yours here.

Friday, 6 May 2011

blue skies

I'm falling into my slightly pathetic habit of feeling nostalgic for events that have yet to occur. Next summer, mainly. (I'm also feeling kind of blue and in need of reassurance so that's a double reason for posting this video. Blue skies are coming, along with those painfully perfect summer nights.)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

small steps

Things are steadily returning to a slightly more normal state. Every day my heart inches back into its slot in my chest a bit more, my thoughts begin to find their way out of this tangle. My mantra of late is it's fine, I'm fine. And for once it's kind of true. Less shaky hands (oh thank goodness for this), less nerves, less fear.

But now, for the first time in a long long time (such a long time, in fact, that I had pretty much forgotten how this feels), my anger is back. You know the petty, cranky, infinitely normal frustration you feel over trains being late and people being arses? It's back and, I tell you, it is glorious. I revel in it. I adore it because it's yet another sign that I will be fine.

(It's too long that I've been vacant and numb, waiting for trains without realizing their lateness, or maybe noticing but not caring at all. I don't enjoy the frustration over little things but the luxury of having a bad day simply because it's cold and I'm cranky is truly something quite exquisite.)

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

plans for summer

We planned picnics today, proper picnics, not the improvised ones we usually get up to. And garden parties and tequila nights and road trips and festivals and birthday parties.

I think the thing I miss most about summer is twilight in Helsinki.

The steady descent of the sun, the sea breeze, the softness of grass against my bare shoulders. The endless almost-white nights, the few hours of darkness, the dawn that comes slightly after three a.m.

Catching the last train home or meandering to a friend's for the remainder of the evening or just sitting on my windowsill and watching the sunset. There's nothing quite as exquisite as being able to spend the night out of doors.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

of books and roses

Today is the day of the book and the rose in Finland. Traditionally, women would on this day give men a book in exchange for a rose, but these days it is mostly a celebration of literature. Accordingly, I spent the day at a bookstore writing custom poems for members of the public with our creative writing class.

(The way it works, you fill in a poem order, wait for thirty minutes while it gets written, then collect it and admire. Free of charge, too! Writing them is brilliant fun but utterly exhausting.)

In celebration of this day, let's discuss books, shall we.

What was the last book you read? (I just finished Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel.) How did it make you feel? (Enlightened, surprisingly. Also annoyed.)

What was the last book that made you cry, and why? (The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I keep rereading it and falling more and more in love with it every time. I think I wept mostly because the language is so beautiful, and also for the unfairness of love.)

Do you read poetry and if so, who is your favourite poet? (I do, my favourites include e.e. cummings, Aila Meriluoto, Pentti Saarikoski, Ema Saiko, Hafiz, Allen Ginsberg, Kirsi Kunnas, Sappho, W.H. Auden and many more.)

Recommend me something to read! (I recommend If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor. Ja teille, jotka puhuvat suomea, Harry Salmenniemen runokokoelma Texas, sakset on pirun hyvä.)

Also, I seem to have lost the source of the photo above. If you recognize it, please link me to the source. Much appreciated!

Sunday, 1 May 2011


And so, a new month.

When May began, around midnight, we were walking past a rave under a bridge. On our way to catch a bus that ended up driving by and leaving us stranded without batting an eyelash. (Not too surprising, considering buses tend to lack eyelashes.)

The stars had just come out then. We were tired and cold and heading to a friend's place after an eveningful of drunken shenanigans and surprise encounters. Two different parks, pink hairspray, a stray dog, Communist songs, missed trams, iloveyous, dinosaurs, silly games of footsie.

A hopeful beginning for this month.

(Also, last Friday was one of the good days: an exhausting yet incredibly helpful therapy session, a park, friends, running downhill simply because being young in April is rather nice a feeling. Also a royal wedding which I unabashedly enjoyed.)