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Words & Images by Kristoffer Vaikla
Winter is different. Winter is special, in every sense. You see it approaching when the birds begin to gather. It will be even closer when the trees turn yellow and red. You know that it is not far anymore when the birds fly up, and the same once colored leaves turn brown on the ground. You wait for it on the bleak days when the trees swing in the autumn storms. You are waiting for the white carpet to cover the somber land, to grant relief whilst the dark days. And then one day, you wake up and see the first snowflake falling down from the clouds and you know that winter is here.
The Estonians consider themselves a Nordic country. This is also confirmed by the fact that winter here in this small part of the world is generally cold and harsh. This little Nordic soul has always had a place in my heart. Already as a kid, after our short summer I started to wait for Christmas. It symbolized the begin of winter and snow. Santa Claus always came along with the gifts when the land was white outside. At least I remember it that way. After Christmas, however, winter was not over, it was just starting. The time for snowmen, snow castles, and snowball fights began. As I get older, there were less snowball fights and less snow castles, but a beautiful memory of it remained.
Now, besides simple joys, I am able to value everything else around me. One of the top events that I am looking forward to every winter is a trip to my summer cabin. As the daily life in the city and working pace are fast and nerve-wrecking, going to a small island on a winter trip will turn you off of that rapidness. At least for a moment. There is only snow, ice and silence. The small island of Vormsi, where about 200 people live, concedes me moments of peace. In wintertime it is a challenge to get there. It begins with a ferry ride: There are no other cars, just yours and one local resident is drinking tea in the ferry’s cafe, and then you know that you are going somewhere where there is nothing beside peace.
The barge breaks through the frozen sea, ice pieces clattering on the metal body. An hour-long ride in summer can turn into a 5 hours challenge in this tough wintertime. However, if it happens to be a real Nordic winter, then it is not rare that the ice road is open. 10km drive on the frozen sea creates an unforgettable experience. You’re excited but at the same time also scared. Everything you see is an empty field of ice that extends to the horizon. You know that under your feet there is a meters deep sea, but you only think of what is in front of you. When you arrive one way or another, your breath in deeply and feel the relaxation, all your daily troubles are left behind the frozen sea.
© all pictures Kristoffer Vaikla
More of this essay in our NL1 magazine
Words & Images Norbert von Niman-
It is those days when you’re walking on a glacier, everything around you in full black and white except your friends yellow raincoat, wearing three layers and still getting cold. You are still waiting for the heat waves, beach days and tropical showers when you realise it’s already August and this is as good as summer will get in Iceland. This is a fully different climate, fully different experience and an astonishing landscape to back it all up.
Getting used to a landscape like this is something that will never happen. Every time you revisit a place it’s a different light, different colours of the grass, different clouds, weather and season. In summer there are signs of lush, green life while in winter those four hours of sunlight bounces off the snow colouring everything with an orange hue, or pink, purple blue and then black. It’s like a massive colouring book, sometimes filled out but sometimes just left empty.
The desolation is sometimes imminent which makes the small details, that one perceivable object or the only feature, ever so much more important to show that this is actually reality. It’s difficult to comprehend the scale and the distance, and an anchor point for that sense of reality is important.
Same thing applies to life living in such a hostile environment. With cold around every corner and a darkness that takes everything there needs to be something to bring back some hope. Hot springs can provide warmth for body, good friends and all the open hearted locals provide warmth for the soul, and northern lights shine up the darkness. This makes even the coldest winter days survivable.
It’s not supposed to be easy to live on an extreme piece of volcano surrounded by the wild sea. You can hide in Reykjavik and pretend to live a normal life with normal problems but as soon as you get out in the wilderness the weather can be the greatest of challenges. Pictures are best taken when there is a good story to follow behind it, or a struggle to get it. That is most certainly the case when facing gale force winds, freezing temperatures and isolation from civilisation. The weather suits the landscape though.
© all images Norbert von Niman
Many times there can be hours of howling wind tearing through even the most windproof layers of clothing, until you come to the sudden realisation that everything has gone perfectly quiet. All noise is gone, water flat, nothing is moving. The wind has stopped and so does the world with it. It is these moments of clarity when the feeling of truly being alone in the middle of nowhere creeps up. The shutter makes a quick sound that echoes in the vast emptiness. The wind is back.
Essay of our NL1 magazine!
Images & Words: Sisilia Tiseli-
Before the day begins…
I do love waking up into the comfort of silence, it is an early morning type of silence, that breed of silence where it is just you and all that is beautiful and natural; the kind of silence that is seen with the eyes and felt only by the depth of the heart. It is at a time where the sky is a deep sea kind of blue, the air is crystal crisp, filling up the lungs with deep sighs of gratitude. Inhaling. Exhaling. Slowly. Sigh. Seconds feel like hours has passed by whilst I enjoy this kind of silence, a sense of peace, just before the day begins.
When I was younger, I was always at a pace where it was on mode “go” and sleeping was a pause between days. The alarm would go off at 5 in the morning, and I am up, ready for the first phase of the day; an hour of exercise, make coffee, shower, drink coffee, getting dressed, blending of smoothie while sipping hastily of black coffee number 2, out the door and walk to train station. At the train station, I mentally go over my to-do list for the day. When the train arrives, it signals that the day has begun. All this happened before 7:30am. This seamless and well-oiled process that was my pre-morning went on for the next 14 years. I had no complains since this pace and structure suited me just fine. However, it wasn’t until recently, that my body yelled halt, and so I had to revisit how my day begins.
Three years ago, I realised how important it was to start my morning in a way that was gentle and mindful. Most days are demanding as it already is, so it was important that the beginning of the day should be treated with much care. I came across the notion of wabi- sabi as well as the idea of “slowliving” and it helped during this time of transition. I instantly recognised that there was a sense of disconnect within myself and everything else. Nature, which was something that I never appreciated, became the line connecting me to myself and everything else. It is with nature that taught me how to slow down, to stop, to enjoy, and appreciate the beauty that was silence. I also learnt to pause and listen, within myself and also all around me.
Before the day begins…
My mornings these days are extremely simple, grounded by a large dose of mindfulness; me, myself, coffee in my comfort cup, favourite linen blanket and silence.The first thing that I do to break the state of sleep after the dedicated call from the alarm is making that first pot of coffee. The process is methodical, but I take a little time for this, since this too is also a much loved part of my morning. During the time that I have my water boiled, I walk outside with a cold glass of water to take long large gulps of the luxurious morning crisp air, and, just, wait. I wait until I hear the “snap” from inside, a sign that the water is ready. For my morning coffee, I use what I call the comfort cup. I have specific cups for my coffee, tea and hot lemon water. I don’t know when this peculiarity started, but it has always been there before I fell in love with beautiful hand thrown ceramic vessels. Ordinary vessels when made with love, is priceless. My favourite comfort cups were made by my dear friend and talented ceramist, Annemieke.
My first act in the morning before the day really begins is to be gentle with myself, to enjoy the little things and to still the mind. Life and the day will be demanding, but starting the day simply and gently is a way to reclaiming a sense of control, a pace that is defined by you…before the day begins.
© all pictures Sisilia Tiseli
More in our NL1 magazine! Available at: coffetablemags,
Words & Photography by Christina Strehlow-
Love this place, the fields, the landscape, the sea so close, the magic light … dreaming that this never ends..at all.
It was obvious that it would be Österlen, we would only find the right house, and when we did, it felt so right. The first summer we spent here was cold, not at all like this summer, and we were renovating the house a lot in a comfortable climate.
This summer was the best for a very long time, and I feel so grateful and glad that we can spend so much time here in Skåne, at Österlen, where we are so happy. So wonderful to inhale impressions, views, moments that arise and that you want to preserve, then it’s good to be able to take the camera to remember this instant forever, it never comes again… that’s how I think when I’m shooting these summer moments of our daily life in Österlen- Sometimes I want to shoot so many moments….time is limiting me, but I’m getting better at reacting fast and playing on daylight.
Our house is from the 19th century, and many fine details remained as old doors, low ceilings in some rooms, creating really the old style of former days. We mixed them up with new and modern details. One can say that the whole house is an inspiring place for me and my studio where I can plate everything from product images to my artwork. I really love the light here and the lyrical evenings when the soft light is creeping in and it looks so magically beautiful and inspiring.
The plains, the countryside, the fields, the sea, when you are close to all them, it’s not hard to get inspired and I work at least as much as I rest. I combine both, working and taking breaks. That’s how I want to live, I do not have any trouble to unwind occasionally, take the bike down to the water and take a dip or hang in the hammock and just read.
I love to create peaceful worlds through my imagery that feed my soul too, so when I take photos of my daughters, I hardly see it as a job, it is filling me with happiness and energy.
This place will always be my inspiration to create, to have my studio here, both inside the house and outside the door, is amazing. If I occasionally lose contact to my inspiration, I drink my coffee ( often 8 cups ), take a walk and look at the beautiful prospect and the inspiration is coming back to me.
Feel so privileged and grateful
©all pictures Christina Strehlow
More about our contributor Christina Strehlow here.
Words and photography by Lise Ulrich
For most of the year, weather permitting, the streets of the small Danish capital are bustling with local life, students and curious tourists filling up hip eateries and cafes, strolling along canals and taking in the historic sights. And of course pedalling from a-z in throngs of ever busy bicycle traffic. Copenhageners enjoy a uniquely high quality of life in a city that has always been more ‘hyggelig’ than hectic, and yet a born country girl might find herself yearning for a bit of untouched nature beyond walks in well-groomed castle gardens. Lucky then, that this too, is Copenhagen.
I used to miss the sound of crickets in summer, and the emptiness of open fields on a winter day. I missed the way light filters through leaves in the forest, the sound of waves rolling in and looking out over the landscape with not a house or road in sight. I missed being alone with my thoughts surrounded by nothing but nature, savouring a few hours of uninterrupted mindfulness before another workweek started churning away.
I needn’t have.
Having grown up in the Danish countryside without a single neighbour and being used to long daily walks with the dog or riding my horse, I remember feeling slightly overwhelmed when visiting Copenhagen as a child. The city – however tiny and picturesque compared to most capitals – seemed loud and slightly claustrophobic back then, and the traffic congestion, train stations and crowded streets left my skin sticky (or so I imagined).
Later as a young adult I would move to London and completely immerse myself in big city life on a vastly larger scale, and thus when I finally returned to Denmark years later by way of a job offer in Copenhagen, it was like relocating to a village where shops closed early and people walked frustratingly slow on metro escalators.
Perhaps because Copenhagen suddenly appeared unequivocally miniscule and laid-back to me, the country girl inside started stirring from her London adventure-induced nap. The hills and forests of my old home were now but an hour’s drive away, but with no car, a busy new career and precious little time to spend whole days escaping by train to the country, I grew restless walking in well-trodden circles around Copenhagen’s four lakes and central gardens several times a week, however lovely they are, trying to find some inner peace through the sound of birds and the wind in treetops – all the while surrounded by countless dog walkers, runners, nervous looking first-date couples (you can spot them a mile away) and groups of friends chatting animatedly with take-away coffee (admittedly I was and am often one of them).
But as many a newcomer to the city learns, I had only to expand my vision beyond the iconic heartland to discover the second nature of Copenhagen.
© all pictures Lise Ulrich
Following a few tips from fellow nature-loving Copenhageners and a map (these were the last days of the paper map, mind you), I realized to my initial surprise that I did not even have to leave the city perimeter to find those green spaces and uninterrupted vistas I longed for. It was there on my doorstep, a bike ride or few metro stops away from the familiar cobblestone streets and spires and bike lanes.
So much had I longed to take up those weekly country walks, that my entire perception of living in Copenhagen changed drastically and to the better on the afternoon that I got off at the last metro stop on the green line, at Vestamager, and walked to Kalvebod Commons, a large nature reserve right on the edge of the city that stretches on for miles and miles of marshlands, grass fields and birch forests, only occupied by birds, deer, sheep and cows.
Excerpt from NORTHLETTERS MAGAZINE VOLUME 1. More in our Vol.1 this autumn and about Lise Ulrich here.
Take care, dear readers! Melanie Kettner
Words & Photography by Gunn Kristin Monsen
15th June 2018
Nothing clears my head as simplicity, beautiful flowers and the sound of the lake.
I have always been drawn to the lake. Growing up spending all my summers at my grandparents place where I could run to the lake and have a swim any time, has made it so natural. The feeling of heather scraping up my bare legs as I ran the few meters to our hidden place. The joy of the fresh water as I entered the lake to swim in the tiny bay with my friend and the amazing feeling of just existing in the moment. Luxury given by nature so generously and consumed and enjoyed totally natural as a child.
Living in Norway means for many Norwegians having the nature’s scenery as a backdrop to our daily life. The mountains, fjord woods, lakes and long coastline are our natural elements. We are so used to it and may forget sometimes the impact it has on our way of living and thinking. For me a hectic life with no stopping points to catch my breath and the growing feeling of losing the ability to be in the moment, led me to search for the feeling again from my childhood. The beautiful feeling of time just passing as the mind take a break. My surroundings where the same as in my childhood, after settling with my family in the house where I had my summer paradise. Still the nature had lost its effect on me. Being so consumed in the fast pace of my daily life I had no tools to recognize what was so close.
My turning point was my first yoga class and starting to practice simple breathing techniques in my life. I discovered myself lying in bed, breathing and suddenly really hearing the sounds from the nature right outside my open bedroom window. The singing birds, the leaves rustling in the wind and the gentle sound of the lake so close to our house. It brought me back to my first winter in this house. My husband and I had just moved from the city to my childhood paradise after my grandparents. The winter was so cold, but still we kept the window in the bedroom slightly open for fresh air. My baby girl was in our bed getting breastfeed and then I heard it, the sound from the frozen lake, like a humming song. It was the ice moving and swaying and it all made a sound deep and wavy. So calming and relaxing. The most beautiful soundtrack to a precious moment. How could I have I had stopped listening to that?
Now the summer is here and we have our windows wide open as often we can. Letting the sound of nature surround us, and be the soundtrack to our life. The water sound different now with its merry sounds hitting the stones around the lake. We swim and take a trip in our old rowboat hunting for waterlilies. The most beautiful white flower to be picked at just the right moment before it closes its crowns in the evening. The stillness on the lake and the feeling of running you’re hand through the water as the boat slowly moves along. The seagulls watching us closely to protect their newly hatched babies. All things so peaceful. At the house we move outside to live. We eat in the garden, and forget to check our watches in the light and long summer nights. This summer we have been blessed with warms sunny days and we feel them in our bodies the days the rain are pouring down. We are a strange people here in the north, spending so many days of the year inside waiting for these sometime few, but precious summer days.
I must admit I still have a long way to go in letting myself really benefit from the amazing tool the nature around me is as a calming source. I love my job and could do it all my awakening hours, but to do it well I need time to reflect, getting inspired and letting the stress go. I need time to be creative and to let myself be lost in the process. When the mind is filled with distracting thoughts this is really hard. So I slowly give myself more space and room to breathe, getting closer to nature again and letting the sound of the lake inspire me to a life with more presence and living in the moment. It’s not easy but I am blessed with the the most beautiful surroundings to help me on my way.
My dream now is to build a studio in my garden. I have this image of the beautiful light from the lake streaming trough big windows in my studio, soft with a touch of blue tones from the water. Even closer to nature and its magic that clears my head time and time again.
© all pictures Gunn Kristin Monsen
More about Gunn,contributor of our NL2, here.
Words & Photography by Elisabeth Sofie Hovde
Vaycay or staycay, no matter if you travel far away or if you visit the same place for the 28th time, don’t forget to breathe. I search for that moment, where I can look at my family and just breathe. Like an out of body experience, I just want to enjoy us. After a shared meal, some are playing, some are closing their eyes to take a sigh, you know, that sigh that comes after a good meal with loved ones. It’s the moment where the dishes are forgotten, the stress disappears and the world just comes to a complete still. Even if it only lasts for a minute or two, you get it, and it sets the tone for the rest of the day.
My mother in law once said the “Vacation is not about doing nothing, it’s about doing something else than all the other days”. This inspires me to go to the beach, take a road trip or go down to the sea to have a barbeque, although I would most of all just lay around, read a magazine or scroll down Pinterest and Instagram. It’s about creating memories and a point of reference for my kids, so that when it’s their turn to organize vacations with their kids, they want to find that place and surroundings that give them the possibility to find their sigh.
Summer foods for me, are all about salads, ice cream and cooking food on an open fire. We eat more often and smaller meals than the other seasons. Not because of the heat, because I live in the middle part of Norway, and some nights we actually need to get the fireplace going, if the doors and windows have been opened all day, it can get a little chilly and it’s satisfying to snuggle up with the fireplace crackling. It mostly gets to hot after a while and then the doors are opened again, letting that crisp nordic summer night air back in. It’s a good opportunity to gather everyone throughout the day as well, sharing small meals and just talk.
We fish a lot during the summer months, and we get thrilled when the mackerel bites the hook. It’s strong so there is never any doubt there is a fish on the line. Sometimes, at our secret fishing place, when a shoal of fish swims by, my husband runs between the kids and me, helping us to get the fish of the hook and kill it. He barely gets to enjoy fishing himself, but we are so glad he helps us with that part of the fishing experience.
We own a house by the sea on an island about two-three hours outside of the city we live in. Sometimes cows are grazing the fields around the house, sometimes deer. But there is always peace and quiet. We sit on the same steps that my great grandparents sat on, as seen in the first photo of the house, from about 1934. When you sit there, looking out at the sea, troubles and stress disappear, and we can solve all the problems in the world by sitting there talking. During winter I can’t wait until spring and summer arrives and I can sit on the steps knitting while our youngest play football or does cartwheels on the lawn in front of us. The smell of the country air in clothes dried by the wind and sea breeze, sunkissed cheeks and saltwater blond haired kids, that’s summer to me.
© all pictures Elisabeth Sofie Hovde
More about our contributor of NL2 Elisabeth Sofie here.
Words & Photography by Mia Nguyen-
There’s a type of quiet I long after. It usually takes place in the early mornings and late evenings. This particular state of calm permeates every living space, making it easier to breathe and be still. The late and early darkness is often filled with tender murmurs of airplanes flying over, a subtle hum from the refrigerator. I’m neither a morning or night person, but these are the feelings that home exhibits after being away and on the road for stretches of time. It’s a calmness that creates a space for reflection.
Finding pockets of calm in daily living can feel precious and rare, especially when living in a noisy city. It’s the moment when the phone buzzes less and the flow of traffic comes to a dead stop. It’s the moment where you can close your eyes and just be left alone. In our busy day-to-day, this slowness in life is often forgotten about. Due to our fast-paced lifestyles we have adapted ourselves to we have to remind ourselves to slow down.
After a while, there’s always a need to escape to a place with quiet ambiance. Each season, I find myself having a sudden need to escape in an attempt to build new meaning for my creative work. Time starts to stretch and start to weigh like heavy glass blocks when the winter air remains stagnant and unproductive.
On a late November evening in 2017, I took a red-eye flight to Reykjavik from Boston. I had the unique opportunity to return to Iceland for the second time. It’s the first country where I received my first passport stamp and will forever cherish that memory. The purpose of my return was for a photography workshop focused on photographing arctic foxes on the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve of the Westfjords. The northwest region of Iceland is known for its intensity and extreme weather patterns. Life is rugged underneath the Arctic Circle and I prepared myself for the worst by packing clothes I could layer on top of each other for shooting photographs outside for long periods of time. I specifically chose to embark on this trip for its challenges and completely surrender myself to the environmental extremes. I wanted to push myself to the creative limits under harsh conditions. I wanted to go at it alone.
The word bravery is often associated with traveling alone. Bravery itself is a choice we make in order to remind ourselves of our own strength and courage. We are stronger than we think we are most of the time. If I allow the thoughts of fear of failure to seep in for too long, it’s game over. There’s real magic in diving deep into unexplored parts of ourselves and the world. Through this magic, we can find solace and understanding on what we are after and where we are going.
On day one, we packed up the Land Rovers with our equipment and headed to Súðavík, an 8-hour journey from Reykjavik. Just moments on the road, the trip had already surpassed my expectations. The views were nothing but awe-inspiring. Each mile and turn unfolded another natural wonder and a new weather pattern. Over the course of an hour we witnessed a rainstorm, a snowstorm, and vastness of sunlight. The tumultuous experience felt like a kaleidoscope dreamscape. In Iceland, we must surrender ourselves to the weather and adapt quickly to the sudden changes. It is crucial to go with the flow.
The small town of Ísafjörður was dusted in a generous amount of snow. The place resembled a real-life snow globe. As we departed from the marina, we were advised to switch our phones to airplane mode. It was nice to disconnect and say goodbye to the world for a brief moment. Our worlds in the modern age is grounded in staying constantly connected. The thought alone can be overwhelming. Switching off occasionally is essential for sanity’s sake. There’s so much of the world to experience presently.
Life generally slows down in the Westfjords. The landscape of Iceland is defined by its sparseness. The sun doesn’t rise until 10 a.m. or later in the winter. The waves from the water crash onto the rocks with full force. Everything is cloaked in deep blanket of darkness upon waking up and before 5 p.m. The combination of the fast and quiet winter breezes complement the expanse of the fjords.
© all pictures Mia Nguyen
The auroras swayed and danced gently underneath the Northern sky, making it easy to fall in love with every bit of what nature had to offer. Early mornings are bathed with hues of ethereal pink light. The land surrounding the cabin felt like an endless playground, a boundless space for creativity. It was hard to let go and make the realization that we had to leave and go back home.
Building a strong connection with the strangers that came together for this trip was unlike anything else I ever experienced. The experience would have been much more different if we had cell reception. Moments were serendipitous and carefree. People opened up and revealed their truths.
Excerpt from our NL1 magazine