Sunday, June 23, 2013

The arctic, in summary

And also, the arctic, in summer, where the sun doesn't set for months. I kept wanting to go outside at midnight to take photos, as if taking a picture of the sun above the horizon at midnight, could prove that it was happening. In fact though, it was overcast all but one night, and on that night (my birthday actually), the sun streamed through the windows, and Heiko stayed awake past midnight.
The big highlight of the arctic visit was the beautiful hiking. The trails were wonderfully maintained, I realized that this is probably not so hard since things grow so slowly in the arctic (apparently some of the lichens grow a few tenths of a millimeter each year). Whatever the reason, the trails were perfect for strolling with a baby in the front pack. And, Heiko also hiked some of them himself, which was fun if a little slow, and earned him his new nickname, Hikey. There were also beautiful burbling arctic brooks, and lots of little bridges and boardwalks. Once we got up high enough, the landscape took a turn toward the lunar, an amazing moonscape with dramatic views.
I also enjoyed the Nordic design elements. I can imagine how cozy the wood cabins would be after long days of cross country skiing. The perfect time for a sauna, I'm sure. I did try out a few different Finnish saunas (and I was told by our Finnish host that even the swedes do not really know how to do saunas), which was nice (if sitting in 75C can be described as relaxing?).
Saariselka, where we were staying, was definitely in its off season. The restaurants were empty, save for tour buses of Germans who came rumbling through each night. And the hiking trails where mostly populated by reindeer, not humans. This is interesting to me, since the popular time to visit must be in the winter, where, by symmetry, the sun does not rise for over a month. Can you imagine? I feel that we picked an excellent time to visit. It prompted me to wonder things, such as: do trees and plants need darkness/ rest to grow? What happens to plants when they may have 24 hours of sun exposure a day?
I would say that Heiko pretty much had the time of his life, wandering around, staying up late, eating reindeer, mucking around in the streams and smiling at e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. He made lots of friends, as usual. Well, I should say that it was the time of his life until we got to the Netherlands, rode bikes and ate pannekoeken. But that's another story.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The long nightless night.

It has been a while, where to begin? I'm not sure whether to attempt a big catch up, or to just skip straight to the nightless nights of northern Finland. I'll try for both.

We left Colorado for Edmonton, Alberta, where we attended the beautiful wedding of S and M. Or I should say, attended in a relay fashion, passing our (remarkable baton shaped) baby back and forth. It was beautiful though, and fun to dress up. Not to mention being reunited with all my super-favourite Toronto and Australia ladies, that right there was the highlight.
Then, on the YEG --> YYZ flight (Edmo to Toronto) Heiko suddenly started a burning fever. That kicked off a challenging week of nursing my sick baby boy, with the cherry on top being catching the dread illness on the day before our huge Euro travel departure!!!! Still, it was a good week in Toronto, spent taking long walks, catching up with friends, watching heiko play get to know you with uncle G, and enjoying the good company and food all around.
Heiko is going through an interesting and kind of challenging developmental phase. He still isn't walking on his own, but prefers to guide an appropriate adult around my one finger, on which he tugs really remarkably hard. In other words, he doesn't really need that support, he just wants it. And I should emphasize the appropriateness of the adult. Basically it was only mum or dad, with a very strong preference for dad. Sadly the grandparents were lovely for smiling at and waving to, but not for much else, according to this opinionated little boy. Dashed were my big plans of taking advantage of such loving and willing babysitters to attend numerous yoga classes and linger over baby-free (and hopefully baby-unfriendly spicy food themed) meals with old friends. Instead it was nursing and walking, nursing and walking. In fact, I didn't even pull out my camera for a full week after our arrival in Toronto, as my hands were literally always full. However, while they were not really able to do much in the way of taking care of Heiko, Grammie and grandad were able to take care of me, which was totally essential.
All told, not exactly the Toronto vacation I had imagined, but it was still good to be home, although as usual, more than a little heartbreaking to remember how much I miss the city and the very dear people who live in it.
That brings us to a week ago, when we boarded a plane bound for Northern Europe. Heiko slept happily through the whole transatlantic flight, and napped throughout our connecting flight to Finland. We spent a night in Helsinki before jetting further north to Inari, north of the arctic circle. From there, a bus brought us to Saariselka, where we are presently stationed.
Yes, here we are, in the arctic. Apparently the sun rose sometime in May and won't set until sometime in July. The nightless nights are not exactly ideal for getting over jet lag, however. It really is bizarre to glance at the windows with the curtains drawn and always feel that it is morning, that the day is getting started.
We've been seeing a lot of reindeer, and <ehem>, eating even more of it. I thought that eating reindeer would be kind of a novelty thing, but in fact it seems to just genuinely be a staple of the Lapland diet. So, I can say that reindeer are both cute and tasty. Strange.
OK, I fear the nap time draws to a close, so I will basically save the photos for other posts. Meantime, here is a showcase of the pro walker. And finally, post walk, enjoying the nightless night. I think this was taken at about 10pm, or, 22:00 I should say.

Monday, June 3, 2013

We're off!

And the adventure begins!!! We're already having a blast on the road, but before I get into that, I'd like to savour home for a little while. I have to say that I'm a little sad about leaving the garden right now, so much coming up and blooming and being beautiful. Especially after our comprehensive weeding efforts, it is looking pretty good. Since this is our first spring in Fort Collins, it has been interesting to see what is coming up. We also shoved some seeds in the ground and set our sprinkler on a timer, so we'll see what develops in the hot Colorado sun. Hopefully the folks staying in our house this summer will enjoy the garden.
Here are some pictures of Heiko enjoying experiencing some rare and much needed rain.