Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Equinox

A few days ago, I prepared to  write about the nearness of spring with the title, Almost Spring. But then, I wasn't able to get to that on account of other priorities that I must take care of.

So now, I'm writing about the presence of spring instead. March 20 is this year's spring equinox. The word equinox came from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, night and day are about equal length. Broader and clearer explanations of this word can be found HERE.

So spring has come officially. Here in our place, though, which is high up in the northern hemisphere, spring will claim its rightful place in the stream of time by the middle of April, according to a local news release. Right now, we are still covered with mounds of snow, the grounds still tucked in a thick blanket of snow, and temperature remains below zero. But the days are mostly sunny, the sky clear blue, and the air feels and smells real spring. Flocks of birds start to frolic overhead.  Bare trees bask in the warmth of the sun. Some willow trees are budding out. The snow is melting out gradually, some turning to ice, then dripping in the heat of the sun.

A pleasant beginning.

Okay, I'm going to include here the events during the last days of winter. They were days filled with geophysical activities. Sometimes, the snow came falling even amid the sunshine. Temperature remained around minus 8 degrees celsius. Sundogs were common sights in the mornings, and even now in spring. Active aurora borealis danced in the night sky.  Fantastic cloud formations gathered around the waxing spring moon. What more could one wish for? 

All these marvels were winter's wonderful ways of saying goodbye and giving way to spring.  

And so, once again, I'm going to say goodbye to winter. It's been an awesome season, one I'll never forget.

And with arms wide-open, I welcome spring! Soon, I will feast my eyes on its brilliant colors that will fill my heart with gladness.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Another Dance With Aurora

I neglected to check the aurora forecast last Sunday, 17th of March, so that I was taken by surprise when hubby saw an aurora picture uploaded in our local news website right after the tv program that we were watching ended.  It was already past eleven in the night and I felt so tired and sleepy, but the event suddenly jolted me and made me dash to our backyard to check it out. Indeed, fragments of  green lights filled the whole sky right above us, flashing up with intensity, then fading away, and moving here and there gracefully.

I put on my jacket and boots, then grabbed my camera and tripod and ran toward the front door and out of our apartment building. There, I positioned my tripod and pointed the camera to where the brightest lights were presently dancing. Since the lights kept moving round and round, flashing on and off, I had to keep changing my points of view to capture some fragments of the entire show. Like my first aurora sighting two years back, this too is so huge that I could not see all of it, especially with all the buildings around me blocking the view. I was a little afraid to venture alone farther in an open space at this time of the night, so I just stayed close to our unit.  Those who went to Nydalasjön and took pictures  from the frozen lake got better views and really great pictures of the whole sky show. From my vantage point, though, the aurora danced around the sphere directly above me. But this time, the lights were more vibrant and the show longer and more spectacular.

So my camera got busy shooting here and there, at 15, 30 or 60 seconds exposures. As I left the camera alone to complete its jobs, I stood there watching, totally mesmerized by this amazing celestial spectacle. My heart just burst with unspeakable joy as I silently extolled the Creator of such stunning beauty.

Again, what I was able to capture are mere fragments, since even the wide-angle setting of my camera could not capture the whole of this colossal show.

Here are some links to a picture gallery of this night's aurora taken around here.

I kept watching alone in the deep of the night, my whole being merrily dancing in synchrony with the northern lights. 

Another ethereal dance with radiant Aurora. Another bliss.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Winter's Promise

Last week, winter seemed to give way to spring. Temperature rose from below zero to around 5 plus. The sun, already called "vårsol" (spring sun),  had been out bright and warm almost everyday. All building roofs had their eaves dripping heavily with water that came from the melting snow. The ground snow began to shrink while streets and pavements turned to shallow pools of water, wet snow or solid ice. 

The sky was either completely blue or studded with varied cloud formations.   

The afternoon sky was mostly ablaze with the orange, red or pink glow of the setting sun.

Even the nights exhibited the silvery moon that glided across the deep blue of the evening sky.

Sunlight streamed through the windows. The cherry blossoms in the vase bloomed and glowed in the sunshine. Our fruits too gleamed as I photographed them.

Ski resorts were threatened with premature close-down of their business as the snowy slopes started to melt. Even the public skiing trails were in the brink of becoming unusable. These, in turn, disappointed some skiers who haven't had their fill of the winter sport yet.

It looked like winter promised to leave early this year. A favor for those who dislike the season and for those who are rushing to embrace the spring.

But then, this past Saturday, a blizzard swept almost the whole country, dumping several centimeters of fresh snow on the ground. The storm kept going until the next day.

When the snow storm finally subsided, soothing calm settled down. The thick clouds started to break out, revealing patches of blue and allowing the sun to peer through intermittently. The days came with occasional snowfall. Sleety grounds were once again coated with fresh layers of snow. Ski resorts got into full swing again.

Yesterday, snowfall and sunshine alternated throughout the day. The wind kept blowing fiercely, lifting off the snow and sent it swirling in the air like thick clouds, which reduced visibility of the surroundings.

And earlier today, I walked in the warmth of real spring sun, though temperature was still minus 7. But it's a soothing combination of cold and warmth.

Obviously, winter's promise is a bit fickly. No one can be so sure when it will really keep its promise. No matter what, even though winter keeps stalling or breaking its promise, it's fine with me. After all, I never get tired of snow, of the cold, of all the beauty that the season bequeaths to us and of wearing multiple winter clothes.

So... whether winter or spring, my heart keeps on singing.

Joining Skywatch Friday

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Gestures of Gratitude

Some kind acts or little gifts may seem insignificant to others, yet to one who has an appreciative and grateful heart, they mean a lot. They can touch the heart of the recipient and endear the givers to him/her.

I've crossed paths with many persons here who are so kind to me.  Some may not be my friends, though I wish they were, and yet, they show that they care about me in different ways. Their fine deeds have been inscribed in the gratitude "journal" that I keep in my heart.

Being touched in this way makes my creative juices flow profusely. And so, in my spare moments, even when I'm watching tv, I always find myself immersed in card-making, recycling juice boxes into decorative gift boxes and thinking out heartwarming words of thanks and appreciation that would go along with my artworks. I'm highlighting some of my finished products here.

This one's for a Swedish couple who have been generous to us since we came here.

These two went to a German family for whom I'm working. I admire their family unity, responsibility and the way they make time for family bonding and recreation. I'm impressed by their humility despite the couple's honored professions as a science professor/researcher at the university and a doctor of anesthesiology at the university hospital. And I'm truly moved by their kindness and amiable treatment to me. I sincerely salute to this amazing couple.

Here's to an Australian friend who has immigrated to Sweden a long time ago. She's one of my first associates in some missions, a constant companion in the field, who had been supportive to me and made me feel at home when I was still new here. A sort of thank-you and encouragement card.

Here's to a Swedish couple in Örebro, who welcomed us to stay in their house for two days when we attended the wedding of a friend there. We were then strangers to one another, and yet, they heartily accepted us as their guests. They proved to be kind-hearted, generous and easy to be with. And we became good friends.

This one's for an elderly man who came to pick us at the airport upon our arrival in this country over three years ago. He was also a stranger to us, sent by my hubby's acquaintance to pick us up with his car. Later on, we became friends too, and he invited us for a "fika" (snack) in his home one day. He served us with "smörgåstårta" and "semlor", popular Swedish cakes which I tasted for the first time. He's a very caring and loving gentleman.

Between winter and spring last year, a Greek Cypriot-turned-British couple who settled in Sweden invited  a small group of friends for a meal at their home in a village close to Umeå. We were among the group. The couple prepared sumptuous Greek foods for us, which I ate with much gusto.  After meal, the couple let us use their dining table to play table tennis right in the dining room. I immensely enjoyed playing with a retired elderly doctor who was also with us, and was really skilled in this sport. It's the only sport I really love to play.  That was another day that filled my heart with gratitude.

This one's for a customer who was appreciative of my service in their home. She's an owner of a rehabilitation institute around here, and has not much time for all the household chores. So I have to help up regularly. One day in December, I found lying on the table a gift from her and her hubby addressed to me - a big box of chocolates! I was so touched, knowing that we haven't known each other well yet. But they fully trust me. In gratitude for their kindness, I made this thank-you  card for them.

Sure, there are many more who deserve to get such expressions of gratitude. I've already posted some of them in the past. Others are still in my waiting list. 

And there is always room in my busy life to express in different ways my appreciation and gratitude to the worthy ones. I'm sure that my gestures have good effects on the recipients and me. 

Have a great weekend to all my readers!