uppsala-river

on the last day of april it’s time to celebrate

there are so many fun traditions swirling around this time of year… we are halfway through spring and headed straight towards summer. and, here in sweden, that is serious business.

the last of april (sista april) is a day that takes all of that excitement about spring and life and warmth and growth and light, and calls for bbqs, bonfires, music, champagne, and outdoor fun, including letting animals out to pasture again. it is a day, especially in uppsala (where i live), where the celebration begins early in the morning on the last day of april and continues on into the first day of may, a national holiday in sweden.

but, why the last of april? where did this tradition come from?

ultimately, in the northern hemisphere, this is the time of year when mother earth opens up and brings new life all around. that’s the basis of this entire celebration. a pagan, hedonistic, ancient day of celebrating the desire to leave winter completely behind, including turning away evil spirits, and welcoming the warmth + light + new life of the spring and summer months.

valborg-bonfire

 the other name for the last of april is valborg, which comes from the name of saint walpurga, a woman who left england to become a missionary nun in germany in the 700s. may 1st is her saints day. christians took the former pagan festival of the celebration of spring, and turned it into a celebration of st. walpurga.

however, valborg in sweden has very little to do with religion, and everything to do with the arrival of spring. and, this is not a private, family celebration like christmas or easter, mind you. no, this is a very, very public event. whole towns and cities gather together outside to celebrate as a community.

and the biggest community celebration is found in uppsala. lucky me! 

yes, the largest and most traditional valborg celebration is found right here where i live. the celebration begins early in the morning with a breakfast of champagne + strawberries, and ends late at night. in between, all day long, there are tons of traditions and thousands of people. it is estimated that about 10,000 extra visitors will make their way to uppsala on the last day of april to take part in this gigantic celebration of spring. that’s insane! basically, it’s gonna be wall to wall people all over the city, especially in parks. on blankets. having bbqs and drinking massive amounts of alcohol. the city has even ordered 62,400 bottles of water – encouraging everyone to drink a bottle of water in-between drinks. serious business, huh?

this year also marks the 40th anniversary of a rafting competition in the river that runs through the middle of the city. the rafts have to be handmade, therefore they are rickety, funny, and quite easily torn apart, i imagine. i’ve never seen the rafting race, so i hope to make it down there this year!

there are free concerts, with choirs singing very traditional spring songs, a speech by the university’s president from the balcony of the library (where thousands of people gather), and a champagne run. later in the evening, outside of the city there are big bonfires and more songs.

so, the whole day is just one, big, crazy celebration. 

i am most definitely looking forward to celebrating my 2nd valborg in uppsala, my 4th in sweden. the last time i was in uppsala, i was deathly ill with some sort of stomach virus, so i missed out on most everything. i stayed curled up in the fetal position with a bucket beside my bed in the guest room at lina’s brother’s apartment. from my little cot, i listened to everyone in the living room, partying and having fun. poor me, right?

valborg-drinks

but, this year, i’m all ready!

we’ve got our champagne and wine chilling, our grill + picnic blanket all ready, and we can’t wait to celebrate the magical, life-giving, beautiful spring + summer in sweden. now, let’s just keep our fingers crossed (and hold our thumbs) for good weather tomorrow!

have a great (and safe) last day of april! and, join in the celebrations wherever you are – celebrate spring or autumn. either way, the seasons are moving forward, and the amazing cycle of life continues. how freaking awesome is it that we get to be a part of that?

i’ll check back in over the weekend + share some photos. after recovering from the celebrations, of course. wink. wink.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

march playlist

40 | march 2015 // a playlist created for wanderers + dedicated to angela

as i sit at the kitchen table, blogging this morning, sipping on coffee brewed from our brand new, very own coffee maker (more on that in another post!), the wind is whipping like a madman outside. typical march weather. because, yes, guys, it’s march. al-freaking-ready! that means that spring is on its way for those of us in the northern hemisphere. wooooo! of course, it’ll be about 2 more months before any warm weather settles in, but in the meantime, birds will be chirping, flowers will begin blooming, and vivid colors will be returning, taking the place of the cold, but beautiful, nordic shades of blues, whites, and grays.

now that it’s a new month, it’s also time for a new playlist – part of my year-long celebration of turning 40 last septemeber. since then, i’ve made a playlist for every single month. turns out, it has been an amazing little project, which has brought tons of new music into my life. (you can find all of the links to the playlists at the end of this post).

for march, i knew that i wanted to do something about wandering. not because i feel like i am wandering so much. in fact, for me, it is the exact opposite, i am in the process of beginning to settle somewhat. still, i knew that having songs that bring about a sense of calm + peace, in the midst of wandering – which is what we are all doing in some ways as we journey through life – would be exactly the perfect theme. i am sure that it also has to do with my own personal celebration of lent (to read more about my take on lent this year, click –> here).

in any case, i wanted to capture a sense of wandering calmly, with a sense of trust + peace. a low anxiety, low stress, playlist that reminds us that we are all ok, or that we will be ok,  even without knowing the exact destinations of our journeys. a reminder that is reflected in nature’s journey at this time of year, the journey from winter to spring.

march playlist

i was already at work on this playlist when i received a message from an IG friend – a follower who i have never met. she said that she loved my playlists, and asked me if i could make one for her because she is facing surgery tomorrow (march 2). she went on to tell me that she wanted something calming + peaceful. i told her about my work on march’s playlist, and then said that i would keep her in mind as i completed it. in the end, her request was the perfect (and completely humbling) thing to spark my creativity – she became my muse.

but, as i thought about her, i also thought about many others as well. i thought about all of us. i reflected on the fact that we all need a little space, a little peace and calm to remind us to keep on going. to keep on wandering, even though the desert seems scary and the path is unknown. even though the mountains are high, the valleys are low, and everything in between seems confusing, empty, or overwhelming.

so, for march, as the winds blow, bringing about the change of the seasons, i hope that this playlist blows through you, reminding you that even in the midst of the storm, even in the middle of the desert, and even when our wandering seems pointless or we fear that we are lost… there is peace. there is hope. and life continues to renew itself.

soak up the music. let it fill your soul. if you’d like, choose one song a day (i usually shuffle the playlist, so i have no idea what the song of the day might be), and close your eyes + let that song inspire you all day long. of course, listen to the entire playlist all day, every day if you wish. but, if you’d like to have something to focus on, let the first song of the day that you listen to be your muse for that day. and if you want to take it a step further, use the title and the song as inspiration for a photo of the day. snap it + share it on instagram or Facebook. let the march playlist help you chronicle your journey through the art of music + photos.

march-playlist

ok. here’s a summary of my suggestions for how you might want to use march’s playlist (use them all or only one) to let your creativity flow.

// click on the photo or the link (both above) to be taken to spotify, where you can then follow the playlist.

// start each day by hitting shuffle on the playlist or follow the playlist in the order that it is listed below (song # 1 for march 1st, for example). let the first song you hear (whether shuffling or following the numbered order) be your “song of the day” to inspire you + be your focus for the day.

// follow the playlist in the order that is is listed below (or use the shuffle idea from above) and take a photo of the day. post it on instagram and/or Facebook.

| artists first, song titles second |

1. Trampled By Turtles – Alone
2. Laleh – Better Life
3. Uzo Aduba, Godspell Ensemble – By My Side
4. Bifrost Arts – Come O Spirit! (feat. Aimee Wilson)
5. Matthew And The Atlas – Come Out Of The Woods
6. Sarah Jarosz – Dark Road
7. Butterfly Boucher – Drift On
8. The Civil Wars – Dust to Dust
9. Bearfoot – Feel Free
10. Joshua Meltzer – Gypsy Moon
11. Joan Osborne – Holy Waters
12. Bifrost Arts – Kyrie (feat. Shara Worden, Sarah Fullen and Megan Rederick)
13. Dixie Chicks – Landslide
14. Shovels & Rope – Lay Low
15. Aoife O’Donovan – Lay My Burden Down
16. Wilhelm Brothers – Lay Your Burden Down
17. The Head And The Heart – Let’s Be Still
18. Sarah Jarosz – Long Journey
19. Snatam Kaur – Long Time Sun
20. Tina and Her Pony – Medicine
21. Horse Feathers – Middle Testament
22. The Lumineers – Morning Song
23. Sarah Jarosz – Peace
24. Iona – Prayer on the Mountain
25. The Milk Carton Kids – Promised Land
26. Nickel Creek – Reasons Why
27. Gregory Alan Isakov – Second Chances
28. Pierre Bensusan – Silent Passenger
29. The Avett Brothers – Souls Like The Wheels
30. Joy Kills Sorrow – Spring
31. The Head And The Heart – Springtime
32. The Farewell Drifters – Starting Over
33. Sara Watkins – Take Up Your Spade
34. Gregory Alan Isakov – The Universe
35. The Milk Carton Kids – There By Your Side
36. Horse Feathers – Thistled Spring
37. The Secret Sisters – Tomorrow Will Be Kinder – from The Hunger Games Soundtrack
38. The Greencards – Traveler’s Song
39. Laleh – Vårens första dag (Spring’s First Day)
40. Horse Feathers – What We Become

 

happy listening, lovely people. and happy march!! onwards + upwards! xoxo

 

previous playlists: february 2015 | january 2015 | december 2014 | november 2014 | october 2014 | september 2014

 

the freedom of letting go

// I stood still, looking up at this tree the other morning, watching the leaves fall + take flight. They just let go… accepting that this season of their life was done. They flew one after another, floating gently wherever the wind took them, some even landing on my shoulder or my head. Their willingness inspired me.

// I suppose I have a lot to learn from a tree. Acceptance, flexibility, willingness, gentleness.

// As I set my intentions for this next season in my life, it is also necessary for me, like this great tree above, to let go of control + to trust that the universe will guide me. It always does. And it is always amazing.

// So, today, I release my dreams out into the Universe once again + embrace the belief that, come what may, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Just let go…

light + love, my friends. xx

darkness has come

darkness has arrived. halloween has been celebrated with all of its ghostly and ghoulishly fun. all saint’s day, the day we remember + celebrate the dead, has passed as well. and for us in the states, we have changed to winter time (no more daylight savings time), so the sun set today so very early. darkness has literally arrived. and it feels heavy, yet cozy.

you know, this all hallows time (halloween and hallows/saints day) was actually a festival time back in the day. the celtic festival, known as samhain, celebrated the dead halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. it was a time when winter preparations began for farmers, bringing their livestock in from the pastures. fires were lit, offerings of food and drink were left to the gods, asking for survival through the winter, and feasts were had, inviting the souls of the dead to draw near. people even dressed in costumes, going from door to door, reciting verses in exchange for food to be used at the feast. it was seen as a day that the spirit world was closer to the living world, thus the invitation for the souls of those who have gone before to come and feast with the living.

in my opinion, there is nothing dark and demon-y about this. it is simply recognizing the cycle of life, as seen in nature + in our own lives. november is a month that feels like the very end of life. it feels like death. it even looks like death in the northern hemisphere. just look around and notice what happens to the earth as the month progress. it grows darker, the plants and trees die. animals hibernate. we all move inside.

all saint’s day was introduced by christians in the year 609, but was originally celebrated on may 13. a few hundred years later it was officially switched to november 1, influenced by and merging with the celtic samhain holiday. offerings of prayers, flowers, candles, and even food are made in some countries. in sweden family members visit the graves of loved ones, taking candles and gifts to lay by the tombstones. when i lived there, i remember how silently beautiful it was. it was an overwhelming feeling of reverence – and i felt that the souls were closer to us. but, perhaps it was just me, being aware of them – that the souls are nearby all the time, but we never stop to really reflect on their presence. 

photo from here

photo from here

in the christian church in the states the only thing that is done is that a list of names of all of those who have died in the past year is read in the middle of the service. touching and sweet, but i definitely prefer the swedish way of actively being involved in remembering and giving thanks.

with that in mind, lina and i celebrated in our own way at home for all saint’s days/samhain. we lit a single candle and let it burn all day long, in remembrance of our loved ones. then, we picked up paige and headed to a historical cemetery in asheville. it was snowy, cold, misty, and windy. the air was damp and raw, but we walked a bit, lighting tea lights and leaving them on the grave of thomas wolfe, a famous american author from asheville who is buried there. it was our way of mingling with and showing respect for the souls of those who have gone before – and it reminded me of my one precious life that i have…

candle all saints day

all saints day riverview cemetery

all saints day riverview cemetery

all saints day riverview cemetery

i know it sounds depressing, but it is simply a reminder of who we are. a reminder that life is short and fleeting, and that we miss the people who have already left this world.

but, my friends, i truly believe that we must reflect on these things to help us gain perspective, to inspire us, and to ultimately transform us. it may be tough, but i believe that taking the time to ponder these things, together + alone, make us better people. it helps us to embrace the life that we have and live in the present moment.

so, whether you call it samhain or all saint’s day, the hallows festival is a beautiful time to dress up and enjoy the fun + craziness of halloween, while knowing that the tradition came from a festival of respecting death – both of the season of summer, and of the death of people we have loved. it is also a beautiful time take a slow, deep breath and light a candle. a time to be inspired to hold on + move forward. to grab on to the life that pulses through our veins and the breath that sustains us, inspiring us to make something of the life that we have been given.

all saints day riverview cemetery

what will you do with your life?

sending you light + love… even in the darkness, my dear ones.

the adventures of a girl in love with autumn

so, autumn is in full swing here in asheville, north carolina and it just could not be more cozy and beautiful. october is absolutely a stunning month up here in the mountains. but, i’m telling you, this is only the beginning. the beauty, the coziness, the autumn amazingness will only grow more + more.

here’s an example: right now, as i type this, i have candles lit in my living room. a blanket on my feet. a glass or red wine by my side. halloween lights glowing outside my door on the balcony. the debate for north carolina’s next senator on tv (we vote in just 4 weeks – and it will be a big one). and tons of photos to share with you in this post.

yes, i am enjoying a very low key, relaxed night after about 2 glorious weeks of adventure, fun, and  friends. i gotta get my balance on, you know. so, here are bunches of snaps from the past 2 weeks – snaps of food, drinks, nature, laughs – of sharing life with one another. and, just as a bonus, they include lina’s high school friend from sweden who came to visit us for 10 days. take a peek!

happy october!

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dinners and beer out on the town – gotta share the avl secrets w/ our swedish friend!
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vintage store obsessions
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ah-freaking-mazing moments: 7:30 am yoga class + midday mountain ride + $2.50 cans of beer and slices of pizza.

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a huge fika group (20 were there!) and then some alone time at my “secret” hiding spot
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pub crawl. i mean, we’ve got 15 micro-breweries in asheville. what else to do?!IMG_8258 IMG_8260 IMG_8266

a small mountain town visit + railroad tracks + true bluegrass + the best burger ever at a lonesome country barIMG_8283 IMG_8292 IMG_8294

live music + another brewery + asheville’s drum circle (there is nothing quite like the downtown drum circle. anywhere. ever)IMG_8305 IMG_8310 IMG_8331 IMG_8334

biltmore estate + wine tasting IMG_8338 IMG_8344 IMG_8361 IMG_8364

the first frost + golden sun + the blue ridge parkwayIMG_8391 IMG_8398 IMG_8399 IMG_8405 IMG_8407 IMG_8429 IMG_8437 IMG_8452 IMG_8458 IMG_8467 IMG_8475

a celebratory last night out with our swedish friend (she left this morning)IMG_8511 IMG_8520 IMG_8524

dedication: 7:30 am yoga class – even though it was dark + rainy when i left home
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autumn peaceIMG_8541

you see? i told you it was a lot. hehe. i sure do hope that your autumn/spring has gotten off to a beautiful start. sending you lots of peace and happiness.

love + light. xx

welcome back, dear autumn.

tonight is special. it is the autumn equinox. or in other words, fall begins tonight in the northern hemisphere. and i just love fall. but, before i get all wrapped up in the coziness and beauty of autumn, i want to pause today to let the equinox energy do its thing.

what i’m talking about is the fact that with the autumn equinox, nature is in balance. from the beginning of summer until today, the days have been longer than the night. after today, the reverse is true. the nights become longer. and the season of darkness creeps in.

for tonight, however, the light and the dark are equal. everything is in balance.

and this can mean a lot to our lives symbolically, if we take pause. as it is the middle of the harvest season, it is a time for celebration of all of the gifts of life. it is a perfect time to take stock and reflect on what has happened so far in life. it is a perfect time to be aware of the abundance we have received this year, not only in food, but in everything that we have experienced. and it is a time to plan and prepare what is needed for the next season in our lives. we can spend some moments, if we choose, on this autumn equinox night putting our lives in balance – focusing on remembering all that we have been given and preparing to let the season of darkness and coziness inspire us to go even further than we have in the past. it’s a time to finish up our old projects and begin to plant seeds for new ones. it is a time to celebrate and balance our life.

trees fall

so, i decided to spend some time, on this absolutely gorgeous day in the north carolina mountains, by myself. thinking, reflecting, and enjoying nature.

i headed over to a bar that is kind of like a park. grabbed my camp chair out of my car, ordered a pint of beer, and went to sit by the river. i let the sun warm my face, the water and the trees inspire me, and the blue sky fill me with awe and gratitude. i did a few things i love: i took some photos, wrote a little in my journal, and meditated a bit. i only spent about 45 minutes there, but it was the perfect little break in my day – and the perfect opportunity to welcome this next season in the cycle of life.
the bywater the bywater the bywater the bywater the bywater the by water french broad river the by water french broad river

at home, i gathered some candles, got a pumpkin, and made a dinner from fresh, local veggies. i am in the midst of creating a cozy, warm space for the coming dark, chilly nights.

every time this season rolls around, i am always ready for it. i am ready for sweaters and boots and scarves. ready for deep blue skies and nights that nip at your nose. i can’t wait to slide on some fingerless gloves and wear beanie caps. i love lighting candles all over my home, and making chili + soup. and the leaves, of course the leaves on the trees in the mountains. it’s a breathtaking, beautiful, restful time of year.

pumpkin ego self autumn vegetables

i hope that you will take some time over the next few days to let autumn (or spring if you are in the southern hemisphere) sink into your bones. i hope that you will find some peace and quiet, and feel the balance of the earth as nature moves on, reminding us that our lives move on too. and it’s time, my friends, time to let the summer (or winter) go – time to begin to move indoors and begin to let the long, sometimes difficult, but always amazing season of autumn (spring) inspire us.

peace + love.