On a recent four day long weekend abroad, I spent most of my time daydreaming while gazing up at blue skies and taking brief snapshots with my iPhone. The thought of picking up my Canon hadn’t crossed my brain longer than a fleeting second before the idea of roaming into a boulangerie came to thought. It is not to say that I was not inspired by my surroundings, it was quite the opposite. I was thrilled to be around people, art, sounds, cultures, sights, and glorious golden spring light. Seeing it through a lens wasn’t enough, I needed the moments to filter through my very own pupils into my wandering mind.
Yet, my company wasn’t convinced and inspired a challenge. Wake up at sunrise on my last day with the intention to take my camera off the shelf and out into the streets. With tired eyes I snoozed through two alarms the next morning and reluctantly tied my shoes and headed out into the world. The light was right. Softness took over what had been traffic filled every moment before this dawn. People were still home, tossing in their sheets, the morning was mine to capture. For photographers and runners, there is no better time than sunrise to get it done right.
I neglect this fact often at home. Yet, on a trip to a foreign place, it is easy for me to try new things or reminisce an old lust, for the sake of the experience. Call it je ne sais quoi, call it jet lag, but I hit the streets that Sunday morning feeling free and more like me than I had in weeks. Quiet time alone with myself to visualize, frame, and capture a moment. A memory.
Recently I became a member of the Finnish Public Library. To my understanding, my new library card allows me to have access to any library within the country. Such a large opportunity seemed overlooked my first couple years as a resident here, and I am eager to make up for lost time.
The Rikhardinkatu Library is closest to my apartment. It is a beautiful building and a visual treat to explore the many halls. The spring light has returned to the city, and since there is still time before the warmth follows, these cozy corners will be my preferred place to stay. Like a cat basking in the beams of light, I receive so much pleasure enjoying these views.
My first batch of books included The Collected Poems of Allen Ginsberg, You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense by Charles Bukowski, and finally Hystopia by David Means. The latter is a novel and it has been an interesting change of pace for my traditional scientific sociological interest. It is a fiction piece based on American culture in the mid-west post-Vietnam war. Novels are not my favorite, but from time to time it is good to read something different from your natural attraction.
Taking the time to be a member of the library has been a humbling way to grow roots deeper into the neighborhood. The benefits are plentiful in that I am able to enjoy reading without hoarding books and producing waste. This is also an opportunity to save money whilst enjoying the tangible experiences of reading. I also like the fact that I now have a cute little tangerine colored library card in my wallet. It is simple and may not add much to my resume, but to me, these little things mean the most. So I will continue to enjoy the smell of old books, watch my coffee table change from season to season with various titles, and continue to take advantage of what city life has to offer.
I made a few notes whilst sitting in the library today to prepare for this post, and I don’t believe much editing is required to express what I felt:
Although most of what fills the shelves here is foreign to my native tongue, the bones of any library can be comforting. I feel like I belong here.
As predicted, I have returned to the botanical gardens. This trip is more intimate than the inaugural, yet it was just as satisfying. A slow tram ride through the city carried me from my neighborhood to the garden entrance, and thus the adventure began.
The content brings to light what I fail to experience in reality. The seasons are transitioning across the globe. Social media likes to remind us all when the change occurs, even if it is at the expense of our personal comfort. I enjoy seeing the leaves change color in Helsinki, the spring surf pictures from Cape Town, and the seasonal sunset shots people capture from around the world but take it too far at times and I begin to wonder why I’m not somewhere else.
To respond to this global FOMO epidemic, the botanical gardens are my saving grace. On this particular day, I enjoyed the crisp autumn air, golden leafy textures, combined with dry cactus arrangements, humid rainforest foliage, and summer green aesthetic… all within a few meters from the other.
I’m grateful for this little garden space. It is as if I can easily transport to a different scene, without a plane ticket, passport, or bikini wax, and experience something totally different than the moment before.