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Alternative Routes

10 Apr

The good people of Odense would be forgiven for thinking that they have woken up in some kind of dystopic nightmare in which they are condemned to live out their days in an eternal hell of construction-site chaos. Due to an extensive and ongoing redevelopment project, the centre of Odense is, to put it bluntly, a mess. Adhering closely to the principles of stealth warfare it would seem, Odense’s traffic planners are busy implementing new and often surprising traffic routes on a daily basis. Bad enough that the traffic bedlam had extended to include the cyclists of Odense (of which there are many), but we have now reached a point where even pedestrians are doomed.

Overgade.jpgIn light of all this, I refuse point blank to drive in the city centre. Instead, I prefer to park well away from the mayhem in a quiet, tree-lined street and use the walk into town as a chance to practise a bit of mindfulness. Odense has a number of parks that are set out like a protective arm round the city centre, so it’s quite easy to get right into the city without having to set foot on a single pavement. Munke Mose is my favourite park at this time of year, when the spring flowers begin to bloom and transform the grass into a shimmering carpet of blue. It’s a spectacular sight, transfigured to an otherworldly vision by the late afternoon sun, and Odensians of all ages stop in their tracks to marvel at the scene.

Blue flowers 1.jpg Blossom has just started to appear on the trees here in Denmark – quite a bit later than in the UK, from what I can gather. Facebook has been sporting a number of photos and articles about the blossom in Copenhagen, but I reckon Odense can also hold its own when it comes to fairytalesque backdrops of blossom.

Blossom 1.jpg Speaking of fairytales (do you see what I did there?), the next park along from Munke Mose is called Eventyrhaven (the fairytale garden). It’s named after the king of fairytales himself, Hans Christian Andersen, who was born in Odense, and in celebration of the great man’s birthday, every year wreaths are laid at the foot of his statue.

HCA.jpgMy route into the centre through the parks follows the path of the river, and I usually don’t need to go any further than Eventyrhaven to get where I need to go. However, due to the latest pedestrian deterrent, I recently had the ‘opportunity’ to extend my walk and ended up at a part of the river I had never been to before. Luckily, I was in the company of my father-in-law at the time, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I doubt if there’s anyone alive who knows more about Odense than he does! Not only was he able to show me a very pretty smutvej (shortcut), but he also told me a little about the oldest cast iron road bridge in Odense, which we passed on the way. The man could earn a fortune as a tour guide, I tell you!

Iron bridge.jpgI’m not sure what kind of impact the construction work is going to have on tourism to Odense, but I’m looking on it as a reminder from the cosmos that my life this year is all about finding alternative routes. Yes, it seems like nuisance at the time, but being forced to rethink your journey can often lead you to experience something new that you didn’t even know was there.

Alternative Ruter

Jeg ville nemt kunne forstå det, hvis odenseanerne troede, at de var vågnet op midt i et dystopisk mareridt, hvor de skulle leve til deres dages ende i et evigt helvede af bygningskaos. På grund af et omfattende og løbende saneringsprojekt er Odenses centrum, kort sagt, en rodebutik. Ved tilsyneladende at overholde principperne om stealth krigsførelse har Odenses trafik-planlæggere travlt med at gennemføre nye og tit overraskende trafikruter på daglig basis. Som om det ikke var nok, at trafik-svikmøllen var udvidet til også at omfatte Odenses mange cyklister, har vi nu nået det punkt, hvor selv fodgængerne er dødsdømt.

I betragtning af det nægter jeg at køre bil i Odenses centrum. Jeg foretrækker i stedet at parkere langt væk fra kaosset i en stille gade og bruger gåturen ind til byen som en mulighed for at øve lidt mindfulness. Odense har en række parker, der er tilrettelagt som en beskyttende arm, der omfavner byens centrum. Munke Mose er min yndlingspark på denne tid af året, når forårsblomsterne begynder at blomstre og omdanner græsset til et changerende tæppe af blåt. Det er et spektakulært syn, der bliver forvandlet til en overjordisk vision af eftermiddagssolen, og odenseanere i alle aldre stopper op for at beundre scenen.

Blue flowers 2.jpg

Blomsterne er lige begyndt at titte frem på træerne her i Danmark – ganske senere end i Storbritannien, så vidt jeg kan forstå. På Facebook er der en hel masse billeder og artikler om kirsebærblomsterne i København, men jeg synes, at Odense også kan være med, når det kommer til fabelagtige blomster-baggrunde.

Blossom 2.jpg

Når vi nu snakker om fabler, hedder den næste park efter Munke Mose Eventyrhaven. Den er opkaldt efter eventyrkongen selv, H.C. Andersen, som blev født i Odense. For at mindes hans fødselsdag lægger man hvert år kranse ved foden af hans statue.

Min vej ind i centrum gennem parkerne er langs åen, og jeg plejer ikke at have brug for at gå videre end til Eventyrhaven for at nå min destination. Imidlertid havde jeg på grund af det seneste afskrækkende middel mod fodgængere fornylig ‘muligheden’ for at forlænge min gåtur og endte på et sted, hvor jeg aldrig har været. Heldigvis var jeg sammen med min svigerfar, og jeg overdriver ikke, når jeg siger, at der ikke er nogen, der ved mere om Odense, end han gør. Ikke kun var han i stand til at vise mig en smuk smutvej, men han fortalte lidt om Odenses ældste vejbro af støbejern, som vi gik forbi på vejen. Jeg siger dig, han kunne tjene en formue som rejseleder!

Iron bridge.jpg

Jeg ved ikke, hvordan bygningsarbejdet vil påvirke turismen i Odense, men jeg ser på det som en påmindelse fra kosmos, at mit liv i år handler om alternative ruter. Ja, det virker irriterende på det tidspunkt, når det sker, men når man bliver tvunget til at genoverveje rejsen, kan det ofte føre til, at man oplever noget nyt, som man ikke i forvejen vidste var der.

Overgade 2.jpg

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Small steps

30 Mar

Blue flowers.jpgStepping into my garden, I feel a little like I’ve entered paradise. There, I can find a kind of tranquility that I am really savouring at the moment, and taking the time to just go out there and be among the spring flowers is one of life’s little luxuries that I definitely can afford.

As we all know, life doesn’t always go according to plan, but I’ve come to realise that being well-stocked with inner calm goes a long way to helping me tackle those inevitable problems and look on them as adventures instead.Daffodils.jpgWithout putting myself under too much pressure by setting too many goals, I decided at New Year that a change of approach to life was needed this year. As well as making an effort to really appreciate all the things I already have and the people around me, I’ve also been implementing some small changes here and there. Small steps.

On a practical level, one of my first tasks this year was to get my passport renewed. Fortunately, everything went smoothly with the application process, and my new passport arrived in no time at all. Nevertheless, I can’t help feeling rather despondent to think it may be the last one I get with ‘European Union’ on it.Passport.jpgOn a more positive note, cutting back on my expenses has had a surprisingly refreshing effect; my financial decluttering has actually emanated into several other areas of my life, not least my wardrobe. Considerations of what I actually need instead of what I think I need have taken me down the path of creating a capsule wardrobe. In short, this means clearing out your wardrobe and keeping only the clothes that you love to wear (and that can be worn together in any number of combinations). In my case the result has been a massacre of epic proportions, and I’m not finished yet!

As a background to all this activity, I’m approaching the end of my Bachelor’s degree, and reaching milestones always makes me a bit reflective. As well as thinking back on what I have achieved, I’ve also been giving a lot of thought to what the future might hold. I say might because, you know, those well-laid plans… Anyway, I figure it doesn’t hurt to lay the foundations for a bit of stability wherever I can. So, on that front I have big plans, but I’ll reveal more about that when they are closer to fruition.

But for now, I’m going to keep moving forwards while allowing myself the time to stop along the way and smell the roses…or the hyacinths, or whatever else is blooming at the time.Hyacinths.jpg

 

Små skridt

Når jeg træder ud i min have, føles det lidt, som om jeg er gået ind i paradis. Dér finder jeg en ro, som jeg virkelig nyder lige nu. Det at brug tiden til bare at være derude blandt forårsblomsterne er en luksus, som jeg absolut har råd til.

Som vi alle sammen ved, går livet ikke altid efter planen, men jeg har indset, at hvis man er velforsynet med indre ro, hjælper det én at tackle de uundgåelige problemer og at se på dem som eventyr i stedet for. Uden at lægge for meget pres på mig selv ved at sætte for mange mål, besluttede jeg mig ved nytår for, at jeg blev nødt til at ændre min tilgang til livet. Foruden at jeg gør en indsats for at sætte pris på alle de ting, jeg i forvejen har, og de mennesker, jeg er omgivet af, har jeg hist og pist implementeret nogle små ændringer. Små skridt.

På det praktiske plan var det at få mit pas fornyet en af mine første opgaver i år. Heldigvis gik alt glat med ansøgningsforløbet, og mit nye pas kom ganske hurtigt. Ikke desto mindre kan jeg ikke lade være med at føle mig temmelig ked af det, når jeg tænker over, at det sandsynligvis er det sidste, jeg får stemplet med ‘European Union’.

I en mere positiv retning har det at skære ned på udgifterne virket overraskende forfriskende på mig. Den stramning af min økonomi har faktisk smittet af på andre områder i min tilværelse, og ikke mindst på min garderobe. Ved at overveje hvad det er, jeg faktisk har brug for, i stedet for, hvad jeg tror, jeg har brug for, har det ført til, at jeg er i gang med at skabe et ‘capsule wardrobe’. Kort sagt betyder det, at man rydder op i garderoben og kun beholder det tøj, som man elsker (og som passer sammen i alle mulige sammensætninger). I mit tilfælde har resultatet været en massakre af episke proportioner – og jeg er ikke færdig endnu!

Som baggrund for al denne aktivitet er jeg ved at blive færdig med min bachelor, og jeg plejer at reflektere lidt, når jeg når en milepæl. Samtidig med at tænke tilbage på alt det, jeg har opnået, tænker jeg på, hvad fremtiden måske indeholder. Jeg siger ‘måske’, fordi, du ved, de der godt lagt planer… Nå, men jeg regner med, at det ikke skader at lægge grundlaget til lidt stabilitet, hvor jeg kan. I den retning har jeg store planer, men jeg afslører mere om det, når de engang begynder at bære frugt.

Men netop nu bevæger jeg mig fortsat fremad, mens jeg tillader mig tid til at stoppe langs vejen og dufte til roserne… eller hyacinterne, eller hvad der ellers blomstrer på det tidspunkt.

 

Blossoming

22 May

Pink RhoddyOur garden is in full bloom, and I’m talking FULL bloom! It seems that every flower-bearing plant has fully recovered from the extreme pruning I subjected it to 2 years ago. Every morning I take a walk round to see which flowers have appeared since the day before, and there is always something new. I can’t begin to describe the joy it gives me to finally have a garden that is not only fairly tidy and mostly under control but also full of colour and humming with the sound of bumble bees. Even the designated ‘wilderness area’ is looking fantastic!

Forget me notsI’ll admit that it has been a long struggle and in the beginning my work was mostly cutting back and removing things in a seemingly futile attempt at restoring order, and at times I doubted it would ever recover. Happily, the (rather late!) arrival of spring has brought with it a return to what I imagine is close to the former glory of our lovely garden, but this time with a few additions bearing my own stamp.

Sunshine tulips2The bursting into life of the garden coincides with a bit of a turn of events in my own life, and I view the garden as a rather vivid metaphor for my own state of mind since moving to Denmark.

Cherry & White RhoddyI’ve been living here for nearly 2 ½ years now, and in that time it has felt like I’ve had to fight for each step I’ve taken. At first every single thing was difficult. I felt like I had been stripped of my identity and had to start all over again in every aspect of my life. It was exhausting. Even something as simple as posting a letter seemed like an insurmountable task. In such circumstances one is forced to adopt a certain mindset, and for me it was about mental survival on a day to day basis if only to keep from having some kind of breakdown. From the beginning I was convinced that the key to really having a life here was to learn the language. Thoroughly.

White tulipBeing a hard-working sort, I’ve kept my head down and given it all I’ve got in my attempts to learn the language, and for a long time I felt that I wasn’t getting anywhere. Anyone who’s tried to learn Danish will understand how frustrating it is, when for many aspects of the language there are no rules, and many things you just have to learn. But slowly, slowly it has been filtering in, and somehow I now have no problem watching Swedish crime series with Danish subtitles or attending lectures (in Danish) about the Danish welfare system.

White blossomThe change occurred so gradually and so slowly that I hadn’t even noticed. It was only on a recent visit to Glasgow that my world was turned upside down and the realisation hit me: my home is in Denmark. Walking the streets of Glasgow city centre, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I don’t belong there any more and on an evening out with some very lovely people I knew before, I spent the whole night feeling like I was in a bubble. I faced the often asked question, “How’s it going in Denmark?” In the interests of not boring folk, I distilled the biggest and most challenging event of my life into a single sentence: “It’s going great!” While this is true, it doesn’t completely cover it.

Sunshine tulipsBut my return to Denmark really was a home-coming. After a weekend of speaking English, I slipped back into Danish like pulling on an old pair of jeans: familiar and comfortable. On making my way back to Odense from the airport I had literally just got off the train when I bumped into a friend. For me, there’s nothing like coincidentally meeting a familiar face to make me feel I have roots in a place. But the icing on the cake was when I arrived at my in-laws’ place for lunch: A Danish flag stood outside the froont door welcoming me home, and my normally slightly reserved father-in-law greeted me with a big hug.

Red tulip blurLater that evening, when I got back to my garden it had transformed into the heady display of colour and perfume that is still going strong right now.

HawthornLike the plants in our garden, the outer foliage of my previous life has been stripped back to a degree which, although seemingly drastic at the time, was necessary and has ultimately been a good thing. It was tough, but I’m now buzzing with renewed vigour and lust for life. If my garden is a reflection of myself, then the future is looking pretty damned fine!

Tulips etc

Blomstrende

Vores have står i fuldt flor, og jeg mener FULDT flor! Det ser ud, som om, hver plante, der har mulighed for det, har blomster på. Den er fuldstændig kommet sig efter den voldsomme beskæring, jeg udsatte den for for to år siden. Hver morgen går jeg en lille tur rundt for at se, hvilke nye blomster der er dukket op siden den foregående dag, og der er altid noget nyt. Jeg kan ikke beskrive glæden, det giver mig, endelig at have en have, som ikke kun er nogenlunde ordentlig og for det meste under kontrol, men også er fuld af farve og vrimler med lyden af humlebier. Selv det udpegede ‘vildnis-område’ ser fantastisk ud!

WildernessJeg må indrømme, at det har været en lang kamp, og i begyndelsen bestod mit arbejde mest i at skære tilbage og fjerne ting i et tilsyneladende forgæves forsøg på at skabe orden, og nogle gange tvivlede jeg på, om det nogensinde ville komme igen. Heldigvis har den (lidt forsinkede!) ankomst af foråret bragt med sig en tilbagevenden til, hvad, jeg forestiller mig, ligger tæt på vores dejlige haves tidligere pragt. Denne gang med nogle få tilføjelser, der bærer mit eget fingeraftryk.

Yellow tulips2At livet i haven genopstår, falder sammen med et lille stykke af en forandring i mit liv, og jeg betragter haven, som en ganske livagtig metafor på min egen sindsstemning, siden jeg flyttede til Danmark.

Jeg har boet her i næsten 2 1/2 år, og i løbet af den tid har det føltes, som om, jeg har været nødt til at kæmpe for hver skridt, jeg har taget. Til at begynde med var hver eneste ting svær. Jeg følte det, som om jeg havde haft krænget min identitet af og skulle begynde helt forfra igen på enhver side af mit liv. Det var besværligt. Selv noget så enkelt som at sende et brev forekom mig at være en uoverstigelig opgave. Under disse omstændigheder er man tvunget til at tilegne sig en bestemt tænkemåde, og for mig handlede det om mental overlevelse fra dag til dag, om ikke andet så for at undgå en slags sammenbrud. Fra begyndelsen var jeg overbevist om, at nøglen til virkelig at få en tilværelse her var at lære sproget – til bunds.

White rhoddiesSom en, der arbejder hårdt, gjorde jeg mig umage og gav den fuld gas i forsøget på at lære sproget, og i lang tid følte jeg, at jeg ikke kom ud af stedet. Enhver, som har prøvet at lære dansk, vil kunne forstå, hvor frustrerende det er, når der på mange områder af sproget ikke er regler, og der er mange ting, man bare skal lære. Men ganske langsomt er det sevet ind, og på en eller anden måde har jeg ingen problemer med at se svenske krimier med danske undertekster eller at følge med i foredrag (på dansk) om det danske velfærdssystem.

PosyÆndringen indtraf så gradvis og så langsomt, så jeg lagde slet ikke mærke til det. Det var blot under et besøg til Glasgow for nylig, at min verden blev vendt på hovedet, og erkendelsen slog mig: Mit hjem er i Danmark. Mens jeg gik gennem gadene i Glasgows centrum, kunne jeg ikke ryste den fornemmelse af mig, at jeg ikke hører til der længere. En aften, da jeg var i byen med nogle dejlige mennesker, som jeg kendte i forvejen, tilbragte jeg hele aftenen med en følelse af at være i en boble. Jeg blev mødt med det ofte stillede spørgsmål: “Hvordan går det i Danmark?” Da jeg ikke ville kede folk, sammentrængte jeg den største og mest udfordrende begivenhed i mit liv til en enkelt sætning: “Det går fint!” Skønt dette er sandt, dækker det det ikke rigtigt.

Pink Rhoddy bushMen at rejse tilbage til Danmark var virkelig en hjemkomst. Efter en weekend, da jeg havde talt engelsk, smuttede jeg nemt tilbage til dansk. Det var lige som at tage et par gamle jeans på: fortroligt og behageligt. Som en del af rejsen tilbage til Odense fra lufthavnen var jeg bogstavelig talt netop stået af toget, da jeg stødte ind i en veninde. For mig er der ingenting som tilfældigvis at møde et kendt ansigt, der får mig til at føle, at her har jeg rod. Men toppen af kransekagen var, da jeg ankom til mine svigerforældre til frokost: Et dansk flag stod uden for hoveddøren og bød mig velkommen hjem, og min almindeligvis lettere reserverede svigerfar hilste mig med et stort kram.

Magnolia TreeSenere samme aften, da jeg kom tilbage til min have, havde den ændret sig til en berusende opvisning af farve og duft, som er fortsat indtil nu.

Grape hyacinthLige som planterne i vores have er dækbladene fra mit tildigere liv krænget tilbage i et omfang, som, selv om det føltes drastisk på det tidspunkt, var nødvendigt og i sidste ende har været en god ting. Det var hårdt, men nu summer jeg med fornyet kraft og appetit på livet. Hvis min have er et spejlbillede af mig selv, så ser fremtiden skidegodt ud!

Apple Tree

Summer Blues – and other colours!

20 Jul

I have  just returned  from a family holiday to Scotland where, after the first few days of rain (fortunately I had issued strict orders for all family members to pack their regntøj), the sun came out and was in fact extremely pleasant.

Since our return to Denmark on Tuesday, however, the weather has been somewhat ‘soupy’. Now, some people might complain about the rain showers/downpours and breezy intervals which have pervaded, but I find it rather appropriate as I am currently suffering from the summer sniffles/attack of the green gunk and, quite frankly, being ill when it’s brilliant sunshine outside is rubbish.

One of the good things about lying on the couch all day is that I get a really good view of the garden. At the moment everything is in full bloom and in between rain showers I nipped out with my camera so you could have a look, too.

Some parts of the garden are still a little bit  shall we say ‘nature reserve’-ish but this doesn’t appear to be a bad thing, judging by the quantity and variety of insects paying a visit.

I’m looking forward to being out and about again (and writing in Danish!), but in the meantime I’ll just enjoy looking at the flowers.

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