Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ask me, ask me, ask me


...or at least tell me, tell me, tell me.

When I returned from my blogging hiatus, I came back with some distinct ideas about why I wanted to keep blogging in this space, but no clear goals, no concrete statements.

One of the things I consider most central to my character is that, in Susanna Kaysen's words: "I'm ambivalent." About damn near everything. While I consider myself to have fairly well-formed opinions about the many ideas and issues important to me and I'm usually quickly able to assess situations and make decisions, when it comes to my own self, I'm ambivalent about most things.

In fact, a lot of my personality comprises of two fairly opposite sides. I'm not shy, but have at times an intense dislike of social situations. In turns I can be very timid, or very aggressive. I have an almost overwhelming sense of empathy, but it often leads me to see people exactly as they are, not as they try to portray themselves, and sometimes this causes me to judge them too harshly. I love people and am endlessly fascinated by them, yet mostly prefer my own company. I care a great deal about what people think of me, but actually not at all. I'm fiercely loyal, but if I absolutely have to  to distance myself emotionally from former friends I can do it with a casualness that shocks me. I'm very ambitious, but not at all driven. It could be said that I'm rather vain, yet fundamentally care only for the internal life, content, intellect. I'm very secretive and private, but apparently completely at ease revealing this kind of personal information in a decidedly public forum.

This ambivalence often makes it difficult for me to make definitive statements regarding things I hold dear, or personal.

So believe me when I say, that I have puzzled over what you're about to read.

It has finally hit home to me that this is no longer just my small, personal log of thoughts, obsessions, events, or outfits. Not that it's that big, or I have a ton of readers either (You know how many readers really popular blogs have!?!?!? It's nuts, the mere idea of thousands, let alone tens of thousands of people reading your thoughts makes me hyperventilate), but I will admit that I no longer write only for myself, or even my small circle of visible internet friends and acquaintances.

I am however extremely ambivalent about what to do about it. As I outlined in the post before,  I have some idea of how I would like this place to be, but at the same time this new, somewhat grudging (this has nothing to do with you dear reader, I've just been in a little bit of denial about this.) realization that this blog has a wider readership has thrown me for a loop.

I already know that there are certain topics where my more serious interests and yours intersect. I promise you that I'm still working on the increasingly convoluted posts on clothing and ethics and shopping for joy and self-image. There's a mother post on feminism and you, know, man-hating and a bra-burning how-to. But I'm also curious about what other points of convergence we might find.

With that in mind, I want to make the time I spend on this space really count. Yes, like I said before, I still want to use this blog to document my family's life and times as we go through the changes and seasons and upheavals; but I also want ask you, dear reader, what is it that you would like from me? What would you like to read about? What do you want more, what less?

Not to fret, I'm not going to cave in to the popular opinion. Being stubborn as hell, I will of course feel in no way obligated to give any of what you might request,  but I am asking for your insights. For a little help from my friends.

(A homemade gift from Lissa. She came to visit with her sweet sister-in-law Nina and cute-as-all-get-out-babe Owynn. I was too busy chatting and admiring him to get any pics, but head on over here to see the most dear babe in the neighborhood.)

Rather than categorizing what I post the internet, I find the usual, often commercially-driven blog titles constricting and somewhat arbitrary and artificial. In a world populated by lifestyle bloggers, mommy bloggers, music bloggers, foodie bloggers and of course, style, or fashion bloggers, I don't even know what kind of a blog The Girl Who Married A Bear actually is. Can being poor, but extremely lucky, be considered a lifestyle? How about mixing feminism with food, music, beat poets, herbal medicine, movies, 70s clothes, fringe beliefs, animism and sarcasm? I haven't the faintest.


The reason I'm curious for your thoughts on this, is that even though I'm ambivalent and a little confused about what exactly it is that I want from my own, I know exactly what my blog-love-laundry-list is for the blogs I read:

1. Honesty and authenticity. Like most people who read blogs I go to them for inspiration, to see how different people live, how they experience the world, how they see themselves, and yeah, sometimes how they dress as well. However, an interesting, well-written, or beautifully curated blog will only win my undying love and doggedly loyal readership, if there's a vulnerable, openness to what the writer reveals about themselves. I'm not at all about the internet being your confessional, self-obsessed waste-basket, but acknowledging that your life is not perfect will win me over every time.

2. Having something to say. What can I say? Word. Girl. I love your homestead, your rad bohemian pad, your kick-ass recipes, your epic style, but you know what I love even more? If you can somehow make it relevant beyond your own sweet self. Create a conversation, broaden horizons,  place things in a wider context, make a statement. Not all the time, not about everything, but sometimes.

3. Sisterhood. In the liberté, egalité, fraternité sense. What, you think I can't use the term "sisterhood"in the general the way "brotherhood" is used? Yes, I can. I love a blog that encourages conversation, lifts others up, links to potentially like-minded folks, spreads the love, takes criticism well and is always willing to learn, as well as teach and preach.

4. I like sassy, opinionated and determined writers, who are also humble and kind. And funny. Preferably in a self-depricating manner.

Come to think of it, I like my blogs pretty much how I like my friends. The above could define my list of characteristics I love and admire in people around me.

The idea that rather than letting the trivializing and shallow aspects of the internet trod us down and drive us out, we should work hard to build on the good parts of it, has come through loud and clear in my circle of online friends lately.

The internet is a little like politics in this country. Sure you could declare yourself better than it, retreat to your cabin in the wilderness, and be your own morally superior Thoreau, but maybe if we all stick around instead and try to improve the way things are, support each other and declare independence from that which we don't want, we might get somewhere wonderful together, or maybe even help turn the tide.

(Necklace of dreams from Nicole. I can't thank her enough for her kindness of which this necklace is the least. But more about that later.)

So if there's ever been something you've wanted wanted to tell me, some criticism you've held back, some subject you've particularly enjoyed, something you think I could do better, something you think I should do, or if you just really enjoy my fashion choices, or heck if there's something you've always wanted to ask me, now's the time.

I'd also like your recommendations on authentic, unique blogs you enjoy and think I would like. Having received a few of such tips lately and having finally gotten around to adding some old favorites too, you'll find mine on the link list to the right of this post.


And while we're on the topic of authentic women's voices I urge you to check out Mary's post series on cultivating a personal nature-based spirituality outside of Native appropriation and the sometimes hokey end of the New Age spectrum. This woman's writing, wisdom, kindness and insight just blows me away every time. I can't recommend her enough, I really can't. These topics are very central to the loose collection of interests I think a lot of us share and I love the clear language and concepts of Mary's post. There's no judgement here, only a desire for people to really look into themselves. As someone who's had their own struggles with this side of spirituality, and continues to wonder about where the lines must be toed, these posts leave me literally speechless with gratitude. I think when I finally get around to leaving a comment it might just be "Uumm...thanks."


ps. It's 7PM and the current score is: water 6, tea 5, pages 6.

30 comments:

  1. Hi Milla,

    I feel it's about time I commented as your blog brings me heaps of joy. I simply love your authenticity. Keep it simple keep it the same. Thanks for all your inspiration, clothes, wisdom and words. From a nomadic Kiwi who no matter where in the world I am I can check into your blog and feel at home, at home with myself also if that make sense.

    Sarah

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  2. heeeeeeeeeeeee I think I commented over on Marys beautiful writings with a hug and kiss. Too many thoughts and sentiments all at once. Love you for your authenticity, even in the face of blog-popularity, (the shock! the horror!). I'm starting to wonder if my particular brand of introversion is maybe a mental illness that got missed out on the big list of anxiety "disorders". I find myself contrary just like you described above, well not just like, but I can relate. I like that you are accepting and "ambivalent" about it; I still confuse myself when I consider these aspects of me. I think about it, and then end up with BOLD CAPITALISED WTF!?s in a thought bubble just halo-ing above my head there. I like your words (and your outfits and backyard, awesome mist)
    xoxo

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  3. Haha, I love the "animals need animals" label!

    I don't think that you appreciate how unusual your lifestyle is from the point o view of most blog-stalkers like myself. We sit in our cities with trucks whooshing by just outside the window and only one, very sad plant in sight (plants can't survive very well in rooms with closed curtains and there are always closed curtains if there's a computer in the room) and read and watch in awe your amazing, green world. We dream that maybe, some day, and then figure out that probably not, because what's life without a fast food bar just across the street.

    Just kidding, I have many plants;)

    I understand your problem. I'm toying with an idea of starting a blog for several months now and can't really pinpoint what and why I want. What I like to read about are people who are pleased with what they are and where they are and share some of my values proving to me that it is possible to live in this world and be cool. Which is already the case with you, so I can't help much. I really love your mix of life-in-the-crazy-wilderness-no-starbucks-in-sight and musings. If I was to ask for anything it would be more feminism-themed posts. I do consider myself a feminist (who doesn't?) in a sense that I really am all for equality of any kind but never had a chance or took time to consider this topic in depth or read more about it. So every time you write something about it I usually end up reading it several times and thinking quite a lot about it. Hey, you're my feminism studies teacher, how do you feel about that?;)

    a.

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    1. Dear A,
      Absolutely honored and terrified. ♡

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  4. Is it a cop out to just say, keep doin' what you're doin'?
    Reading your blog reminds me of college because you encourage me to turn over thoughts in my head that i sometimes forget I have opinions about. day to day life doesn't always encourage that. It reminds me to think big thoughts, but still pay attention to the beauty in the details.
    I really love the list of things you admire in a blog- I plan to return to it because you remind to be intentional in my little piece of the internet, the little place I get to define myself and my life.
    I like the book recommendations and the music suggestions, and I like the fashion, less for inspiration and more because I really like getting to put a person to the words. The fashion helps ground you in reality.
    I would say, just stay true to yourself, but i sort of suspect that there is no way you wouldn't.

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  5. Hi darlin. As I fellow Island girl, I would love to see a post on the hardships of Island life. I can really struggle with the unemployment, ferry lines, high price of gas, small town gossip. Anyways -- I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

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    1. Em you and me need to sit down and talk about this in person. Maybe thu. Otherwise, we'll pick you up from the ferry landing and whisk you away on vacation at our house whenever you need one.

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  6. I love your blog as is; it's one of my favourites, in fact, for all the reasons you identify as why you read other's blogs. Your posts are so beautifully written; you have a way with language, and I appreciate that especially. The blogosphere is so saturated by what I would call "empty calories"; yours is such a refreshing dose of authenticity.

    Megan

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    1. Spot on! I completely agree with this! :)

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  7. Hi Milla,
    So glad you are back to blogging. I find your blog to be one of the few out there that are beautiful and thoughtful. Personally, I especially love your photos, your posts related to feminism, and your random musings on nature and simplicity. I would also love to hear more about what you are reading or have read that you recommend.

    You said to ask questions we always have had and I am always curious how exactly you all manage to live such a beautiful life being “poor”? What do you do to make ends meet and how can the rest of us replicate that? I have also always wondered why someone privileged with EU citizenship would choose to make their home in the US? Lastly, I am interested in your thoughts on the vegan-feminist interconnection and the exploitation and commodification of our non-human animal sister’s reproductive capacity. Have you read Carol Adam’s “The Sexual Politics of Meat” and “The Pornography of Meat”? Also good is “Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and the Sexual Politics of Meat”.

    You also asked for blog recommendations and in a sea of superficial blogs there are a few out there, like yours, that are intelligent and worth reading. I recommend Resistance is Fertile by Lagusta Yearwood. She is an amazing feminist, anarchist, vegan. Although she does not blog as much as she used to, I went back and read every single one of her posts and they are so amazing. She is a woman committed to her convictions and is unwilling to compromise her ethics. I love it.

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    1. Awesome! I gotta run to work, BUT I really really appreciate this comment (and all these comments obvi) because haha! you're calling me out. I have a LOT of extremely conflicted feelings about veganism vs. ethical small scale animal husbandry, something that I've been trying to put to a post for years. Maybe this year. And yeah, I thought about defining "poor" better. We are not poor in so many ways, yet I feel like it's important to use that word because we need to talk about it. But you're right I should define how poor we are exactly. Not dirt poor, anyway. Right at this minute we're not even paycheck to paycheck, or working poor. YES, let's talk about poverty. I think I'm gonna go with Em's suggestion about the hardships of Island life and tie that in. As for the few other questions, I feel I cannot really approach them until, well, my immigration is complete ;) Thanks for being a rad radical reader!

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    2. Awesome, Milla. Looking forward to hearing and learning more!

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    3. Ha! Practical simplicity, that's the topic I'm very interested in! Obviously our circumstances are very different but being "poor" we have in common. I agree with everything that bloodyeuphoria wrote. Although that comment about being privileged with EU citisenship stunned me. Is it really how it's perceived in US?

      a.

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    4. Hi Msh,

      I assume you are from the EU? It is a common perception in my circle that to have EU citizenship would be a wonderful thing, so much freedom and flexibility. Not to mention that the EU is commonly understood to be much more progressive (at least some member countries) than the US. Love to hear your two cents about it :)

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    5. I am from Poland, which is not a place someone thinks of when one thinks about Europe (I presume UK, France, Germany or Italy are much higher on the list). It's a post-socialist state (although luckily not post-Soviet state) and getting a green visa and running away to US was for a very long time and idea of ultimate luck for many, many people. I think older generation which remember the hard times still hold this sentiment. But younger people, especially the more progressive ones, interested in ecology, civil rights (Occupy Wallstreet, anyone?), are more reserved in their enthusiasm about US. From my group of friends I think I am the only one that would love to visit USA (although getting a visa is still a bitch).

      What do you mean by freedom and flexibility? That we can travel and work anywhere in EU? Isn't it the same thing you have with states? I'd even say your situation is better - you all speak one language and don't have to break your tongues on French ;P

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    6. Ah! Poland! My maternal grandfather's family is from Wadowice. Such a beautiful country; I hope to visit someday.

      Yes, by freedom and flexibility I do mean you can travel and work anywhere in the EU. While we can live anywhere in the US, I find it to all be a bit homogeneous- especially politically. I would imagine their is much more diversity politically, culturally, and linguistically (I think many languages is a positive thing- opens peoples minds and forces them to not think in just one way) in Europe.

      You mentioned you were thinking of writing a blog- I'd be interested in reading when/if you decide to go that route!

      ~N

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    7. Thank you! I was deliberating if I should write in Polish (it's easier) or in English (for practice). I guess it's one vote more for English! :)

      Wadowice is pretty famous right now, because of pope JP2, also known as The Pope or Our Pope;) I've never been there but the whole region is lovely with wonderful Trail of the Eagles' Nests nearby (it's castles and ruins, not real eagles' nests). I hope you will be able to visit some day!

      What I really think about this whole EU/US thing is that you go where your life leads you and you make a home there. If you're not a manual worker of corporation emplyee it's not that easy to get a job abroad, even in EU. Every country prefers their own citizens and you usually need to get there in the first place so you need some money for a start, and not everyone can afford that. And it's true that it would be easier for me to get to Paris or Rome and I was skiing in Alps last year, but it's easier for you to go to New York or Great Canyon (if it's not closed at that time, lol) or visit Canada (Canada is one of my biggest travel dreams, ever!). I guess in every country people like to complain and want to move somewhere else. Except maybe in Scandinavian countries. They all seem so content...;)

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    8. I love this thread you guys! And yeah msh, make that one more vote for english from my corner too!

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    9. Thank you, although I'm afraid it would be a terrible thing to read for anyone loving (or at least liking a bit) English language.

      I always wondered - do you write your stories in English or in Finnish? I write mine in Polish, but I read so much in English nowadays that I honestly sometimes can't find words in my own language. It's like I should blog in Polish to practice my mother tongue. It's crazy and a bit sad.

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  8. ahhh, at last i get a chance to voice my criticisms! and there are SO many! hahaha just kidding ;) as you know, i love you, your thoughts, lifestyle and this here super blog! i honestly would just keep on keepin' on with what you're doing. you cover a wide range of topics in a nice way, never too much of one thing in a row. variety is the spice of life, right? well, you give us variety :)

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  9. Your new home is heaven! Waking up to that fog with tea in hand and kitty by your side seems beyond ideal. As far as your blog goes, I think it’s great that you don’t box yourself in, and cover so many different topics that are important to you. Honesty and authenticity, I concur, are the main ingredients to a compelling blog.

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  10. I think you will find sweetest Milla, that what people enjoy most about this space is you! Like you said yourself-- its fun to visit and see how others are living, and you my dear are just very "interesting." Your surroundings, your musings, your way with words, your clothes!

    Did you ever read girly magazines? I did as a kid-- mostly for fashion & pretty things, but sometimes they instructed me on new things. Then the internet came a long and it pretty much filled that void. For me, your blog is sort of what the best girly mag I could envision would be for me in my now 30-something self who has broadened her horizons far beyond my teenage-something self.

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  11. Those ambiguities are your heart and your strength. We are not defined by the answers we gain, but by the questions that burn in us. It's how you live your life, walking your own path with all these ambiguities and questions that inspires me most.

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  12. Mä oon ajatellut viime aikoina paljon muutosta. Muutosvastarintaa ja muutoksen tarvetta. (Samat ristiriidat pätevät mulla siihenkin; toisaalta olen todellinen "jumittaja", juon joka aamu samaa venäläistä teetä, ja pelkään jatkuvasti että Suomen vanhin teetalo lopettaa sen myymisen. Samaan aikaan saatan olla pikkumaisuuteen asti kiinnostunut maailman teekulttuureista, opetella leipomaan skonsseja teen kanssa, tai pohtimaan teeseremonioita aasiassa. Minttutee herättää nostalgisen kaipuun lapsuuteen ja Pohjois-Afrikkaan. Keitän minttuteetä, kerran, mietin että nyt ryhdyn juomaan sitä useammin. Yhden kerran jälkeen palaan siihen samaan venäläiseen :) ).
    Edellämainitun piirteen ohella jaan ilmeisesti lisäksi lähes identtisesti kuvaamasi ristiriitaisuudet. Ehkä luen blogiasi siksi. Ehkä se haastaa omaa ajattelua, mutta tunnistettavalla tavalla. Ajatuskulku, mielenliikkeet pitävät rytmistäsi, mieli on kotonaan kelluessaan jaetussa ristiriidassa.
    Mutta siitä muutoksesta. Ymmärrän miksi kyselet kritiikkiä ja toiveita, ehdotuksia. Sä tarviit inspiraatiota ambivalentille mielelle, joka ei tiedä olisko se kotonaan tutussa ja turvallisessa, "virikkeettömässä" maisemassa, vai pitäiskö pohjavesiä sekoittaa, ihan vaan katsoakseen mitä sieltä voi pulpahtaa. Se mieli on kotonaan molemmissa, ja tarvitsee molempia. Paikallaanoloa ja liikettä.

    Sä saat luultavasti enimmäkseen "älä muutu, älä muuta mitään" kommentteja. Ja sitten joitain hyviä ideoita, jotka otat avosylin vastaan, joita tutkit, pohdit, ehkä kirjoitat niiden inspiroimana postauksia. Tai sitten et.

    Ja todella, samaan aikaan voi ahdistua ihmisistä, sosiaalisista tilanteista, niin että tahtoisi juosta karkuun, omaan turvaan, ja toisaalta liikuttua toisen ihmisen kohtaamisesta niin että sydän pakahtuu. Kohtaan saman piirteen itsessäni joka ainoa päivä.. Samasta syystä mietin omaa blogia aina välillä, ja sitten kuitenkin jänistän, enkä halua "jakaa." Jos joskus aloitan, en todennäköisesti enää osaa lopettaa. Tai sitten lopetan kuin seinään.

    Älä muuta mitään, tai muuta kaikki. Jokatapauksessa teet kaiken just niinkuin sä tekisit, ja sun lukijat on tyytyväisiä, inspiroituneita, kriittisiä, ajattelevia, samaistuu, pohtii. "Vakka kantensa valitsee."
    Itse henkilökohtasesti pidän ehkä eniten, ylläri, ylläri, kirja-, kirjallisuus- yms jutuista. Ja kysyisin ehkä, luetko enää nykyisin suomenkielistä kirjallisuutta, ja jos, mitä? (Ei ehkä palvele muita lukijoita, suurin osa varmaankin englanninkielisiä...). Tulipa taas pitkä kommentti, mutta enpäs kuitenkaan editoi ;).

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  13. "Can being poor, but extremely lucky, be considered a lifestyle? "

    yes Milla I think it can! In the best of ways. To be rich in all the ways that matter most.

    What I want to hear from you is honestly just the thoughts that you come up with as each day passes, or week passes. Not that you do not do that already. What ideas have you buzzing? What new things are being cultivated in your heart, blueprints for future projects, even idealist as they may be.

    Just keep doing what you have been doing all along. :) You make the cut for the authenticity, for bringing others into the ideas and conversation, and for making the internet a good thing that can actually propel love and wisdom and kindness and yes, even spirituality. Love of this earth big time.

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  14. Milla, I love reading your posts for so many reasons, including the specific qualities you truly enjoy in other people's blogs. Furthermore, The girl who married a bear is deeply human, and endearing through its own complex, passionate and sometimes ambivalent personality.

    And you know, although I share a lot of your "contradictions", I lack your inquisitive, brave and persistent mind when it comes to topics that I am passionate about - such as Nature, politics, love, trust, the fate of animals and people - which means I actually (and carefully) avoid news and general information, or even a lot of essays and films (documentary or fiction) because it almost alway makes me mad. BUT I am always happy to read whatever you have to say about the topics that YOU are passionate about - because they come to me through your sincere, strong and subtle voice.

    "How about mixing feminism with food, music, beat poets, herbal medicine, movies, 70s clothes, fringe beliefs, animism and sarcasm?" This sounds like the perfect mix indeed, particularly if you endeavour to write a post on whichever subject you are "into" at the moment - since it means that telling us about it will feed your soul instead of using up your energy like a self-imposed mission tends to do. (I find.)

    :o)

    Hugs from another lover of islands and big trees,

    Emmanuelle
    xx

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    1. Oh and it would be nice, once in a while, if you could just mention, even in passing, the books that you have definitely enjoyed - novels, essays, poetry - recently or not; you know, books that make your heart sing :o)

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  15. There's so much I enjoy when I stop past this blog...everyone above have said what I would have liked to say (in much better words). But what I will say is 'hello' or perhaps 'bonjour', as I've been reading for a while, but have not yet said that...

    Greetings from Fran, a former Island dweller turned mountain drop out

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  16. I cannot think of a single thing to change on this blog. I fell in love with it years ago because of the authenticity, passionate writing, and just the beautiful soul you are. Everything you include gives us a clear and well-rounded view of you as a person, even if we've never met you. I find so much inspiration in your words and photos. You are a completely unique corner of the blogosphere and I always enjoy catching up on here!

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  17. I really like your blog, the way it is. I don't think I've ever written a comment, though. I just... enjoy your life. The pictures, your thoughts. I sit here in Sweden wishing I could move to a cottage on an island... at least almost. You are truly inspiring, just the way you are.

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