If you just wandered over here through the magic maze that is the interwebs, Welcome to The Girl Who Married A Bear! I'm Milla, a Finnish gal living on a small island in the Salish Sea off the coast of Washington State. I first came out here fourteen years ago, and fell in love with the land and the community. Though I was living in London at the time, with no designs on country life until I got here, I swore to myself that someday, somehow, I would live here again.
A few years later, while in college, I had the opportunity to come back and it was on that trip that I met my future husband, Charlie. We went from meeting to married in less than a year and a half, having really only been in he same country for about eight months. We got married in Finland and he went back three days after the wedding. Courtesy of U.S immigration we didn't see each other for another 361 days.
This Island has a special place in our relationship, we both knew from the beginning that we wanted to make our lives here and nowhere else. It's not the easiest place to realize your ambitions, but there's a lot of freedom, challenges and community support.
Until fairly recently Charlie managed the county parks on this island, but in the last year he had also been working on becoming an apprentice to a Northwest Coast carving tool maker who is ready to pass on his skill. We moved to a new home, are spending our savings on buying into this venture, as well as looking for other ways to fund it. We are working hard to make the life we want.
Living out here that often means making do, figuring out, patching together, to make a living, to make rent, to make the things we want happen. It can be intimidating, but there's a lot of freedom in it too. On any given week, I might work in three different places, doing three different things, from waitressing to selling vintage online, to leather working, to gardening, to cleaning houses. I might do projects and volunteer, or organize. And most certainly, I'll be constantly working on small homesteading things, making our own, making do.
We wildcraft, grow, make from scratch. In addition to our small flock of fowls, we also keep bees at another location and try to learn as much about self-sustained life as possible. It feels like we're just starting out on a life-long journey in radical simplicity/self-sufficiency/inter-dependence.
So far it's been the most exciting thing in my daily life, learning to milk cows, to garden and care for bees and ducks and chickens.
I love cooking and enjoy the way that simple act of feeding friends and family can really infuse your mundane everyday tasks with creativity. Having never been much of a baker, it's been my pleasure to discover a little bit of delight in that too lately. Though not much a housekeeper otherwise, the kitchen is definitely a place where I go to unwind. Everything else…well, there's more to life than dishes and dusting.
I'm not much into the current homesteading obsession with producing your own meat, but having been around farm animals for a long time now, I definitely get animal husbandry and enjoy keeping chickens for eggs, milking goats and caring for bees, not for honey, but for, well…spirituality.
I enjoy gardening, but my true love is wildcrafting, something I've been unknowingly doing for much of my life, collecting edible and medicinal plants from that which surrounds you, be it the forest, or the city.
I've lived here long enough now to have my favorite seasons for gathering. In the spring it's nettles and morels and spruce tips, in the summer oyster mushrooms, wild strawberries, roses, blackberries in the fall and winter, rowan berries and rosehips…
There's something primordially satisfying about collecting food and medicine, even more so than growing them.
Living in the Pacific Northwest being out in nature is an inevitable part of our lives. We love hiking, camping and kayaking, from long journeys to short walks in the woods and shores all around us.
With each passing year we find new pursuits, dive deeper into old ones and hone our skills. A few years ago Charlie began what will hopefully be a life-long commitment to Northwest Coast Native Carving and I am ever learning more about medicinal herbs and their many uses, teaching myself sewing and knitting and leather craft.
I suppose keeping this blog is also a big pursuit for me, though I must admit, I rarely think of it as much of anything, but an odd, small hobby, Still, six years, and hundreds of pages later, it's an indelible part of my life.
Other than homesteading, blogging, cooking, leather working, gardening and wildcrafting, I enjoy reading the Tarot. I've been divining with the cards since I was fifteen, but recently received a strange new push to really delve back into it.
Though often I'm at loath to admit it, simply because I don't feel like a good enough practitioner of it, I'm a Zen Buddhist, at least a bad one. My practice is often more practical, spiritual, than deeply religious, though the more dogmatic side of it is something I have been more drawn to in the last few years.
Mostly it's sitting, emptying my mind, a tool for panic-stricken moments, a practice of patience and compassion, both things that don't come naturally to me. And while I believe deeply in the mysticism of the natural world and have a life-long attraction to that side of the occult, I really believe in a discipline, the informed and inquisitive following of doctrine.
It has been my life dream to some day write something, a novel, a story, a poem worth pursuing. Lately I've been taking this more as a long-term goal, something I hope to complete not in the next year or the next, but in my lifetime. I write a fair bit and read ravenously. I got my degree in film and after burning out on the idea of working in a field that is as competitive, ego-centric and intense as movie making, I have come to terms with the idea of simply making some short films of my own.
Going to school to learn something I intensely loved, totally made me dislike it, and it would be very cathartic for me to simply do something fun and creative to restore my love of cinema. Time will tell how that turns out.
Our family is wide and far-flung. I often miss terribly my own sweet, fierce mother who's across the world, as well as the friends who's daily lives I'm no longer part of.
We don't have kids, nor do we really know if we're ever going to have any and are perfectly content with that state of affairs (if only people would stop asking if we're planning to procreate, thank you very much).
We do have these cats. It's legal to leave them behind when going to the bar, or traveling. Which is nice.
We have made community on this Island, we have friends and neighbors and friends and neighbors who are like family to us; nieces and cousins and nephews and aunts and uncles.
One of the most beautiful things about living in a small community, is that you don't ever limit yourself to only loving and knowing people of your own same experience and age. Our friends range from toddlers to elders, and have wonderful and varied occupations, interests and talents.
I feel really lucky to know so many kind, talented, spirited people, to the point where sometimes I'm feel totally overwhelmed with all of the social engagements, but also gratitude.
C. has much of his lovely family near-by and I have my adopted family, which includes my blond little sister, my dearest friend.
I have also been blessed with a wonderful online community. When I first started blogging, I never expected to meet so many kindred spirits and make so many dear friends through this hobby, but here I am, with a dear circle of Moon Sisters across the world.
In some ways these connections are nothing short of magic, in others only natural.
Of all the adventures I look forward to in this life, spending more and more time with these girls is high on my list.
We talk, exchange ideas, photos, inspirations, book recommendations, boxes of carefully selected gifts and sometimes we even get to meet in person.
It has been by far the most magical hobby I've ever had.
While, like many of my fellow bloggers, I believe that my log is a mix of a journal of the more exciting, memorable moments of my daily life, a zine of my personal musings, and a collage of my inspirations, I try my hardest to keep it real. I also consider a place to discuss the bigger, less mundane beliefs that make up our lives. It is important to me that my public representation, whether it be on blog or in my community, is true to my private values and beliefs.
In addition to posting about food, beat poets, activism, music, environmental topics, hippies, magic, local color, my cats, folklore, feminism, books, faith and female artists, I also post photos of what I wear, something I feel pretty unapologetic about. It is my firm belief as a feminist that I, and anyone else thus inclined, is allowed to express themselves through the medium of dress.
In the original story The Girl (or Woman) Who Married A Bear, there is the image of many worlds over-lapping to form our reality. I hope you enjoy visiting mine. I'd love to hear about yours.
Peace, Love and Foggy Woods,
© of Header Image Sanni Seppo from Tree People with Ritva Kovalainen
images of Charlie and I by Timo Rasanen, Kristiina Tiainen and Iris Olsson. Image of us girls in California by Art Echternacht.