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Summer flowers

It's a misty morning, the summer is turning to autumn. It feels like a good time to tell a summertime story;

It was around mid-June. One of my friends living in Tampere posted on facebook, asking a dogsitter for a weekend. Since it was going to be a free weekend for me, I offered to take care of the dog, if there is a handy way to get the dog from Tampere to my place. Well, it turned out that my friend is going to give a workshop in a faculty near my home. Or, actually, there is a bunch of my friends working together, arranging that workshop, and they can't take the dog with them. So I agreed to host both the dog and the bunch of my friends.

For the weekend I was back to the care-take role; I woke up before my friends did, so that they could have coffee and breakfast before leaving for work. And while they were working, I stayed at home, taking care of the dog, washing dishes and cooking food. I had everything ready for my friends when they got back from work; I served food at the garden table and we ate together. The garden bathtub was full of warm water, decorated with white roses. Sauna was also ready, so that we could relax and enjoy the evening. On Sunday we had coffee before my friends left back to Tampere. I felt inspired to pick up some wild flowers to decorate the garden table. It was a refreshing and revitalizing weekend for me.

I enjoyed the balance of the social life. The mornings greeted me with good energy; people sipping strong coffee to wake up, making the last-minute plans and then leaving for day's work - by that time I was also myself active and cheerful, doings some household chores I had been long postponing due to lack of inspiration. My sauna has two rooms, the first one is for undressing, and the other room is the sauna itself. And for years I've been thinking that there should be a small shelf and some hooks in the first room, so that people could hang their towels and clothes. So, while my friends were working I merrily went on collecting the materials and tools needed, fixing a shelf and hooks. It was a warm and sunny day, good for drying laundry outdoors. So I heated up a lot of water, and hand-washed a load of laundry which had been piling up for couple of months already...

What makes that kind of little things special for me, is that they are clear signs of recovery from depression. Practical things like doing the laundry or improving the sauna usability - they are about taking care of oneself. And when depressed, taking care of oneself might feel like a heavy, unpleasant thing to do - as one of the core elements of depression is indiffirence or plain aversion towards one's personal existence. Luckily enough, it is many years since I was that depressed for most of the time, but at those years it sometimes felt that I'm never going to recover. So, seen against that kind of background, I'm genuinely happy to spot these clear signs of recovery in my daily life. And not only just feeling inspired to take care of some practical stuff, but also feeling like decorating my surroundings with the beauty of summer flowers - and sharing all that with a bunch of friends with a lively laughter.

As I have written in some of my earlier posts, for me beauty is not just about things being visually attractive. For me beauty is also something deeper. Let's look at it this way: In many theories the value of things is seen as a means to an end. A skill, a tool or a habit is good if it contributes towards the survival of the individual, group, species or a gene. Well, OK, but what is survival good for? What if you are depressed, and mere survival or existence in itself appears as totally meaningless to you? Then this kind of theories are absolutely of no help, because they rest solely on the assumption that survival in itself is an ultimate goal. For me this kind of perspective has always felt somehow empty. For me it was a deep experience of beauty, which filled the void and made the existence feel worth something. And here I'm talking of beauty which is manifest in the workings of nature. At school I was struck with awe when I learned that the colder the water the more it can absorb gases - which means that a lake has absorbed a maximum amount of oxygen just before the lake freezes over, and so the fish can survive util spring. For me it was not the survival of the fish which is awesome, but the mere beauty and harmony of the workings of life - how different elements and processes dance together, eventually creating these visible structures we call fish, trees, flowers and humans.

Today's news had a small article about a scientific research where they found out that depressed people have reduced perception of colours. So, this is not just a metaphor, but a neuropsychological fact. Especially the perception of shades of yellow and blue seems to be related to dopamine, and dopamine has a central role in mood regulation. Because of that kind of connections, heavily depressed people perceive the world as less colourful - everything seems somewhat grey and dull... Now, I find this also a good metaphor of depression and the experience of meaningfulness. Recovering from depression is about re-learning to perceive the world and existence as beautiful and meaningful.

And most of the time I just need a lot of solitude to regain my inner ability to experience and to perceive the beauty which there is. But sometimes it is connection to other people which works wonders. My friends didn't put any pressure on me - I didn't feel that I have to take the caretaker role because the other expect me to do so. No, I took the caretaker role because I enjoyed doing it. And my friends they were genuinely delighted to receive more of my care than they were asking for; the merry shine in their eyes and the softness of their voices when they said "thank you!" - for me it also felt that I'm the one who receives positive energies. So it was not just me taking care of them, but more like a group of friends exchanging mutual help, each one responding to the needs of others. They needed a dogsitter, a place to sleep at, food and sauna, and I needed an inspiring weekend with some solitude and rich social life.

Now, after couple of months, I find that the positive effects of that weekend have been following me. Every here and there, in all the small details of ordinary daily life, I've been better able to perceive beauty and meaningfulness. And this is how it goes, step by step - relearning both to experience and to express the beauty of the life.

White roses
White roses
Coffee and flowers
Coffee and flowers
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A nice story! I've never been depressed or otherwise "down" except for the occasional bout of ennui, but even so an experience of beauty or sharing a joyful mood with friends is very refreshing and gives you a lot of energy.

Two questions not really related to the story (which I don't think you've mentioned before): Where do you get your water, from a well or do you have the municipal pipes coming in? And when you heat up the bathtub with a fire, do you put something like big flat stones at the bottom so the fire doesn't cook your butt to a crisp?

In one corner of my yard there is a well, which provides water for my house and for one of the neighbours. Basically, it is a pit with a deep drill-hole. The water comes from the drill-hole, and inside the pit there is a pump with a pressure tank. When the pit is properly covered, the pump and the pipes won't freeze in the winter. There have been occasional problems with the pump, but otherwise the system is fairly OK.

Ah, and if the bottom of the the bathtub is too hot, I use a piece of a cheap foam mattress to make it convenient.


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