International Polar Bear Day

Today is International Polar Bear Day, a global event organised by Polar Bears International to raise awareness about the disastrous impact climate change is having on polar bear populations.

I want my daughter to see a wild polar bear. I want to see a wild polar bear. And I imagine that you too would like to see a wild polar bear. I want us all to see big, wild, healthy, flourishing bears dominating the Arctic skyline.

But, unless we all make an effort to take action, the likelihood of that happening diminishes every moment we continue to burn the planet up with our carbon output.

An excellent way of highlighting this global concern is by reminding people, all the time, about polar bears. And by reminding them about polar bears, you’re reminding them about climate change, as it’s literally impossible to think about a polar bear without thinking about their endangered situation, and the fact that unless we get our shit together, and act now there, the Arctic will be empty of bears in 30-40 years.

You don’t have to do this with ranting lectures though. Instead, you can be more subtle with things you use on a day to day basis (like a tote bag or a necklace) and things you can pass on (such as greeting cards and cookies.)

It’s essential to get the kids involved too. By engaging them in reading stories about polar bears and having them play with polar bear toys, you can can educate them on the importance of us all doing our part to save these beautiful animals.

Below you’ll find 10 carefully selected products that will help you to remind yourself, your family and those all around you to think about the planets largest land carnivores, and how bleak a future would be without them.

Polar Bear Necklace / Quimmeq

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Wooden Polar Bear Toy / Atelier Saint Cerf

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Polar Bear Tote Bag / Kitsch Attic

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Polar Bear Origami Cookie Cutter / Le Cuisinier

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Organic Cotton Baby Harem Pants / Freya And Thor

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Felt Polar Bear Hanger / Black Sugar Creations

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Northern Lights Greeting Card / Lupi Art

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Polar Bear Silhouette Mittens / Alaska Mittens

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The Polar Bear / Jenni Desmond

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Adopt A Polar Bear / WWF

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If you’re interested in finding more inspirational things you can make/buy/see I’ve made a Pinterest board for International Polar Bear Day where you can find plenty to keep you occupied for the rest of today and beyond.

– Katie / Your Eyes In The North

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Pulse Of The Arctic : Increase Your Arctic Awareness

Watch : Polar Bear On Thin Ice

Read : You Can Help Polar Bears By Changing Your Diet

Climate scientists have stated that 330 grams of carbon are emitted for one single meal with beef, according to researcher M. Sanjayan, “that’s like driving a car three miles.” He added, “we’re probably eating too much meat…vegan is the way to go for the least impact on the planet.”

Listen : Ludovico Einaudi ‘Elegy For The Arctic’

Look : Art By Banksy

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Where I Live

I’m madly curious about people, especially where they live, especially when where they live is in the North. I’m also madly curious about what happens in their everyday. That’s why many of us read blogs in general and that’s one of the main reasons I established MostNorthern.

So, I thought it might be interesting for you to see some of my everyday, and in this instance, it was a hike in the forest surrounding our home, after a morning at my laptop writing about what mothers could be doing when their newborn baby is napping…

Winter is just giving and giving and giving this year, and I couldn’t be more grateful! After a morning of heavy snowfall, I trekked out into the trees to see what the skies had left, and here’s some of what I found.

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– Katie / Your Eyes In The North

 

 

 

Semla Season In Sweden

Yesterday was Fettisdag (Fat Tuesday) in Sweden, a day when everyone in the country eats semla buns until the blood in their veins is running sweet and they can hardly move.

While you may have heard about the Swedish king Adolf Frederick who died in 1771 after eating a meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, kippers and champagne, followed by 14 helpings of semla with hot milk (a desert also known as hetvägg) you might not know what a semla (plural semlor) consists of exactly. So here I am to explain.

A semla is a  hefty sized soft wheat flour bun, that’s been flavoured with cardamon, and filled with almond paste and whipped cream. It’s probably the most decadent thing you’ll eat in Sweden. Back in the olden days, semla were eaten at final celebratory feasts before Lent. Back then though, it was just a bun soaked in hot milk.

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At some point, enough wise souls got so bored with their bun and hot milk that they decided to slice it in half and put in some almond paste and cream. Funnily enough – and thankfully – the Swedes never looked back.

While supermarkets provide everything you need to put your own together, the majority of people, including me, buy them ready made. (Though I think next year I’ll try and make a batch.)

My frugal sense has to be put to one side for the day – in ICA 4 semlor will set you back about 60kr or just under £6 – but though I silently complain about the eye watering price, I do think, as I take my first bite, ‘this was worth every bloody krona.’

Despite always feeling like a literal mountain after eating  semla (yesterday was my third year) and vowing that I won’t touch another until next Fettisdag – I lied to myself yesterday and ate another one today because I’m pregnant and I can – Fattisdagen still remains to be my favourite celebratory day of food in Sweden. And if it doesn’t become yours too, I would be sincerely interested to learn why not.

If you’re not in Sweden, but need to taste a semla, here’s an excellent recipe.

If you’re in the UK and somewhere near/or in London, quick march yourself down to The Scandi Kitchen where they have semlor available until Easter. Elsewhere in the world, a quick Google search will direct you to any nearby Scandinavian eateries where you might be able to invest in one of the best tasting things to come out of Sweden.

Katie / Your eyes in the north

 

Listen To A Finnish Lullaby

It was entirely by accident that I was introduced to Naku Naku, an ancient Finnish lullaby performed by the Finnish folk musician Merja Soria and her kantele (Finnish folk harp). Sometimes YouTube can get it so right that it almost makes up for all the adverts they inflict upon us.

I’ve been playing the track for baby bump for the past three mornings…I find it settles the restless one right down. (It might have something to do with the little bit of Finnish blood in him/her.)

Soria used to sing Naku Naku for her daughter when she was going to sleep, and her grandmother sang it to her before that.

I recorded this video last Christmas as a gift to my daughter. I wanted her to have something that would connect her to the generations of strong Finnish women that came before us.

Naku Naku was Soria’s first recording after many years of silence…and I just hope with all hope that her YouTube channel becomes a hive of musical activity,  because the north and the wider worlds needs this woman, her voice and her kantele.

– Katie / Your eyes in the north.

 

 

 

 

Pulse Of The Arctic : Increase Your Arctic Awareness

Increasing awareness about the Arctic and what’s going on at the top of the world has never been more important.

So once a week I will be sharing pivotal research material – from news stories to Ted Talks – for anyone interested in developing their knowledge about climate change and the effects it has on the north.

Watch :  Time-Lapse Proof Of Extreme Ice Loss

National Geographic photographer, scientist and adventurer James Balog has been photographing human modification of our planet’s natural systems for 35 years, and is one of the most important climate change activists we have breathing today.

This stirring, intelligent, powerful TED talk discusses the power science and art can have when they come together, and the visible changes Balog has documented of the ice we are so rapidly losing – 95% of the glaciers in the world are melting as I write.

If you feel you need more after the talk, Balog’s documentary Chasing Ice is available on Netflix. The time lapse photography of retreating glaciers will open your mind to new planes of thought about climate change.

Read : Arctic Birds, Seals And Reindeer Killed By Marine Plastics

A new report illustrates the scale of contamination in the Norwegian and Barents Seas north of Scandinavia, and shows that no corner of the Earth is immune from the scourge of plastic pollution.

Virtually everywhere researchers look they find plastic, according to the report by the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Even in remote areas with relatively low human impact, it says the concentration of plastic waste in the European Arctic is now comparable or even higher than in more urban and populated areas.

And there are signs the amount of plastic is increasing, with global plastic production reaching 322 million tonnes in 2015 and predicted to grow by around 4 per cent a year.

If you’re interested in getting daily news about the Arctic and climate change, I recommend you visit Google Alerts . The site monitors the internet for the content you have specified that you’d like to receive, and emails it directly to you.

Listen : Arctic Fever, A Spoken Word/Dark Ambient Album

Arctic Fever is a spoken word/dark ambient album featuring my poetry intertwined with the music of Crown of Asteria.

Centered around the thawing of the Arctic, Arctic Fever portrays how the catastrophic changes are impacting the peoples, flora and fauna of the far north.

While the listener will have an insight into what is happening now in the north, they will also have the opportunity to envisage what life was like at the top of the world, before the Arctic was cursed with whisky, organised religion, diseases and heat.

Arctic Fever is a homage to the Arctic, and all who dwell there, who are experiencing, in real time, the sea ice lessen, the permafrost weaken and the north they have forever know disappear.

Look : Art By Takeshi Kawano

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Katie – Your Eyes In The North

My Top 10 Books About The North

The other day I was (sadly) complaining about a book I’d bought and read recently called Scandinavians by Robert Ferguson.

I rarely buy myself to a brand new book, but I was so absolutely sure that Ferguson was going to offer me 455 pages of potentially award winning literature, that I shelled out the £12 it cost on Amazon – it’s very newly published – believing it would be one of the best investments of 2018. (I’d previously really enjoyed his book The Hammer & The Cross : A New History Of The Vikings.)

One of the best investments it was not, and I was so disappointed I almost cried when I was done reading it.

Let it be known that I really hate it when I have to complain about a book, and if I don’t enjoy something, it’s not often that anyone else knows about it. There’s enough negative energy surging through the internet as it is without me ranting about every book I haven’t enjoyed.

However, something GOOD actually came from my bad experience with Scandinavians. My dissatisfaction led me make a post about it on Facebook, which led to a friend suggesting I make a blog post about my 10 favourite books about the far north, which then led to this post.

Every book listed here has deeply enhanced my knowledge, understanding and love of the north…and if any of them have touched you in a profound way, please comment and let me know!

I’m also interested in any suggested reading you have for me. Oh, and a final thing, if Viking history is your passion, do check out The Hammer & The Cross. Ferguson got it very right with this one.

Arctic Dreams By Barry Lopez

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My copy of Arctic Dreams, the award winning study of the Arctic by Barry Lopez (also the author of the outstanding book Of Wolves & Men) has been re-read so many times the pages have shed their whiteness, and have taken on that comforting softness that loved books adopt.

Practically each page has at least two of three paragraphs underlined or highlighted, and it still holds Post-It-Notes from several years ago.

Using just the most sublime prose, Lopez honours the Arctic, its history and landscape, its people, flora and fauna. He examines our deep fascination with the Arctic and why we find such a hostile environment so inviting.

One of my favourite of the nine chapters, though it is SO hard to choose, is Tornarssuk, a wedge  dedicated to history, present and future of Ursus maritiumus aka the wandering king of the polar north.

Buy it here.

This Cold Heaven By Gretal Ehrlich

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One of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life was to invest in the writing of the goddess of the cold, Gretel Ehrlich.

Dedicated to ‘those who travel the path of ice,’ This Cold Heaven has everything you could hope to find in a book about the landscape, history and peoples of Greenland. I don’t actually have the strength to count how many Post-It-Notes I’ve crammed into it over the years.

In this spectacular work, Ehrlich provides an intensive, addictive narrative of her personal experiences travelling across Greenland (the largest island on earth, with all but 5% covered by a vast ice sheet) and her personal encounters with the Greenlandic Inuit.

It’s a book so wonderfully dense with wisdom that it’s virtually impossible to take in everything on the first read. You must return to it time and again to fully experience the ‘realm of the great dark, of ice pavilions, polar bears and Eskimo nomads.’

Buy it here.

Dark Matter By Michelle Paver

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It was a happy accident that I encountered the novel Dark Matter by Michelle Paver in the library a few years ago.

Unlike her previous books for children, which I wasn’t too fond of, Dark Matter is unputdownable. I think I finished it in a night and was left gagging for more. It’s one of the best ghost stories I have ever read and I’m not exaggerating.

The story takes place in 1937. 28 year old Jack lost, lonely and poor, so when offered the opportunity to join an Arctic expedition, he leaps at the chance.

However once him and his team arrive at the uninhabited bay where they’re supposed to spend the next year, Jack begins to feel uneasy, and one by one, his companions start to leave…

Buy it here.

The Magnetic North By Sara Wheeler

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It was on one of my expeditions to Amazon that I found The Magnetic North by Sara Wheeler.

While her prose isn’t, I don’t think, as intense as Lopez or Ehrlich (and I favor intense) this volume about Wheeler’s travels through the Arctic is powerful, thought-provoking and, at times, immensely  poetic.

The variety covered in The Magnetic North is one of the things that’s makes it so readable, and by the end I was hugely envious of everything Wheeler had the opportunity to experience. I was particularly jealous of her time spent herding reindeer across the tundra with Lapps.

Magnetic North is a book which will make you think and think hard about the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the Arctic. One of the ugly aspects that shook me the worst was reading about the bioaccumulated toxins in polar bears.

Buy it here.

5The Arctic : An Anthology Edited By Elizabeth Kolbert

In England, our best known bookstore is called Waterstones. It’s also the most expensive, and I could very rarely buy anything from there, unless I was in possession of a holy gift card.

At £8.99 The Arctic : An Anthology was one of the only things I could splurge on. But how it was worth it! It’s a close to perfect blend of writing about the science, nature, history, peoples and stories of the Arctic.

Published by Granta (one of my favourite publishers) The Arctic is an extraordinarily insightful read – though it’s FAR too short – featuring essential writings on our most precious polar region and its future.

Naturally Lopez and Ehrlich are in there, but there’s also works from the likes of Jack London, Rockwell Kent, Fridtjof Nansen and Knud Rasmussen.

Buy it here.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People By Michael Booth

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While finding really good books written about the Arctic isn’t that difficult, finding really good books written about Scandinavian culture is, I think, a challenge.

There just aren’t enough books getting published that are really sold reads. (Though I hope to change this in the near future.)

The Almost Nearly Perfect People however, is EXCELLENT. Instead of relying on the accounts of others, Michael Booth explores the cultures of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland using his own eyes and experiences.

He’s a funny, insightful and intelligent writer who, while highlighting the great things about living in the north, brings it to our attention that, actually, shit happens in Scandinavia too, and it isn’t all as dreamy as so many of us have been led to believe.

Buy it here.

Wild By Jay Griffiths

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Wild is one of those books that changed my life. And I don’t say that lightly. I found it at random in the library back in 2008 and after reading the first page, clung to it like it was my life raft.

I ranted and raved to anyone who would listen, about Jay Griffiths enlightening work in which she endeavoured to explore the wildernesses of earth, ice, water and fire.

While it isn’t all about the north – there’s one chapter called Ice which is northerly focused – I thought it essential I mention it here because her experiences and thoughts of the north are so profound, so moving, so aware that she can alter your way of thinking in a heartbeat.

Griffiths is one of the most important nature writers we have. Her ear is forever pressed to the ground.

Buy it here.

The Fellowship Of Ghosts By Paul Watkins

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I can’t remember if my Dad bought my this or if I did…either way, it was found in Pound Land. Yes. One of my favourite books about the north cost a quid in a bargain shop. Why it was there exactly isn’t something I like to dwell on because this author deserves ALL the readers.

When it first arrived in my hands, I knew it was going to be a winner not only because of  it’s spectacular front cover, but because it was published by National Geographic, and National Geographic do not piss about. Everything they publish is of THE highest quality.

The Fellowship Of Ghosts is a compelling narrative about Paul Watkin’s solo trek through the wilds of Norway’s Rondane and Jutunheimen mountains.

His descriptions of the challenging terrain he encounters on his journey is nothing less than spellbinding, and his natural ability to to weave together the connections between the Norwegian landscape and the myths and people found there makes for an exhilarating read.

Buy it here.

True North By Gavin Francis

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I was fortunate that back in England, my local library had quite the collection of Arctic literature, and among that collection was True North by Gavin Francis.

Although it’s been a few years since I read it, I can remember that I always had a pen and notebook so I could scribble down his impressions of journeying through the Shetland Isles, the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and on to Lapland. (Envious am I? Naturally.)

True North is an engrossing insight into how the region of the Arctic has adapted to the 21st Century. I learned plenty from this book, and intend on returning to it asap to refresh my knowledge.

Buy it here.

Faces Of The North By Ragnar Axelsson

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I was first introduced to the work of Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson in 2008 when I was at University and working on a novel about Iceland.

A teacher lent me his copy of Faces Of The North (not without a lecture on how valuable it was first off though, to ensure it was well looked after.)

From the moment I saw the cover (can you taste the salt of the sea on your lips too?) I was happily stolen away from my life in England. Naturally, I didn’t want to give it back to my teacher. The impression it had left was soul deep.

This art book is as perfect as art books come, and through around 100 heart-stirring photographs of Greenland, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, documents the vanishing lifestyle of the north.

Buy it here.

Katie – Your Eyes In The North

Your Eyes In The North

I am going to assume that, if you’ve picked this blog to read from the other 37 million sites that are hosted by WordPress, then you’re northerly obsessed.

I’m also going to assume that you can’t go a day without thinking about the most northerly places on our planet, and you have, within your soul, this insatiable hunger for pretty much everything to do with the Nordic countries and the High Arctic.

For the record, the above paragraph is me in a nutshell. If it’s you too, then I hope MostNorthern will be able to satisfy your hunger. At least for a little while.  If we’re alike in our obsession, you’ll know it’s only a matter of time before you need your next northerly fix. And that’s where I come in. To try and provide that, to try and be your eyes in the north.

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In case you’ve skipped over the About page, my name is Katie Metcalfe and I’m an English writer, blogger and poet living in Sweden.

I’ve been writing on the subject of ‘North’ for over a decade, and have a solid portfolio on writings about everything northerly, from the life of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, to the mythology of the Greenlandic Inuit, from the experience of dining on the Icelandic delicacy hákarl (fermented shark) to not being allowed to die in the Norwegian Arctic town of Longyearbyen.

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MostNorthern was established because, to put it quite bluntly, I wasn’t able to find another blog out there that could successfully satisfy my northerly needs. (Please do shout if you are able to recommend blogs I may have missed…)

It exists  to celebrate everything Nordic, with a special focus on raising awareness about the Arctic, and the current climate crisis going on at the top of the world. I really hope, that, while satisfying my curiosities and interests in all things northerly, I’ll satisfy yours too.

If there’s anything northerly that you would like an insight into, or if there is a northerner who you have been itching to learn more about through an interview, or even if you want to make a suggestion on how MostNorthern can be improved, please leave a comment below or email me at: mostnorthern@hotmail.com

Katie – Your Eyes In The North