Nature is my sanctuary. I can’t imagine a life not lived outdoors, in places crafted by nature rather than human hands. My soul needs it for me to stay sane, to stay grounded. When I’m outdoors – in the forest, in the mountains or on a frozen lake – it’s the only place I feel I can really breathe. You know, that deep breath that fills your whole body with energy and a sense of calm. This is where I feel most happy; it’s where I go to be myself, to feel free and connected to my soul and the earth – whether that’s in a kayak, in hiking boots, on a bike or in a pair of Nordic skates.
Here in Sweden, the seasons are dramatically different, as are the activities you can do outside. I deeply appreciate being able to interact with the natural world in different ways throughout the seasons. In the winter, I Nordic skate. I skated as a child, but was never very good at it; I have been doing it again for a couple of years again now, using it as a way to get outdoors in the colder months. I started on a ploughed track on Lake Mälaren, the third-largest freshwater lake in Sweden, close to Stockholm, in a pair of rental boots and Nordic skates – in Sweden you can often rent skates by the hour close to the many ploughed tracks created for Nordic skating. Now, having done it for a couple of years, I’ve moved away from skating on these tracks as I want to feel a greater sense of freedom – although they are a great (and much safer) way to begin Nordic skating.
This preparation is a part of what I like about it, even the seemingly more trivial things like making a lunchbox to bring – I usually bring soup in a flask with bread, water to boil for coffee, and of course something for a Fika (Swedish coffee break), a cinnamon bun most probably. The preparation is half the fun; it extends the experience, just as it does for any outdoor pursuit.
Most often the lakes are totally still and silent, which incites such a special feeling; you hear only the sound of the wind, the sound of your skates gliding on the ice, and the sound of the ice itself. If the ice is thin, it sings, making this incredible sound that hard to describe; it’s a crackling, whistling, high-pitched almost electric sound. On the snowy banks, wildlife and their tracks can be spotted, and birds fly overhead. I cherish this space and love the wind in my face and the feeling of speed and being away from it all. If you want time to think or be alone, it’s easy to find it out here on the vast and numerous lakes.
Nordic skating opens up the same natural spaces and wild places I use for other activities at other times of the year, allowing me to experience these environments in a completely different way. I long-distance skate on the same water and in the same area that I kayak in the summer and autumn. On skates, I gain a new perspective, a higher perspective, on my surroundings. The world is a beautiful place throughout the seasons; you simply need to get out there to experience it, and open your heart as well as your eyes to the beauty of these spaces. When you do, you discover far more than just what the eye sees. Here in Sweden, you do not have to get far away; nature is always just around the corner.