Seeking the real and tangible to offset our hyper-digital lives

Early morning in the garden Photo: Aldona Kmiec


Work got the better of me today. So I’m in bed. And working! Or ‘catching up’ as I like to call it if I’m in bed unable to work outside.

Writing in English is not my natural activity, but one that I love so much! While it is natural to you if you’re native English speaker, for me it’s another day at the Uni of Life for migrants. Nowadays it’s much easier to type rather than ‘write’. It’s faster, I’m used to it and I can save and edit the text later. What it does, unfortunately, it makes my handwriting messy and almost unreadable – in any language!

What to do… So even today, when I’m feeling a bit under the weather, I type. it doesn’t really relax me but I type anyway so maybe it will one day. The handwriting does – now it’s like learning the skill from the beginning using the lines and making sure all letters are of the same height. Focus and concentration. But it seems I’m not so good at it anymore. How many people have lost the skills of handwriting? And what about the real non-computer skills, like people skills.. or gardening and growing food?

Magic Morning.. Watering tomato plants in my first house in Ballarat Photo: Aldona Kmiec 2010 Seeds for sale: mixed colour foxgloves and hollyhocks – just call me if you need any

I was raised in a farming family and I was used to hard work from my early childhood. I’ve had all sorts of real life experiences thanks to the lack of technology these days. I don’t get squeamish when I see blood, I’ve learnt to shoot and I hopefully still can catch and prepare a chicken for Sunday lunch, basic survival skill.. Chicken doesn’t just live on a supermarket shelf until it dies and prepares itself for Sunday feast.. Just imagine that.

Farming equipment Photo: Aldona Kmiec Polish Winter Landscape Photo: Aldona Kmiec 2008

But I wanted more technology eversince seeing it on a TV so when the Commodore 64 with games appeared it felt like I finally had an excuse from life, every teenager’s dream. Except they don’t have much choice now.

Nowadays, I just miss the feeling of walking on this quiet snowy road.  Mid 30s slow down that’s for sure! I’m used to low temperatures going near -35 and I love walking barefoot on the snow. Ever since I started travelling I couldn’t help comparing my childhood and teenage experience with the ones from different cultures. It is so sad that there isn’t much work in the area I used to live. And it’s quiet. When you’re a teenager – it’s too quiet to your liking so the natural thing is to go on and explore the world. How many people actually do return to their roots? Some are lucky to even have this choice.

One way of escaping the over digitalised world are books. I was recently interviewed by my artist-friend Amy Tsilemanis from Weavelength Productions and Galaxy of Readers about the importance of books in life for Amy’s upcoming art installation/ exhibition The Space Between at Backspace Gallery (starting July 13th)  – why we read them, what are my favourite books and whether I like digitalised ebooks.

After this interview I realised that I forgot to add one of the most influential childhood books that fired up my imagination and the desire to travel  – Swedish/Finnish The Moomins. Remember them?? You might not as we lived on two different continents. They are a family of fairy tale characters, who are white and roundish, with large snouts, that make them resemble hippopotamuses. The carefree and adventurous family live in their house in Moominvalley, though in the past their temporary residences have included a lighthouse and a theatre. They have had many adventures along with their various friends. I haven’t talked about them for ages so here they are  – all the characters:
Moomins Source for text & image: Wikipedia

Moominpappa: Father of the family, but boyish and adventurous. He likes to be present when something unusual happens. He is philosophical at times and likes writing his memoirs.

Moominmamma: The calm mother, who takes care that Moominhouse is a safe place to be. She wants everyone to be happy, appreciates individuality, but settles things when someone is wronged. She always brings good food as well as whatever else may be necessary on a journey in her handbag.

Moomintroll (Moomin in the English translation): The little boy of the family, interested in and excited about everything he sees and finds, always trying to be good, but sometimes getting into trouble while doing so, he is very brave and always finds a way to make his friends happy.

The Hemulens: Creatures that believe in order and like to boss other people around, but find it difficult to listen to anyone and lack a sense of humor. Many hemulens like collecting stuff, and have little time to think about much else.

Sniff: A small creature, who lives in the Moomin house. He likes to take part in everything, but is afraid to do anything dangerous. Sniff appreciates all valuables and makes many plans to get rich, but does not succeed.

Snork Maiden: Moomin’s best friend. She is happy and energetic, but often suddenly changes her mind on things. She loves nice clothes and jewelry, is a little flirtatious, and dreams about finding her prince charming.

The Snork: Snorkmaiden’s brother. He is an introvert by nature and is always inventing things. The residents of Moominvalley often ask Snork for help solving tricky problems and building machines. Snorks are like moomintrolls, but change colour according to their mood.

Snufkin: The lonesome philosophical traveller, who likes to play the harmonica and wanders around the world with only a few things, so as not to make his life complicated. He always comes and goes as he pleases, is carefree and has lots of admirers in Moominvalley. He is also shown to be quite fearless and calm in even the most dire situations, which has proven to be a great help to Moomintroll and the others when in danger.

Little My: A mischevious tomboyish little girl, who lives in the Moomin house and has a brave, spunky personality. She likes adventure, but loves catastrophes, and often does mean things on purpose. She finds messiness and untidiness exciting and is very down to earth, when others aren’t.

The younger Mymble, also referred to as “the Mymble’s daughter”: Little My’s amiable and helpful big sister, and half-sister of Snufkin. She often has romantic daydreams about the love of her life, particularly policemen.

Too-Ticky: A wise woman, and good friend of the family. She has a boyish look, with a blue hat and a red-striped shirt. She dives straight into action to solve dilemmas in a practical way. Too Ticky is the one of the people in Moominvalley, who does not hibernate, instead spending the winter in the cozy sauna building of the Moominhouse.

Mrs Fillyjonk: A female rodent-like being who believes order and principle are vital to life, and she does not want her three children to learn bad habits. She easily loses her temper and even the slightest misfortune depresses her. She is often seen cleaning the house.

The Hattifnatters Mushroom-like silent creatures, that wander around the world eternally, often in large groups, wanting to reach the horizon. They travel by boat and get attracted by lightning, when they become electric and quite dangerous.

My favourite character was a little scary and scruffy Snufkin and I remember how sad I was for Hatttifnatters who were pointlessly trying to reach a horizon..

Great lessons of people’s characters. These two books are in my BOOKS FOR LIFE list. Have you got a similar list? What books are on it? Share your comments below..

My old view on the ocean ‘Okno na swiat’ Photo: Aldona Kmiec 2009