Month: December 2020

The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020

Welcome to this special, end-of-the-year edition of The Zone! Banksys perfect illustration of 2020, various ways to exorcise 2020, books of the year picked by Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, and others, the lost day of Kiribati, and more. Happy New Year!

I think we all agree that the most merciful thing you could say about 2020 is that it is over. There were glimpses of light and moments of joy, of course, and those we should cherish. Here’s the last list of the year. Have a wonderful weekend, stay safe, and be kind to one another. I’ll be back next year!

  • How to exorcise 2020. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking about exorcism these days. I’m tempted to use the Colombian tradition of burning the “old year” (año viejo). It seems fitting, somehow.
  • The most striking images of 2020, selected by BBC Culture. It’s fascinating how one year can be gone so quickly and so slowly at the same time. We happened to be in Australia during the devastating bush fires, and we believed that would be our most dramatic memories of the year. All that seems to be so far away now; bush fires merely an inconvenience.
  • 1,273 People Share Their Best Life Lessons from 2020. From Mark Manson’s excellent newsletter Mindf*ck Monday. He asked his subscribers: “What have been your biggest lessons from 2020?” And 1.273 people answered. It’s fascinating reading. I found that the best blogs and newsletters (and Manson has both) have great readers, and very often, their comments are as interesting as the article.
  • Austin Kleon and Seth Godin‘s end of the year book lists. These men are responsible for many of my book purchases. It’s a good thing. Austin Kleon has a great newsletter, too, by the way.
  • The Smithsonian Magazine‘s editors picked 25 favorite articles from the year we’d rather forget.

My Zone

Most Popular Posts in 2020


A Quote I’m Pondering

Yes, I’ve always been a dreamer, and yes, I have always tried. And dreams are special things. But dreams are of no value if they’re not equipped with wings and feet and hands and all that. If you’re going to make a dream come true, you’ve got to work with it. You can’t just sit around. That’s a wish. That’s not a dream.

Dolly Parton, in an interview in Bust magazine


From My Photo Archives

Red and blue reflections on ice. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

The red walls of the Lidingö Boat Yard reflected on the ice.


Winter collage by Mihaela Limberea

I wish you a very, very Happy New Year! May 2021 bring you and yours much joy and happiness!



Any New Beginning Is Forged From The Shards Of The Past

Winter landscape in Winterthur, Switzerland. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

Any new beginning is forged from the shards of the past, not from the abandonment of the past.

Craig D. Lounsbrough
Rose hips covered in snow. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Neil Gaiman

Tree branches covered in snow. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.

Benjamin Franklin
Trees covered in snow. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

With the new year comes a refueled motivation to improve on the past one.

Gretchen Bleiler
Trees covered in snow. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art—write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

Neil Gaiman
Winter town panorama . Photo by Mihaela Limberea

May Light always surround you;

Hope kindle and rebound you.

May your Hurts turn to Healing;

Your Heart embrace Feeling.

May Wounds become Wisdom;

Every Kindness a Prism.

May Laughter infect you;

Your Passion resurrect you.

May Goodness inspire

your Deepest Desires.

Through all that you Reach For,

May your arms Never Tire.

D’Simone


The Moon Of Tonight

  1. The Rising Moon
  2. Tonight’s Moon
  3. Cicadas’ Voices
  4. At Yamei’s House
  5. The Bleak Wind
  6. Beads Of Dew
  7. Moon-Viewing At My Hut
  8. Fallen Leaves
  9. An Old Tree Was Felled …
  10. The Autumn Tempest
  11. Autumn Is Advanced
  12. To Ransetsu
  13. In Imitation of Kaku’s Haiku on Knotgrass and a Firefly
  14. On the Death of Issho
  15. Ice and Water
  16. The Lark
  17. The First Snow
  18. The Moon Of Tonight
  19. The Chanting of Buddhist Prayers
  20. Lightning
Black and white photo of the moon by Mihaela Limberea

The moon of this night makes

All fields and mountains bald.

Hattori Ransetsu

Hattori Ransetsu (1654 – 1707) was a samurai, a haiku poet, and a follower of Matsuo Basho. He was very dedicated to Basho, and after the master’s death, he took the tonsure and became a monk.


To read more poems, click here.



The Best Books I’ve Read in 2020

My book shelf, including the best books of 2020. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

Cicero

I’m grateful for having both, and the time and peace of mind to enjoy them. I read two or three books a week, and I read every day. I cannot image a life without books. Here are a few that stayed with me a little longer this year, in no particular order.

Best Fiction Books

  • Stephen King & Joe Hill, In the Tall Grass. This is a novella collaboration between Stephen King and Joe Hill, a short horror masterpiece. Trivia: Joe Hill is King’s son. Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha (herself a novelist), were inspired by the Swedish trade unionist Joe Hill (formerly Joel Hägglund) and named their son Joseph Hillston. When the son grew up to be a writer, he chose Joe Hill as his pseudonym.
  • Marlen Haushofer, The Wall is a haunting survival story, disturbing and beautiful, by the Austrian author Marlen Haushofer (1920 – 1970). If you love animals, you will love this book. And maybe shed a tear or two. I listened to the book first, narrated by Kathe Mazur, and I cannot recommend the audio edition enough. Mazur’s soft and calm voice deepens and enhances the text.
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mexican Gothic. An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . . “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico. I read this in one day.
  • Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow.  An old-fashioned novel (in the best sense of the term) about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. The best kind of escapism, the perfect book to curl up with and forget the world outside.

Best Non-Fiction Books

  • Sönke Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes. I know I’ve just said the list has no particular order; however, I did want to put this book first. It changed my life, as dramatically as it sounds. I was looking for a better way of organizing reading notes before kicking off the research on my non-fiction book and found this book. It describes an excellent note-taking system, indeed, but its’ great benefit lies in helping you focus on thinking, understanding, and developing new ideas in writing. It sounded like it would be too good to be true, but I was intrigued enough to give it a try, and I was hooked once I did. The method was developed for academic writing, and the book is heavy on theory and light on the application. If you can stand it and give it a try, you’ll be hooked too. This site, entirely dedicated to it, is a good complement to the book. It provides more concrete examples and practical applications.
  • James Clear, Atomic Habits. Accomplish more by focusing on less.  Actionable and practical strategies to build positive habits by focusing on small improvements that would build up over time.
  • Adam Savage, Every Tool’s a Hammer. Adam Savage shares his golden rules of creativity, from finding inspiration to following through and successfully turning your idea into reality. 

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’Twas The Night Before Christmas

Close up of a traditional Christmas tree. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house 

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; 

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, 

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds; 

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; 

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, 

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap, 

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, 

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. 

Away to the window I flew like a flash, 

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. 

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow, 

Gave a lustre of midday to objects below, 

When what to my wondering eyes did appear, 

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer, 

With a little old driver so lively and quick, 

I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick. 

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, 

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name: 

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen! 

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen! 

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! 

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!” 

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, 

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; 

So up to the housetop the coursers they flew 

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too— 

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof 

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. 

As I drew in my head, and was turning around, 

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. 

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, 

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; 

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, 

And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack. 

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry! 

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! 

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, 

And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow; 

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, 

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath; 

He had a broad face and a little round belly 

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, 

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; 

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head 

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread; 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, 

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, 

And laying his finger aside of his nose, 

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, 

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. 

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight— 

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit from St Nicholas (more commonly known as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas).

Clement Clarke Moore (1779 – 1863) was an American writer, a Hebrew scholar, and a teacher at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in New York City. 


I wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful day with family and friends!



I Wonder If the Snow Loves the Trees and Fields

Tree branches covered in snow. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again”.

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll (1832 – 1898), pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was an English logician, mathematician, photographer, and novelist, especially remembered for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) & Through the Looking-Glass (1871)


To read more quotes by various authors, click here.



The First Snow

  1. The Rising Moon
  2. Tonight’s Moon
  3. Cicadas’ Voices
  4. At Yamei’s House
  5. The Bleak Wind
  6. Beads Of Dew
  7. Moon-Viewing At My Hut
  8. Fallen Leaves
  9. An Old Tree Was Felled …
  10. The Autumn Tempest
  11. Autumn Is Advanced
  12. To Ransetsu
  13. In Imitation of Kaku’s Haiku on Knotgrass and a Firefly
  14. On the Death of Issho
  15. Ice and Water
  16. The Lark
  17. The First Snow
  18. The Moon Of Tonight
  19. The Chanting of Buddhist Prayers
  20. Lightning
A tree branch covered in snow. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

’Tis the first snow! Who is likely

To stay indoors?

Takarai Kikaku

Takarai Kikaku (1661 – 1707) was a Japanese poet and among the most accomplished disciples of Matsuo Bashō.


To read more poems, click here.



Winter Solstice Blues

Black and white photo showing a human silhouette against a fence to illustrate the longest shadow of the year during the winter solstice. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.

It’s the winter solstice today, marking the first day of winter. Check your shadow at noon if you live in the Northern Hemisphere: it’ll be your longest noontime shadow of the year.

It’s also the shortest day of the year, and it never felt darker. We haven’t seen the sun since November 28th in Stockholm; it’s the darkest of December in almost a hundred years.

There is a scientific explanation for it, although a reason doesn’t help the mood: a high pressure over Russia which has formed an inversion (weather phenomenon when hot air cannot rise as it usually does). This high pressure has created a kind of “lid” of hot air that prevents the ground air from rising and cooling. And that, together with the humid air, creates this strangely foggy and rainy December.

You wake up in the morning, fumbling around in the darkness, waiting for daylight – and I mean light in the loosest meaning of the word; it’s more like 50 shades of gray, pun intended – until after nine in the morning. That’s it; that twilight zone gray is the daylight. And at two in the afternoon, the gray starts to fade to black again. At three is pitch dark again. I imagine the apocalypse would look like this.

Close up of a red squirrel

We have a few regular visitors in the garden like the cutie above, so I soldier on and take photos, but my camera struggles with the darkness. I keep increasing the ISO until 12.800 for a decent photo.

No light without dark, I keep telling myself. And I’m thinking about people in Murmansk (Russia), Thule (Greenland), or Tromsø (Norway), where total darkness reigns this time of the year. We do have six hours of daylight, whether gray or not.

To end on a more optimistic note, let’s rejoice in the fact that the days are getting longer as of tomorrow!

A sun illuminated path in the forest. Photo by Mihaela Limbertea.
Lidingö (Stockholm, Sweden)

Here comes the sun!


Bonus: Nina MacLaughlin’s Winter Solstice column


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The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020

Another way of measuring performance, the best Christmas album, crown shyness, herding cats, and more in The Zone No. 10.

Christmas tree decorations. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
Martin Place Christmas Tree, Sydney 2019. A world ago.
  • Ear Candy: the best Christmas album of all time is Frank Sinatra‘s The Christmas Album, without any doubt. I listen to it on repeat from the first advent to Christmas. A new favorite this year is Ingrid Michaelson‘s Songs for the Season. It sounds like a classic album from the 1940s, maybe the soundtrack to an old black and white Hollywood Christmas movie – but it’s from 2018. The album, inspired by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, has a nostalgic touch that is wonderful!
  • While we’re still on the subject of 2020: bad sex award canceled as public exposed to ‘too many bad things in 2020.’ 
Tree crowns showing the crown shyness phenomenon. Photo by Dag Peak.
Dag Peak, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Still on the subject of trees: have you heard about crown shyness? It’s a phenomenon observed in some tree species, in which the crowns of fully stocked trees don’t touch each other, forming a canopy with channel-like gaps. Their version of “social distancing?”
  • Tsunami from Heaven: an amazing rainstorm time-lapse captured by photographer Peter Maier in Austria.
  • Tuesday was the Cat Herders Day! The whole of 2020 has felt like an enormous exercise in herding cats.

My Zone

A Quote I’m Pondering

As I see it, not everyone who publishes a book is an author. They’re just someone who has published a book. The best way to become an author is to write more books, just as a true entrepreneur starts more than one business. The best way to become a true comedian, filmmaker, designer, or entrepreneur is to never stop, to keep going. They hustle, they keep creating. Very few of us can afford to abandon our gift after our first attempt, convinced that our legacy is secured. Nor should we. We should prove to the world and to ourselves that we do it again…and again.

Ryan Holiday

From My Photo Archives

Close up of red amaryllis flowers with a decorated Christmas tree and fairy lights in the background. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
Red Amaryllis

NB: There won’t be a Zone post next week as it’s Christmas Eve. You shouldn’t be surfing the web then, even for such great content as this. Take care, be safe, and don’t forget to laugh!

The Zone will be back on December 31st with a special year-end edition.


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To read more The Zone posts, click here.



Christmas Decorations at Millesgården

White Helleborus or Christmas Rose. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
Christmas roses in full bloom in the sculpture garden.
Christmas wreath. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

Time for a quick visit to Millesgården to see the Christmas decorations, something we do every year; it’s become a tradition.

A collection of Christmas flowers at Millesgården. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

They usually have lovely decorations and often a smaller exhibition in the artist’s home. The flowers were gorgeous as ever, but understandably, no exhibition this year. It’s a wonder they’re still open.

Being a sculpture park helps to keep the distance, of course. I wonder whether any future readers would know what this distancing is about. Or would this be the new normal?

Green plant in a white pot. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

The exquisite pot designed by Carl Milles in the 1920s is available in the museum shop. It’s a bit pricey, though—it would make a good Christmas gift.

Close up of a white Christmas rose. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

Christmas roses (Helleborus)

Close up of a Christmas wreath with red ribbon. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

The simple is beautiful.

Close up of a Christmas tree with traditional Swedish straw decorations. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

Traditional Swedish straw decorations.

Close up of a Yule goat. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

The Yule goat.

St. Francis statue at Millesgården. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

St. Francis statue in the sculpture park. The Christmases roses are in full bloom, which is unusual. Usually we have a lot of snow this time of the year.


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To read more posts on Millesgården, click here.