Knowing Me, Knowing You

If you just wandered over here through the magic maze that is the interwebs, Welcome to The Girl Who Married A Bear! I'm Milla, a Finnish gal living on a small island in the Salish Sea off the coast of Washington State. I first came out here fourteen years ago, and fell in love with the land and the community. Though I was living in London at the time, with no designs on country life until I got here, I swore to myself that someday, somehow, I would live here again.

A few years later, while in college, I had the opportunity to come back and it was on that trip that I met my future husband, Charlie. We went from meeting to married in less than a year and a half, having really only been in he same country for about eight months. We got married in Finland and he went back three days after the wedding. Courtesy of U.S immigration we didn't see each other for another 361 days.

This Island has a special place in our relationship, we both knew from the beginning that we wanted to make our lives here and nowhere else. It's not the easiest place to realize your ambitions, but there's a lot of freedom, challenges and community support.

Until fairly recently Charlie managed the county parks on this island, but in the last year he had also been working on becoming an apprentice to a Northwest Coast carving tool maker who is ready to pass on his skill. We moved to a new home, are spending our savings on buying into this venture, as well as looking for other ways to fund it. We are working hard to make the life we want.

Living out here that often means making do, figuring out, patching together, to make a living, to make rent, to make the things we want happen. It can be intimidating, but there's a lot of freedom in it too. On any given week, I might work in three different places, doing three different things, from waitressing to selling vintage online, to leather working, to gardening, to cleaning houses. I might do projects and volunteer, or organize. And most certainly, I'll be constantly working on small homesteading things, making our own, making do.
The whole idea of living in the country is to have the space and time do that, to be more self-sufficient, but also pursue art, community, to live closer to the land.

We wildcraft, grow, make from scratch.  In addition to our small flock of fowls, we also keep bees at another location and try to learn as much about self-sustained life as possible. It feels like we're just starting out on a life-long journey in radical simplicity/self-sufficiency/inter-dependence.

So far it's been the most exciting thing in my daily life, learning to milk cows, to garden and care for bees and ducks and chickens.

 I love cooking and enjoy the way that simple act of feeding friends and family can really infuse your mundane everyday tasks with creativity. Having never been much of a baker, it's been my pleasure to discover a little bit of delight in that too lately. Though not much a housekeeper otherwise, the kitchen is definitely a place where I go to unwind. Everything else…well, there's more to life than dishes and dusting.

I'm not much into the current homesteading obsession with producing your own meat, but having been around farm animals for a long time now, I definitely get animal husbandry and enjoy keeping chickens for eggs, milking goats and caring for bees, not for honey, but for, well…spirituality.

I enjoy gardening, but my true love is wildcrafting, something I've been unknowingly doing for much of my life, collecting edible and medicinal plants from that which surrounds you, be it the forest, or the city.

I've lived here long enough now to have my favorite seasons for gathering. In the spring it's nettles and morels and spruce tips, in the summer oyster mushrooms, wild strawberries, roses, blackberries in the fall and winter, rowan berries and rosehips…

There's something primordially satisfying about collecting food and medicine, even more so than growing them.

Living in the Pacific Northwest being out in nature is an inevitable part of our lives. We love hiking, camping and kayaking, from long journeys to short walks in the woods and shores all around us.

With each passing year we find new pursuits, dive deeper into old ones and hone our skills. A few years ago Charlie began what will hopefully be a life-long commitment to Northwest Coast Native Carving and I am ever learning more about medicinal herbs and their many uses, teaching myself sewing and knitting and leather craft.

I suppose keeping this blog is also a big pursuit for me, though I must admit,  I rarely think of it as much of anything, but an odd, small hobby, Still, six years, and hundreds of pages later, it's an indelible part of my life.

Other than homesteading, blogging, cooking, leather working, gardening and wildcrafting, I enjoy reading the Tarot. I've been divining with the cards since I was fifteen, but recently received a strange new push to really delve back into it.

Though often I'm at loath to admit it, simply because I don't feel like a good enough practitioner of it, I'm a Zen Buddhist, at least a bad one.  My practice is often more practical, spiritual, than deeply religious, though the more dogmatic side of it is something I have been more drawn to in the last few years.

Mostly it's sitting, emptying my mind, a tool for panic-stricken moments, a practice of patience and compassion, both things that don't come naturally to me. And while I believe deeply in the mysticism of the natural world and have a life-long attraction to that side of the occult, I really believe in a discipline, the informed and inquisitive following of doctrine.

It has been my life dream to some day write something, a novel, a story, a poem worth pursuing. Lately I've been taking this more as a long-term goal, something I hope to complete not in the next year or the next, but in my lifetime. I write a fair bit and read ravenously. I got my degree in film and after burning out on the idea of working in a field that is as competitive, ego-centric and intense as movie making, I have come to terms with the idea of simply making some short films of my own.

Going to school to learn something I intensely loved, totally made me dislike it, and it would be very cathartic for me to simply do something fun and creative to restore my love of cinema.  Time will tell how that turns out.

 Our family is wide and far-flung. I often miss terribly my own sweet, fierce mother who's across the world, as well as the friends who's daily lives I'm no longer part of.

We don't have kids, nor do we really know if we're ever going to have any and are perfectly content with that state of affairs (if only people would stop asking if we're planning to procreate, thank you very much).

We do have these cats. It's legal to leave them behind when going to the bar, or traveling. Which is nice.

We have made community on this Island,  we have friends and neighbors and friends and neighbors who are like family to us; nieces and cousins and nephews and aunts and uncles.

One of the most beautiful things about living in a small community, is that you don't ever limit yourself to only loving and knowing people of your own same experience and age. Our friends range from toddlers to elders, and have wonderful and varied occupations, interests and talents.

I feel really lucky to know so many kind, talented, spirited people, to the point where sometimes I'm feel totally overwhelmed with all of the social engagements, but also gratitude.

C. has much of his lovely family near-by and I have my adopted family, which includes my blond little sister, my dearest friend. 

I have also been blessed with a wonderful online community. When I first started blogging, I never expected to meet so many kindred spirits and make so many dear friends through this hobby, but here I am, with a dear circle of Moon Sisters across the world.

 In some ways these connections are nothing short of magic, in others only natural.

Of all the adventures I look forward to in this life, spending more and more time with these girls is high on my list. 

We talk, exchange ideas, photos, inspirations, book recommendations, boxes of carefully selected gifts and sometimes we even get to meet in person.  

 It has been by far the most magical hobby I've ever had.

While, like many of my fellow bloggers, I believe that my log is a mix of a journal of the more exciting, memorable moments of my daily life, a zine of my personal musings, and a collage of my inspirations, I try my hardest to keep it real.  I also consider a place to discuss the bigger, less mundane beliefs that make up our lives. It is important to me that my public representation, whether it be on blog or in my community, is true to my private values and beliefs. 

 In addition to posting about food, beat poets, activism, music, environmental topics, hippies, magic, local color, my cats, folklore, feminism, books, faith and female artists, I also post photos of what I wear, something I feel pretty unapologetic about. It is my firm belief as a feminist that I, and anyone else thus inclined, is allowed to express themselves through the medium of dress. 

In the original story The Girl (or Woman) Who Married A Bear, there is the image of many worlds over-lapping to form our reality. I hope you enjoy visiting mine. I'd love to hear about yours.

Peace, Love and Foggy Woods,
© of Header Image Sanni Seppo from Tree People with Ritva Kovalainen 
images of Charlie and I by Timo Rasanen, Kristiina Tiainen and Iris Olsson. Image of us girls in California by Art Echternacht.


  1. of all the times i've popped over to your little online world, i've never been here and read this.
    my goodness milla,
    you are an inspiration. what a beautifully full life you lead.
    after reading this it feels like you could be a kindred. what a blessing are these electronically ethereal connections!

  2. This is indeed thoroughly inspiring, and it is wonderful to get to know you better thanks to this heartfelt summary :o)

    Also, this lovely picture of your mum holding you as a baby startled me, since the looks very much like a blonde version of me!

    I completely relate to your fierce feelings of longing, since my whole family (and a very close friend) lives in France, whereas I am in Montréal, for good, it seems.


    1. Oh and this fantastic photo of you and C. together in the boat is one of my favorites ever :o) - Also, the ones where you are holding Kissa in a white flowered dress, and C. is holding his carved sculpture, are very revealing of your personalities, I think.

      Thank you for sharing!

  3. I just came back to the blogosphere after a few years and found you and your blog. I haven't been able to take my eyes off it. Milla, your writing and the life you lead is so interesting and inspiring! You have opened my eyes to a whole new way of living, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for that. You also cured my writer's block, and THAT is incredible. Don't ever stop writing :)


  4. I have just found your online space - it may be my new favourite place :)

  5. so happy i happened upon your blog. i completely understand what you mean about the film industry...i'm in it. and where you live looks amazing...i left los angeles for a year (to breathe) and lived in seattle. i always heard about, and wanted to visit, your neck of the woods. and as for buddhism...i've been searching, and often find myself there, wondering if it's a fit. perhaps.... oh, and the hair. i get it. i recently chopped mine off, which only lends to the ease of changing the hair color with higher frequency! hahaha!
    love your blog, and will definitely be checking in. :)

  6. What an inspiring and interesting blog you have here! I think I might stay here for a while...and come back :)

  7. milla,

    I had not read this part of your blog yet. I love the part about overlapping worlds. I paint and that is exactly what I paint about ! Would love to connect with you more. I think I wrote you an email a long time ago- you responded- thank you. I have family that has lived in the islands and we love it there too. I don't usually share my website on blogs but your overlapping worlds comment really got me. If you have time- take a look.

  8. This is... just wow. Inspiring, in the very best sense of the word. I'll keep coming back - thank you so much for sharing!

  9. Oh, this loveliness is making me feel so homesick. Good thing I'll be back in just a couple of weeks.

  10. I loved reading this and, as always, am ready to jump straight into these pictures.


  11. Jeesh. You literally just inspired me to do about fifty things I didn't even know I wanted to do. And I needed that tonight. Thank you for being so incredibly lovely. How glad I am to have found your beautiful blog.

  12. Wow, you are an inspiring lady. I'm sure by reading your blog, I will learn a great deal from you.I feel you have already warmed and opened my heart, a little bit more.
    I am at the beginning of my blogging journey, it is for me, a journal of life since Evan (my son) came along. I am looking forward to getting to know this world more, and crossing 'blogging paths' along our way.
    Wishing you and your community much love and happiness, from the Midlands UK.
    Amy x

  13. Milla, I am here visiting you thanks to Alicia P. of Posie Gets Cozy. I appreciate this introduction to you and your beautiful blog. Alicia linked to your Traditions post of 11.30.2014 and after visiting it, I am fascinated to learn more of your customs. The one that most spoke to me was the custom of having candle lit cemeteries at some time during the Christmas season. I am within a few months of being 64 years old, and more and more of those dear to me have died, including my husband. Since May I have been attending St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Portland, OR, after having been a member in a number of Protestant churches across the USA. One of the parts of Orthodox worship which is especially precious to me is the use of candles, and the honoring of the Saints that have come before us. I relate so much to your sense of loss especially around Christmas and combat that sense of loss myself by filtering my exposure to the media, and focusing myself on the expression of my faith. When I discovered the Orthodox celebrate six weeks of Advent I arranged a circle of six candles with a 7th candle in the center to burn on Christmas day to represent Christ who came to bring Light to the world. I admire so much your intention to live simply and to use and give homemade gifts and I too try to do that. A new blog friend wrote that in recent times both of her parents died, but the greatest legacy they left her was their faith in Christ. That resonates with me as well as I embrace a relationship with God the Father who Loved so much that He gave His Son to the world. His Son, Jesus had so much compassion, after the death of His friend, Lazarus, Jesus cried and then raised Lazarus back to life. Jesus promised to not leave His followers as orphans, but sent His Holy Spirit to empower and comfort them until it is their time to inhabit a heavenly mansion He went to prepare for them to live in forever, unto ages of ages. While my faith does not blot out my sense of loss of times and people who are not with or around me, it does ignite the flame of joy that burns within me and helps me to celebrate old traditions and create new ones that reflect my appreciation of life now and unto ages of ages. May you and yours be granted many years to celebrate! xx

  14. I have just discovered your blog (via Posie gets Cozy) and. am. in. awe. Such a pretty place to visit, I shall pop back often, all the way from Melbourne Australia! Your lovely story telling way of writing and pretty pictures and the things you do/make/believe in... a sense of kindred... I'm having trouble closing the screen but alas I must get back to work. Tis not everyday you discover a blog and want to just keep reading and reading and reading... thank you :-)

  15. Love the view of Lummi on the photo above. I knew it in a heartbeat!

  16. Lovely sights and words ... What a life built on such balance of beauty and challenge. My favorite of your words is how you are a "terrible" zen Buddhist ... I laugh cause I can relate to such as I am a horrible practicioner of Tantra to where i hate to admit it to others when asked!
    Be well

  17. You're such a dream, my far-off friend. :)