Humans of Ängsbacka is a photo project of portraits and interviews collected at Ängsbacka course & festival center.
How did you find your way to Ängsbacka?
Lokki: I was living the city life and studying fashion design. After I came to Angsbacka for the first time, spontaneously coming for the Sexibility festival, I decided not to continue the studies. A year later I was finally ready to resign from my studies and apartment in Finland. I didn’t have the impression that my life wasn’t good since mental health or financial problems are just normal in the city. Only after being in Ängsbacka for a while I discovered how different life could be.
Robin: I had lived in an alternative town outside of Stockholm when a woman I was seeing told me that I was like Mr. Ängsbacka, perfectly fitting into that place. I had heard some rumors about Ängsbacka’s free spirited New Age atmosphere, so I had some doubt about the place, but we planned to go there to experience the No Mind festival. When she pulled out in the last minute I decided to go alone. This is when I met Lokki on her last day. We talked for hours outside the cafe and decided to play that we were the perfect boyfriend and girlfriend for a day. I brought her to the train, we kissed and told each other ”I love you“ and then she left. I went back to Ängsbacka and ended up extending my stay several times. There was a spark from that meeting and we continued having loose contact, but didn’t meet each other until a year had passed. Eventually we got together and started a relationship. Two summers later we spent the whole summer at Ängsbacka and got pregnant out of surprise during the No Mind festival. Since we had been traveling a lot before, we didn’t really have a home base and Ängsbacka seemed like the best place to be. There was clean food and air, no advertisement and a wonderful house in the silence. We appreciate all this even more after visits in the city. We do consider the idea of traveling together as a family. If our son would go to school, the Backa Friskola which is based on some of the same principles as Ängsbacka, would be our first choice. What is being taught there feels to be more of actual value instead of adjusting kids to the idea of climbing up the carrier ladder.
Openness in relationship has been a subject for us from the beginning, since Lokki had been experimenting with the idea of polyamory. She was with another partner while getting together with me. For me, this exploration of different relationship ideas and open sexuality was rather new. We were very different when we met and had a lot of growth together. It takes a lot to make such complex structures work but we were able to manage this well with a lot of willingness to see things with an open heart. It’s not all roses and romance though. We became parents without being prepared, having no base or financial stability. Ängsbacka became all of that in a different, and so much more beautiful, way than we could have built on our own outside the community. We were provided with stability in form of a little house and a job that gives us the ability to save some money. We have more time to spend together as a family through living in a community where each one is doing their little part to keep everything running. On top of that, we have the opportunity to grow personally and make ourselves stronger for the future. Ängsbacka has been like a mother, giving us support through the management, the community onsite and in Molkom. We are very grateful for that. Sweden is doing a lot to support us in our parenthood, but the arms of the community holding us is a much more direct and warm kind of help.
It feels like Valo is everyone’s baby and it is beautiful to share something so personal with others. Whenever we need something for our inner health or help with the baby, people in the community are here to support us. Through integrating the community in his up-bringing, he learns that people are generally friendly and that seems to make him very relaxed. We are hoping that he develops a deep unconscious belief that the world is a good place and he is loved. We believe in this ourselves. There is a general assumption that when you have a child you have to give up on yourself in some level and it makes so many parents unhappy. There is a deep truth in that because you need to surrender emotionally, but here at Ängsbacka we don’t need to give up our lives or social contacts. For example we can go to the parties that are all alcohol and drug free, and he gets to hear the music and feel celebration. There are many ways in which the community takes our fears away and lets us experience having a child as a bonus, not as something we sacrifice our lives for.
What made you come back and stay at Ängsbacka?
Robin: I loved that this place really allowed me to fly. All I had to do was to wake up, and from that moment on, everything just flowed. From the morning circle to meals, work and workshops – to randomly meeting people all over the place and suddenly it’s 11pm and you need to get some sleep. In the summers you don’t need to plan anything. Instead you just let go and flow wherever the day takes you. Life will start giving what you need to find. Today, I have a lot of planning in my hands as the volunteer coordinator. When we got pregnant, Ängsbacka also turned out to be the perfect place because it was neutral ground. In either of the countries and places we lived before, the other one would have been very dependent on the other because of the language and social contacts. I didn’t want to become the father who goes out to work and brings the money home to afford a house, car and pay the phone bills. I have seen how others slowly drifts into some level of unhappiness by doing so. Ängsbacka offered an alternative to this life, partly because we can both be independent, having other social contacts besides each other and manage to find time to have our own space as well as with each other. It supports us greatly that we have work, friends and fun group activities happening at the same place. We don’t have to go anywhere else for anything. But we definitely had hard times to each find our balance with the new role of being parents. Lokki is also making sure everything is spoken out and dealt with, sometimes it comes out as a fight but always originally from a place of love.
How does community life feel for you Lokki?
It is challenging that people come and go so fast. After living here for a rather long time, it is difficult sometimes to gather up the energy for making new friends after the ones you were close with left again. But many people keep coming back every year, mostly in the summer which is what makes this season so nice for me. It’s like the tribe comes home. What I love here is that everything gets reflected very fast. Whenever I notice a need or an area that I need to grow in, it gets answered very fast and is often processed collectively, since we can all relate to each others experiences. Growth is accelerated here.
Through what are you learning here?
Lokki: I still feel that I am learning the basics of being human which is to know that I am safe and not alone. For that I need to unlearn things that got stamped on me in my childhood which is difficult and takes time. In a festival season you can make a fast and big leap forward in many issues. When I started to see this place as my home, learning actually became more difficult but also of a more necessary kind. It feels like there is more at stake when the people around you are not just here for some festival days in which everything is like a dream. Living and working here is a constant learning process.
Robin: Through everything! With whatever boundary or weakness you come here, this place will in many ways test and give you work to do with it. You can not hide from yourself here and this is why Ängsbacka is loved and at the same time hated by so many. I personally learn most through my work which demands me to be present, conscious, clear, direct, friendly and soft at the same time. Whenever I am not, it has an impact on others and then back on me. I learned to stop trying to please people anymore. My integrity means more to me than others opinion. In my role as a volunteer coordinator, the feelings and opinions of many people are connected to my actions. I simply cannot adjust myself to everyone’s wishes. I need to do what I think is best. In a way, I need to be a role model and stand up for my actions.
What you bring away from here?
Lokki: I want to spread the goodness and love of this place to the outside. In the beginning I was trying to force this on my friends and family outside of Ängsbacka. Now it comes out much softer and more natural. When I leave for visits to Helsinki, I can experience that it is much easier for people to be with me when I am in a good place. It just shows in my way of being present or little things like giving someone a massage which they might not even think of doing to each other when they’re caught up in their busy lifestyles.
Robin: I want to spread that everything is allowed to be the way it is. This is the No.1 thing that everyone struggles with, no matter if they are living in the city, a monastery, in a spiritual life, a monogamous or a polyamorous relationship, simply everywhere. It is a spiritual way of seeing things but when I embody it, everyone with or without connection to spirituality can see, relate and learn from it. I want to live it and bring juiciness to life from the point of being at ease with what is!
Keep tuned next week for a new story from Ängsbacka!