Cold weather factually is weather that just appears to not be warm. It can be quite cosy in fact. The judgement ensued upon it’s character in my history book began with the Donner party who stupidly thought they could cross the Rocky Mountains in wobbly wagons with a few snacks. Cold weather did not cause their demise, their gobbling each other up or their legacy which ended in a rather unsavoury fashion. I defend Mother Nature’s call, her warnings, her bell ringing from the roots beneath and above us. In Vermont they know how to prepare for the most part, again for the most part. In Sweden the old adage that there is “No bad weather, only bad clothing” is more or less true. Suffer or survive. Despite the dark winters and below zero temperatures or my severe arthritic flares in the cold weather I choose to embrace each flake that falls, remain poised in gratitude for it’s not my call to take cold weather personally. Firelit mornings and hot coffee spark my creativity and I write much more than in the summer. Not everyone can choose to flee to Florida or southern Spain to avoid being cold. I am bound to stick it out, add another sweater and refill my cup with awe.
Spring doesn’t jump out at you in Sweden; sudden changes and abhorent weather shifts keep even the most stoic of us guessing. Rock doesn’t guess, speculate or ponder such uncontrolable forces as Mother Nature. He only has his eye on Lm. She is deep in her mind, remembering Easter egg hunts as a child in the United States with her cousins. She has one foot in the “Bible Belt” and another running with all her might north then to the edge of the Atlantic, fleeing to Sweden where everything yet nothing makes sense. In the southern states Easter meant a knew frock, white patten shoes and rejoicing after church in the sunshine with her cousins and family. Croquet and hunting colored eggs, jelly beans and fake green grass in her basket to stuff her findings in were just some of her fond recollections. Avoiding the ham with pineapple was her biggest challenge since she always won at croquet. Deviled eggs and chocolate pie can fill a belly and that’s what she loved. It was one of the only times of the year that everything went smooth. No fighting, no disasters and no face smacking for being a smarty pants, that is until she got a “D” in Algebra in eighth grade. Fearing her mother’s wrath she and a friend decided there was no way out and the holy week leading up to Easter they decided to run away. Hitch-hiking fifteen year olds in Nashville is not the safest choice. Two men in a pick-up stopped and let them sit in the middle. Rock slaps himself silly with astonishment as he has no clue how in the hell Lm and her friend, both with full make-up and cute little jeans and perms survived. An APB was put out notifying the state police. It just so happened Lm was not as stoic as she was behaving and asked to use the bathroom. The men in the pick-up obliged and pulled over at a gas station. When Lm got out a cop car pulled up and she was spotted pronto. The men were not charged, (huge question, eh?) and Lm and her friend were driven back to the suburbs where their parents met them at the one room police station. From that point they were forbidden from meeting outside of school which didn’t change their inner chaos and drama. That particular Easter Lm’s mother and step-father took her to an Easter buffet in a restaraunt. They slid their trays down metal railngs and picked out what they wanted from the massive amount of food in heated deep food bins. Lm only remembers the silence, the lack of extended family and her muteness which encompassed her early teenage years. She was not feeling particularly renewed, springy or at all joyful. Her mother looked sad in the way mother’s do when their kids totally screw up and they are in shock due to not having an inkling as to what to do next. Lm is sad because she, even now can’t replace that memory with a better one. Rock reminds her that curried eggs are her favorite and she shoves him and his new purple hat away. She wakes everyday wanting to try again to be better in every way; isn’t that what Easter is about? We get a fresh start if we are lucky; some of us sink into the past. Rock knows his job is to keep Lm in the now. Snow is falling in Sweden and there will not be an egg hunt outside or croquet, but maybe, just maybe she will shake off her dark past and embrace what she has now. Maybe. Rock wishes everyone a shot at reviving their inner beings. Peace and Happy Spring!
In Sweden there remains an old adage, likely it’s relevance stems from the agrarian roots implanted by the pagan community which ruled until Martin Luther decided to hang his hat here and get messy with religion. It is now March twenty-sixth, spring sprung backwards but our clocks leapt forward an hour. I rose the shade from my bed to see if it just might be a surprise of a sunny day only to see snow falling, the gardening spot blanketed white again. Yesterday was gray and rainy, the highlight of my weekend despite the weather was it being “Våffeldagen”. In keeping with the conflicting Christian and Pagen society that dominates this wildly confusing Viking Jesus mystery lies yet another story that complicates waffle day even more so. The origins in English are the annunciation of our blessed virgin Mary; in Swedish it’s “Jungfru Marie bebådelsedag” which is basically the celebration of the angel Gabriel flying down from the heavens to tell the virtuous and virgin Mary that she had a bun in the oven, a very special bun that would change the world. “Vårfru” means virgin Mary, however in some dialects in Sweden during the 1800’s, someone confused the historical “vaffla” (meaning waffle) with Vårfru (meaning virgin wife literally) and thus began a Swedish custom to eat waffles on this very delicate Christian holy day. Now, I was raised primarily in the “Bible Belt” and forced to church school and bible studies throughout my youth. I know Eve was some naked woman made from a rib and gave her man an apple and a serpent was involved. I know old southern spirituals, the ten commandments and some miniscule remnants of biblical “facts” are embalmed in this sixty year old brain. I know that we pretend to eat flesh and drink blood and what I received was grape juice and a paper thin cracker which felt like chewy notebook paper. Yet nowhere in my first sixteen years of obligatory studies was there any mention of Gabriels significant secret, waffles or more likely in my region a trip to The Cracker Barrel for a full plate of biscuits and gravy. Swedes get more vacation days for obscure Christian holy moments, literally days that evangelical bible belters know nothing about, and if they do know we get waffles, jam, whipped cream and berries for messenger Gabriel’s news I believe they just might start a campaign to close down Walmart and at least expect “Eggos”. Now, not only do we have this manic weather to live with, we also still celebrate the pagan holidays and no Christian complains as long as they don’t have to work. Personally, for my twentieth “7th Winter” and my twentieth “Waffle Day” I think a bloody Mary is more appropriate.
(Remnants of Isolation 2020-22) As a young adult living in Vermont, USA, tuning into a regular radio broadcast on Sunday morning with a warm mug of dark roasted coffee was a soulful retreat from the busy hum drudgery of the week. Garrison Keillor’s radio broadcast, “Prairie Home Companion” was exactly that, a delightful guest in my kitchen, a welcomed visitor with a smooth and soothing voice. The program was broadcast live from Minnesota, far away from the familiarity of my view of Mount Mansfield, part of the Green Mountain chain, where tall dark pines grew as far as the eye could see and neatly stacked firewood lined my weathered fence, much in need of mending. His famous quote, “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” His smooth tone ensured my next hour was pleasant and the inner reflections silence brings would quell any worries. I now live on Sweden’s west coast beside a lake named Lygnern. I am far from Vermont, even further from “Lake Wobegon” and soon for ten years this view from my bedroom window has given me insurmountable pleasure. Although I have human companions, two furry Lepus who have leapt into my heart (domestic rabbits of the Teddy Bear and Lion haired-breeds) and spoiled Hedemora chickens, the comforting confinement I once chose has now become a quarantine for survival. I have seen the lake shine like an ice-covered pond on sunny days, frothy waves rustling from gales off the North Sea, moon beams bouncing playfully and Lygnern completely hidden by heavy fog. This body of water I have become enchanted with is my companion and I its guest. I have sat on the edge of my bed crying with only Lygnern as my witness and comfort. I have sat with my husband on warm summer evenings by the shore, hands embraced, our eyes indulging in its romantic hues. Our love deepens while the water ebbs and it has become the idealistic metaphor of daily life. I have watched children splash, laugh and wild water swimmers tackle this natural playground. Now I look out and feel the anxiety of the pandemic, grateful for living away from the city yet Lygnern has not changed. It does not reflect fear, rather harbors the history of our region and continues to offer up beauty and solace. It survived the cholera epidemic and on ridges near are graveyards of our village victims who once fished and swam in this lake, too. It has had rowboats browse these shores for centuries, ferries of wedding parties and been the backdrop for celebrations and gaiety for those long gone. Lygnern embodies in its wake the memories we both cherish and take for granted. From my window Lygnern will continue to be my companion differently than any other. All who have a view develop their own relationship with it. My worries flow and my hope grows; each day or even hour this lake offers gracefully and precisely what I need. For those alone during this history in the making, the 2020th year and onward shall forever induce memories of solitude; your view is up to you to create. If you look out and spy a streetlamp or a seagull, they are your personal mirror of Now. In solitude may we all find a path to inner peace by opening the pages of a book that takes us far away from our physical quarantine, tune in and listen to others and imagine your own comforting scenery. I never saw Lake Wobegon or met Garrison Keillor, yet they were as comforting every Sunday as an old friend who’d popped into town and surprised me. From Lake Lygnern I send each one of you a picturesque view during difficult times, and with a warm heart, I wish your days to be a bit brighter than the day before. I will continue to write from my perch above Lygnern in my cosiest sweater and I will commit to compliance not complacency while breathing in my view of this historically rich land and water. From outside the city, where the lake listens, the sun rises and sets and yes, we all `” think” we are good looking, Peace.
Soon he would say goodbye, doubtful his first taste of love would wait; boarding on the longship would begin at sunrise after two more nightfalls. He was not at ease nor feeling dutiful to set sail, his rough, calloused hands had been assigned to row, his grey eyes already set on defeat. In the chilly night he and his lover kept warm under a sheath of tanned hide; a warm fire encircled with stones lit up their faces. His lover was cold, she had been sweating earlier and she shared with him that perhaps she was carrying his baby. It had been two moons since her last cleansing. He held her close and rubbed her hands in his own. All night he stayed up, keeping the fire crackling and he called for a wise woman to look at his betrothed. He was given garlic for his neck and a tonic that tasted bitter as nettles to sip. He must prepare to board the longship and not fall ill. The woman wiped carefully with cool cloths the forehead and the nape of his lady’s neck and said she should be moved to the women’s tent so he too might rest. He was reluctant yet never questioned this miracle of her gifts from the God’s and believed in the sunrise of his departure his love would encircle him with the other strong women and sing a prayer to the heavens. At last he fell asleep and the fire dwindled. He was a large man, of long height with a wooly red beard; for years he had been called to help others lift heavy logs, roll stones and fell trees for boat building. His stomach grumbled and his dreams brought him no peace. His eyes closed, his mouth agape, a gurgling snore erupted. Deep within his dream state he saw his own mother, her pale white face, her eyes weary yet loving; she spoke. “Son of Gudrun, son of Ove, lift your spirit up to see. It’s been eighteen moons since we saw you. Your sister Ulla is here, too. Their faces were like a portrait in beautiful pastel inks. The heavens were soft as the first spring day when the sight of white and purple forest flowers burst through the edges of the footpath, gay as the laughter of friends when the sun was long in the sky, days were easier, their heart’s lightened by the dark winter’s end. Time for merriment and the smell of baking bread, the homecoming of the longship, strong fermented ales and hearty stews and loaves of bread with berries he could taste so sweet; stirred he woke with a gasp. One sunrise had come. He stood and walked to the women’s healing tent and the flaps were sewn shut with thick leather. “Naaaaay”, he screamed and he ran to the morning fire keepers boiling coffee and sharing porridge. Breathless, he asked if his lady was in the tent still. Blue eyes looked at one another and down. He knew the answer. He kicked the first iron pot and it swung from it’s iron chains molted flawlessly by the black smith and his apprentice. Hot scalding water splashed and the men jumped back. An old man who laid on sheep skin by the fire called for him to sit by him. His heart rapid, his cheeks red with rage, he succumbed to his elder. ” What can you say to comfort me?” The man, thin and weak voiced motioned for the giant, frightened man to sit beside him. “Are you the son of Gudrun and the sister of Ulla?” The old man already knew but asked even so. “Ya, I am.” Do you think, son of Ove that your father created such acts of arrogance when the God’s called his wife and daughter up?” Silence. “What name did they leave you?” “I am Per Ove’s son.”Well Per Ovesson do you dare to guess the will of the heavens? Are you in fear of the sea and hunger? Are you a messenger or do you serve?” ” I serve.” The so very big man, Per, son of Gudrun and Ove, brother of Ulla wept. The elderly man handed Per a smooth stone to rub and called for porridge. The big man, the thin elder and the fire keepers stood close. One by one they placed a hand on his shoulder and walked on. Night fell again and he laid by his fire alone sipping the bitter nettle tea. He did not want to dream and the silence soothed him. It had been nine cut logs when a woman he’d never seen came to stand before him. “You may see your lady now”. His lips felt numb, his eyes ashamed and he said, “Why do you want me to feel more pain?” The woman outstretched her hand and he stood. When they came closer to the tent the woman lifted the flap and there lay a clump of deep red flesh upon his lover’s abdomen. He moved closer and felt confused. Take the flesh and all of it’s blood and bury it deep in the forest. His lady did not breathe and small stones were on each eye. He did as told by the healer. Without sleep and it being soon the second sunrise he fought to keep focused on his task. Big tears from a big man with the heart of a child fell steadily down his face. When he returned he went to his fire to sleep and there sat the woman again with a white bundle of heavy fur. She stood and handed him a baby. “How can this be? My lady only missed two moons.” The woman smiled and said, “the God’s were good” and asked him to bestow a name before he sat sail. In a state of both sorrow and beauty he said, ” this is the son of Per, the son of Lea. He shall be blessed with the name of Liam.” The woman promised him the babe would be well fed and when he returned the baby would be his comfort. Per kissed his son’s forehead and slept with him in his arms until sunrise. The healers had prepared Lea’s body to be sent to sea where she would be taken up to the God’s quickly. He held one side of his love’s canvas and birch sewn raft. He did not weep for she had left him reason to believe that more would come to be good. The women sang as the longship prepared to launch. The sky was yellow and afire with sunrise. The horns blew and he pulled in unison with his mates. By sunset they placed Lea on her raft and she floated away from the boat, away from the father of Liam, the son of Ove, the son of Gudrun and the brother of Ulla. In the night the high waves plunged over the stern and wailed upon the starboard, the longship albeit strong rocked with brutal fervour. Per was the lead, each pull he thought of Liam, each horn he heard his mother calling. The God’s were trying his strength in a way he never had experienced, he was not only strong in his body now but also in his soul. The storm settled and he was sent to rest. A cool wind soothed his sweaty bruised hands and his lips cracked from the salty winds from the North Sea leaked sweet bits of blood. His thirst was mighty and he was given water with herbs to keep him quiet. His cough came on fast, deep and he heard other’s coughing, too. He spat green, thick phlegm into the sea. He hung his head over, the winds cooling his dizzying state. The head of the ship was also spewing a sickness from his body over board. Few men could guide the longship, and one by one they fell, coughing, wailing in pain, and now hope had no place for them. Another night would come, a morning with many deaths and each one was set free to float amongst the creatures that both fed on them and nourished their loved ones. Per Ovesson would be the last man to go. He ensured all were met by the God’s who knew better than he the true meaning. He would fall into a deep, long sleep, he would dream of Lea, mother of Liam and he would die proud as his father had bravely done before him. He drifted off further to sea and the sky above would open it’s arms and his soul would rise up, up, up into the arms of Ulla.
I never saw me, much less Littleme, or myself even now as a valuable existence. My presence has been a seemingly huge burden to both of my parents for 58 years. I had the career woman breaking boundaries in a man’s world for my mother and a father who simply lied and recreated himself from one persona to another. Sad, a bit, yet he had a choice. He could have been honest and humbled but he responded to his poverty and his past with denial. My mother remains proud and honest and her success is all real, her own and no one can steal her accomplishments. Now I lay in some comfortable surroundings in a beautiful city and the war has brought us to our knees. In Sweden we see and welcome more blue and yellow, refugees who are without a choice. They are proud and strong and simultaneously fearful. Who the hell am I to care about my shitty father, my semi siblings who never call or inquire about my family’s reality? Here I am, a refugee of another kind. A foreign land with my true love, my only child and not one person back home calls to see how I am. Who am I? A woman, a girl, a mother, sister and wife and all I want is to help others feel love, hope and security. The Russians are not bad. Their dictator stole their souls and forced this invasion. Ukrainian women and children flock together and stream into our world but I feel only guilt. Why? Because I never can save enough people from life’s dangerous blows. I barely saved me. God give us a break please. Help. Lead me to solace and peace in my heart so I can stand tall for others.
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