happyfindus

WALKING IN SUNSHINE

Only 1.5 more weeks to vacation and I'm getting a little antsy. I want to stop setting an alarm for more than the two days of the weekend. I want to have long, unstructured days where I can do whatever I want, or nothing. I want to spend time anywhere but in front of a computer for 8 hours at a stretch. I want my shoulders to go down to where they belong and stop being hunched up around my ears. I want to read a book a day. Or play games, or read or watch TV or do things on my to-do list that I don't have to wait for the weekend to do.

The cockatoo next door is outside in his cage, screeching. It's one of those perfect summer evenings with a light blue sky fading to white, a little breeze that is ruffling the treetops and almost no noise. I can hear far-off traffic, very faintly, and the occasional yip of a dog and voices of children. I can hear bird songs and calls but very little else. It's nice. After I write this, I'm going to go sit on the deck and read, and stare at the honeysuckles and if I hold still enough, maybe some of those birds will come visit the freshly filled birdbath for a drink.

After work, I dialed down for about an hour, and then I went for a long walk, longer than usual, around the village. The sun felt so good on my shoulders. I went up the side of our neighborhood, over to the school, and then down along Promenaden around the other side of it. Then I followed a tiny footpath along the back of some houses, next to a huge field full of tall golden-tufted grasses that were swaying in the breeze and glowing in the sun. Along the west side of Körsbärsvägen, and then I turned and went west, chasing the sun down Tulpanvägen all the way to the main road that leads to Skarhult. It's a tiny narrow sidewalk for part of that street, and I passed the old bakery and the entrance to the snail trail and turned right on Slåttervägen.

The house on the left has a huge fenced-in area behind it which is home to two goats and two gigantic rabbits. If you greet the goats with a ME-E-E-EH, they stop and stare, and then they bleat back and come running in the hopes that you will stop and pull up some fresh long grass for them to eat through the big wire squares of the fence. The rabbits just look at you with disinterest and stay where they are. There are only a couple of houses, then it's open fields and horse pastures all the way along the gravel road. There are always a few horses out grazing, and occasionally one will come over to the fence by the road to see what you are up to, if you stop, but mostly they raise their heads, check you out, and flick their tails.

There are two houses at the end of the road, one of which is the house across the ditch at the back of our yard, and the other, which is the neighbor on the other side of our house. But you can't get through to our neighborhood from there, you have to go around, following another tiny footpath along the edge of the horse pasture, and then through a tiny grove of woods, until you come up out behind the school and can follow the path around and back into our neighborhood. Altogether, it's a decent walk and it has long stretches in shade and long stretches in sunshine.

We had a couple of very hot and humid weeks, but the last few days have been perfect, in the 70s and sunny, with some thunderstorms and downpours to shake things up. It's supposed to start edging back up but I really hope it doesn't get as hot as it was. It's hard to wish for more of this perfect weather when so many parts of the world are suffering from climate change weather patterns that are indiscriminately destroying things with flood and fire. And yet.
sunshine

INTERLUDE

Dang. I try to be better about writing and then another week slips by, with all the posts still unwritten and in my head. I've been very conscientious about posting my daily good things on Facebook but then I don't get back online, seated in front of the PC at the desk to write here.

I'm home alone at the moment. Anders left early Wednesday morning with a friend, on motorcycles, heading up the west coast of Sweden for several days. It's their 4th annual trip and they spend it searching for and going to as many little weird museums and historical sites as they can find on the back roads and out in the country. Usually they are technical or vehicles or such, and they have a blast. Their first stop is the Grimeton Radio Station, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site; a wireless telegraphy station built in 1922 that was used to transmit telegram traffic by Morse Code to the US and elsewhere during WWII. It was Sweden's only telecommunication link with the rest of the world. Sounds interesting, but I just yawned while writing it, so I'm glad that Anders will find it interesting and glad that I don't have to go, haha!

I'm still working and it's been really hot here this whole week, so we've managed to keep the house fairly cool, though in the middle of the afternoon it's been pretty muggy. Today, around 3:30 there were rumblings of thunder and then a sudden downpour which really helped bring the temperature down. Although I just checked and it's still high 80s even in the house: ugh. I have 2 more weeks before my vacation starts; Anders started on Monday. And Karin, who was supposed to start work on July 19 is now starting July 24 due to her entire department being on vacation. She's been working again at Flyinge School this week, though, so she'll have a little income coming in before her new job starts, at least.

It's been too hot to walk right after work, when I usually go, but I'm thinking maybe I'll go out this evening and do my walk now. Otherwise I'm going to rapidly get out of the habit and I need to keep up with my daily walks and monthly 5Ks! Motivation, don't desert me! How do you stay motivated when all you want to do is lie on the sofa or the bed under the ceiling fan and read? I'm looking forward to the weekend...no plans for once. For once...hahahaha! Just because we had two full weekends in a row doesn't negate the nearly 2 years of no plans behind that.
  • Current Music
    Christine & The Queens—Doesn't Matter
  • Tags
openheart-joy

GROWING THINGS, GOOD THINGS

Every evening, through the spring and summer, I go out and water in the garden. I'm not a gardener, not really. I put pansies in the pots in the spring and swap them out for pelargoniums in the summer; those that don't have year-round succulents. I'm partial to plants and flowers that are low-maintenance, that come up year after year, with the minimum of attention: water every evening, some weeding when it gets to the point I can't ignore them anymore, and sunshine.

In the front garden, we have a circle of yellow-veined hostas, interspersed with some leafy plants that are bright yellow, then copper, then bright red. I admire the super efficient water-collecting shapes of the hosta leaves as the drops of water bead and run down the stems. I have another circle with 4 leafy plants that are green and stripey-red leafed, and a third circle with my miracle rosebush that started out as one of those little tea-rose plants and has since rewarded me summer after summer by going beserk with roses. 40 or more, easily, at one time, and continuing throughout the entire summer. And not just any roses, but a peachy, yellowy, pinky gorgeous rose that is the exact color the flowers I had at our wedding; the exact color of my bridesmaids' dresses. So, they serve a double purpose. They're beautiful, in and of themselves, AND they remind me of a very happy day. I can look at them forever. I love them so.

Under the kitchen window, we have a big bed of giant, green-leafed hostas, with some sneaky columbines that pop up every year, wild-seeded. The pots of pansies, succulents, pearl hyacinth and pelargoniums are here and there, grouped in threes. We have a dwarf Japanese cypress as well; a very slow grower, right in front of the front door. In the back, by the deck, we have a home-made wooden trellis (courtesy of Anders) which has honeysuckle growing on either side, and a big rosebush underneath it. It's roses are darker, still orangey, but a redder shade. It grows long, very thorny limbs and sprawls roses everywhere.

When I go out to water, I open the back of the garage and fetch the big watering can, and set it on the bench while I take care of the back yard. It's the trellis flowers and pots first, and jetting out the tiny birdbath and refilling it. Then I extend the hose around the back to the cherry tree, which is rewarding us this year with a super bumper crop of cherries as we managed to get net on it back when the flowers dropped, at just the perfect time. It's full of ruby red deliciousness. We've already had one bowl and more to come every night for awhile. They're sweet and juicy and SO good.

I water the two big tomato plants which still have flowers on them (guessing we won't be getting actual tomatoes to eat for awhile yet) and then I squirt the big pot that was stuffed full of pretty purple pearl hyacinth flowers in the spring. After that, it's back over to the vegetable patch to give everything a thorough watering: carrots, onions, soybeans, snap peas, and 2.5 rows of potatoes. I've picked a double-handful of snap peas every evening for the last couple of weeks and it keeps on giving. We've actually paused our HelloFresh dinner deliveries for a week (possibly more) because we need to eat up our own potatoes and stuff.

Then I water the two big pots with stonecrop and butterfly-lavender and a couple of good squirts for the curly pansies that are STILL blooming, even after the two heatwaves weeks we've already endured. Finally, it's time to drag the hose out its full length, down the alley between the house and the garage and water everything in the front. The last step is filling the watering can and carrying it over to the far corner, where the hose doesn't reach, past Clifford the Big Red Rock, to water the Korean lilac. Every other night, I also water the lilacs behind the garage. They pretty much take care of themselves, but I'm sure they're glad for a shower once in awhile.

The sky is still light, right up until 9 pm, though now, a couple of weeks past midsummer, we can already feel the days shortening. Today was one of those perfectly blue sky summer days, not TOO hot, with a bit of a breeze. Anders starts vacation next week, though he has to work Monday morning, attending a seminar he couldn't get out of. I have 3 more weeks before mine starts.

Good news this week on all fronts, though! We have booked and paid for Martin's ticket home! It's official now; he's coming back to Sweden, moving home after 4 years away. And two nights ago, the government released vaccination permission for everyone age 18 and up, so Karin finally has an appointment for her first dose next week...AND a new job! She applied for, interviewed and got a job again at Axis, as a Marketing Coordinator for the Nordics Sales team, and she's thrilled.

She had no help from me; they were champing at the bit to get her back (her previous stint with Axis ended abruptly when the pandemic hit and they screwed up her contract right as the company went into a hiring freeze), so she had several people recommending her. It's a 1-year maternity-sub job, which is perfect. She had been planning to start school, finally, and had already applied, but when this opportunity came up, she couldn't pass it by. It's excellent experience in the field she wants to work in, and will include events and project management, so I can't begrudge her putting off school again for another year. She has one more week off, which includes her birthday as well, before she starts work.

We've got a full weekend coming again, with friends and outings, but no plans tomorrow evening, for which I'm grateful. I just want to be a slug on the deck or the couch with a bowl of cherries and some ice cream to go with them. Yum yum! I wish you a lovely weekend with good weather, and good things to look forward to!
happyfindus

HOLES AND HOPES

I find myself checking my head constantly, without thinking about it. My hands in my hair, sifting through the strands, feeling the lumps and landscape of my skull like an amateur phrenologist. I am trying unconsciously to tell if there is more damage from my fall than I thought, or maybe I'm trying to smooth it out, to make sure there are no actual holes in my skull, as if my fingers could softly and carefully rub the bone back together.

There are 22 bones in the human skull, 14 of which make up your face. The bones of the neurocranium, which support the structure of the face and form a cavity for the brain, also protect it from injury. They are mostly flat bones that are joined by rigid suture joints. I currently have two rather large...dents in my right parietal bone. If not dents, then definite...depressions. Divots, if you will. They don't hurt anymore, they're not tender, exactly, but they're definitely NOT hard bone like the left side.

Googling skull injuries tells me they are most likely minor depressed fractures, which are cracks that cause the skull to indent or extend into the brain cavity *shivers* ...sounds worse than I think it is, but still...a little worrying. They are, however, a kind of fracture that have a harder time healing on their own. Mine really don't seem to be in any way severe. I've had little to no pain after the initial fall, and no signs of concussion or brain injury...no nausea, dizziness, or any other kind of neurological symptoms that might indicate trouble. According to Dr. Google, the healing process can take many months, which I guess makes sense since other bone breaks also take a few months or more to fully heal by themselves.

Apart from badly spraining my ankle years ago, I think this is probably the worst I've hurt myself. And considering I was trying super hard NOT to sprain my ankle during the excursion where I fell, I find that a little ironic. I guess I just wait it out, and try to keep my hands out of my hair and stop pressing on the sore spots.

***

Karin has been home this evening. She went with me to the grocery store and to pick up sushi for dinner. We brought home strawberries and cream for dessert: very summery! We ate in front of the TV, which I dislike doing, because she and Anders wanted to watch the soccer matches (Spain vs. Switzerland). Then she and I participated in the AIC trivia night which had a good turnout, despite being online. The questions were very random and very hard, but our team (Ekattack) took home the first place spot with just over half right of the 60 questions. We won a bottle of wine which I will give to her, since I don't drink. :D Now, she and Anders are watching Italy vs. Belgium, which is nearing the end of the second half with Italy in the lead 2-1.

Anders gets his second vaccination shot tomorrow afternoon and then he and I are going to his sister's for dinner. We haven't seen them for quite a while. And Sunday is the AIC Independence Day picnic, if it doesn't rain. Very small affair this year, with no real contribution from the club: a social-distancing picnic outside with a limited amount of attendees allowed. Karin is going with us, which will be nice. I'm making a chicken pasta salad and deviled eggs and we'll hope the strawberries we bought today will still be good in 2 days time to take with us for dessert then, too.

It's been a while since I had such a fully booked weekend. Feels kinda weird. Almost makes me hope for rain on Sunday, haha!
hobbes-ponder

SIX MONTHS, A SECOND SHOT, SOCCER, AND A SHOW

How is it already the last day of June? Why do we let the time fly by without making sure we savor it...it goes so fast. Another year, half down.

I got my second vaccination shot yesterday. Camilla had given me a tip, given to her by a friend who knows a doctor: take 2 Alvedon (equivalent to Tylenol) before your second shot and 2 after to avoid the side effects. It worked for me! I took 2 tablets half an hour before my shot and 2 again half an hour after. My arm was slightly tender and "heavy/blocky" feeling (as in I could tell I had an upper arm) for part of the day. Around evening, I started feeling a little warm, so I took 2 more, and so far, nothing.

I had Pfizer. My colleague, who had Moderna, was super sick the day after her second shot. Most everyone I've heard about has been really sick after the second dose: high fever, nausea, chills, etc. I'm very glad to have avoided that even if it was a result of having Pfizer instead of Moderna and nothing to do at all with taking some preventative medicine. Now I just have to wait 2 weeks and I'm officially covered by the vaccination. I read the other day that both Pfizer and Moderna are considered effective enough that they most likely won't need booster shots either, so I'm hoping that means I won't have to get another vaccination for a year. We'll see how things play out, since nothing seems to be certain.

Six months gone already of 2021. The summer itself is in full bloom. Our cherry tree looks like it's been hung with rubies; the fruit is ripening and reddening! I get double handfuls of snap peas every evening when I go out to water, and we've already eaten almost one row of our potatoes, which are delicious: like butter! The onions look close to ready as well. The tomatoes and carrots will take some more time, though. Growing things is fun!

Last night, Anders and I watched the European soccer cup matches and both the teams I rooted for (Sweden and Germany) lost and are now eliminated. I don't really care about soccer or sports, but sometimes it's fun (when our teams are winning, of course) to watch. It was a disappointing evening, gamewise. But now I don't care anymore and don't need to pretend any interest in the rest of the championship. :D

We also watched the last episode of The Handmaid's Tale (season 4) which was just completely bonkers. I can't decide what I think about the direction the show took the main character in this season. She is so ANGRY and full of rage and hatred that it's harder to watch than normal, but then I think: why shouldn't she be? She has every right to be enraged, and anyone thinking she should just suck it up and get on with her life is kind of giving into a cycle of complicity that I have a hard time agreeing with. Yes, she takes it to an extreme, but it's certainly a valid reaction.

I'm about to get on a Facetime call with my brother and sister...we have a big birthday coming up in the family and need to discuss plans and presents. Since none of us can travel yet, any get-together or in-person celebration will have to wait. John's family still isn't vaccinated, and Karin hasn't been able to yet, either, as they're not down to her age group yet here in Sweden.

Kind of a lame post, but oh well, at least I managed to get it written!
  • Current Music
    Crosby, Stills & Nash—Southern Cross
  • Tags
happyfindus

GOTLAND, PART THE THIRD: IN WHICH ROCKS PLAY TOO MUCH A PART

Our last day on Gotland, we decided to head south. When we were there years ago, we stayed in a camping village just south of Visby that includes Villa Villekulla, the original house set from the Pippi Longstocking films done in the 60s. It also had a water park and amusement rides and was a great place to stay with small kids, but that was as far south as we got.

Anders and I drove about 1.5 hours, south along the coast, to our destination: Hoburgen, another rauk area in the nature and bird reserve of the southern tip of Gotland. It includes lots of caves, rauks, rock formations, and cliffs, a lighthouse, and most notably, a famous rauk, the Hoburgsgubben ("Old Man Hoburg") who towers high above the rocky shore, facing out to sea. Carl Linneaus was also there on his trip around Gotland in 1741. Unfortunately, vandals have recently painted the Hoburgsgubben's nose bright pink and added two yellow eyes, which makes it look very much like a troll, and not at all like a natural rock formation that just happens to look like a face.

dont_drive_to_gubben.jpg

hoburgsgubben.jpg

hoburgsgubban_dog_tongue.jpg

I liked the rock formation above best, as it looks like a dog sticking its tongue out to the wind. :)

It was a little cooler and the breeze off the Baltic Sea was quite strong. We walked down toward the water, around the edge of the cliff and went into the first cavern, which was high and dry, full of rocks. We passed the Hoburgsgubben and continued exploring. Anders was a fair bit behind me as he had stopped to take photos. I walked up through a rock arch, taking photos and stepping carefully, as the ground was covered in rocky scree. As I was standing under the arch, I thought, "I should take a photo looking through the arch at the water," and I turned around with my phone in my hand to do so. Just as I turned, my shoes slid on the gravel and I fell backwards, landing with a jar on my butt and back and with only time to think "Shit! Oh no don't die!" as my head thunked into the large jagged rock behind me on the ground. Holy crap, it hurt.

I lay on the ground for several minutes, with my hands on my head, crying. I was trying to feel if I had actually cracked open my skull, because it had really hit the stone hard. My hand came away bloody but I couldn't tell that there were any obvious cracks or holes. Anders was still not in sight. I sat up carefully, and tried to call him, but the wind blew my voice away. Finally, I got to my feet, still holding my head, and then I could see him approaching and called out.

By that point, I was pretty sure there wasn't any major damage. I could feel a couple of small, soft spots where my scalp was bleeding but nothing seemed serious. When Anders was able to get my hair out of the way, he said it looked like a really bad scrape. I wasn't dizzy or nauseated and there wasn't actually much more blood. After resting a few minutes, and feeling like I was mostly recovered, I took the photo that I had been turning around to take when I fell.

where_i_fell.jpg
The red arrow is pointing at the rock my head hit when I fell backwards.

hoburgsgubban_rock_arch.jpg
This is the photo I was turning to take. My friend Kathey said it was worth a concussion. :D

Then we walked on a little further, but all the fun had gone out of the expedition for me. My head hurt, and the wind blowing my hair around was pulling on the scrapes and sore spots. Finally, I gave up and we walked back toward the parking lot. I went up to the café and sat at a table to rest, while Anders went exploring for a bit at the top of the cliffs. When he got back we had a nice lunch at the restaurant and delicious ice cream (I had strawberry-lime sorbet that was fantastic) at the café.

There were a few other sights listed on Trip Advisor in the area that we thought we could check out, but after driving for 45 minutes through tiny country roads to the first one, Stavgard, which is the remnants and reconstructions of a Bronze Age viking settlement, we discovered they hadn't yet opened for the season. We found our way after that to Tomtbods fiskeläge, a well-preserved fishing village in use from at least the 17th century, with bays, huts and fishing lodges unchanged: some still used today.

tomtbods_fiskelage.jpg

We had dinner again in Visby after driving back through the countryside, at a brewery restaurant with decent food that couldn't live up to the amazing meal of the day before. :) Then we went back to the cottage to watch Sweden beat Poland in the final round robin game and win their group in the Euro 2021 soccer championships. They're now on to the elimination rounds, but don't play their first match until Tuesday. We did as much packing and cleaning as we could before we went to bed, and were up at a quarter to 6 in the morning to catch the ferry back to the mainland.

Apart from my unlucky fall (though super lucky it wasn't worse), it was an excellent short trip away. I was very glad to go when there weren't a lot of tourists and we could just chill out and see stuff without stressing. We got back in time for the midsummer celebration on Friday and we spent the afternoon and evening with some good friends of ours that we haven't gotten together with in a year and a half, due to the pandemic. Very low-key and laid-back, with an excellent midsummer spread including new potatoes from our garden, and games of darts and Kubb. I'm definitely not ready for shorter, darker days, though. It always seems to go fast on this side of the solstice.

Now I have 5 weeks of work before my real summer vacation in August. Next big project is getting Martin moved home! But right now, I'm going to go lie down because writing about my head injury has made the sore spot throb. Ow!
happyfindus

GOTLAND, PART THE SECOND: HEADING NORTH

On Tuesday morning, we ate breakfast outside the door of our cottage, and then headed north of Visby to Lummelunda. It's a nature reserve that is most famous for the Lummelunda cave, one of the longest caves in Sweden (at 4.5 km). Then entrance to the cave, a natural cavern carved out of the limestone by water, was known for centuries; Carl Linneaus visited it in 1741 and the entrance is named after him. No one got very far into the cave, despite attempts in the mid-1920s, as the passage leading in was too narrow, in one place only as high as 22cm (approximately the width of a piece of paper!).

In 1948, three teenage boys crawled through the tunnels, using candles to light their way, and entered the first hall. They explored every week of the summers for two years, until a large block of stone was accidentally knocked away, widening a further opening in the cliff. They went through another 20m long passage and found more large caverns inside. They even dragged a rubber boat through, and used it to explore even further in the narrow tunnels and cracks, eventually getting in another 175m (574 ft). They kept their discovery secret for SEVEN YEARS, exploring more and more every summer, when the water in the cave was low enough to allow entrance.

lummelunda.jpg

Hearing this story, I was struck by the fact that for SEVEN years, they were crawling around underground, with only candles to light their way, in a pitch-dark, freezing, waterlogged cave, and their parents had NO IDEA where they were. EESH. They were 14 in 1948 when they first discovered the way in, and in 1955 they finally decided to tell the world about their discovery. Our tour guide related that they contacted a famous Swedish spelunker, who didn't believe them until they broke off some stalactites and sent them to him. He wasn't able to get into the first passage after his first attempt, until he'd dieted enough to get his weight down. And then he took all the credit for the discovery and made a boatload of money off media, talks, lectures and tourism. The boys got nothing. They were finally honored for their discovery in 2011 (!).

Fun fact: the way to remember the differences between stalactites and stalagmites is the SAME in English and Swedish! Stala(c)(t)ites...C for ceiling in English, T for tak (which means ceiling) in Swedish. Stala(g)(m)ites...G for ground in English, M for mark (which means ground) in Swedish!

Of course, we didn't have to crawl on our bellies through freezing water with candles in our hands: a visitor entrance to the main caverns has been blasted out of the rock and walkways and safety supports have been added. I've been to a LOT of caves in my life (my dad was a fan), and even though this was a small one, it was a really interesting story and fun to visit.

After stopping for ice cream, we got back in the car and headed to the northern end of Gotland, where we caught the car ferry over to the island of Fårö. Får means sheep in Swedish, but we learned later that afternoon, that the name was originally Färoy. Ö means island in Swedish, but the beginning of the name actually comes from the word fara, to travel. Our destination was the Bergman Center, dedicated to filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. We had a delicious lunch in the café and then learned all about his life and work. He worked on Fårö for years, filming several of his movies there, and spent the last years of his life living on the island. His house is not open to the public; it was bought by a Norwegian millionaire after his death and turned into a private retreat for artists and writers.

His last film, Fanny & Alexander, is one of my top ten favorites, but weirdly, I've only seen 1 other film by him, and Anders hadn't even seen that. It's an oversight for sure! Martin actually watched one of his films not too long ago; feeling that as a Swede, he should really know more about one of the most famous of his countrymen.

Next door, in the same building, was a very small, but very thorough, museum dedicated to the history of Fårö. After that cultural interlude, we headed further north into the nature reserve of Langhammars to see the rauks (which we also visited on our previous trip to Gotland years ago). It was another scorching day and the landscape of the island is almost desert-like to some degree: very scrubby, rocky, with lots of spiderweb-shrouded bushes and stunted, wind-bent pine trees. Here and there we saw ancient windmills and the tiny sedge-roofed houses dotting the fields. There were a handful of cars at the gravel parking area and maybe a dozen or so others walking around on the rocky beach, admiring the rauks.

windmill.jpg

thatched_roof_oldhouse.jpg

gotland_rocks.jpg

sheep_in_the_shade.jpg

rauks_langhammar.jpg

These weird limestone rock formations are unique to Gotland and Fårö (and a few other parts of Sweden), and are a result of erosion during the ice age. Some of them were huge, towering high overhead.

langhammars.jpg

I sat in the shade of one of the tall rauks while Anders explored further around the side of the cliffs, and found fossils in the huge slab of rock under my feet. So cool! We headed back toward Visby finally, catching the 5:00 ferry back to the main island. While we were driving, I looked up restaurant reviews and menus and chose a place called Backyard in the center of the old town. One review said simply, "Try the salmon!!" and I couldn't pass that up, now could I?

It turned out to be one of the BEST restaurant meals I've EVER had. It was perfect. I'm drooling just remembering it. It was a long thin slice of perfectly toasted rye bread topped with Aurora salmon, new potatoes, Gotland asparagus and Yuzu hollandaise sauce. I nearly licked the plate. 10/10 - most highly recommend! And THEN, as if that wasn't enough, we ordered dessert, too, and it was ALSO fantastic: served in a tiny piping-hot iron skillet, it consisted of a deep-fried sugared donut, topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, and drenched in a rum-caramel sauce with brown sugar/cinnamon crumble. *drool* ...I nearly made Anders go back again the next night for a repeat.

best_meal_ever.jpg

dessert.jpg

Next up: southern Gotland, Hoburgsgubben and a brush with death
happyfindus

GOTLAND, PART THE FIRST: VISBY

It's been a very long time since we went on vacation, just the two of us. For our 25th anniversary, because Anders had to work that week, we planned a week away for midsummer week instead, and due to the pandemic, we stayed fairly close to home, heading up to Gotland, the large island off the east coast of Sweden. We've been there before, when the kids were young, with my mom, but I remember almost nothing from that trip. I must have spent most of it wrangling kids.

Gotland isn't super big; it takes about 3.5 hours to drive from northern tip to southern tip and the countryside is very rural, very brushy and scrubby, apart from miles of farmland. Strangely, though it's famous for sheep exports: meat, sheepskins, etc., we saw almost NO sheep the entire time. It could have been because of the baking hot summer temperatures that draped the island (and all of Sweden) for the week leading up and most of the week we were there. Thankfully for us, most of the time, there was a strong breeze that kept us cool enough, though our cute little cottage was sweltering at times.

We left super early on Sunday morning for the approximately 4 hour drive to Oskarshamn where we boarded the car ferry for a 3-hour trip to Gotland. By the time we got to our airbnb cottage it was almost 4 pm, but we were excited to get started, so after unloading the car, making the bed and unpacking a few things, we ran to the grocery store to buy breakfast stuff, and then we walked the 15 minutes into Visby's inner city to find a place for dinner.

cottage_exterior.jpg

cottage_interior.jpg

Visby, the largest city on Gotland, is also among the best-preserved medieval towns in Scandinavia and is encircled by a still mostly-intact town wall. The city itself contains 10 church ruins, all of which were closed due to the pandemic. In fact, there weren't a lot of people at all, for which we were thankful, both because it meant no waiting times at restaurants and much less concern about gatherings in general. Mostly, it was just the two of us. We ate seafood at Bakfikan on the main square, in the late summer sunshine of the solstice. Anders had smoked shrimp with toast and aioli and I had Toast Skagen and a side of "Gotland" asparagus with lemon butter. Yum!

asparagus.jpg

Monday was dedicated to exploring Visby, and we walked into town just after 11 am, after having watched the news for an hour in which the Swedish prime minister was ousted on a vote of no confidence. It was fairly upsetting as all of the right-wing and conservative groups jumped on the chance to vote him out. He has a week to either resign or call for a new election, which will cause a lot of turmoil as Sweden is scheduled for elections next year as it is. Despite the heat, the queue we passed for the state-owned liquor store on the town strip was very long. Comfort drinking after all the political upheaval!

We walked along the outside of Visby's medieval town wall, stopping to read plaques and take photos before heading into one of the gated towers. Visby is full of tiny little alleyways, old houses, church ruins, and roses, plus armies of stone sheep everywhere, barring motor traffic in the inner city. We spent a couple of hours in the Gotland Museum, had lunch, and walked around some more. Lots of shops were still closed, due to both the pandemic and the fact that the tourist season doesn't really get going until July.

visby_wall.jpg

visby_rooftops.jpg

visby_street.jpg

sheep_army.jpg

visby_wall_tower.jpg

After an afternoon in the heat, we were exhausted, so we went back to the cottage to rest for a bit, before driving back down to the south end of the town to eat TexMex BBQ at an American-Swedish restaurant inside the walls, and then driving out to the nature preserve of cliffs along the western shore to watch the sunset.

sodra_hallarna_sunset.jpg

Next up: Lummelunda caves, Fårö and rauks!
happyfindus

SORRY NOT SORRY

Don't apologize. You don't have to say you're sorry for not writing. Don't think people are checking in every day to see if you've bothered to write (and thereby entertain them). No one is waiting on the sidelines for your words, your thoughts, your random scribblings. You just write when the muse strikes. When the timing and the motivation line up and the stars align as well. When Mercury isn't in retrograde (Mercury's always in retrograde) (Don't worry about stupid Mercury, it has no bearing on this).

It's not an assignment.

There's no deadline.

There are so many moments when I think "I should write about this". But I don't. So many moments, experiences, happenings, thoughts that hang in the air, in the ether, zapping their way through the synapses in my brain, that never see daylight. Never get articulated in typewritten or digital form. Never pass from my mind to yours. Don't apologize. It's not necessary. It's not worth it. It's just the way things are, the way things have to be, sometimes.

Just because I don't write about the progress in our vegetable garden doesn't mean I'm not deeply engaged in all the sprouting goodies growing under the earth.

Just because I don't write about that funny conversation or that moment of delight doesn't mean it wasn't worth writing about.

Just because I didn't write about our 25th wedding anniversary doesn't mean that a) it didn't happen, b) I didn't care or c) anyone else cares. It still happened, that milestone was still passed, that excellent dinner out with just me and my husband was still enjoyed. Maybe I memorialized it elsewhere! After all, writing and sharing take place in so many different places these days.

What we see, what we say, what we do...it doesn't ALL have to be recorded for posterity. Sometimes it's enough to have seen it, have said it, have experienced it.

And if, when the muse is feeling feisty and the stars actually DO line up (and Mercury, that little shit, is facing the right way, moving the right way), you'll get it down, articulated and safe, and ready for someone else to read, to share in, to enjoy. So, don't apologize. Just write when the moment is right.
key to lizardek

FOUR-LEAF CLOVERS*

As long as I can remember, I've been blessed with best friends. Before we moved to Europe, and I started 7th grade, my memory is hazy regarding friends. I suspect I mostly played with my brother and sister (when we weren't fighting). Though I do remember riding bikes with a girl named Judy when we lived in Nebraska, I don't remember what she looked like or anything else about her. The year before we moved to Belgium, we lived for a year in Montgomery, Alabama and my sister was best friends with Jackie, another girl that lived in the same complex. I remember being jealous of her and wanting a best friend of my own, but I don't remember any of the children we played with during that short year or anyone I hung out with in school there.

When we moved to Belgium, I was bussed for an hour, over the border to Holland, to start middle school at an international and military brat school. My brother and sister were in the elementary school at our local base, and I didn't see them at all except in the evenings and on the weekends. They made Belgian friends in the neighborhood, but my friends were a group of girls that lived over an hour away. Becky and Jill were friends first, then Becky and I joined together, united in our love of drawing, and then the circle widened to include more like-minded friends: Karin, Angelica, Denise, Kelly, Julie, Robin.

They had the advantage friendship-wise, because they all lived closer together, in The Netherlands, and could get together more often, but we held tight to our friendship. We called ourselves the LLG, which stood for Los Lindos Gatos (the pretty (or cute) cats). I don't remember WHY we chose that name, unless it was because I was obsessed with cats, and someone else was learning Spanish, but we were a small gang who drew comics, passed notes in class, laughed our heads off at anything and everything, and stuck together. After about a year, our group started breaking up, reforming and changing, as families were stationed elsewhere. Becky left in the middle of our ninth grade year, and I felt like part of me had left with her. We wrote long, silly letters to each other and tried to fill the hole left in each of us with other friends, but for me, at least, it didn't work. Not until I moved away, too, and met my next best friend.

We moved to Germany and ended up living in a high-rise building, on the twelfth and top floor. Several floors below lived the Malones, and the oldest daughter, Debbie, and I became friends. I practically lived in their apartment. They were 4 kids, and Debbie was actually a grade below me, but at home, we hung out together. We were in choir and sang everywhere we went. I became good friends with her younger sister, as well, while my brother ended up best friends with her youngest brother. I had other friends, of course, but Debbie was always my best friend.

After high school, we returned to the States, and after a humid summer sweating in Maryland, while my parents house-hunted and my dad started his post-Air Force job with the NSA, I left and went to Michigan State to start college. The very first year, on my floor, I met Julie, who would eventually become both my roommate for 2 years and my best friend. We stuck together through so much: canoe trips, relationships, learning how to be adults, navigating university.

When I moved to Chicago after I finally graduated, I lived again with Julie, and another friend/roommate of ours from MSU. She got married (to a friend of ours from college, no less) and moved away and eventually I met Anders and moved in with him. And then we moved to Sweden. Almost immediately, I was invited to meet some of the other Americans in the area, and we started the AWC and I had another gang of friends. Kathey, who was my best friend, Angie, Kelly, Emily, Debbie. For some years, we ran the AWC and had huge amounts of fun at events and activities, playing games and reading books together. We had small children and bought houses, and got jobs, and then Kathey and her husband Russell, who has also become a great friend, moved away, and we slowly started growing apart under the pressures of all that real life.

Debbie started the Wonders, a dinner group with 5 of us, meeting once every couple of months. It was a fantastic way to reconnect and it worked for several years, until once again, distance and other obligations and, I think, the weight of our friendship, in some ways, threatened to dissolve the bonds we had all had. Eventually, it was mostly Debbie and I trying to keep it going, and we finally gave it up. In the meantime, our friend Camilla, who had been living and working in Poland for many years, moved home to Sweden. She had been Kathey's Swedish tutor way back in the day, and had joined the AWC for a brief while before she moved away. Every time she was back in Sweden, we'd get together for lunch or dinner and it was, like it has been with all my best friends, as if we'd never been apart.

Now, my best friends, here, are the two of them. We meet as frequently as we can, and I cherish the times we have together. We talk about so much, and they are both sounding boards and therapists as well as the best of friends for me. I STILL consider my best friends to be those who I love and hold in my heart from afar: Becky, Debbie, Julie, Kathey, but I'm so grateful that I have these two women here as well, to keep me grounded, to make me laugh, to give me a literal shoulder to cry on. I'm truly blessed by all the girlfriends and best friends I have had in my life. I don't know what I would have done without them.

*hard to find and lucky to have (Irish proverb)