Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The permanency of place: Sweden

Sweden owns her permanency. She owns a solid, sturdy cultural significance that is apparent in her ancient buildings, cobblestone streets, and meatballs. There is a cadence to Swedish life; a rhythm of walking and communing, and frequent breaks for coffee and buns. Swedes stroll to the beat without effort while those of us less accustomed to wearing heels on hilly brick roads stumble occasionally from the unfamiliarity of it all.

I felt a calming joy as I breathed in the air of Gamlastan for the first time. It smelled of waffles and cream gravy, with a hint of cigarettes and beer. It smelled like an adventure.

The words from an old Aerosmith song kept swimming in my head, "Don't want to close my eyes,
I don't want to fall asleep, 'Cause I'd miss you baby, And I don't want to miss a thing…"

So I sucked the marrow out of Sweden. I danced to ABBA, I petted dogs, I gazed at the archipelago waters, I pushed my nose deep into the blooming flowers, I pressed my hands against the stone buildings, and I spoke terrible Swedish to anyone willing to converse.

When I was a kid my Grandpa Johnson gave me a little brown music box that played a few bars to "Fly Me To The Moon." The ballerina that once graced the music roller is long gone, and the outside of the box is covered in weird stickers from the 70s. But the song still plays, plink plink plink, and whenever I hear the melody I feel my grandpa's presence. In recent years I've heard "Fly Me To The Moon" playing in random public places immediately following several significant life events. It is eerie and wonderful, and whenever this happens I know my grandpa is watching over me.

One morning in Uppsala we leisured over breakfast discussing our plans for the day. (If you've never had a Swedish hotel breakfast you need to get that on your "must do" list immediately. It is a smörgåsbord of delightful dishes, from beautiful breads and pastries to pickled herring and smoked salmon, from pates and cold cuts to bacon and eggs. There is yogurt and fruit and vegetables and every manner of preserves, toppings, butters, etc. It is a feast that never ends, and you wash it all down with a good strong cup of coffee.) And right then, right there in the middle of Sweden in the middle of our amazing trip, "Fly Me To The Moon" came over the sound system. I nearly cried into my coffee.

I felt Sweden's importance in my life. I felt my grandpa and all those who came before us, whose feet left Sweden more than one hundred years ago. She still owns us, and I am ok with that.

More to come as I soak it all in.

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