Aug 28, 2016

The summer of shining pearls and fulfilled dreams

The first drops fell as they still laughing waived goodbye, kissed me and left. Half an hour later it was poring down and the gusty gail swept August away. 

I have had the most amazing summer. Whether wise it’s been typically Swedish. There was this one warm week entering June. And then two weeks the latter part of July. In between a kind of every other day rain and shine. And August a cold disappointment. So. 

I have spent every possible minute horizontal in my new sun chair on the west wall, facing that big fireball up there, charging my body battery. My body is happy when it’s warm. And when my body is happy, I am happy. It might be why I have had a lot more energy than normal. Energy making me want to do things. And energy actually making it happen!

As I, because of my physical restrictions can’t do anything on my own, I am depending on good will from friends and family. And as there are more people than me involved, every little thing turns into a project which I am managing and in charge of. In other words, a lot of work. But if I didn’t, nothing would happen. And I am so grateful I have had the energy for it this summer.

So, what did I do? Well, I have been visiting relatives and I have had relatives visiting me. There was the the 5-girl high school reunion and the annual neighborhood barbecue. I got to see the dream house a friend of mine is building at a lake together with her dream man. And I have even had a few dinners out, hasn’t happened since May 2013.

Every one of these things has been like a shining pearl. The weather gods have been exceptionally good to me, the sun has been out for every single one of these occasions. Wether the event has been away or happening in my garden under my apple tree, the colors have been bright and the sky high.

One is a very precious gem. For years and years I have been dreaming of visiting a special place connected to my childhood. My sister and I grew up in Nordmaling, 45 minutes south of Umeå. Our parents were a part of such a great gang of friends, and they all had summer cabins close to each other at the water in Bredvik outside the small town. We were often invited, and the late summer weekends are to med among the dearest of childhood memories.

Last week it finally happened. My sister and I drove down to Bredvik to visit Gudrun and Ulf. Our dad was a pastry chef in the bakery and coffee shop owned by Gudrun and Ulf’s parents, and they were all the best of friends. Ulf and Gudrun are older than my sister and me, they had already left the nest when we were young, but we share our childhoods by the mutual memories of our parents and friends, the bakery, the small town, and the cabins at the water.

Again, it was a warm and sunny day, the only one that week. I reckoned I was 16 my last summer weekend in Ulf and Gudrun’s parents cabin, a skinny girl never going anywhere without her guitar, an extension of her body. Being back was kind of magical. Finding those special furniture we remembered. Figuring out how the friend’s cabins were laid out in relation to each other. Talking about our now long gone parents and their friends. Having a summer fika. It was wonderful. Nothing but wonderful. And a dream come true.

I don’t know but it’s been something about this summer. I think some of it has to do with my feeling about myself. A year ago I could throw a very ugly medicine out the window. When I did, fluid started to slowly leave my swollen body. Since then I have lost about 16 pounds (7-8 kilos) and the Maria being hidden and lost for years has emerged and I can recognize myself again when passing a mirror. Also, I can wear favorite summer clothes being buried deep down in my closet all these years, making me so happy, and I’ve even felt beautiful!

Shining pearls on a string. That’s how I have perceived all of my special summer days. I have been absolutely present in a way I have only experienced in the aftermath of cancer. Colors have been brighter, smells more intense, sounds clearer, the sun and wind on my skin more sensual. It is like those days were presented in 5K high definition. Like Fisherman’s Friend in my eyes.

Every one of those days have been complete and consummate. I could wish nothing more from them. They have been my dreams in perfections. I have enjoyed every second to it’s fullest so to the point I have been thinking, is this my last summer? Because this feels like the peak.

And on Friday I realized my final summer 2016 dream. A good part of my home care personal came here for a late summer party. We were six persons around my kitchen table, yes to late in the season for an outside evening now. This is my Civil Care family. The good people taking care of me every day. All year around. Year after year. Dear friends with different backgrounds and nationalities. Friends who are absolutely crucial for my life and existence.

And the evening really became the great summer finale. A fire works of crazy laughter,  delicious food, love and warmth, I am still finding myself giggling from it. And I am so grateful. For that one, and all the shining pearls on my summer string.

So, the rain following they leaving the house that evening was the appropriate transition marker. The gusty gail sweeping my summer sensations in to my precious memory bank. Making room for fall. 

Aug 21, 2016

The next chapter of my Italian studies

They promised a vocabulary of 4000 words when done with the class. I doubt it. But even if, I don’t have a clue how to put them together!

It was in 2008 a funny little add in a paper caught my eye. It looked like something from the Fifties, a self study Italian course. Some years earlier, in 2002, I spent two weeks in Florence taking an extremely intense Italian beginners class and after that some evening classes back in Sweden. But it kind of never got me anywhere, I didn’t feel like I was moving forward. So why not try self studies?

And so the Fifties landed on my desk. The box was packed with stacks of thin yellow booklets. They looked like something I would have found at my bakers cottage attic, left there by my mother’s aunts. I opened them up. They were filled with text (and I mean filled), top to bottom, only once in a while interrupted by tiny delicate pencil drawings, a perfect image for that time and age.

It was interesting though. The text was only in Italian. No translations. And under the text lines phonetic transcriptions. You learn the language by a text where words are repeated in different contexts until you actually get it. There is also a dictionary following the chapters if you get stuck. And a manual, which explains the purpose of each chapter, the grammers, what you are supposed to learn.

Boy, was this fun! The complete course is 50 chapters divided on 16 booklets. If you are an ambitious student working through one chapter a week you are done with the course in a year. They say. But I tell you, that’s a lot of work! This class was as intense as the one in Florence, although different.

So, I took my assignment on! I was aiming for a chapter a week, but then I found a tumor in my breast and made it one chapter per chemo treatment instead. And after the 6th and last treatment my brain shut down and I was incapable of any kind of studies.

My yellow booklets had a rest for about a year, and then I started all over again, repeating everything from the beginning. July 2012 I was back to where I was interrupted and decided on studying five minutes a day. Yeah, that’s not a lot, but I figured that’s something I could actually do.

And so I did. 5-15 minutes after writing my journal in the evening. The last thing I do before lights out is filling my brain with Italian words and grammars. That’s my daily brain-workout. At midnight. Some do Wordfeud, some sudoku, some cross words. I am learning Italian.

At chapter 9 I got stuck though. The manual describing the grammars for the chapter (and many more following it turned out) was missing. I was lost! I didn’t know what I was learning anymore and immediately felt behind, like missing a class in high school, very frustrating!

What to do? Well I didn’t just want to drop out of class so to speak. So I decided on continuing even though it wasn’t to my satisfaction. I had to find a different approach though. So I went for the go with the flow, kind of. I wasn’t able to do the exercises as they focused on the grammar which I couldn’t follow anymore. But I have been reading every chapter, twice. First one looking up every word I didn’t understand. Second, making sense of it. Every chapter (they are really long) took me about a month, and this July I ended chapter 50, the last one. Eight years after I opened up the first.

I am sometimes thinking, if I would ever be subject for one of those personal interviews asked for who to bring to a deserted island and please name your five most significant characteristics I would (on the latter) respond: persistence, persistence, persistence, persistence, persistence. 

Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not. 

My friend Agneta, an Italian teacher (among other languages) has been my support. She was quite impressed by the grammatical ambitions of the course, as long as we could follow them. But it also turns out the Italian I have been studying is as Fifties as the booklets are.
I have been learning an Italian which is only still spoken on Sicily and in the southern parts of Italy! The most conservative areas of the country. If all!

Anyhow, I didn’t become a drop out, and finally done I didn’t quite know what to do about my bed time routine. Ending the day with Italian studies has been a perfect clearing out the head thing after putting it all down in my journal.

So what to do now? Well, to check what I have learned and consolidate I should take on the high school course Agneta has provided me. Maybe I will, but that will have to happen during day time with pen and paper and computer. So, my new bed time routine is reading and translating Susanna Tamaro’s “Va dove ti porta il cuore”, which I bought in Rome 2007. I had enjoyed it in Swedish and there in Rome dreaming about someday taking it on in Italian. Which I am doing now! Reading sentence by sentence, going back and forth between the Italian copy and the Swedish one. And then about once a week checking it in Translate.

But. I can’t imagine I know 4000 Italian words. And as I am never listening and talking, only reading, I can not put together a sentence. The dream would be to spend three months in Italy. To take a language bath and see if I can learn to swim. But that’s a dream. What’s real though is that “Va dove ti porta il cuore”, although it’s not one of those really thick novels, will for sure last all my life and always clear my head at lights out.

Aug 14, 2016

The baker's cottage in my heart

It was when the radio was playing one of my mother’s favorite singers at the same time as I was holding the photo of my parents as a young and happy couple, I bursted into tears.

My place here at the end of the road is a setting of the house, the baker’s cottage and the coach house/wood shed. There used to be a barn too of course. This is my grandparents homestead, and at that time the baker’s cottage really was a place where you baked the bread for the family. The thin crust and the soft ones. In the winters it was may grandfather’s work shop for carpentry.

In my childhood the baker’s cottage was transformed to a summer cabin for my parents, my sister and me. The colors where blue and white. As grandparents my mom and dad spent a lot of time there, and Trouble & Trouble used to happily run between the two houses, their parents and their grand parents. Me myself survived my sons’ teens, house jam packed with tons of sweat-smelling incredibly loud boys, with fleeing into the tranquility of the baker’s cottage during the summer evenings. Trouble 2 made it his home over summers and falls during his post high school years when he travelled a lot. So, the little house has served four generations well, and we have all left our marks there.

For a lot of years now though, the baker’s cottage has been more of a storage unit. Shoveled in spare furniture. Film set and music studio. Firewood on the floor, old newspapers, “what to do with this? Well put it in the baker’s cottage for now”. In short, it has not been a nice place and even hard to enter as things have been piled up in front of the mud room door.

It’s interesting how you can carry a feeling of a place without even opening the door. These last few years, I am realizing, I haven’t wanted to look over at the baker’s cottage. Because I have been feeling the dark and the weight of it. And I think I had even given up the hope of it ever feeling light and warm again.

But I was wrong.

Three weeks ago Trouble 2 and Audrey, Emil and Disa made a heroic effort and restored the baker’s cottage to it’s former blue and white glory!

Emil is Trouble&Trouble’s second cousin and so Trouble 2’s grandmother’s father is Emil’s grandfathers’ father. In that sense Emil is related to the baker’s cottage as well, although he didn’t spend his childhood there. And Disa is Emil’s girlfriend.

It was a perfect summer sunday, 72°F (22,5°C), the best of circumstances for carrying everything out on the lawn while mopping the floors with green soap, dusting, and airing comforters and pillows. When it was all done, the little house smelled as fresh as if my mother would have done it herself, although she wouldn’t have been pleased about the fact the windows weren’t cleaned. Sloppy! Will you never learn how to do things properly!

In the evening my sense of the baker’s cottage was light. Blue and white. As it used to be. My eyes were drawn to it. Since then I have kept the door open during the warm summer weeks. And it was with great joy I took my aunt Inga-Märta, the only one left of the three children who were born here in the early days, for a little tour in there, the other day. Her eyes are failing her, but as many things are so familiar, they are still recognizable.

Today I was sitting at the dining table in the baker’s cottage big kitchen for a little while. The summer is already gone unfortunately, so it was chilly in there. I was painting a small piece of furniture from my mom and dad. Listening to Sommar-Summer, on the transistor radio. It was a very long time since I last dipped a brush into a paint tin. And put the brush to the wood. I do it with the skills my father taught me. Thin layers. “Yes, you will need to paint more coats, but it will look so much nicer. Always empty the brush on the wood, there is a lot more paint left there than you think.” I actually paint my nails with the same technique.

Sitting in the light baker’s cottage that doesn’t weigh on me anymore. Surrounded by memories and stories from four generations. Painting. The feel of the brush to the wood. Listening to the radio. Busk Margit Jonsson singing. Gammal fäbodpsalm (Hymn from the old pastures), one of my mother’s favorites. Watching the photo of my parents together on the couch in their first home. Smiling to the camera. They look happy. And I burst into tears.

I move over to my special place, the top of the blue firewood storage right next to the fireplace. I used to love sitting there as a little girl, feet not touching the floor, legs dangling. The heat from the fire. I sit down and realize the top is falling apart. The front plank is loose. A crack in the light picture. 

Aug 7, 2016

My successful staycation!

My balcony door is open to the warm evening. A few light cirrus clouds in the sky. Wind calming down for the day. My skin is sun kissed from afternoon hours facing west.

After delivering 43 minutes of bonus material accompanying the documentary of the Umeå entrepreneur Krister Olsson at the end of June, I decided on taking July off. Like vacation. Last summer was all intense work because of the documentary, and the summer before filled with personal and private difficulties. It was time for some time off, finally!

Vacation. In my case staycation, as I can’t move around and transport myself anywhere. So, how to have vacation at the place where I spend all my regular time and within the home care routines regulating my days?

Well, first of all, no work. No work within my profession and no work that’s very similar to my profession, although voluntary.

Number 2. No digging into difficulties. I have this thing. Whenever I (very rarely) am entering a quite period, I feel this need to pick one of the tough topics on my Difficult List and do something about it. Oftentimes unsolved conflicts or difficult relationships eating me. But no, nothing from my Difficult List was allowed on my summer vacation 2016. 

Those were the No. So what about the Yes?! And what did I want to do?

Well, it turned out the question wasn’t that easy to answer. Most things I long for are impossible because of my situation. So I had to look for it through my close up glasses.

I wanted to be in the sun! So that’s my first promise, stay in the sun every minute possible and enjoy it! What more? Why not listen to music? Due to how my days are layed out, keeping music on doesn’t have natural space anymore, I could change that. 

I am peaking into my summer closet. All those cloths I just love! Summer 2015 was really crappy weather wise so I didn’t get to wear any of it. Ok, that will be my next promise - no walking around in old spotted t-shirts because it’s just me here, no, every day wearing something nice for myself!

What more? Well, there is this Swedish summer institution. A radio program. Simply called Sommar - Summer. Every day, 1PM-2.30PM from Midsummer’s Day until late August, a carefully selected person is hosting her/his own program. Every episode is personal, and the host also picks the music accompanying the story. Swedish National Radio has run this series since 1959, and to be selected as a Summer Host in Sweden, is a bit like being ennobled, it is an honor and the ultimate recognition.

So, I was going to listen to as many Summer as I wanted and felt like. Very important not to promise listening to all of them, that would turn something enjoyable to a must do. And preferably outside while working on my tan, delivered from a transistor radio in real broadcast time. No computers.Yes!

Now, my last promise was to do something fun for myself every day. Something that would make my heart tick and give me energy!

So, how did I do?

After years and years spending the sun hours delivered to us on the 64th latitude in an uncomfortable wooden chair really bad for my back, I invested early June in a real sun chair. And boy did that investment match the summer! I have spent so many days lying in that chair I can’t keep track anymore, and my tan looks like I have been on a blanket in Gasworks Park for a month! So, yeah, every possible minute in the sun!

Did I listen to music? Well… kind of. I sometimes have remembered to put music on, although not as much as I was thinking. But, the times I did gave me a lot.

How about the summer clothes? I have been doing a lot better in that area! At Midsummers I picked my most romantic summer outfits, hanging them on my bedroom closet doors as an inspiration. And I have been wearing most of them! Sometimes with people visiting, sometimes only going for a treatment, but a lot of times just for myself. And they have made me feel pretty and in good spirits!

Did I listen to Sommar? Yes I did, and always outside and most of the time on the air!

So what about doing something making me tick? A failure. Only once. I took all those romantic outfits, I hang them in my grand father’s apple tree and made a photo shoot! It was so incredibly fun, I can’t even remember when I last composed a picture! And I literary felt life running into my veins! That’s actually when I felt something like this is what I need to do every day.

So I asked myself, what would I like to do? And couldn’t come up with anything… Well, I could of course, but all those creative desires are impossible due to my physical restrictions. Pretty much all I can do by myself is writing, and I am honestly a bit fed up with it. It’s also on the border to work and I’m shying away from it in a healthy way.

That’s only half the truth though. The other half is that just having fun isn’t my strongest department. I am not that well trained when it comes to playing.

In total though, my staycation has been a success. Thanks to the Weather Gods. They have given me all those days in the sun charging my body battery I so badly need, Sommar in the transistor radio and plenty of warmth to wear my sheer summer clothes. My body is happy when it is warm, and when my body is warm I am happy. And if we are lucky we might even have a few weeks more feeling like summer!