Jan 27, 2019

My aunt Inga-Märta/part 2

It’s funny and absolutely a coincidence, but I am actually doing my nails while writing this text. I wonder how she had liked this color.

On Friday, my extended family bid our last farewell to the family matriarch. My aunt Inga-Märta passed away on January 29, a few weeks shy of 91 years old.

Inga-Märta was the youngest of the three children born here at the end of the road during the nineteen twenties. She was also the one, although burdened with ailments, given the longest life. And in February a year ago we celebrated her 90th birthday.

Family parties have always been an important part of my families social life, and on this day three generations were gathered for coffee, lots of pastry, stories and some singing. It was warm and fun, and even a bit sad. We suspected it might be the last big festivity on Inga-Märta’s behalf, and we were right. 

Two days later, she gave in for the dementia and moved away from home in early summer. Inch by inch she deteriorated. There was nothing left of her the night she peacefully passed away with her beloved son and grandson by her side. It was the best of endings. And for all of us, as the family Christmas party was the day after and we all got to be together. I am sure she was aware.

On Friday, again, three generations were gathered for the funeral, as well as many friends. Nearly 91 years old, to have that many wanting to be there, says a lot about how Inga-Märta lived her life.

The ceremony was beautiful and warm. I was happy and grateful to hold both my sons’ hands. To hear my sister sing Handel’s Lascia ch'io pianga (Dagen är nära). And my nephew’s wife play the organ. It was difficult though watching our beloved Bertil, soon 98 years to be, at the casket. The only one left of the five cousins who ran the fields here in the village as children and who kept being close through their lives. 

We have a family tradition for funerals. As we are all musical and many of us choral singers, we end the ceremony standing together in the front singing. My father passed away at Christmas time and we all said our farewell with one of the most loved Swedish Christmas songs, Jul jul strålande jul, in harmonies. Both my mother and my uncle’s lives ended in the summertime and so consequently we wanted our goodbye to be the summer hymn they both had been singing in choirs for all their lives, En vänlig grönskas rika dräkt. 

For Inga-Märta, pretty much everyone in the little church formed a big circle around the casket, it was even hard to squeeze all of us in. And we sang to her,and to us a favorite evening hymn, Bred dina vida vingar. Surrounded by all her loved ones, that’s how she was received by the God she so firmly believed in. And entered the Heaven where she was to meet everyone passing before her. 

I hope this beautiful tradition is now well founded in my children and their cousins, so that when the time for me and my five cousins is up, we will as well be sung off in this glorious, powerful and loving way.

Oh, and what about the nails? Well, all through Inga-Märta’s life as long as I can remember, she was particular about her nails. She took good care of them, they were long and colourfully shiny. At the end it was my sister who held her hands and painted her nails. Two layers of mother-of-pearl. I am thinking she might have found my color of the day, a dark purple leaning towards black, somewhat morose.

Jan 20, 2019

131 days later: Sweden has a government

On that porch in Bolsena Italy the late September 9 evening at the election day, we went to bed saying: this won’t be done until the morning.

It took 131 days.

Correction, it was actually done in the morning. The left bloc had won the Swedish general election by two seats over the right bloc. That’s pretty basic math. But the right bloc had a different and peculiar way of counting and did not admit themselves defeated. Which resulted in the Prime Minister Stefan Löfvén being voted down a couple of days later.

I will not take up your time with all the in and outs in the process that followed through fall and up until Friday when Stefan Löfven again was voted PM. His Social Democrats is orming a minority government with the Green Party (Miljöpartiet). Exactly the constellation voted down post election. Although now supported by the mid parties the Liberals and the Center Party instead of the Left Party.

And. The right bloc (The Alliance) so confident and aggressively aiming to be the new government (although they didn’t have the seats required) is consequently shattered in pieces.

It’s been a very interesting process. I don’t think any Swede is envious of the Parliament Speaker Andreas Norlin who kindly and patiently took on the job being the captain of the careening ship on this stormy political sea which we can name democracy.

The 131 days have to a certain degree been absurd and maybe even ridiculous. But the parliamentary situation was difficult to start with. And 131 days is as long as it took to come to a solution. It’s a record for Sweden and among the top 4 in Europe since the Second World War. It’s been worrisome but I am even more worried about the tone of the political discussion. Loud, aggressive, implacable, even hateful. Because of that I think the Parliament has become a more unfriendly workplace.

Now, at this time we are facing a new political landscape in Sweden. The Alliance is no more. The Moderates (the Right party) and the Christian Democrats are way over at the Right. The Left Party is pushed aside. And we have a government which is a mid-solution. The Social Democrats have been leaning in that direction for a good while and now they are there. Seemingly willing to sacrifice many of their core matters for market-friendly alternatives.

Is there a win in this? Yes. There is. Through this new unholy alliance the Sweden Democrats are disarmed. At least for now. The Xenophobic party rooted in Nazism will no longer have a say. But shouldn’t the third largest party in Sweden have a say? Not in the mind of the 7 other parties - except maybe the Christian Democrats, they are  a bit vague on this point. 

So, the government being presented tomorrow is to a large degree a result from a (pretty much) unified political willpower not accepting xenophobia in governance. For now, Sweden has avoided becoming one of the European countries where a brown party has put it’s boots down. That’s a huge and extremely important win. I wish us good luck.

Jan 13, 2019

Goodbye, killer views! (It will be safer now)

My personal soul memory is from a sunny September evening 2003 driving back from West Seattle - what did I do there? I can’t remember. 

I didn’t plan on taking the Alaskan Way Viaduct, I made a wrong turn and suddenly there I was. Driving north with the evening-glorious Downtown at my immediate right and the stunning view of Elliot Bay to the left as well as the sunset over at the Olympic Mountains far away west. I was high on the unexpected driving pole position experience!

After decades of debate and work in progress the two deck Highway 99 Viaduct closed late Friday night. It is so Seattle how the love-hated Viaduct was packed with cars and people dancing and celebrating the six story construction like it was New Years Eve or 4th of July! Oh how I miss that playfulness of my second home town!

The road up till this day has been nothing but playful though. One part of the debate has been how the Viaduct cuts the Waterfront from Downtown not only visually and practically but by the 24-7 roar of compact traffic generating 80 decibel alongside the Pike Place Market. The shady wasteland in-under the Viaduct has been home of the homeless and rats.

Another voice in the discussion was the 2001 earthquake which made the Viaduct crack and settle. By the way, that’s the only time my father questioned a Seattle trip of mine, just a week after the quake. Do you really have to go? I felt I did. And I couldn’t cancel my ticket. It all went well though. 

Since the 2001 quake, public agencies and citizens waded through eight years of process, an advisory ballot and $325 million in tax money to study and review as many as 75 variations before Governor Christine Gregoire chose a deep-bore tunnel in January 2009 as the biggest piece of a $3.3 billion viaduct replacement.

The tunnel-bore has of course not been a stroll in the park (a story by itself) and there’s never been a clear public consensus around which path was wisest — a tunnel, an elevated replacement, street-level highway, surface road plus transit, or retrofitting the old viaduct but earth quake-secured. That debate might echo long after the sound of the concrete decks demolition.

Which will happen in the next six months. Project demolition of the 66 year-old emblem of the age of happy motoring. The four-lane tunnel will open Monday February 4, and as many as 100 000 people are expected to return the weekend before for a celebration to say farewell to the viaduct and preview the tunnel!

Until then, good luck Seattle with the upcoming there weeks without a viaduct and no tunnel. In short, good luck with squeezing all the Highway 99 traffic into the already jam packed Interstate 5, for once I am not a bit envious!

Jan 6, 2019

2019: I want things!

Is it the daylight-lamp accompanying my breakfast? The Italian trip back in September? My back being a tiny bit more stable? My spruced up kitchen?

Today it’s Trettondagen, the 13th day after Christmas marking the end of the Swedish Holidays. I’ve spent it with Audreys big family, 13 people from four generations around my kitchen table, such great finale!

I’ve had the best Holiday in years and I am so grateful. Furthermore, I actually feel happy about starting a new year!

A year ago I had come to a different level of acceptance regarding my situation. Entering a new year can be difficult when you know there is little room for improvement. It is what it is. But last year I felt like that was okay. A kind of contentedness related to resignation. It’s been peaceful. But grey.

Starting 2019 is different again. Already in December I felt like spring was around the corner. I am pretty sure that has to do with the terrific daylight lamp Fay lended me mid November. Spending 30 minutes in clear daylight in the morning has kept me out of that pitch black fall/winter tunnel always surrounding me this time of year, I can truly recommend it! 

But what’s most remarkable is, I want things! For years and years (except for my 60th when my stars must have been lined up quite differently!) my will power has been stored in a locked drawer. Key thrown away. For the best. I am a strong-willed person and to keep my sanity I am better off not hanging out with my will power. Not a great companion when you also need to be friends with acceptance.

I think it’s the kitchen. It’s got to be my spruced up yellow kitchen. The fact that I could conduct such a face lift, as well as the result of it. It brought me happiness and self confidence: what more could I carry through?

The trip to Italy of course. Traveling has been absolutely out of the question since 2012, but there I was! With the help and assistance of dear and patient friends of course, but nevertheless, I’ve been out in the world again!


None of these things had been possible though if my back hadn’t been cooperative. It was difficult of course, but doable. The summer heat was good to my body, and the benefits from it seem to still be lingering. I am incredibly grateful.

And that’s why the entrance of 2019 feels good. That’s why the locked away will-power is finding it’s way out. My mind is expanding in directions it hasn’t visited for a long time. Road blocks are being moved.

I won’t list the roads I am glancing at. The other day I slipped at a black-ice spot, it’s all so fragile and I can’t risk jinxing with saying things out loud. 

Except for one thing. I am looking at my hallway/entrance. I have been for years. I know exactly which colors I would pick. And how happy they would make me…

A Happy New Year to all of you!