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|MONTHLY JOURNAL 2013||
True to tradition, we
celebrate Walpurgis Night on the last day of April. Hot dogs, coffee and
buns are served, and balancing on a stool Lennart delivers an inspired
speech honoring spring. Shortly, flames from the huge bonfire arise toward a
dark sky, and sizzling fireworks display magical patterns high above us.
Yes, spring is finally here –
in earnest after many setbacks. Ågsjön's water ripples in the wind, the sun
is warm and the breeze comfortable. As evening approaches, and the wind
subsides, I rest in the twilight sitting on a partly decomposed rowboat by
the shore. Listening to the silence I sense the relationship with my
ancestors and their darkness. Rejoice! This is our time on earth.
I search the shallow inlets for signs that pike have begun their spawning, but nowhere do I see the slightest movement. The ice stayed a long time this year and the chilly water probably cause pike to perform their mating rituals in deeper water. Too bad – watching the commotion of spawning pike is an event. The majestic Canadian Geese have formed pairs, and are currently busy building their primitive nests. I allow the boat to drift with the wind toward the marsh edge and I am able to get a close look without scaring the birds.
The beaver has been active since the ice released its grip on Vinnar-ån. Nearly extinct in parts of the country, it has recently begun to regain its position in our ecological system. Energetically, it has felled both large and small birches across the stream. A beaver's teeth are really exceptional, one could hardly make a more perfect cut even with hammer and chisel. At Ågsjön the ice cover is still partially intact. I launch my rowboat, which has been stored in the woods. Fishing is out of the question, the space obviously rather limited. But it feels great to once again see open water.
Our rapidly shrinking snow drifts tell you that spring is on the way. A timid deer couple venture into the meadow, carefully tripping along in last year's brown grass. The slightest noise makes them wince and prepare for flight. It is surprising how these slender animals survived the extremely harsh winter we have suffered. The lynx, which previously kept the deer population in check, has obviously moved on. This year we have not even once seen the rounded foot-prints of lynx.
Life among the small birds begins in earnest, and chirping is heard from trees and shrubs. The hardier species, such as Great Tit and Nuthatch, have become accustomed to sitting on the windowsill begging for food. But now the migrants are back, and competition for food and nest sites have increased. A pretty Wagtail pays us a visit, a sure sign of spring, and the avid Spotted Flycatcher is back again. Both quickly make themselves invisible when a falcon, silent as a shadow, hovers over the treetops.
After a few days of rest with Virgina and Tim in Hudson, New Hampshire, it's time to leave the American territory. We had nurtured hope of spending the month of March in Mexico, but we suddenly find that our American visas are soon to expire. Instead of a sunny month in El pueblíto we fly from Boston via Iceland to Stockholm, and after a long wait at Arlanda Airport, finally catch a train to Falun. Marita and Sören meet the train and drive us through a wintry landscape to Vintjärn, where they surprise us with a lovely dinner and a bottle of wine. Thank goodness for sweet and considerate friends! Jörgen, who stayed at our guest cottage during our absence, has made a fire in the stove, making our return warm and comfortable.
We end up in the middle of winter with lots of snow. An occasional unpaid bill and is waiting, of course, but the automatic withdrawals from our bank account has worked well. The days are short, nights are pitch black and the cold is persistent. We stay indoors most of the time, linger in bed mornings, make fires in the stoves, read books, go through unanswered mail and Christmas cards renew our social threads. Bibi becomes a “Knit-Wit” making mittens, socks and scarves by the hour. As for myself, I get started with my fly-tying which has been dormant for three months, order new materials, clean up in the shop - and shovel snow. Home, sweet home!
At dusk we hear our favorite fox barking, and we are delighted to find that he has wintered well. His fur is nice and thick and his look curious and interested. Almost every day, he approaches our house from his lair in the barn, daintily plodding throught the soft snow. He winds across the meadow, stops now and then, listening to sounds, and pokes into the snow. It is a mystery how he can find anything to eat on this barren land. Fox is an omnivore, but lacking small juicy rodents, he can also satisfy his hunger with plant parts.
Apart from the intense traffic which I'll never get used to, Austin is a great city. An unofficial slogan says - "Keep Austin Weird" referring to the liberal and unconventional lifestyle and concern for smaller businesses and unique shops. Austin also does justice to the name "Clear Air City" since you are not allowed to smoke on official sites and in restaurants. The music scene in Austin is multifaceted with a multitude of small clubs where drinks are served while you listen to blues, country/Western, reggae, jazz, swing and rock.
Saturday night at the legendary Broken Spoke, a dance hall for country music enthusiasts. This is where most major artists trod the planks: Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Kitty Wells, Dolly Parton etc. Festive and popular, young and old and a genuine country band. A most enjoyable evening that got even better after we were taught the "Texas two-step." Yeah, we have fun in Austin! Pictured: Left's Broken Spoke owner James White and between Bibi and me his daughter Terri.
Fight Night at Crown Event Center, Austin. From the VIP gallery, we follow a number of cage fights, a brutal form of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), which takes place in a meshed cage. The rules are very generous, and gloves just a minimal protection for the knuckles. Rules permit hitting with fists and elbows, choke holds, kicks - and even hitting a grounded opponent! MMA is esentially an unaesthetic sport, often dramatic and exciting, but without beauty, and lacking an harmonic motion. Boxing, with its strict rules and natural stances lies closer to my heart after my years of amateur boxing.
Walking in the botanical garden, we unexpectedly find ourselves in front of "The Sweden House," a log cabin with an external chimney. We peek in and see a fireplace, spinning wheel, butter churn, cradle – and a pump organ. History: In the mid-1800s Sven Magnus Swensson from the province of Småland, settled in Austin. He prospered well and began organizing emigrant travels for other Swedes eager to leave their impoverished homesteads. Up until about 1910, several thousand Swedes were given a new home in the US thanks to Sven. One wonders how they felt when faced with vast forests of oak, mesquite and cedar as opposed to the familiar fir, pine and birch groves back home. But they became accustomed, established schools, churches, built social networks and even started a Swedish newspaper, “Texasposten". New Sweden is not the only community in Texas where they still celebrate St.Lucia and Midsummer. And ... the airport in Austin is actually called Bergström - but without the dots over the o.
Over the years we have often enjoyed the view of Cheasapeake Bay as we fly to Baltimore. An old and popular song text comes to mind ... beneath the silvery moon, sailing down the Cheasapeake Bay. It's on New Year's Eve that we slowly descend towards the shiny surface of the bay, where 200 years ago a mighty British fleet attacked Washington and burned down the White House and the Capitol. After waiting a good while we receive our luggage and meet up with Ryen who takes us home to Joppa where Mary and the children have waited for our arrival. At midnight the “big ball” is dropped in New York and we wish each other, and friends near and far, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Mary invites us on a tour to an old lighthouse. Turkey Point Light House stands as a giant statue against the blue sea. Through the years the lighthouse was managed by several women. Most notorious Georgiana Brumfield, who spent her entire life at the isolated lighthouse, and who after her mother's death guarded it alone for 24 years. It was far from the nearest village and living off the land was the best solution. A long hike takes us to the lighthouse. The trail winds through a forest with many trees more or less strangled by kudzu (Puerararia lobata), unwelcome immigrant from southern Japan and South-East China.
Taking a hike in Gunpowder Falls State Park we follow the creek, a beautiful rainbow stream of sometimes fast, sometimes slow twists that pull through a landscape of hills overgrown with tall oaks. Dry leaves are crushed under our feet as we unhurriedly push on along the trail.The constant noise of traffic in the distance diminishes as we get farther into the woods, and after half an hour we hear only the wind rustling in the trees and the melodic ripple of water. Little Hannah, curious and enthusiastic, follows in my footsteps like a shadow, obviously enjoying the freedom of an environment without inhibiting traffic and harsh asphalt.
On to Austin! Suddenly it's summer with warm
winds and brilliant sunshine. We install ourselves in Christian's office
apartment on a quiet street, yet centrally located. A short stroll down the
Rio Grande Street takes us to the busy Sixth Street, where clubs and
restaurants are practically door-to-door. Hut's Hamburgers soon becomes our
favourite haunt with its friendly staff, intimate surroundings and the best
burgers we have had so far. Within walking distance we shop at the famous
Whole Foods, with its emphasis on environmentally friendly foods and health
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