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|MONTHLY JOURNAL 2011|
The days are short and headlamps are often worn while performing daily chores. The mild weather continues, and there is no snow. Many argue that global warming is the reason for this year's unique weather situation. Bibi packs her essentials to meet with Charlotte in London. After a few days of sightseeing,weather situation. Bibi packs her essentials to meet with Charlotte in London. After a few days of sightseeing, they fly to the U.S., where Bibi will celebrate Christmas and New Year with her children and grandchildren. An abundant snowfall and a thundering storm quickly changes the contours of the landscape. I hastily shovel away the snow at the front door, but will have to wait 3-4 days before the snowplow comes, in order to reach the open road. As silence and midwinter darkness settle over Janisgården - I go into hibernation.
On long, dark and frosty winter nights my focus is on reading. At the small but well-stocked library in Svärdsjö, librarian Monica Andersson reigns over her kingdom of neat running meters of fiction, detective stories, trade books, newspapers and children's books. The library is an asset for the entire district, especially since Monica happily grants space for exhibitions with a local touch, such as works from students' art courses, photo exhibits and information on municipal projects. An exhibit which attracted many focused on the highly controversial expansion of wind power in Svartnäs area. The library is open Monday - Thursday at odd hours.
Since Bibi is away, and a nighttime storm ripped down my telephone line, the holiday season is extra quiet. No Christmas presents were bought, but I share a barbecued chicken with my favorite fox who, dressed in a magnificent winter coat, dared to come up to the house. My skis, leaned against the porch banister, are waiting for action, but the daytime temperature remains stubbornly close to zero, and is no good for skiing. Instead I light a fire, sink into my armchair with "The Tenderness of Wolves" by the Scottish author Stef Penney. A gift from Virginia and her husband Tim. When after a few hours I put the book aside, a fiery sunset announces the end of another day.
The yearly moose hunt is over, the lookouts are abandoned and the fall mists drift through a desolate forest. But certain days, in this wounderful, warm month, the clouds are suddenly ripped apart, the sun peeks through and gives lustre to nature's soft colorscale. One clear moonlit night, with a sparkling starry sky and frost like a white mat on the ground our local wolfpack howl in unison from a slope just beyond our house. A many-voiced sound which causes the air to vibrate and the woods to hold its breath. I enjoy this experience, taking me back to numerous wolf stories I have heard. For a balanced summary of the wolf situation in Sweden I recommend Henrik Ekman's book "Vargen- den jagade jägaren" (The Wulf - a hunted hunter).
With a certain effort we hack our way through last night's ice over, bringing our punt to open water. The weather is still clement, even though November is almost over. We go ashore on one of the small islands, and in a small glade between the pines, enjoy our thermos coffee. Bibi finds the last golden chantarelle of the year, frozen stiff, enthroned on a bed of moss. As daylight begins to wane, and the winter twilight colors the water pitch black, we make a short round along the shores. Somewhat halfheartedly I fish a shining yellow streamer in the shallow water. No luck, so instead we land the punt and turn it over for the winter, a sad procedure and a reminder of the flight of time...
A trip to one of my favourite waters is a
yearly tradition. With the belly-boat on my back I make my way through the
forest and find the tarn solemnly still, without even a trace of wind. A
weil of mist drapes the bank vegetation and the silence is monumental.
Slowly I float out on the mystic, dark water, careful not to stir the smooth
surface. It turns out to be a good day for fishing. The pike, with dark
backs and bright yellow bellies, attack with force and brutality. The
largest pike of the day suddenly comes forth through brown reeds grabbing my
streamer, a "Pink Blonde" on a barbless hook. I take a picture, carefully
remove the hook and release the fish.
The ever recurring chore of keeping the property in shape is here once again. The grass grows knee high, and bushes and young trees press in from the surroundings like an army on the march. With willing help from Håkan and his tractor we clear the whole meadow, remove lots of new trees and take down a couple of birches grown too tall. When all the grass is collected, branches and bushes pulled forward, we gather it all into a large pile for burning. A sprinkle of rain, followed by strong winds, sweep in from the west making it hard to get the fire started. A couple of deer, attracted by the riot, curiously watch from the surrounding forest.
The stink bug belongs to the Heteroptera family, in our country divided into approx. 530 species. It is a landbased insect, but of special interest to flyfishers during late summer and autumn because of its fatal inclination to fall into the water when the air gets cooler. My version of the stink bug is a silhuette-fly made of cork or balsa wood, black or olive, with a hackle cut flat underneath. The flourescent dot signals to the fisherman the location of the fly. As the rainbow trout slowly patrols the grassy edges, a delicately handled stink bug may be a good choice. The stomach of the fish is at times completely stuffed with these smelly insects.
Lilioceris lilii, a beetle stiff with cold, beautifully laquered in a red chitin armour, aimlessly making its way through frost-nipped grass. After feasting on stems, leaves, buds and flowers during the summer, it will soon bed down in the earth and wait for spring. High time also for the bear to look around for a suitable spot to pass the winter. Just 100 meters from our house we find last winter's lair, probably left by the lone male spotted near our place last spring. The bedding is simple – a tree stump, partly dug out by powerful paws, and soft moss scratched together from the surrounding area.
On a beautiful morning at the end of the month we can hear the characteristic sound of cranes in flight, a sure sign that fall is here. The wide-winged birds head south in a perfect plow, quite in tune with the aerodynamic laws. In a few days they will pass the Mediterranean Sea, eventually landing somewhere in Tunisia. The summer's hatch of young are along on this trying journey, for the first time seriously testing their youthful powers. A journey which hopefully will be followed by many more, since cranes have a relatively long life.
We welcome Peter J, who arrives equipped with paintbox and brushes. Very timely, Ina Almegård exhibits her pictures at Kyrkbyn. Ina specializes in water colors and graphic arts. Although she now lives in Stockholm, her heart remains at Svartnäs where she grew up at the parsonage. Her pictures, wonderfully detailed and pleasingly naive, have a barren and melancholic quality which speaks to the viewer. On our wall hangs the lithograph "Drömmen" (The Dream) where, beneath a pale and wintry moon, a stylized wolf looks out across miles of forest. I have always loved her pictures.
The forest is generous this year. Chantarelle mushrooms shoot up amazingly fast and are more abundant than ever. Elisabeth visits us for a few days and together we tour the Finnmark through Åmot to Ockelbo and Wij Trädgårdar for the first time. We stroll through the beautiful park, enjoy the extensive handicraft exhibition, have a cup of coffe and chat with the very talented artist Tony Warren in his studio in an old building on the premises. On our way home through Svartnäs the smell of tar wafts from the constantly smoking charcoal kiln near the stream.
I stroll along the small Tuv-ån (a stream). It's a beautiful evening with no wind, the forest is perfectly still and the purling of water enhances the solitude into something almost sacred. Occasionally I spot rises on small, mirror-like pools up ahead. The terrain is cumbersome and standing in almost waist-high grass, makes casting difficult, but the trout confidently grab my white-winged Rednecks, whenever the fly lands correctly. In contrast to the dark trout in other forest streams, these fish are light-colored. Large, in relationship to their limited space.
An Indian museum in the woods near lake
Ryssjön between Vintjärn and Svartnäs? Without a doubt an odd addition to
our rural culture. The originators, Per and Anna Skye have, as a result of
their knowledge and profound interest in the Indian culture, built a fine
museum next to their house, once an old railway station. Per guides us
through the building and we are fascinated by all the photos, authentic
costumes, stuffed animals and items which in various ways reflect the life
of the American Indians. Here you can also buy indian jewelry, pearl
embroideries, dream catchers, etc.
Beautiful Karlstad and Sandgrundsudden are this year once again the place for the celebration of June 6, our national holiday. Festive and popular, and with the formal delivery of Swedish citizenship for new Swedes, impressive singing by the Manheim choir and delightful music by Sinfoniettan. A stroll along the glittering Klarälven takes us to Östra Bron. An eye-catcher with its 12 harmonically rounded granite arches. After this sojourn in Värmland it is time for another yearly event, that of stocking our stream, Borgärdes-strömmen, with trout. We distribute lots of small fry, but also a number of larger fish which we hope will accept the environment.
It is my conviction that streamer-flies with eyes of glass beads are particularly attractive to fish. I am not the only one holding this opinion. Just a couple of days ago I read a few lines by the nestor Olle Törnblom, where he maintains that the streamer with eyes of beads no doubt catches more fish. Beads of various sizes and colors are found in a regular hobby shop. The eye appears extra illusory when you fasten the beads in pairs using Amnesia-line. At the same time the central gravity of the fly is moved forward, this also give a positive effect.
The month of May begins with a
heavy snowfall, which in just a couple of hours wraps the grounds in a thick
white blanket, and disappears almost as quickly. For three or four days in a
row the sun blazes and the more the temperature rises, the higher the
lizards climb our south wall. Innumerable anemones force their way through
last year's brown grass and spread across the meadow like airy clouds.
Stefan's cat, a salt-and-pepper miniature tiger, steals down the slope
hunting for mice and birds in this jungle of anemones.
Just a couple of days after the end of the pikes' spawning, we launch our punt. The pike, hungry after the tiresome spawn, hunt for perch in shallow water. On a Blonde-variant I catch several pike, and am able to cast directly at "rises" when I see where the hunt is on. Last summer I started making a simplified pike leader, which I find works perfectly well. At the end of the season I sold a few of those to contented customers. At least I have not received any negative commentaries yet.
Our local wolfpack counting five or six individuals, have during the past winter had their haunt near Ågsjön and around Erk-Hans Tjärn. On a slope near Stugtjärns-vägen, the flock has killed a moose calf. I am surprised at how thoroughly they have eaten everything. Bones, skin and entrails – all except the contens of the latter. The shag covers the ground like a rug, of the skin there is no trace.... A wolf is supposed to get by on about two kilos of meat per day, but may on occasion, through its fast digestion, consume far more.
During a couple of days with
Hans and Elisabeth in Solna we catch up on lost sleep before catching the
train which takes us through a wintry landscape to Falun. Gunvor meets up in
Svärdsjö and drives us on our last leg to Vintjärn. Suddenly we find
ourselves plodding waist-deep in a sea of snow. It will take us 3-4 days to
clear the snow drifts and make way to houses, outhouses, well, and garage.
After three months away it feels wonderful to be home again, light a
birchwood fire and relax in the favorite chair with an old detective story.
Who killed Mrs Barton with a glass of champagne spiked with cyanide, I have
long since forgotten.
A sudden, almost unique, heat wave at mid-month reduces the snow cover at record speed. Bulbs that Bibi planted last fall shoot up like small Polaris missiles. On my nearby trout-stream the ice melts in just a couple of days, and the liberated water rushes clamouring and with great haste towards the lake. News from USA – both glad and sad, causes Bibi to hastily pack her bags and head back across the Atlantic. As for myself, I dutifully dedicate myself to the flytying business.
From my viewpoint on the hill I see how the
birches slowly take on that particular purple-tone which precedes leafing.
Down in the valley the cranes are trumpeting and as days go by, lesser birds
are heard more frequently. Yes, spring is on the way, indeed! But at the end
of April comes the expected draw-back. A bitter wind sweeps through the
forest and as we gather by the bonfire on Valpurgis Night we are bundled up
for the North Pole. But we all bravely strike up "Vintern rasat
ut......"cheering the coming of spring, shoot off fire works against the
grey sky, and dream of blue waters and green leaves.
We accompany the “criada” to
her village in the mountains, a four-hour bus tour through deep valleys and
along steep mountain-sides. The village is called El Lobo (the wolf) and as
we get off at the village square we look out across the dry high plateau
where the air vibrates from heat. Up until the fifties there was a large
“hacienda” with great cultivated fields offering employment to the
villagers. From the years of glory stands the castle-like building,
abandoned fruit trees, decaying woodwork, cracked walls – and a flock of
shimmering peacocks, which screeching flee as we approach. A family of ten
show us around, and in the evening they offer a simple but tasty meal of
chopped cactus leaves cooked with potatoes. A drapery serves as door, and
the floor is earthen. Our dinner conversation mainly concerns the weather
and the local lack of employment. Our Mexican friends look forward to the
rainy season when the dry earth is covered with green, while at home we long
for the snow to melt.
A few days later we decide to
start the long journey home. As we step into the bus in Querétaro, we have
before us 20 hours of travel to Texas. After ten dark hours we cross Rio
Grande at dawn. The border crossing becomes unnecessarily long and tedious,
but gives us a chance to stretch our leaden legs. After a daytime journey we
arrive in Austin, where we spend a comfortable week in Chritian's downtown
office building. During a stroll in one of Austin's parks we come across a
small, weatherbeaten log cabin with the sign "Swedish house". A reminder of
the Swedish emigration to Texas at the end of the 19th century. Peeking
through the dusty window we can see old objects, a few utensils and a loom.
It's time for occasional emigrants like ourselves to return to the old
Frost Bank Building catches the eye wherever
you are in Austin. This skyscraper, until a few years ago the city's
tallest, is an architectoral marvel, at night like a enormous owl-face
hovering high above the city lights. We call the building "Batman's Tower".
One early morning we catch a flight to Boston from Bergstrom Airport. We
make a short stop at Baltimore where Mary surprisingly appears to greet us.
After a few days in Boston with Virginia and Tim, we slumber on Icelandair
across the Atlantic to Keflavik, Europe's most beautiful airport. A little
hungry, we purchase a chocolate bar for 1200 Icelandic krónur in the
shopping hall before bordering the plane for Arlanda. Talk about inflation!
According to myth the two
volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl were once lovers. While the hero
Popocatépetl was on a military expedition a false rumour that he had been
killed reached Iztaccíhuatl, at which she died of a broken heart. The
homecoming warrior carried his loved one to a secluded place and has ever
since watched over her lifeless body. Occasionally one may see Popocatépetl
emit a puff of smoke – a sign that he is still on guard.
The bullfighting season is just about over. The very last "corrída" at Plaza de Toros Santa Maria fills the seats from the "barrera" and up to the ceiling. My companion is Mariana Bonilla, an "aficionada" who once had the ambition to master the art herself. Diego Ventura and three additional "rejoneadores" compete for the favor of the enthusiastic crowd. The horses are beautiful and the horsemen extremely skillful, but personally I prefer the classic bullfight with roots in a two hundred year old Spanish tradition.
Bernal, several miles southeast of El
Pueblíto, makes for a popular outing. Like a coarse forefinger La Peña
sticks up warning climbers of the hazards in mounting the cliff. A few years
ago we made our way to the shelf where the climbers on have to negotiate an
almost vertical face. Right there someone has put up a small shrine in
memory of those who met a violent death against the rough cliffs below. It
is said that there are adequate grips for both hands and feet on the way to
the top. We gaze upwards, but...no!
Christmas celebration with the
Hennighausens' is over, and we are suddenly hit by a blizzard. We are almost
swept off our feet by a howling wind. The city, free from snow in the
morning, is within a few hours transformed into a chaos of snow drifts, and
traffic practically at a stand-still. A draft-free window seat is the best
spot to watch the turmoil. In the morning we take out shovels to clear the
snow from the sidewalk. A couple of men across the street exchange
meaningful looks when they see me grab the shovel. They should only know how
much snow I shoveled in my day! The weather is variable. Just three days
later the temperatures rise to +18C, and melt-water runs in the gutter.
We celebrate New Year's Eve at
the legendary “CHEERS”. An icy wind sweeps along Beacon Street, but well
inside the temperature is high. Of course, I miss Norm and his friend, the
philosophically inclined postman, but in the noisy atmosphere it would have
been impossible to maintain a normal conversation anyway. In Sweden the
midnight hour is long passed, when we meet the new year with
Charlotte,Virginia and Tim and their just a week old Lydia Marie. With the
night, as a dark wall outside frosty windows, we raise our glasses and wish
all friends, far and near, a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
A fast transport by air and we are in Baltimore, where we visit Mary and Ryen and their three children. The snow follows us. Barely have we moved in when we experience yet another heavy snowfall and shortly thereafter an ice-storm. Due to the slippery roads some schools and work places close for a couple of days. One day Mary takes us for a short trip. After lunch at IKEA, where 17(!) meatballs is considered a normal serving, we drive out into the country and pass Gunpowder Creek, well known for excellent rainbow trout fishing. We cross the stream on a covered bridge, once quite common in rural America.
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