Monday, April 01, 2002

The year is recklessly using up its appropriate weather chits. First, New Year's and the tail of the Christmas season were crisp and snowy. Now, Easter weekend has been all balmy and sunny and on the verge of green. I'm worried that the rest of the year is doomed to foul weather.

This is what Sweden reduces one to becoming. A weather obsessive.

At least I don't have to feel guilty about not taking advantage of the blue skies and warm temperatures. The husband and I woke up early Saturday morning, despite having had a grand dinner the night before with the friends from London, and the television producer, and the parents of the friends from London. Well, the parents of the photographer, that is, not the parents of the Wallpaper* editor. It was all food smothered in the olive oil and parmesan cheese we brought back from Lucca, and salami and pecorino from Lucca too, as antipasti.

Aside the parents, and me (who stayed up only until 2 a.m. because I had to work the next day), everyone else was horribly hungover from staying up until 5 a.m. Thursday night talking and drinking vodka - the husband has no brothers, so the photographer and the television producer are his surrogates, whom he doesn't get to see so often. So when they do get together, it's a celebration.

Which all means that we were awfully tired at 7:15 on Saturday morning when we got up to catch the ferry out into the archipelago, groaning all the way, not even trying to look out the filthy windows of the boat, instead reading the paper and sleeping fitfully all the way there.

But when we arrived, it was worth it all.

The husband was suddenly wide awake, and spent the afternoon helping C., the fashion photographer, cut up a fallen tree, rake up the scattered branches and leaves and burn it in a heap, all in a most manly fashion. The husband has always lived in the city and thus finds raking leaves romantic, somehow. I grew up in suburban Chicago and find raking leaves a big fat pain in the ass.

Me, I took my usual walks in the civilized paths through the woods of the island, which seems to have finally let out its breath after holding it in all winter. It hasn't quite relaxed into flower and leaf yet, and the sea is still leaden. But the birds are giddy, a parliament of fowls all talking and laughing over and under each other with no sense of decorum.

This particular little island allows no cars, and there are some two hundred houses or so, but only one year-round inhabitant. The island is crisscrossed with well-laid paths of gravel with functional names like "västväggen" and "mittelväggen" - the west way and the middle way.

There are several great meadows in the middle of the island - now cut to the ground and covered by bleached and straw-colored clumps of dead hay and grass. The meadows are ringed by plots of land with carefully tended green lawns and as many as four small buildings - main houses and guesthouses and boathouses and pavilions and greenhouses and sheds - and gardens with nothing to show for themselves but freshly overturned dirt. I don't much care for these houses.

Further toward the edges of the island are the places I like, the plots of land that are all lichen- and moss-covered granite rock, the houses perched with views to the sea on one side or the other, all looking much less soft and domesticated, a bit tougher, and a lot more expensive no doubt.

After walking round one of the meadows, and then through the path that bisects it, I end up between two rocky outcroppings and then down into a low marshy area now muddy but during the summer is filled with raspberry canes and sea grass and a million buzzing bees. I take the path on up into a shallow wood and up onto lejonklipporna - the lion rocks - and sit, alone, with my feet dangling a few meters above the frigid waters of the Baltic, watching the sun trying and failing to burn the haze from the sea and the surrounding islands.

I find it all such pleasingly digestible nature, and so terribly romantic. Everything a city boy wants from a couple days in the country.

The Swedish phrase for the day is smultronställe. It literally means a place where wild strawberries grow, but is a metaphor for an idyllic spot on earth.

- by Francis S.

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