a good, good end

It's morning and I debated staying in bed to avoid the inevitable: an empty house. Not that I don't enjoy being alone, but today, the first day my brother wasn't around after a month, seemed so painfully quiet and sad. I did get up, and push aside thoughts with laundry and cleaning, but... I seem to get headaches when I stuff emotions or stress. Quite severe headaches, which I find interesting. A physical rebellion against an unhealthy practice of emotion-stuffing... It seems today even Sweden is mourning his departure -- after over a week of solid 20-30 degree days and sunshine, the clouds cover and the insects come out to feast.

I suppose most siblings love one another, more or less, in that inexplicable relationship of siblinghood. Jordan and I must be on the more side, because even after a month of hanging about one another almost every waking minute, I wasn't ready to say goodbye. (It's possible he was but I didn't ask.) As we've worked together on the deck, relaxed, conversed, cooked and laughed often, I have felt the burden of time, marching continually towards the goodbye at the Nassjö train station. This goodbye -- moreso than the last, when we were heading off to Sweden with the future before us -- felt so... permanent. A spoonful of the medicine I chose to drink, inevitable goodbyes. I thought about culture shock, I thought about homesickness and missing family and friends, I thought about long distances and expensive travel, but I never thought of how it will be to say goodbye again and again, with a finality of not knowing when we will see one another, that life will continue on different parts of the world separately.

But how grateful am I to share life together for a month. To see my familial ties and shared characteristics in a new way. Even to simply physically look like someone! Having him here was some moments like having a host of others here as well. His strong Slavic features so like mine, his stand-up hair like Uncle Tim's, the crinkles around his eyes when he smiles, so like our mother. How he spoke and gave instructions so like our father. And in all of that he is completely his own, which is wonderful and fascinating. How we carry the traits of our parents and grandparents and remain completely individual is really quite remarkable.

I have thought of my mother in the past weeks, how grieved she was to say goodbye the last, in the sterile airport hallway, as we wept before the voyeurism of other travelers queuing for security. I had the youthful naivete of adventure and future to buoy me. She knew something deeper, more significant was taking place than I had yet to understand and am just now realizing...

Things can't simply be undone or redone as we fancy. And we know this, but live subconsciously as it's possible, that if I should need to reverse my decision to move and return to the good of things as they once were, I could. (But not sacrificing the good of things as they are now, or lessons learned, or treasures appreciated.)

In the last weeks I came to a moment of clarity. All the change and uncertainty we experience, not just beginning uncertainty, getting all you thought you dreamt of, but end uncertainty; the hopelessness of the weakness, limitation, and shortness of human life, getting old, getting poor, getting lonely, disappointed or heartbroken. In that, the only consistent goodness, the only unchangingness is God. Always the same in character and in relationship. Not impeded by time or distance. Always the I am. I am past, I am future, I am present. This is hope and solace.


midsummer, mullets and midges

It's 10 p.m. and the evening has cooled and paled, the sky the gray-blue color it stays all night. Midsummer in Sweden is close to magical -- for me, anyways. Short, never-dark nights. Four a.m. sunrises. A racket of birds, smaller ones shrieking and dive-bombing a crow skulking about their nest. Wild lupine everywhere, purple and pink mostly. Green -- rich, bright, bold or dark -- so much lush growth the air is thick and fragrant with it in the morning.

Not everything is perfect mid-summer. The biting midges are horrible little things, near-invisible as they saw into you and leave red welts. My brother has 60 such welts on one leg. I watched him count them. You can feel them on you but are helpless to fight them off, as they are so small they sneak under clothing and under hair lines. Jordan said: "For such small things they are heavy walkers." I laughed.

We spent the eve of midsummer in traditional fashion. With family, attended the midsummer celebration and dancing around a pole and wreaths of wild flowers and forest greens. Ate delicious "classic midsummer" torte of cake, custard, cream and whole strawberries, an offering of my mother-in-law Lisbeth.

The evening of mid-summer I won't quickly forget. A rain storm passed, Martin, Jordan, two German friends and I arrived at the edge of a lake -- fog at its edges, still and silent until we arrive. We build a good, hot fire, drank hot chocolate and sent off a considerable amount of fireworks. (Jordan had a near miss with a rather large firework, unstable and ill-fired, turned 180 and torpedoed him directly in the leg. He jumped and ran as we shouted in fear; all's well that ends well. His leg is still attached.)

Past midnight we psyched each other up to go for a swim. Admittedly I didn't swim much, the cold was shocking but moreso in the dimness and calmness I could only think of swimming with the 10+ kilo pike we were fishing for the week before. Those double rows of teeth and I thought of them paddling for the ladder on the dock.

After midsummer I gave Martin his first haircut. My first time cutting someone's hair. Our marriage withstood the pressure, thank goodness. I gave him a bit of a mullet, I think. And I like it. Maybe its my red-neck roots showing through.


a knot of cool damp hair

Overlooking a twilight garden on the eve of Swedish midsummer. Listening to my brother sing and play Ben Harper's waiting on angels, wondering how he got so darn good in just a year. The bun of wet hair, fresh from the shower, soaks the back of my t-shirt and I think of my father saying "my back is cold -- it's damp". I hate a cold back. I mowed the lawn tonight and the smell of fresh-cut grass was too appealing. I threw the bathroom window open and showered with the coolness of evening air, overlooking my handiwork. Grateful and amazed with this place; here I can shower with a wide open window and not a soul about. It's the same feeling as when I am hanging our laundry to dry, bras and panties and boxers, looking over to see my neighbors' skivvies blowing in the breeze and I love this place.


burst forth

It's becoming humorous -- almost -- how sporadically I post. My conclusion is that although I enjoy writing I have never, ever been diligent with writing in journals. If I ever have written in a journal, when I go back to read the few entries I managed, I am mildly embarrassed. 

It's a Friday on a week of rain, rain, rain, following a previous week of rain. In the not-raining moments, my brother and I, (Jordan is here for the month of June) have managed to dig and pour concrete pilings for a deck we are planning to build. We have the wood purchased and a plan in place, so as the rain stops we are ready to rock. It's going to be a beaut of a deck once finished.

Jordan has been here for just about two weeks now, and at times I feel like a kid on summer holidays, kicking back with "nothing to do". The first day he was here was unseasonably hot, and we walked through the forest to a nearby lake to scope fishing spots, then to the river in our village, where we sat on the little dock with our feet in the water. We watched for surfacing trout and my joy was unspeakable... He is sleeping in our "new" little guesthouse -- a one-room cedar-lined cottage in our back garden. We bought it and had it craned from it's former location to our place (quite the drama in our quiet little village), and worked like the Dickens to get it painted and spruced up for habitation. It's simple -- it will have electricity, but no running water -- but it's an extra room and a cute, fun little place to use in the summer. All are welcome, and we will gladly give you our bedroom and move out to the guesthouse if you prefer to sleep nearer the toilet. Although if you are a dude feel free to tinkle out back by the barn. We are country folk now, after all. 

With the passing of spring to early summer school ended. It was difficult to say goodbye to friends and good to start a new chapter. The school environment was too closed for me, too cloistered. It's difficult to explain in a short way. It was a good and helpful thing to do my first year in Sweden, and was a safe cushion on which to bounce when struggling with language and loneliness and other things. Looking back I can also see God's intention to drive me to a place where I would see him and myself in a eye-opening way. I also did meet some wonderful people. Many have returned to their homes now. Although few will live close to me, some will only be as far as a short plane ride to Germany, and that gives me comfort.

These days, I am enjoying spending time with my brother, then in July my parents and grandma will visit for two weeks. We will be going for a few days to Kracow, Poland. (My great-grandmother was born in Poland, and my Dad is our in-house WWII expert, so visiting Auschwitz will be gripping.) We are staying in a hostel which I hope will be an interesting, fun adventure. (I don't know how many people cart their visiting grandmothers off to unknown hostels, but hey!)

After my parents leave, which I can't bear to think of, Martin and I are going to go to Prague for a short getaway together. It's one of my "dream" cities meaning there are only a couple of cities in the world I actually desire to go to. Prague being one. St. Petersburg being the other. (And if I was lucky enough to visit some dear friends -- Seoul, Korea. Hyon Joo and Jihae; it's been too long.) 

The rain has stopped and the trees are drip-dripping. Possible we can get some work done today. Although it's good be sitting inside with my brother, drinking tea, reading and discussing the six months of National Geographics my mom packed in his suitcase.

And the forest smells unbelievably delicious after rain.

He is good, all the time.