Christmas trees

It's 6:37 on a chilly December morning and I can hear the logging machines working away in the distance. They've been a constant growl and hum in the background for two weeks and I have been afraid to walk in that direction and see what beautiful part of our neighborhood they've stripped. What is the sudden fixation with logging out my favourite places to walk?

On the note of cutting down trees, I have been thinking about where we can go find and cut the perfect little pine tree for our teeny-tiny living room. That kind of tree-cutting is okay, I guess. What a hypocrite I am!


goodbye, beautiful trees

Returned to Sweden after a month away, to rather intense autumn sunshine, blowing leaves finding their way through the house -- stuck on our socks and clinging to our hair -- and that certain smell of fall. I'd thought I'd miss it, but that was stupid of me because the rain doesn't usually start for a few more weeks yet. The season for writing is coming -- I have ideas up my sleeve and a storyboard already started.

We returned to our life here in this little village, seemingly dropping out of fifth gear into second or first. From fast-food on every corner to one tiny corner store in the whole village. I have taken a "relaxed" approach to jet-lag, and it's afforded me the ability to half finish a decently extensive biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which I am thoroughly enjoying and wanting to recommend to certain friends.

There was an unpleasant aspect to our return, something that I had not anticipated and shocked me, although I am not really a tree-hugger type (although since moving to Sweden I certainly recycle significantly more than I ever have and was unnerved at what gets thrown away in Canada.) Max and I went for a walk up a path we often take and as I pushed him up the hill we enjoyed the sunshine and smells and the general autumnal aura (lame-sounding but true -- I have a brain-itch right now that keeps running the word "autumnal" over and over.) As we crested the hill and turned the corner where the small  road curves north, I finally looked up into the distance and was so shocked I gasped. Someone and something had clear-cut a large chunk of the forest and left one of it's most beautiful spots -- where the road starts sloping down and there's nothing but fir and pine on the hillside and thick bright-green moss and stones on the ground and it's quiet and cool and dark). Now thanks to Berg's forestry company, it's a lumpy, scarred, nearly-bald hill, roots and stumps and fir branches left piled and wasted, and the smell of freshly cut timber overpowering. I was stunned and angry. It was the first time I have really understood the emotion behind the people who chain themselves to trees and do rather silly things in protection of the forest. I felt so sad walking up to this great, barren, desecrated scape that used to feel like a sanctuary. I wanted to write Berg's a nasty and childish note on their pile of money that smelled like fir. I didn't, of course, probably some young man with a family running the machinery. But I felt sad, and a tad betrayed, although that is ridiculous, but how could this happen while I was gone? I don't think I will want to walk up there again for awhile.


she's back

Is it possible that the last I have felt the creative energy to write was spring? Spring! Summer! And still, by the calendar, yet summer, but the night chill, damp, and falling leaves say an early fall is here and summer is nearly forgotten. How is it possible that time can move so quickly? Only yesterday I was dreaming my dreams of the garden future, and watching Max take his first curious steps out-of-doors. Now, he is running (his funny baby-run) to pick up half-rotten fallen apples and happily declare them to be "pear!" My writing energy was simply replaced by the desire to be outside as much as weather allowed. That, and although we have an excellent, large, functional "new" corner desk/cupboard, it has all the warmth, welcome, and appeal of working in a giant cardboard box. A box with a chair, both of which are ergonomic travesties. Are blogs made for blogging? Yes. They are. Are they also meant for sitting, unfermented but getting old by the moment, hardly read and rarely visited? Yes, that too. 
So now as I am already staring somewhat despondently down that dark hole of Swedish autumn-winter, the writing desire returns. Ah, finally tapping into that famed Swedish artistic despondency!


The mornings are coming earlier. Bird chatter infiltrate my dreams long before six. (I think it became part of the dream, but I can't be certain.) Awake now for some moments of solitude, hoping it bolsters patience and sense of capability for the rest of the day. 

Thinking of the lyrics of a Faunts song. 
"It's time to find out how far this loyalty will take me." 
(Loyalty, responsibility, obedience, love.) 


hoped for

A 6:30 orange-pink sunrise paired with down time before the day begins. I am thinking about the days in June where the sun rises before five and sets well after eleven, and even then it's never really dark. Late-winter-early spring seems to me more about anticipation than anything. People say things like, "I am longing for spring," and "oh, how nice with the sunshine!" (It's more emphatic and joyous in Swedish.)

My anticipation factor is through the roof, at the moment. I can barely make myself stay indoors to get important things don, like food and house chores. I have a million plans and I will be lucky to see ten come to reality, but my inspiration notebook is filling quickly and the ideas aren't evaporating.

Things I am anticipating this spring:

Garden planting. Corn must be seeded inside in the next few weeks. New raised garden plot (and what will be a pumpkin patch) must be build and laid. That nasty red ant hill must be moved. New plum tree holes dug and prepared. Amongst other things.

Spring high teas. The first one is set in early April. I am unapologetically skipping completely the Swedish coffee, partly as a non-sensical personal 'take that' for all the times I have yearned for someone to offer a real cup of tea. Planning for: sandwiches (cucumber and alfalfa, egg and herb, chicken and curry) lemon squares with meringue, scones with mock Devonshire and jam, lemonade and honey.

Guests. My mom and dad visiting Sweden (again! bless them) around Max's first birthday. My cousin visiting around the beginning of summer.

Trips. Weekend in Stockholm in May, with my parents and Max. Our hotel is on the water in the centre, and a short walk from the old town. I have been looking forward to it since we booked it for a song and a dance in February.

Birthdays. Max is turning one year old in April. I am looking forward to making and eating my first "pancake cake", after a classic Swedish children's book in which the two main characters layer Swedish crepe-style pancakes, whipped cream, jam and fruit into a delicious stack. (Hm, this makes it appear as though Max's birthday is only about my selfish anticipation of good food!)

This anticipation list could go on for a long time. Briefly, a few more? Apple blossoms (with the hopes of delivering a branch to an elderly friend who doesn't get out much.) Picnics and visits to my favourite country cafe. Drying the laundry out-of-doors. No more fire building or telling Max to stop eating the firewood. And spontaneously meeting neighbors and friends on walks or in the gardens.


late winter afternoon

Sitting at a kitchen table spread with: papers with notes and scribbles from a writing project, opened bills, exterior house paint samples, Bibles and other books, credit card, dirty paper towel from Max's last face-wipe, water glasses, telephone, overflowing fruit bowl, pens, scarf, and a letter from the Swedish transportation department notifying me that I am now eligible for driving övningskör (learner driver).

As I have sat here, reading and typing, Martin has progressively fed Max a mash of fish and vegetables, then smörgåsrån with liver paste, followed by banana. He sits in his blue plastic high chair and awkwardly (yet capably, for a ten-month-old) operates a spoon with both left and right hand, dashing it into  both bowl and plate and growing angry if we dare presume to remove either tool from his grasp.

His first words are distinctly Swedish. It's still a bit strange to me. Titta. Look. And when handed food, tack tack. Thanks thanks. It's stranger still that the previously incomprehensible sounds of Swedish have become comprehensible words and meanings. The strangest yet is hearing and understanding Norwegian on television.

Thinking on these things and sitting here on a late winter's afternoon, warmed by the cozy chaos of family life, insulated from the fresh, heavy dump of snow we received this morning. (The snow ruined my hopes for pruning and wood cutting work, and building that raised bed for my pumpkins. But it also afforded a short snow-ball fight while Max was sleeping.)

Now for eating left-overs scrounged from the fridge and lying on the living room carpet for baby wrestling.


sweet sun

Shocking that a month has passed since my last post. If nothing is happening here, assuredly much is happening elsewhere. Those days have been filled with that stuff of life that seems hardly mentionable here. Things like working long hours, suffering through tooth ache and root canal, and stomach flu around the whole family.

Then there are things that are probably more mentionable, like Max beginning to walk. I have never watched a human being learn to walk before. It's totally fascinating and wonderful. I can't help but cheer.

The winter "cabin fever" that seemed to be pulling me under is subsiding with the glorious return of the sun. In just a couple short months we've gone from the notorious dark Swedish winter to the famed Swedish sunlight, the dawn beginning earlier than six, and the evenings filled with light. It's 7:26 a.m. and that glorious golden globe is beaming it's orangish pink light right in the kitchen window, while I am thinking about gardening and what seeds I will order online today.

Planning for this year so far: Several kinds of onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, lettuces, corn, pumpkins, herbs aplenty and hoping that we can get ourselves together to plant two plum trees.

Must do more reading and I hear Max a-calling.



Recently finished reading The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, by Canadian writer Tim Challies. Good enough in many ways that I wanted to reread it immediately after finishing. I initially picked it up and wanted to read it because I liked the idea of talking about spiritual discernment as a discipline and not as a randomly imparted and somewhat nebulous (read: spooky) "gift". Shortly into it I realized I was one of the people with wrong thinking on the subject, which Challies points out early on. (To clarify, as I read, my naive reasons for picking up the book in the first place were both justified and exposed as ignorant.)

An excellent and straightforward book that challenged me in numerous areas, and laid out thoughts on some very foundational matters in which I had wrong thinking. (In some ways this was a surprise to me, that I was errant and immature in some of the matters he discusses. In some ways not.) As he describes the way many Christians think and act within our culture, I see how much a product I am of my generation. And not very often "thinking Christianly".

"We live in an age where too many who profess to be Christian rarely consider their spiritual maturity -- an age when many consider spiritual immaturity a mark of authenticity, and when people associate doubt with humility and assurance with pride. Far too many people consider sound theology the mark of a person who is argumentative and proud."

I definitely relate to this 'generation' of Christians who, although I say at the outset that I believe in teaching and growing Christians from the Word, that I generally emotionally separate myself from those who would go on about "sound theology" and emotionally attach myself to those who would associate doubt and unbelief with humility.

But I wasn't intending to write long on the matter -- suffice to say I would recommend the book. You can read more from Tim Challies (he's a prolific blogger) at www.challies.com.



Ask Max for a kiss, and he'll open his mouth and stick his little tongue out as if tentatively tasting an ice cream or other delight. He'll lean his perfectly shaped, downy little head towards yours and gently press his sweet face into yours. He never closes his mouth and you always end up a bit slobbery, but it makes me want to cry and laugh and be speechless with overwhelming emotion.


the work of the heart

I can't help but think of Ecclesiastes, somehow. Not directly but more the feeling that none of these daily efforts matter if my heart's not in the working. Or does it? Does "going through the motion" still mean I am faithful to my responsibilities and commitments, and therefore obedient, and isn't there joy in submission?

I am not so old but old enough. Is it one of life's great lessons --  that final understanding what true striving constitutes? Where things and adventures aren't just rolling off in front of you and distractions don't suffice? Seeing the truth and reality of how actions and words and workings of the heart change can ruin someone or build him, embolden or crush, help him grow or leave him in wasteful sedation.  The workings of your heart can alter someone terribly and make him give up hope -- make him ambivalent. And it can bring vibrancy, contagious joy (the joy I mean that understands pain) and goodness. It can bring intimate and enviable friendships, long and good marriages, stable and loving children.

A real work of the heart requires more than simply putting one foot in front of the other. But how can the work  -- the transformation -- begin without those steps taken out of love and duty and responsibility and a desire to fulfill my commitment, my promise?



Ironically I don't have time to further expand on the below excerpt.

"Before the motorcar existed, people travelled on foot and at a speed of 5-15 kph. We function best at that speed. Our perceptive and reactive capabilities enable us to avoid collisions with other people and obastacles. If, contrary to all expectations, an accident should occur, the consequent injuries will not be very serious.

In today's society we travel at much higher speeds. The time we have to detect others, interpret information, and take decisions is very much shorter. If we make a mistake and an accident occurs resulting in a dead stop, we get hurt."

Körkortsboken, in English



/for now we see in a mirror dimly/
(we can't see our true selves)
(the picture's never really clear: foggy, distorted)

/but then face to face/
(as a man speaks to a friend)

/now i know in part/
(it's in some way a relief: not expected to know more)

/but then i shall know fully/
(sweet assurance: i have only sampled the feast)
(when it's hard to swallow: clumpy, dry, strange: it's only a foretaste)

/even as i have been fully known/
(i cannot see, yet i'm seen)
(my vision is weak but
we've been needing glasses since the dawn of time)

/i corinthians 13:12/