Snark Hunting

Today I went to Hasselblad Center to have a look at the Ishiuchi Miyako exhibition "The Fabric of Photography". I very much liked her illustration of time as wrinkled hands. Some day I'll do a black-and-white series too.

I couldn't resist browsing through the books in the souvenir shop. Because of the celebration of the birth of Tove Jansson 100 years ago, there was a section with books written and/or illustrated by her. A thin and pale hardcover caught my eye: The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll. Apparently Tove was commissioned to illustrate a Swedish edition of this book in 1959, but it was forgotten for more than fifty years.

I stood there for more than a minute with the book in my hands, indecisive. It wasn't expensive, so I could easily have bought the book for myself. Especially since I could justify such an extravagance by claiming I deserved it since I have been ill. Still am. Finally, I put it down.

I wanted the book. Still do. However, I realised that I wanted it to be a true gift. From somebody who knows how much I adore English literature, that I read heaps of it and feel a bit embarrassed about how few Swedish authors I'm acquainted with (especially the contemporary ones). Who recognises I have a background in ICT and that I'm obsessed with metaphors and thus should enjoy Lewis Carroll. Who appreciates my weakness for Nordic design and have seen my coasters depicting Moomin running through the dark and scary woods. And knows what went through my mind when I bought them, or at least was concerned enough to ask. Who sees that when I'm close to tears I play the CD with the music from the Lewis TV series, since the oboe seems to have a soothing effect on me. And who understands that the connection between the book and the TV series is not the name Lewis, but that one of the TV episodes, The Soul of Genius, was about "The Hunting of the Snark". And who remembers that, although I do like Oxford, I simply love Cambridge.
From Pilane 2011
I suppose I'm also looking for the snark. But I'm done hunting.



After a month of more than 50 shades of grey, we finally had some sun today. And thus also frost. I hope the garlic and the Jerusalem artichoke I planted yesterday will make it until spring. I trust the book from the Mandelmann family "Självhushållning på Djupadal" (Self-sufficiency at Djupadal) that says it should be planted late in the season. Apparently some seeds such as lavender and verbena, also need a frost nip in order to kick-start the chemical processes that leads leaves and flowers. 

Maybe that's also the case with some people and some relationships. They need to get really cold to have a chance to survive long-term and not just rot.

They say that this winter will be very cold, because of the warm ocean. I hope that will entail snow. And lots of it. Winter becomes so much endurable with the bright snow and the prospect of skiing even in the south of Sweden where I live.

Snow also muffles the sounds and you long to cuddle in the sofa looking at an open fire, or, in my case, at lots of candles. Two songs come to mind, from Genesis' record "And Then There Were Three": Snowbound, of course, but also Undertow.

Better think awhile
Or I may never think again
If this were the last day of your life, my friend
Tell me, what do you think you would do then?

Stand up to the blow that fate has struck upon you
Make the most of all, you still have coming to you
Lay down on the ground and let the tears run from you
Crying to the grass and trees and heaven finally on your knees

Let me live again, let life come find me wanting
Spring must strike again against the shield of winter
Let me feel once more the arms of love surround m
Telling me the danger's past, I need not fear the icy blast again


Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

It's been a year of firsts. The first New Year, the first Easter, first Midsummer, first birthday, first All Saints Day and now the first Father's Day without you. We miss you. I miss you. The you you were before you got ill.

Mother is doing fine. You made a good decision to move back here. I'm so sorry you didn't get to experience it. She has reconnected with some old friends and have made some new ones. And she still keeps in touch with your old neighbors. She cries sometimes, especially when she goes to church. It's hard to see your Mother cry. But you know all about that.

We saw your brothers this Friday. Watched the play that might be the last one Henric does. He looked just like you on the stage. We saw that, both Mother and I. We talked about the decline of the Linnea. And we showed them the stone we got for you and Magnus. I hope you like it.

I know you were worried about my trip to Uganda. But I think that you got the message that I made a safe return. We never had the chance to really talk after that. You started your own journey, and we were not meant to come along.

I'm sorry I smashed your car. Although I know you would never yell at me or call me a bad driver. You'd only be happy I was still alive. I tried to save the sticker I got for you in Kivik, the one saying "Real men don't eat bananas, buy Swedish fruit!". It was difficult to make you happy the last years, but I know from Mother that you really liked this one. But it was stuck.

I think you'd have liked the new car we bought. A really small one. A black KIA. The kind you said was going to be your next car. You always made plans for the future. You did not go gentle.


Things To Remember

I admit. I'm a hoarder. The older I get, the more I keep on to things rather than throwing or giving them away. I also very much like my things. Not because they have any greater monetary value, but because they help me remember.

I've made several trips to Bangkok and every time I use one of the silk shawls I bought there, I remember how the breakfast mango tasted, I hear the roar from the traffic on Sukhumvit road, I feel the smoke from the fires at the temple yards in my nose and eyes, and I sense the warming sun on my skin.
From ITP I2W Bangkok 2009

Things also help me remember people. I keep my travel stuff in a black chest of drawers that once belonged to my father's aunt Bertha. She was a nurse, biking to her patients all over Småland, but also very active in helping the poor. When my father Göran went to school in Alvesta, he stayed with her and he was always very fond of her. 

Here I also keep the violet perfume flacon my mother's father Gösta gave to my grandmother Gudrun on Christmas Eve 1933 on their way back from Australia. There he transformed the stuffy Swedish church in Melbourne into a vibrant community with lots of activities for young people, a concept he took with him back to Sweden. Gudrun worked as cantor when she didn't run the vicarage. She made trousers for her daughters to wear, something of a revolution in the 1940's in rural Öland.

Not far from the sturdy chest of drawers stands a special shelf for sheets of music, simple yet rather elegant. It stood beside an old black piano that my father's mother Edith used to play. You can see and hear her play, 94 years old, at the end of Katarina Dunér's program on Swedish Houses. Edith loved reading and was always keen on learning. When her oldest son, my uncle Olle, started painting she wanted to try it herself. One of her still life paintings now hangs in my kitchen.

I've also kept a beetle boot jack. As a small child, it met me in the hallway to the teachers' house in Mistelås where my father's parents lived. Edith taught the small children and Martin the older ones. He was also very active in developing the community, initiating building a sauna at the stream and supporting the local football team. 
My parents got engaged at the football field, deep in the woods. It was my father who insisted on marriage. My mother Sigrun thought it wasn't that necessary, but he persisted, and they were married for more than 50 years. She now wears the ring she gave him in a necklace, where it encircles a small heart of gold.
Today we celebrate All Saints Day in Sweden. Although we have sadly imported the commercial American Halloween tradition to some extent, this is very much a time when we gather to remember and celebrate the dear ones who've passed away. Candles are lit at the churchyards and graves are decorated with fir tree branches and cones.