The Longest Day

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ros

today is the solstice – and the very first day of my long-awaited, dreamed of, pined for holiday. four whole weeks with no claims upon my time except my own. today i am weaving flowers in my hair, laughing, dancing (there might be a song about frogs involved – and aquavit flavoured with elder flowers). tonight we are watching the sun set, hesitate, and then rise again.

i am going to gorge myself on summer, filling all my stores to keep for later. sage and lavender hung to dry over my bed.

i will get nettle stung, then rub the burn away with soothing plantain. (the first bit of herb lore i ever learned: here’s the cause. there’s the cure.) i will go swimming in the red lake. i will have strawberries for breakfast. i will wake on my own. i will go looking for chanterelles. i will hope for enough sour cherries to make compote. i will read under the apple tree. i will sing with my father (and wish my brother was home). i will stare at clouds and listen to the rain. i will have adventures.

i will walk barefoot.

huldra(walking barefoot is best done in the woods, on a sunny day following a day of rain. the paths are almost, almost dry – the mud is pleasantly cool, firm but soft and sort of bouncy, the sort of thing expensive shoes try to emulate but never quite manage. last year’s fallen pine needles are a silky yellow carpet, and your steps don’t make a sound. sunlight drips like honey from the branches above, and everything smells fresh and alive.)

happy solstice to you. may you have what you need in abundance.

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Party Hangups

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rowanthere’s about a month left until my birthday. it’s one of the important ones – even numbers, special cards. i’m supposed to be really grown up now (i’m not) and know what i want (i do, but the way there is somewhat unclear) and people are hinting that it might be time to start thinking about procreation (the Artist thinks his life will be over if that were to happen). i’m not having any sort of crisis about it – well, not about the aging bit, at least.

no. i’m freaking out about the party-in-potentia. you’re supposed to have one. i do want one. celebrations are in order. it’s just…

i had two birthday parties when i was little, one when i turned seven and one when i turned eight. other little girls from my class (the ones who weren’t away on holiday, it being the middle of summer) were invited, we’d all been dressed by our mothers and had ribbons in our hair and there was chocolate cake and strawberry cordial. like in a picture book. and everybody came. because it was the done thing and if you didn’t want to go your mother made you.

the year after, i spent all summer in heaven at my godmother’s cottage in the middle of the forest of nowhere. and then the next, i didn’t want a party. because it had become noticeable and obvious that i was never anyone’s first choice (except when they wanted help with their classwork or when there was a relay race in gym. i was fast). i had people i spent time with – but only if they didn’t have anything better to do. i was always the one having to call. sometimes they said they had to call me back in a bit, so they could check what someone else was doing, first, before deciding if they should deign to take pity on me. toss me some breadcrumbs. it’s amazing how many times you can swallow your pride.

it took me a really long time to find real friends. but i have them now, and i love them and i trust them – but there’s still that insidious little voice at the back of my mind, second-guessing phrases and actions, questioning motives, and looking for the tiniest hint of that loathsome condescending nonchalant pity.

it’s not there. but i still look for it.

i have an annual yuletide get-together thing. hogswatch. we watch hogfather and eat insane amounts of christmas candy and drink gallons of tea. and that’s fine. then i can tell myself that people will come for the free candy if nothing else. but when i’m asking people to come just for me? that’s a really scary thing.

Me Meme

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so, blog awards. on one hand, it’s flattering to be thought of, but on the other hand, it brings me back to getting chain letters as a child, and the threats of the horrors that had befallen people who hadn’t sent them on and me not having that many friends to send them on to. and yes, i know it’s not the same thing at all, the idea here is to spread the love and get new readers, but…

i’ve been nominated twice now, by two very sweet bloggers, and while i’m not going to nominate anyone myself, i feel it would be rude of me not to at least thank them for their kind thought and answer their questions. so, here goes.

eleven things about myself

one. if i see a snail in a precarious location (middle of the sidewalk) i have to pick it up and move it to safety, even if there are dozens of them and the rescue will make me miss the bus and be late. if they come out and eyestalk at me when i do this, i usually have a little chat with them about traffic rules and the dangers of mothers with prams.

two. i go woozy and wobbly when i have my blood taken, but i have no problem whatsoever with inoculation shots or tattoo needles. better in than out, i suppose.

three. i’ve mostly inherited my grandfather’s immunity to mosquito bites: they don’t tend to bite me, and when they do the bite disappears almost at once. so when i do get one i scratch it just to annoy it so it’ll stay for a while – because it feels like summer.

four. i think sage on fried apples is divine. salvia divinorum, on the other hand, tastes like something died in formaldehyde.

five. for a while, i considered plastic surgery. to make my ears pointy.

six. english is not my first language, but it’s much easier for me to write in english than in swedish. i have no idea why.

seven. when i was about eight, i was spinning around and around with my baby sister, as you do, and then i lost my grip mid spin. i cried a lot more than she did.

eight. three modern inventions that changed my life: 30-day contact lenses, painkillers that melt in your mouth, green erasable ink.

nine. i met The Artist online. his handle at the time was Total Fucking Darkness.

ten. one of the top ten compliments ever paid me is “you’ve got amazing hip bones.”

eleven. this random fact thing was a lot harder than i thought it would be.

and my answers to your questions

If you could pick an animal totem, what would it be?

a pine marten.

What’s your favourite book?

this is a very difficult question. almost every book is my favourite book as long as i’m reading it. the book i’ve read the most times? good omens, by sir terry pratchett and neil gaiman. i’m on my third copy. the first two have fallen to bits.

Do you prefer coffee or tea?

tea. preferably the froofy kind with flowers and berries and other assorted debris. my current favourite is the good hope blend from the colonial tea company. i don’t drink coffee at all. (unless it’s irish and has lots of cream.)

What’s your favourite quote or saying?

“You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become?”
– sir terry pratchett, hogfather

If you could go back in time, when and where would you go?

the viking age, scandinavia. if you disregard the whole slavery business (and let’s face it, everybody did it back then, the vikings were just very showy about it…until they realized it was more fun to trade, anyway) they lived in a way that makes a lot of sense to me.

or ancient egypt. under hatshepsut.

What new skill do you most want to learn?

i would most like to learn how to be self-sufficient.

Who’s your favourite fictional character?

this whole picking just one business is really difficult for me. maybe lord peter wimsey. or captain jack sparrow. or the ninth doctor. if my latest obsession counts as my all-over favourite? it’s oliver queen.

Favourite family meal/recipe?

arctic char with new potatoes and sourcream sauce. also, almond pudding.

What country would you most like to travel to?

right now, i don’t quite know! i’m lucky enough to have been able to go to the ones i’ve really dreamed about, so far. i’m something of a completionist though, so i think what i’d like the most is to go back to the places i’ve really enjoyed and get a deeper sense of them, explore on my own. so, that would be…egypt, and jordan, and great britain, and bosnia. of course, i’m very much looking forward to experiencing south africa this autumn.

What type of scenery/landscape (i.e. mountains, coastal, cities, etc.) do you feel most at home in?

forests. big and old ones, where the trees grow as they please.

Who or what inspires you most often?

music, probably.

*

What did you want to be when you grew up?

magical. a singing librarian. also, hatshepsut.

Cats or dogs?

dogs. big ones. one day i shall have a wolfhound.

What smell is it that everyone seems to love, but you don’t like it at all?

chanel no. 5.

If you didn’t write, would you explode or implode?

no. (writing isn’t the only kind of storytelling, just my favourite one.)

When you play games, what piece do you choose to represent you? Are you always the car for Monopoly, or the orange man in CandyLand?

i’ve actually never played candyland, but i’m the shoe in monopoly…i would be the terrier but my mum doesn’t want to play if she doesn’t get it.

What is your dream vacation?

somewhere with history. i don’t like just laying about in the sun. i have a soft spot for the middle east, and for swedish summers at home.

Which celebrity makes you close the browser, change the channel, or turn the page?

rowan atkinson when he’s mr bean. mr bean makes me require a shame pillow big and fluffy enough to suffocate myself in.

Early bird or night owl?

night owl. i keep trying to be an early bird though…i think i would get a lot more done that way.

Do you prefer French toast, pancakes, or waffles?

pancakes with cloudberry jam.

What section of the bookstore do you browse most often?

fantasy/sci-fi/young adult. esoterica. also gardening and cooking. but i usually browse directly in the boxes when i’m unpacking – and then i apply my employee discount.

Would you rather be stuck high in the top of a tree or at the bottom of a well?

the top of a tree. any time. a spruce. or a really big oak.

Half Past

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set

sand has a smell.

it smells like the kind of tired you get after running around all day, looking for adventures, burying treasures. being chased around the block by that boy with the temper, the one you just can’t stop poking because he makes it so easy and he thinks girls are good for nothing. he never ever catches you, you’re faster than the wind. it smells like the kind of tired the sun gets in the afternoon, the lazy orange, soft and indulgent. it smells like hearing the red car pull up, like half past four, like climbing into the back seat and going home.

(it smells like silence, and like waiting, and like change. it runs through your fingers like water and it tastes like thirst. it smells like a forge, and like a refuge. endless skies and distant horizons. fear is the mind-killer.)

it sticks to your skin.

Dive Into The Sky

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lakeevery day should be like thursday. every day should have an endless afternoon spent in lovely company, every day should have a blanket spread out on the moss under towering pines, every day should have a lake like a perfect mirror. every day should have bread shared and long meandering conversations. every day should have a new and fabulous discovery (a pond full of salamanders!). every day should have a walk with someone who moves to the same beat you do. every day should smell like the forest and every day should stretch out like a promise; no rush – nowhere you don’t want to be.

you should always be dressed just right for the weather, and the rain should never start until the moment you walk through your front door.

every day should be a day that you don’t want to end.

 

what kind of job includes picnics?

The Wrong Size

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happy

it’s strange, coming home. having to reconcile the me i want to be, the me that is so easy to be among strangers without expectations, with the me i am supposed to be at work. uncomfortable, like clothes that don’t fit. too small. limiting.

i found my lust for reading again, in the sand, under the sun. devouring words like i used to, hours disappearing. (i thought it might be gone for real – that work had ruined it – i am so glad (relieved) that i was wrong. lately (the last few years) i’ve been reading because i have to, not because i want to – it was a chore for work and i hated it, because it made me not recognize myself. i’ve always been a Reader…if i can’t define myself by that, then what?)

home. here’s a softer sun, and the first anemone hepatica of the year are bluer than blue and the sap is rising, and i am missing out because i’m stuck indoors in the dust doing inventory, counting pencils and stickers, and making money for somebody else.

i read it somewhere: don’t spend your life planning for your next vacation – make a life you don’t want to escape from.

but how do i get from here to there?

Bittersweet

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grafittiyesterday morning i woke to the sunrise over the red sea, to lemon-and-mint, musk and amber. packed my bag again, the last time on this trip, rearranged it so the woolen coat was on top, easily accessible. breakfast on a marble floor under the relentlessly blue sky, then three hundred kilometres back to the beginning, back to amman, and then the journey home.

chasing the sunset north-and-west, the cities of europe arcane scribbles of light far below. the new moon shifting widdershins – the graceful boat hanging over aqaba seamlessly becoming a sharp scandinavian sickle. reading a tale of the lionheart and salah al-din, thinking of the castle walls of ajlun and karak, the harsh and enchanting beauty of the desert, the challenge of it: prove yourself! the breathtaking colours and carvings of petra. the water – going from salt beyond salt to fresh and perfectly cool, strangely soft around my fingers.

i miss you already, jordan. i hope to see you again soon.

Going Over Jordan

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image

it’s a very useful thing, this ability of mine to sleep anywhere and anywhen. especially on nights like this, contorted around my luggage on an airport bench without padding.

really very early in the morning (this is why we’re already here, my mum and i, there is no better fitting commute and taxi money, we both feel, can be spent on better things when we arrive!) we are boarding a plane bound for vienna, and from vienna another one to amman, and then nine days crammed full of all the sand and ruins a girl could ever wish for. i am fully expecting it to be absolutely fantastic.

Three Signs Of Spring

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isthe street sweepers were diligently swishing about yesterday, so now my steps are silent on asphalt again – no crunch crunch crunch of scattered gravel to give me away. i walk fast when i have a goal in mind, easily overtaking little old ladies and mothers with strollers, passing and disappearing in the distance without a sound, like an apparition in a severe coat and a red braid. where did she come from?

the equinox and subsequent theft of an hour means mornings are sharp-bright and the sun hasn’t quite set when i go home, and lunch is takeaway salad on a bench in the light for added vitamin d. it’s almost unbearable and certainly unbelievable that i am voluntarily spending the daylight hours inside, in the stale, dry air and the fluorescent lighting and the fine gray static dust that magically appears on everything in the store if you just look away for a second. feels like i’m wilting. ridiculous and pointless, mostly, and would you like a bag with that? impatient. wanting up, and out, into the woods and far away. roots barely reaching home.

oh, and i’m down to just one layer of tights.

 

 

 

(on saturday, my mother is taking me to jordan)