tisdag 14 mars 2017

Schooldays - new frontiers

So my days in the small, close by school was over.
The neighbourhood started to change, as I wrote in another post here, there was a murder and the police was being seen more often.
My school for the next six years was a huge one, covering an entire block. It was not far but still a walk for ten minutes or so.  There was a heatingplant nearby, one night we heard an enormous bang. There had been an explosion, rocketing one of the walls right into the sky.
Close up there was also a brewery and the smell of it was always present.
The exploding Heating Plant, wall still present.

So I started in the new school, I was ten years and very frightened. There was this passage leading in to the schoolyards, part of it was a bit covered and there they stood, waiting to harrass and tease. For every morning my anxiety grew heavier. Words, stones, ice, snow, walking behind making comments. We got divided in to different classes, the school was so big, it was also a collegeschool for teachers so we often had senior students to take odd lessons. There was this large room where you would sit with headphones on to study language and the wall was made of glass, we couldn't see in but they could see out, the students.  I remember one poor teachers student that had a catastrophically bad knowledge of the subject she was to teach in.  We were sturdy city kids, some of who were used to bad language and manners.

By Christmas holidays I had enough and pleaded to be free of that terror of a school. I had seen armed guards watching the glassdoors between the schoolbuildings. Every day I got new bruises both on the outside and the inside.
I have written about the family in the countryside many miles away from my hometown, where I spent two summers and one semester. My mother got in contact with the school up there and come january I took the train with my things and started a whole new life.
The school was far off, the family had a farm in the countryside so every morning, after doing once chores in the barn, we would catch the bus and ride some 20 kilometers to school.
It was a nice school, some 400 students,  mixed classes, no teasing or bad language, homecooked meals and a running schedule for laying the tables at lunchtime. 6 months of peace, friends, homework and good grades.  I was then prepared to take on school in my home town again, but a new one, where I knew nobody. It was actually the best thing about it.

The new school, 5th grade, was in another part of town, 1,2 kilometers walk from home.
Passing the buthchers and an amazing Zoo store, where they sold great parrots and real, live monkeys!  I stopped by both of those stores every day .  The butchers because we were always short of money and hardly ever went in there, and the Zoo store because, well, you understand!!
The school was situated close to one of the old Water towers, the school in itself was rather old, a four story high brick building with two houses and a barack where my classroom was.
Once a week some classes were held in the old building and we would climb these high, dark staircases.  In the basement of the second house , children with different disorders had their quarters.  It was also the place where the restroom was, there was a stereo and a pooltable and some sofas. So they said, I never dared go down there!!!  But the sound of the stereo reached the schoolyard, so one day I heard  " Killer Queen" and my Elvis days was over.  Those were also the years when Abba entered our lives, in spring 1974 we had Waterloo!!!

My class was really nice, teachers where just and good, and life, apart for some incidents that involved the reasons for me never again wearing mittens or any kind of beenie. Oh, I always left home with them on, but put them in my schoolbag as soon as I was out of sight. I had lost a few and told my mother I had dropped them. The truth was that they were flushed down the toilet or thrown in dustbins, but I never told her that. During these years I also got my glasses....

My great love those years was Johan. He had dark, curly hair, brown eyes and the nicest manners and starlight smile. All of a sudden I heard myself saying I liked 10CC, I overheard him talking about them you see. He was always nice to me, defended me if needed.
Those were good years, the last day before summer holidays 1977, we gathered in the schoolyard for the last time.  A ceremony in church was still valid. Johan had grown a moustache! We felt almost grown up. Almost. 

Trouble had begun to reach the school, drugs were handled in the schoolyard openly, the buildings were decaying. These days there are no children in the buildings anymore. 
Now I was heading for a school even further away. Me and my friend Eva , a girl I spent a lot of time with those years, looked forward to it.  Well, for the boys mostly.
She lived in a dark apartment with her parents. She had older sibblings, but they had moved out. Every year she went skiing up north and said she would perform in the restaurant, singing.
She had a black cat, a clock that struck like Big Ben and a passion for Bjorn Skifs, you know, Hooked on a feeling!  The somewhat odd friendship we had , with a tendency to become bad girls, staying at her house playing music and eating instead of attending class, faded eventually after the first semester of 7th grade. I never met her parents as far as I remember and she never met my mother.  Still, I think of her sometimes and hope she found a good life.  We were now teenagers and life got more complicated.   But that is another story.
One of many Water storage towers in my home town, beautiful, don't you think??

onsdag 22 februari 2017

Schooldays - the first years

There is a website called Stay Friends. 
It is a site where you can find your old school and your old schoolmates and classmates. Pictures, then and now, comments and memories from "those happy days". Or in some cases, "nightmare days".
There is a catch though, you have to pay if you want to see the pictures and full profiles. 

I know I have pictures from all my grades, but where?? Some old classmates appear on Facebook, so that you can see the change, how old and grey some of them look, but I look just the same of course.....
I never was in the popular gang. Never. I had good grades, was polite and well behaved. In Sweden we start school at the age of seven, that is compulsory but you can also start at six.
Compulsory school is nine years, but when my mother went to school most people left school after seven years, to start working.  You had to be a talented student and have parents with some money, if you should continue. 
My mother was talented but money was scarce, so at 15 she was working full time, just like many others. Imagine that!   That is still a very cold and clear reality in many countries, only for some children there is no school at all. If the choice is between making ends meet and feed the entire family, or let one child continue in school, the choice is easy. Or neccesary.

The other day I found a friend from my earliest childhood, he lived in the next house, we used to play all day long, roaming the neighbourhood for adventures. We were about 4 when we started.  His name is Jan-Erik. Kind boy. Good photographer nowadays. When school started, I had moved and after a couple of years we called it a day. After the first three years we were to change school and he stayed on and I didn't. It was a terrible place that school.

The first school was right across the backyard. It was grade 1-3, and half of the schoolbuilding was a special school for children with developmental disabilities like Downs syndrom. We didn't interact with them, they had recess on slightly different hours but we often met. 
Most of our teachers were on the older scale, but some were young and pretty. This was 1970
and the swedish government had decided school to be nonconfessional. That meant no morning prayer f.i and no special focus on teaching christian faith. My teacher didn't really care about that, she played the organ every morning and taught us hymns and everything about the holy land. In 2nd grade we got our first bible. At the end of the autumn semester, we went to church for the christmas play. Everyone wanted to be virgin Mary.  Just as every girl wanted to be Lucia. I was never any of those.

I spent most of my schooldays alone in the schoolyard. Sometimes the teachers would come out and say something about playing together and then I would be admitted in to the typical schoolyard games and rope skipping. I lived alone with my mother and never had the right clothes. But I was chosen prefect and schoolpolice , the latter a child dressed in a yellow vest, standing by the crossings, holding out my arms to stop the smaller children from crossing when the cars rushed by. Oh yes. We got gifts and headmaster would hold a little party for us. I was rather good with puppets, so I made up a play about being careful in the traffic, you know, look left, right and listen, use helmet with the bike, use reflexes in the dark.
I was a good reader too, so once or twice some teacher had me read to the 1st grades when there was some emergency.
All of that did nothing at all to make me popular, quite the opposite, actually.

Across the schoolyard was a rather large building, holding the loos , the gymnasium and the cantine. The toilets had no doors, just some kind of hatch. The lockerroom was like the Dungeons, you had to stand naked in front of people who really despiced you!!  Ugh. And we kept our gym clothes in a locker, after five months they had an odour that could kill a horse.
Girls had pink, red or blue little dresses with fringes, and some special socks with plastic soles in matching colour. The teacher was the same as in every other topic, she never changed clothes, but jumped around in her skirt and blouse. 

In Sweden, school is free of charge, if you choose a private school, your community still has to pay for you, that wasn't always the case when I grew up. We had a cooked meal every day and mercy on the child that threw any food!!! So we courtsied and shouted; thank you for dinner! and skipped out. For many children then, and now, that meal is the only hot meal they get the entire day.
We sat in benches, two and two, with lids on them. Books where to be wrapped in covers, neatly, and then you would paste a label with your name and grade. Mostly you would unwrap them and give them back for next generation to use. Every pupil got one set of crayons and two pencils . In my class I was the only one with a single parent. It was a very neat and tidy neighbourhood and the other parents wispered behind our backs about my mother, single, attractive and very social and bright. When she lost her job some years later, the wispers stopped and people started to comment loudly. The neighbourhood started to change, violence and booze came in, the houses switched landlord and started to decay. 

I loved my school because of the nice and loving teachers. I could read when I started, thanks to my cousins comicbooks. But I learned so much and I still have some of my writing books and one of the gifts - a brown piggy bank. We were about 20 pupils, and two girls in the class were my friends, Regina and Liselotte. Liselotte was popular because her father was a professional magician, imagine the parties! She took over his acts and went on tour when she grew up.
Regina moved to Iceland where she still lives with her family, we keep in touch via FB.
One nice boy was Henrik, he loved dinosaurs. And Kerstin, a blond, pale and fragile little girl that every boy was in love with. Yes, some I remember well. 

School had plenty of resources so there was plenty of excursions and theaters and such. And you brought your own lunchbag, that was exciting. You had to bring pancakes and my mother was no cook but she did her best. To drink everybody had stilldrinks, at the time they had the shape of small pyramids, very unpractical.  When you had entered the straw you couldn't squeeze it.  We went by bus to see the famous castles in the south of Sweden.

In higher grades we also took to the far off forests for orientation or how to get totally lost and wet during schoolhours. Those where the days!!
During those first years in school, our king died. I remember it well, they fired the canons in the courtyard in Stockholm. He loved archeology that king, a kind and silvery haired man.
Oh yes, one more thing, the Fluorine lady. Every week she appeared with a tray filled with little plastic cups. Every child was to gurgle around with fluorine to get strong teeth. Mine didn't get strong, I had six cavities already on my first dentist visit. Bad genes I say.

It was in that schoolyard also, that I had my first serious allergic reaction. I only know that I started to feel dizzy, started to sneeze and lost my eyesight and finally my lipmovements. I probably looked like a monster, causing all kinds of amused reactions.
Another time that I caused a riot was when I got on the wrong note with Bo, and he kicked his wooden slipper right in my forehead, causing a flood of blood and a scar that I still charish. He didn't mean the slipper to skip off, it just did.   
And so, when the french boy had started in our school, Francois, my first foreigner, the third and last year ended and I faced that dark shadow of a school, some blocks away. If I had a hard time in that small school I was leaving, what would that gigantic school be?  That's another story.
The piggybank, the comicbooks that got me reading, and the 2nd grade compulsory flute!!!

fredag 20 januari 2017

The greatest people never get inaugurated

This is not my novel and not my true story, but I bring forth storytellers far more talented than me!
The swedish director Johannes Nyholm has created this touching and important little film about being an outsider, about societies standards regarding who is important and productive and Who is not. This is the story about a young man born with a severe handicap. This is the story of love, support and courage far beyond the presidential sight.
This the story about crossed boundaries and lessons learned. We sat there, overwhelmed, laughing, crying,  wanting to rush up and protect.  
We have a small filmclub at home in our town, I have told you about that great little cinema we have. Old and beautiful, handled carefully and lovingly by a family with a burning passion for good film and cultural events .

The film club is run by equally passionated people. That gives us a great opportunity to watch films we would not reach otherwise.

Is this world where one new leader after the other takes charge and points out a road to oblivion, leading their own people right into the voids and shadows, we need to remember that greatness has nothing to do with power really. But it has a whole lot to do with love, integrity and courage.  It's people who looks beyond , people who sticks to their believes and values, people who makes us come to a halt, breathing the air, noticing the scenery, listening to the voices of others, caring for the welfare of people we never met, people that makes us strong and clearsighted.  Some of them are great leaders in politics, most of them are not.
The film is shot with the aid of ordinary people, no great actors, just ordinary people and everyday life. The story could happend anywhere in the world, the image of the giant is an image of the greatness in the small and battered little man, trying to find it's strenght and purpose.  The Giant is an important film and I hope it will reach a filmfestival close to you.

And another one, a serious comedy : "A man called Ove", I'd love to bring you. It's directed by Hannes Holm and is heading for the Oscar!!
That film is really not about a man at all, it's about the surprise life offers when you actually thought everything was over . The greatness lies in what you can discover if you dare open your mind for just a brief moment, and invite kindness. I challenge myself to do this, with the courage my faith gives me.  Besides this important lesson, this film will make you laugh and think.

I'll add a trailer for that one as well, so you can have something else to think about in times of lunacy and demolition of common sense and compassion.

 The world shrunk with those 35 words spoken today, God bless us all.  May it come out differently than we fear.  May greatness be given a whole new meaning before it's too late!!!

söndag 15 januari 2017

What is a childhood, anyway?

The more I think about it, the more it strikes me, this childhood thing.

The streets of my hometown, 1964

Our oldest doesn't want to leave this house where we live, but we sometimes do! We rent it, it's getting old and worn out, falling apart here and there. If I ask her why she is so determined about this, she says: But Mum, this is my childhood, I grew up here!!! And yes, that she did.

Can't argue with that.
Living in the  countryside as we do now, I have learned to see things differently. Here people live for generations, often in the same village, parents and children being neighbours or next to it. I grew up in a larger town, well, its the third largest in Sweden anyway.
There is no place I could point out as my point of origin, no place that I can return to telling my children: Kids, this is where your mother grew up.  Well, there was the very first apartment, I don't remember that, was too small. Then my mother got married and the second apartment I can remember, one watertap, gas stove, no bathroom, no refridgerater, tv-set with a moneybox on the back, pidgeons and rats in the backyard, smelling dustbins and 4 storey houses all over.

Going out meant streetwalking, the town is rather large and famous for it's great amount of parks, and there is water present everywhere. The largest park we visited had it's origin in the Baltic Exhibitions 1914. The two great ponds where dug out several years earlier by the convicts in the city jail. In the centre of town was a castle surrounded by water, in the cellars the convicts spent their time. The castle is still there, today a museum. 
As an only child and a very lonely child, my idea of fun was to go to the playground, alone, and especially during rainperiods, dig canals and ponds, destroying the grounds around the swings and slides.  When I started school we moved to a larger apartment with bathroom, electric stove, hotwater taps and refridgerator AND freezer!! I guess I could call that my childhood home, I stayed there from the age of seven til' the age of 21... School was small, there were more grass and trees, we got a small dog and in the summers I was sent off to the country, spending 5-6 weeks with a family . I have written about them earlier, hardworking, earnest and kind people with cows, pigs, sheep,chickens, a dog called Pia and several cats. 

It was the kind of time many here call childhood days. But children grow up, we always say that we have to care for the children, giving them a safe and happy upbringing. But they grow up and become like everyone else, what is the childhood ? How does it affect us? I can tell of several incidents in my childhood that I remember vividly, but I couldn't say how they have effected me as an adult. Everything we go through effects us, in every age. We are never really grown ups, never is there a time when we can say: That's it, this is finally what I have become, this is me and this is the way I will stay my lifetime out.

So what is a childhood?  People write biographies and memoirs where they wringe and examines their childhood from the inside and out, often finding lots of things to blame their parents with. The only thing I have learned growing up is that I make the same mistakes and my children will probably suffer some bad memories because of me. The things I could blame my mother for, and others in my closest realm, I realize now are things that can be difficult and impossible for any person to deal with. Parents are no superheroes, they do their very best and often that is enough, sometimes not.
My time in the countryside however, HAS indeed made a difference, although I couldn't tell you what kind. Maybe it's just that I have an experience many other children in my neighbourhood never had. Me, a city girl, learned to milk cows, feed calves, pull out lambs from wombs and pick eggs. I learned what it's like to have your t-shirt sucked in by the calf standing behind you, and fall into the largest pile of shit imaginable . I learned what it's like to sit in the hay with a bunch of kittens in the barn, listening to the thunderstorm. I learned what it's like to walk the meadows shortly before milking time, calling in the cows. I also learned about the barndances and the difference between using the backdoor and using the fancy front door, only on parties.
My grandparents also lived in apartments, but the grandparents in this family lived in small villages and small cottages. Fireplaces, rocking chairs, you know.

So what is a childhood? It is, in some way, your preparation for the adult life, but only part.
The adult, as I see it, can be just as much in need of care and comfort, safety and love. We also need to meet life with bright eyes and happy hearts, we too need to be handled with care and welcomed and listened to.  Adults can be just as vunerable and tender as a child.
Still - the childhood will always stay on in our memory, true or not. If it's a bright and wonderful time, we aim to give our own children the same, if it's gloomy and bad we aim to give our own children something entirely different, a childhood of the kind we think every child needs. We compensate through our children, trying to give them what we didn't get.  Some times that can take disastrous forms , forcing the children into something they don't need.
And, honestly, children with happy childhoods, don't always turn out pleasant and secure people, loving and caring. Children with bad childhoods, don't always turn out villains and cruel persons or unhappy even.  

The streets of our childrens hometown, 2016

Even so, our childhood will always be important to us . My childhood have made me partly who I am, but the rest of my life keeps shaping me and reshaping me. Who I am deep down inside, only the Lord knows, and he keeps lifting me back on track when I'm lost. I hope every person and especially every parent will experience this, beacuse only then we can look at our own childhood and the one we give our children, with a forgiving and understanding heart. The frail life we lead will give us joy, comfort and horrors, but childhood will keep staying on in our minds as a very special time!!! So let us keep our children safe!!

tisdag 3 januari 2017

Deep in the woods I found a well

I normally never take the path north of the smaller beach this time of year.
Why? Well, the ground gets all suggy and moist and if the winter behaves as it should, the snow lies so thick that you can't even see the scrubbery beneath the trees.
For my part, being a wee bit out of order, it means risk of falling, spraining or breaking something. That's why.
Come to think of it, I hardly ever walk there at all, it has thickened, the scrubbery, I mean.
It's a lot darker than when we moved here. Nobody tends to this part of the forest, I'm not sure if anybody owns it even.
Most parts of the forest, the meadows and the dales here are private property. Or protected area. Some parts of the coastline are military and off limits, but that's another story altogether, let's stick to this one.
So I went out for a walk, a fine day it was, no fog or drizzle, sky not entirely blue but close. The wind had fallen the last few days and that made walking quite pleasant again. I went alone this time, being the only one with time to spare it seemed.

Down by the harbour the water lay smooth and clear. People went in and out from the store,
we are quite proud of this village, it's alive and kicking you might say, we've got everything we need, or almost.
I turned right and walked along the coastline, facing the sun. It was real sharp, I couldn't see much, but I brought my sunglasses. I speeded up my pace, thinking there would be some benefits in it, like burning of calories or at least excercising my tired muscles.
I met some people along the way, at least the first mile or so. Dogowners mostly. We used to have a dog, Alma, a Borderterrier. She loved both the beach and the woods. She got sick and died after a couple of years here. We speak of getting a dog every now and then. Especially when we are out walking. I stopped to look at a ridgeback galloping around hunting for a badly bruised ball.  Not a cute kind, those ridgebacks, but strong and alert. They moved on, dog and owner, giving way for a furry little thing, trying hard to keep steps with his jogging owner.

Sun was diving, I thought of turning home but something drove me on. I had passed the first of the small beaches, now I passed the second and looked up north. I didn't look so bad in the sunlight, perhaps I should try it. The soil was dry, no rain for a long time, no melting snow.
As I took the path my mind was wandering, I just kept walking, trying not to slip or get caught on the thorns. Blackberries all over.  After 15 minutes or so, I stopped. There was no one but me, I left my fellow villagers behind. It was darker too. I realized the sun was setting faster now, and there was a wind coming up. Or not? What was that sound? 

It was sort of a humming, wheezing sound. I hesitated . Maybe I should just turn and walk back?  I turned in every direction to locate the sound, it had to be further north. My ears were suddenly sharp receivers, I focused completely on that sound. There shouldn't be anything here, the path was nothing but a path, made up by dogowners and wanderers.  Nobody had lived here, I had never seen any traces of houses or stonefences or any kind of structure similar to those in other parts of these woods.  On the other hand, I was new to this area, generations of fishermen and farmers had lived here, but not in those woods. I had walked all the way up to the top several times years ago.

The sound was closer now, not very strong, but very close. All of a sudden, I almost fell right into ....a stream.  There are underground streams running from the hill and down. Taps and wells have been opened in several places.  That's what it was!  One of those small streams!
Only, as I followed it, the water dissapeared..inside a small structure of smooth stones.
It was actually a well.  A small, beautifully built little well, large enough to sit on the edge.
There was even a small roof held up by wooden pillars, and an arrangement with a bucket in a chain.  First I thought it must be summerguests building it for pleasure or leisure.
But as I looked closer I could see it was battered and overgrown, as if it had been there for a very long time.  Ivy on the roof, lavas on the stones.  I looked down and I could hear and smell the water but I couldn't see it. That was odd! Or was the water low in wintertime? 
I started to search for traces of a house, a barn, a shed, anything that could explain the well, but there was nothing. The trees and bushes grew thick, the scrubbery covered almost everything.

I noticed the complete silence too. Only the quiet mumble of the water. No wind, no birds, no villagers. I couldn't see the path anymore and began to regret my choice. 
The sun was almost down, dusk was my only source of light. I almost panicked. I had no torch with me, I must get back in time before darkness, I wasn't quite sure of the way. 
With my heart pounding hard I started walking towards what I hoped was the beach.  I soon left the sound of the water behind me, but it lingered in my head.
How I got back I don't know but after what seemed an eternity, I found the path back towards the village.  Strange, the sunlight wasn't gone. I looked at my watch.  I had been gone only half an hour!!  No! I turned towards the northern path. It looked innocent. Darker now. I wouldn't walk it again, not today . Not any day soon either.  

I reached the house while there was still sunlight. The wind had started whining a bit again and I noticed I was shivering. Hoping to find coffee ready, I entered the hallway.  I told my husband about the well. He looked puzzled, but he wasn't altogether certain about where I had been.  " You should go ask Walter" he said. "He knows these woods"

And so I did. I looked him up a few days later, telling him exactly where I had walked. He asked questions, looking more and more serious.  After quite some time he looked firmly at me and said: " You know, nobody have lived in that part of the woods for at least 150 years. I have never seen anything there, but my grandfather told me of a small cottage up there somewhere, that burned down completely in a fierce fire, taking everything alive with it, two people, some animals.  They had a small well built on one of the streams running from the hills, but when my grandfather was a boy, the well collapsed during a very harsh and long winter. Only a heap of stones left, perhaps some of the cattle got loose from the fields further down and helped out with the fall.  I have been up there several times , looking for traces but never found anything but a heap of stones, smooth, beautiful stones, covered with lavas.  That well is long gone, child, long gone"

söndag 20 november 2016

Christmas came in a basket

Christmas is suppose to be the happy season for children. Well, in most cases that is only half true. Christmas is a joyful, hopeful season with a gospel both read and sung in hundreds of different tunes and fashions. I love the songs of christmas, the gospel of christmas, the smell of christmas. I did as a child too, but christmas had another dimension as well. One that far too many children have learned to recognize and braze themselves to face.
The great seasons put a pressure on us, many things must fall into place; the food, the decorations , the preparations, the parties , the gifts. Everything fancy and homemade, tinkling eyes and happy smiles, chestnuts roasting on an open fire...that sort of things. 
Christmas, with the poor infant sleeping on hay, greeted by angels. 
We weren't believers in my family. We didn't attend any services, not on christmas or any season. Our small school however, had a close relation to the local church and every year we were welcomed to sing and have schoolplays about the sacred family.

We had traditions, yes, but they were all about food and decorations. The timing was important, the position of decorations, the food prepared. 
Our house was mostly a mess. The night before christmas was crucial, if the cleaning wasn't done before christmas morning, all was lost. I knew my mother spent the night cleaning and finishing up what the rest of us was too tired to muster. She was no great cook or baker, most was bought.  Christmas used to be rather calm, but recent years had become different. It was the alcohol.  There was promises being made, no alcohol during christmas. But when things got bad ,those promises had a weak baring. We knew , we could almost sense it, smell it. It stuck like something you've eaten that made you feel bad once and when you next thought of it, the nausea came back to you. A sort of fear, uncalled for but present.

We knew this christmas was going to be bad. We were told there would be only a few presents and that money was scarce. The housecleaning was done in an absentminded fashion, almost as if the season already had passed.  I can't remember all details, perhaps we didn't even have a tree that year.What I do remember is that on christmas eve, there was none of the food we usually had. The cupboards where empty of christmas specials, hardly any food at all, actually and the unpayed bill in the local groceriestore was larger than usual. No more discount, no more credit.  When things where bad and alcohol was talking, we had to go down to the shop and leave the written note, pleading for only a few more days. This time that didn't work.
Christmas came with no food, no candy, hardly anything but decorations. 

Those were the alarming consequenses of alcohol. As a child you didn't think anyone knew, these things are best kept secret. But people knew alright, I just didn't understand until grown ups came up to me saying angry, accusing things about my family. In such a small community, that was devastating.
But there were exceptions, people that understood and acted with the best of intentions.
This christmas, I was rather deprived of the happy childhood christmases everybody talked about, or so I thought.  But the neighbours knew. And they didn't confront us with angry accusations or scorn. They came walking over with a basket. In that basket was food, cake, candy and some presents. No fuss about it, no teary eyed, softvoiced sympathy, no leaning heads and clunched hands. Just: we had a bit too much of everything and understood you had a bit short of it right now so if you don't mind we packed a few things down. " And so they smiled and returned into the darkness and rather snowy afternoon, to their own house.

I was deeply ashamed. But those particular neighbours were really very friendly in a natural sort of way, so I kept that feeling hidden.  It was a great relief to unpack the basket. Children
are practical, they want to survive and more than that.  Mum cried and made a fool of herself, but that was from my point of view. The whole thing was of course very sad and I often think of it, when I hear of children running from war, lacking everything a childhood should be, except loving parents.

We had loving parents, they just couldn't always live up to the standards and demands. It took many years before that knowledge and understanding could reach in and replace the bitterness and contempt in us.  
Blessed be those loving neighbours, they saved christmas that year and kept that very hopeful and convincing view alive, that goodness really does exist and that nothing is for granted. 
There was bad christmases both before and after this one, but this one, the basket Christmas, came to be the very best of the bad.  A proof of respect and kindness, the inner feeling and meaning of the christmas gospel although I didn't know at the time.
What did we learn? Eventually, that parents are no superheroes that can cope with every situation. We learned that nothing ever is for granted and that happiness is something you have to emerge and treasure when it comes to you, because it isn't the standard of life.  In our lives we also have a responsibility to bring happiness when we are able to, to those who lack it. Sometimes we give because we have plenty, or we give because we don't have plenty but giving makes us rich and happy. 
WE never promised our children anything that couldn't be kept as far as we knew and when we couldn't live up to parenthood, our children were the first to know about it because we have been speaking very openly to them about life, struggle and happiness.  Yes, sometimes we fail as well, but in the failure lies the mercy of grace.  Christmas can sometimes arrive in a basket, and be blessed even so.

torsdag 13 oktober 2016

Images of breaking ice

Dear diary!  So dull to wake up and find the room just as dark as when I fell asleep! I had such
a bad night, tossing and turning.  The moon woke me up, I forgot to draw the curtains of course.  Strangely  enough, as I got up to close them, I caught a glimpse of the meadows, the mist was drifting and I think I saw an animal mowing. Wolf? Fox, rather, this is no wolfland.'
I was too tired to get alarmed, maybe I just imagined it. And, seriously, how alarming is it to see an animal in the countryside? There are sheep nearbye, they would make fearful noices if they even scented a wolf. Or a fox. 
The day passed slowly, I didn't go out, the fog got thicker by the minute. I love the morning mass and the daily prayers. They gave us a few quotes from Mathew to meditate on. My closest neighbour is a woman in her sixties, we spoke a few words on arrival yesterday evening,before silence was at hand. I will speak to her again before we leave, she seemed nice.

Forgot the curtains again. Windows are old and large, the curtains are three meters up and rather heavy.  There was no clear moon, but some draft.  I went up to close the curtains, 
felt uncomfortable with the chilly night and the rough boards on the floor. I sat up reading a bit too long, otherwise I might have slept well with the draft and all.  I am reading that book about the people of Acts.  Anyway, I saw that animal again. At least, I think I did, that wretched fog covered most of the area around the mansion.  
I took a short walk, my neighbour returned when I got out, we just glanced and smiled. 
Fog is slowly retreating, ha ha, it may very well do so in this place!
I fell asleep over my book and slept over afternoon prayer.  Dinner was nice. Veal.  I sat for ages in the chapel, my back is hurting, those prayerstools are tricky.

Slept like a log. The morning cleared rapidly and I heard the sheep from a distance. After mass I went out. Last time I was here there was no passage over the mainroad. You had to run for your life, never saw such traffic!!  This year they had built a kind of bridge, I decided to try it, even if it meant walking a few miles extra. better than being overrun at least. 
It was bitterly cold. But it is march and winter will be yielding soon, I noticed the changes today.  Across the field where the horses run around in the summertime, I saw footsteps in the snow. Large ones, some kind of animal, the snow had melted a trifle. It made the tracks look alarmingly large. Wolf?  Perhaps the beast I saw the other night. Beast. I read too much in the bible my husband says. Colours my thinking. Perhaps.
I walked to the lake today, never saw it before. The air was a bit misty, temperature is slowly rising. I heard something new. Strange sound, it was the ice breaking!  It kind of moaned and whined and cracked. 
The elderly woman came walking from a farm south of the lake. She looked a bit absent minded but smiled and looked down again.  She looks a bit lonely. We all do, I suppose.
Dinner was good, fish. One participant have difficulties with his legs, he is using a segway. Mostly indoors, makes a wheezing sound when he arrives. 
I spent some hours in the library in front of the fire. My room is a bit cold.

Woke up again tonight, around two. Looked out and there it was, the beast. It's a dog.
From one of the farms maybe, but up here by the mansion there is nothing but forest. 
Could be a Beagle, he turned and disappeared into the shadows behind the chapel.
Well, chapel, it's actually an old henhouse! Nice. Robust. I like it. We spend a lot of time there, five sessions a day. We got a new quote today to meditate on, I'm working on it right now but had to take a break, almost fell asleep. It's tricky, you sit alone with your candle and the bible.
All afternoon I spent by the lake. That sound!! I think it is similar to salvation. The ice that 
covers our souls makes it hard to see what lies beneath the surface. Only redemption can reveal the secrets hidden from the sunlight. We tend to keep our ice. It's safer. Todays quote was from John. The woman by the well.  Jesus broke her ice. 
What about mine? 

Slept through the night, forgot the curtain but it's dark when we wake up anyway. No moon I guess. Segway-man didn't show up this morning, I hope he is alright. Morning mass is something I could get used to.  We sit some seats apart, some sit on the floor, I did today. We have these Taizestools, low and crude. There are twelve of us this time, most of us are in the middleages, some work in church, most don't.  Well, we get a chance to exchange a few words before silence. Before we leave I hope to speak to some, that woman for instance. 
I have spent two hours reading, after lunch I'll take a walk.
Interesting turn on things! Up by the lake I saw the dog! He came strolling along the small road leading up to the upper meadows. He hesitated when he saw me and paused for a minute to take in my presence.  I was just about to move towards him when the woman appeared. The dog turned to see who was approaching and to my great surprise he ran towards her, tail wagging. She bent down and spoke softly to him, striking his back tenderly. 
Then she went on her way, giving me a quick glance. The dog looked at me, wagged tail but never got closer.
Supper was splitpeasoup, nice. I'm going to bed early, I have been sitting in the library with almost all of the others, only that woman was missing. This mansion belonged to a rather wealthy gentleman and his wife. They had no children so they donated the entire estate to the church who is now using it for meetings, retreats and education within the dioces. It's a strange place really, the main building is intact with paintings, statues and pillars. 
Tomorrow I have my third meeting with my mentor, we don't really match. Last year was better. 

One day left!! I hate this day, it's hard to keep focus. Your mind is wandering, it's tempting to check the phone. You begin to think about the journey home and how things will be.
After the service tomorrow I'll take the bus to town, if nobody want's to share a cab. 
I took two walks today, before lunch I tried the forest, but its all wet and difficult now when the snow is slowly melting. So after noonprayer I went to the squeeking lake. I think I stood there for almost an hour, just listening to the sound of breaking ice. Looking closely, I could see the cracks running in a random pattern across the surface. Some cracks let the water appear, near the edges the ice was letting go and was actually moving. Fascinating. 
On these walks you have the time to think a lot. And pray. That's the general idea of these events, thinking and praying and listening.  Gods voice. Is it in the breaking ice?
The kind smiles from the others? The wheezing from Michaels segway?  The pouring of wine into the goblet?  Is Gods voice hiding in the good work done by the mentors of this retreat?
Right now, I'm on my way up to the main building for a late cup of tea. I'll bring a book.
Or maybe I will just sit by the fire. There are old, soft armchairs in oxblood leather. 

I got up two hours early. Packed everything except toothbrush and went over to the chapel.
Since its sunday and our last day, mass will be celebrated after breakfast. 
We will have a common gathering after mass, the mentors will close the retreat and let the voices free again. I'll write some more on the train!
Always so intense, the sound of voices and cars and everything, when you have spent six days in total silence. We broke up after lunch, a bit uneasy, reluctantly turning to the next person for a chat. Some of us have met before, even twice. We can catch up a bit .We shared a cab, four of us.  That woman went along but she didn't talk much. She kept the distance. Since we were taking the same train , we took a walk in town, having an hour to spend.
 She is retired from university. Secretary at law school. Widow. Quite recently she began attending services in her homeparish. The approach was massive on her, she said.
Oddly enough she used the word "ice". She felt like the ice around her had melted, somewhat painful but neccesary.  I asked her about the dog.  She said the dog had been there on the first night, she couldn't sleep and went out. She had her room in the main house while I was in the lodge. No mystery with the dog, she loved dogs and had five at home, on vacation now with her children and one sister.  We didn't talk much, she got off the train long before I did. 
She seemed quite pleased with her week. I think I am too.
But I still wonder about the ice. The breaking of ice. I wrote a poem even, I call it Images of breaking ice. Now I have one hour left before I am home, better use the silence while I have it.