Age is catching up with me. Every morning, my contact lenses present to me not my own eyes, but my mother’s. I frown at this classical reminder of destiny’s imperfection. A cliché without meaning, outsmarted only by my father’s handwriting, haunting me at work, on my desk, in my notebooks, commenting on my students’ essays. More. I enjoy walks. I rest on park benches. I plan my dinners and I talk about meal times as the most important events of the day. I no longer correct my children when they mistake the forever-young Sun Maid on the raisin packet for me – I am too flattered, and not even secretly. On the bright side, I am not alone. My husband recently described his dream holiday; a long and slow journey, involving a boat, a large ship in fact; lots of good food, stopovers without much commitment. He could have been – he was – talking. About. A. Cruise.
Perhaps the most embarrassing symptom is that I am becoming sentimental about the passing of time. Every miserably Swedish winter, the prospect of better times seems less and less viable. At every unbearable early-afternoon-sunset, I cannot but believe that the earth will go off its tangent, literally speaking, and spiral off into an even darker, darkening eternal winter, with none of that light in the tunnel. So the fact that this year is the 36:th time I am surviving the month of March, is unbelievable, miraculous. Eyes discovering the first tentative hints of green are filled with tears.
But those eyes are trained. Spring can easily be missed.
A few years ago, I was still young (I would have been disgusted by the idea of bearing any resemblance to the Raisin Lady) and meeting up with a friend, an Italian, for a coffee one afternoon. It must have been around this time of the year, after a long winter of heavy and plenty snowfall, and hope was in full bloom. With the rapidly increasing number of daylight hours, the snow was melting so fast it had nowhere to go, and the streets were covered in a 15 cm thick layer of half-solidified mixture of snow, slush and water. Above, all the way to a bright blue sky, the universe was full of bird-song, sunshine and expectations. For the first time that year, I took my bike into town, water splashing high above my wellies. I felt like a god.
Worlds were mismatched from the start. The Italian insisted on having our coffee inside – missing out. He was brisk, factual, continuing the practice of January encounters. Experiencing his first spring in Sweden, he politely asked me when winter would come to an end. At what date – approximately, of course – would we be blessed?
Not having been spoilt with the bursts of colours and life symptomatic of the continent, Scandinavian senses are equipped to notice the small, seemingly insignificant, explosions of the new season. Ephemeral between snow and the sweeping of the streets, is the promise of gravel crunching underfoot. Snowdrops and crocus buds relying on the safety of south-facing facades. White skies after dinner time. The need to open a window, to breathe.
Summer, everything’s reason, sneaks up behind your back, during one of these fleeting Nordic hours between light and day. A fly, suddenly awake, suddenly alive, bouncing against the window pane. A bumblebee just disappearing behind your shoulder. The caress of a cobweb on bare feet in fresh grass. Here. Now.
Are you interested in place, identity and how humans feel about weather as a measure of time? Don’t miss close to elsewhere: stories about translocation and whimsy, a novel on family relationships over three continents and the search for a place called home.