It began to snow at midnight. And certainly
the kitchen is the best place to sit,
even the kitchen of the sleepless.
It’s warm there, you cook yourself something, drink wine
and look out of the window at your friend eternity.
Why care whether birth and death are merely points
when life is not a straight line.
Why torment yourself eyeing the calendar
and wondering what is at stake.
Why confess you don’t have the money
to buy Saskia shoes?
And why brag
that you suffer more than others.
If there were no silence here
the snow would have dreamed it up.
You are alone.
Spare the gestures. Nothing for show.
A White City
My thoughts turn south
a white city
we will wake in one another’s arms.
and hear the steampipe knock
like a metal heart
and find it has snowed.
“Feathers” – disposable, melting feathers – is the only word I can conjure to describe the perplexing, disappointing late-April Swedish weather. It’s not all bad, locked away in semi-seclusion with books and warmth and soup.
Find yourself a reliable soup-maker, people, and this will imbue your life with great satisfaction and nourishment. And when I say “soup-maker” here I am referring to a person who makes soup, not some device that will whip up soup for you. I remember being in Russian class many years ago, and all of the students believed that the word defined as “dishwasher” (посудомойка) in our textbook referred to a dishwashing machine. When a Russian lecturer came to take over our class on a Fulbright fellowship, she laughed and disabused us of this radically foolish notion. Would Russians circa 1992 have had dishwashers (посудомоечная машина) in their homes? How silly we were, she laughed.
There is much beauty in simplicity – and in ironing out the misunderstandings.
Snow, soup, and loud New Order, not unlike a rare snow day in Seattle in my youth – staying awake all night hoping school would be cancelled.
E: they just don’t know how freeing and full of contentment it is to do and be just what you wnat
E: want, even if you are not always convinced that you ARE what you want to be
J: I prefer “wnat”. Like the word “gnat”.
E: Yes, wnat, gnat. maybe these office people are wnats: the corporate, humanoid version of gnats
J: It is also very liberating to annihilate that correlation between phonological realisation and orthographic representation (as you have just done). gdon’t you gthink? Gknee that correlation in the groin…..
I marveled all month at the fact that it had not snowed. This is the only January I have lived here without snow. I expected every single morning to get up and look out the window to be greeted by a fresh blanket of the stuff, but it didn’t happen. Until this evening.
A lot of thoughts and feelings about all kinds of things brewing – I am contending with the battle I often fight with myself: let some things go or observe, wait, report (you know, the whole credo of the security guards of the world: observe and report). It seems like the wisest choice is almost always the former – just let go. But the former tempts the overly curious, glutton-for-punishment side that immerses itself in can’t-win situations and revels in the “how do I get out of this now?” machinations.
But since when has it ever been, when you see all the writing on the wall, a wise course of action to do anything but let all actors and factors that are not contributing, are deleterious or detrimental, are stress or anxiety inducing, go?
I hate driving, and I never really wanted to do it. But after being kind of pushed into getting a driver’s license as soon as I was old enough, I have always driven. And have always, despite my dislike, seemed to live somewhere faraway from where I worked or went to school.
Lately this thing I take for granted as something I have almost always been able to do feels more ”precious” because I have encountered so many people in my age bracket who do not know how to drive and/or do not have licenses. Maybe in the big scheme of things they are better off. The world does not need more cars or drivers, but I have done this to myself.
The snow won’t stop – it has been going on for days. Even in this ultra-prepared place in which snow is no real impediment to most people, it has piled up in a way that makes driving a bit perilous. Under such conditions, driving builds up an ungodly tension. My normal drive takes about two-and-a-half hours on a winding country road, which is not really feasible or safe to drive under current conditions. In inclement weather, I take a longer, primarily motorway-based route, which takes perhaps four hours. But last night I drove into my driveway just as the clock hit the five-hour mark. And it was exhausting.
Exhausting, yes, but I found that so much snow had fallen that the first thing I had to do was grab a shovel. As I am fond of saying, I strike a great pose as a lunatic shoveling snow in a dress in the middle of the night. (It has since snowed even more, so I almost no amount of shoveling will keep a path clear.)
I hate crowds of strangers enough that I decided – on the worst day possible – to give up public transportation in favor of my own two feet. Gothenburg is a completely walkable city, so even though I generally stay somewhere in the city center and work outside of it, it’s not a big deal to walk – even though the mounds of uncleared snow seemed insurmountable this morning. It felt slightly reminiscent of the training montage (minus the grunting!) in Rocky IV when Rocky has to work out in the snow, sawing and carrying logs, running through icy rivers and helping a man with a horse and carriage stuck in snow (?) and stuff. It being the Soviet era, a bunch of the scenes of Dolph Lundgren as machine-like nemesis Ivan Drago are all red, as if he works out in a bright Soviet-red room. Then again, it was the 80s – that’s how it always looked. And it was the 80s, so everyone looks a bit coked out. (Thanks again, Grace Jones, for delivering Dolph Lundgren to the world. Just realizing that I have written about Dolph and Rocky IV too many times already.)
I am not sure why it took me until now to decide this (walking, not comparing my life to scenes from Rocky IV) was a good course of action – a few too many times getting slapped in the arm by overzealous tram riders gesticulating wildly while talking on the phone, a few too many broken-down trams, a few too many long waits (I am a wee bit impatient), a few too many scenes I just don’t want to be party to or relive. And I love walking. And I love the cold. Why not choose the one day of the year that snow falls and really stays to start? Walk!
Walking everywhere – and then realizing that I never take elevators anymore if I can avoid them – makes me think of how influential people in our lives can be in the most imperceptible ways. Little things that change how we do things. One ex-boyfriend always walked and never took the elevator, and eventually that shifted my take on how I get around and … how I ascend (haha) in buildings. (It didn’t help my confidence in elevators that the one in our building was always breaking down.) Another ex-boyfriend insisted that I add color to my wardrobe – I resisted, but long after we split up – right up until today (and that split was, what… 15 years ago?) – I still wear colors and never returned to the all-black wardrobe I donned back then.
It’s funny recounting relationships how we are more prone to cite the landmark things – like how someone’s influence changed your whole feeling about love, made you want to be a better version of yourself, turned you against marriage, made you want to have children or even something like suddenly made you realize the merits of living in a big city versus the suburbs. But in reality the impact in day to day life is evident but almost unacknowledged – whether subtly adopting a word or phrase that that person used frequently, or always taking the stairs.
I live three hours from where I work. On a good day. Today was not a good day, and I knew it when I set out. I cleared my car of the piles of snow about an hour before I decided to leave (at the ungodly hour of 1:00 a.m.). It was already covered again, as was the path to the car I had shoveled twice already during the weekend. As I have said before, winter came very late to Sweden, but it came with a vengeance. Other people are very happy with this virtual avalanche; I hate it. I especially hate driving in it – which is why I set out so ridiculously early. I knew that the normal roads I drive would be covered in thick snow and that I would want to take the motorway, which takes me an hour west of where I really want to go. The trip took just over four hours, but it was mostly clear on the E18 and E6 roadways, which is more than I can say for the other roads I drove on.
There was one point that the road near my house was just bad enough that I considered turning around and going home. I held out hope amidst the fear that was driving my driving, so to speak, that the bigger roads would be clearer (they were) and that the route to Gothenburg would not be quite so treacherous.
Snow showers continue to be the forecast for the rest of the week. If ever I wished I lived somewhere else, this drive was it.
Bright side – I finished putting together my anti-Valentine soundtrack mix, so I had something to listen to and assess all the way here.
This morning/middle of the night made for an awful commute. During the first third of the drive, the roads were clear, but every kilometer or so, I encountered big groups of deer playing in the road. I must have seen 100 deer in about 100 kilometers. I also saw a rabbit, which I have never seen around here, and two foxes. This winter, strangely, has been mostly devoid of moose. It occurred to me that my driving amounted to little more than dodging deer, which would not be a bad name for a video game. I got to use the whole road, just as the Seattle-based 1990s comedy sketch show, Almost Live encouraged Ballard drivers to do. You pay taxes on the whole thing – randomly weave all over the road!
On the second third of the road, most of it was covered with ice that had been covered over by snow. So many cars were off the road and so many tow trucks were pulling the cars out. The whole thing made me not only not want to drive but made me think seriously about the merits of living somewhere warmer – Hawai’i once more? Australia (perhaps much too warm)? Uruguay?
I arrived home after three+ hours of driving to trudge through ankle-deep snow – snow is everywhere. No big surprise. I cannot complain – winter did not come until late this year.
To get here to this calm, quiet, still cottage in the woods, I drove through some unpleasant conditions. All day in Gothenburg the temperature hovered around 0C while a snowy-sleet fell all day, creating a dubious, slick concoction on the road. It was a harrowing, treacherous drive at various points.
I actually break the trip into thirds. The first third is all motorway, which was largely clear – but it was extremely windy, trafficky and the further north I drove, the thicker the snow that started to fall (and the thicker the layer that already covered the ground).
The second of the three parts of my trip starts to become more winding and rural but is still not the worst part. There were a few blinding snow flurries, and the wind, particularly when crossing large open fields, blew mountains of snow up from the roadway into the line of vision.
By the final leg of the trip, which consists of considerably more rugged roads, winding, hilly and unkept, snow and wind were whirling, mildly blizzard-like, the roads were covered – no lines visible at all. The two vehicles that got behind me expressed their displeasure and impatience with my caution with some angry tailgating. My caution was warranted – in three different spots on the road, large groups of deer were just standing in the road. If I had not been going as slowly as I was, we’d have just plowed right into them.
There was a time, long ago, that driving in these kinds of conditions would have scared the hell out of me. I have let go of the fear and nervousness and embraced a healthy respect for the force of weather and just moved forward. Good advice for most things.
I ask virtually every person I meet to sing for me. Mostly to see what their reaction will be. I like to know what people will do in that kind of unexpected situation. Most people are pretty shy and won’t just break into song. Some need coaxing, such as the shy boy from Karlstad who eventually sang – and once he started could not stop, with lovely patriotic songs about Värmland. Some, like an old ex, would never do it at all. Others burst into enthusiastic singing immediately, such as an Egyptian doctor I once met who sang a long and mournful-sounding song in Arabic; my lovely French friend who regaled me with a most rousing version of one of the worst songs I have ever heard, “Mon fils ma bataille” while waiting on the train platform at Aulnay-sous-Bois after he misguided us and put us on the wrong train to the airport, and then the people who are musicians already – they are always ready to go with a song.
Of late I got to hear the most intentionally whiny, horrible version of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”. I can’t stop thinking about it and laughing. It is especially good because the guy singing it to me is Scottish, and he is snide and sneering about it and puts a special emphasis on the word “world” – making it sound like it has a whole lot more syllables in it than it actually does. My god, I love it.
I am not psychic. Evidence of this: Val Kilmer is still alive.
That said, I have some common sense (sometimes). I did not need to be psychic to know that I was going to have to take a longer route to work to ensure a safer route to work.
During the weekend, the weather turned to the typical cold, snowy Swedish winter one expects. Coming off a vacation and not really wanting to go back (I live about three hours by car from where I work and commute in on Monday mornings, leaving on Thursday afternoons), I envisioned the horrible road conditions on the road I normally take (a road I don’t like in ideal conditions). It winds and twists, is hilly, and wild animals, especially gigantic moose, pop out suddenly at every turn. In warm, decent weather, this is dangerous enough. In the middle of the night, at -7C with snow and ice covering the ground, a recipe for disaster. I also did not imagine that anyone cleared that highway – so I drove a good 100 kms out of my way so I could take Norwegian roads. You read that right. I crossed from Sweden into Norway, drove about 150 kms, and crossed back into Sweden to the south. Most of the drive, this way, was motorway that had been cleared and ultimately only tacked one hour onto the overall drive – although one hour is one hour. A train might have been doable but really not the best option this week.
Beyond that, “ice is evil” according to some dude named Doug.
And now, during my vacation, my work network password expired, so I can’t log in. Right now it is not important since I am sitting in the parking lot of the office waiting for it to open. Really need to rethink this nonsense.