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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Mrs Writes

Early morning and Chris sleeps. A latte and croissant keep me company.

Long conversations with friends about all manner of things - our lives, our histories, politics, culture, books. We move from one city to the next, take in the changing scenery on the train, and meeting folks all over.

If you've ever been to Europe, you know it just smells different. The train station in Copenhagen had that familiar smell of cigarettes, diesel, and stale urine. It strikes me with nostalgia. Ah yes, here we are. The butter here smells different, the laundry detergent smells different, the toilet paper smells different. The butter is richer, the laundry crisper, the toilet paper sweeter. In Scandinavia, there's so much wood in houses that there's a low level sweetness of wood which is beautifully complemented by coffee brewing. I've never smelled coffee as good as in Scandinavian homes. You could keep the intricate architecture, the people and the language, but if you lost the smell of these places, there's no way they would be the same. I keep being struck by this and know no better way to articulate it.

Spending time first with Brad, Inez, Emil and Freja, I feel immersed in aesthetics, in detail, in art. Food is art and creation, the bathroom is a gallery. The house is bejewelled with plastic multicoloured beads, black and white photos, and who you are feels innately creative. Their family is at the centre of their lives, love bounces off of them and you are included in their joy of one another. They are forever interested and interesting.

A couple of days with Jonatan and Cecilia and his parents and I feel like books build the walls of our lives. A deep integrity, a simple non-materialism, and the echoes of tradition and a culture that is quickly disappearing still resonates in them. I am honoured to be their friend. Together we walk around town, go swimming at the beach, play soccer, talk. We spend a night in the Swedish countryside with sheep, forests, and a luxuriating lunch outside under the sun and chestnut tree. The conversation brings us back and forth through hundreds of years of Swedish history, through wars, through Vikings and pre-Christianity. Jonatan and his family are the people who carry us all through the ages.

In Gothenburg, Monica meets us at the train station wearing her patented smile. Both Monica and her boyfriend Staffan are hilariously funny. We crack each other up and our jokes pass back and forth between us easily. Their apartment reminds me of Paris; high ceilings, detailed moulding, echoes as you walk from room to room. But they are not bourgeois. Monica, working on her PhD in engineering, is conducting tests on a single cylinder engine to try and find better renewable fuels. She goes to a conference in Japan and she is one of two women presenters from 300. It is Monica who is excited about World Cup soccer, a gender switch from what we've seen so far. She exudes generosity and Staffan is the same. We are welcome here too.

Maybe because our encounters with all of these are relatively intense, a few whirlwind days in close proximity with each, that their differences seem so stark. Yet I marvel how each of them is so warm, so welcoming, and so interesting. In each home we are guests at their table, welcomed to their home and into their lives. We are listened to, thanked for coming, and supported on our journey. I take much from them individually, but as a whole, I also get something that maybe none of them intended: a sincere appreciation of difference. How rich is the world indeed.

Today and tomorrow here and then to Stockholm and the boat to Finland. I feel we're heading home; to family and Finland. On the other side is a whole host of family and a lifetime of memories. I am also secretly longing for a slice of solitude and a sauna. Three months of sweating is just around the corner...

Much love to anyone and everyone, Miia


mri said...

Thanks for the update Miia! I too love the slightly cheesy european butter :)

mavenmiia said...

The butter is delish. Maybe that's why European croissants are also so fantastic.

Email with more news about SL and you, especially as you're shifting gears around now, yes?