Monday, 30 January 2012

Sick Day

I rarely get sick, and yet here I am, under the weather, suffering from fever and sore throat and probably sore muscles, though that might be from Saturday's snowboarding. Whatever the case, my parents returned from dinner last night to find me lying listless on the sofa, perturbed by what would seem like a slight fever. But I have always had a low core temperature--my reptilian superpower--but now that it has been disturbed, my immune system fights to regain the throne and restore order, sidelining my mental and physical capabilites to reboot, meaning on all accounts that I cannot write cohesively and will not go to karate.

In Comparison

My father has recently been looking at Wordpress templates for his old website, and he has asked me to look alongside him and give my opinion. Mother found us both sitting on my bed on our individual computers, looking for all the world like-father-like-daughter. They have some very pretty templates on Wordpress. And there are a great many beautiful blogs out there with individually-designed borders and pages and stuff. And having looked at all these, I can't help but find my own blog a little empty, a little spartan. But I suppose that is what happens when one compares. One or the other will always fall short.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Sewing Lesson

Everyone should know how to sew, boys and girls alike. I sew because I must (it is so hard to find clothes I like), which means irregularly at best, and I have only sewn a few things under the careful guidance of the more experienced. I sewed a blue velvet dress in the seventh grade, a medieval bell-sleeved gown in high school, a paisley blouse for a class, and now a skirt. I do not consider sewing a feminine talent. What if Andrew Luth thought to himself one day, "I'd rather like to wear a Victorian bathing suit to the beach today," and no one would stop him except for his own inabilities. It would be a shame to be left out in the cold, unable to make a statement with your choice of fashion, simply because you eschewed the art of sewing for something less archaic.

Sewing terms should not sway you from the pleasure of creating. They mystify me, as well, but the Oxford American Dictionary should come to my rescue. Surely.

Baste - (v. 1) to moisten with fat during cooking, (2) to thrash.
A little weird, but who am I to question?

And the rest? Nowhere to be found. So I googled.

Ease stitch - When one piece of fabric has more curve and/or volume than the other, requiring you to ease the fabric to fit the smaller piece. Usually seen when fitting sleeves.

Stay stitch - A single line of stitching through the fabric to keep it from stretching when being handled. Usually used on collars, though I used mine between the bottom and top half of my skirt. (It is a very long skirt.)

The lesson I learned is that instructions are much more difficult than the actual execution. Once you have cut out your pieces, they logically fit together, and you needn't worry about slipstitching and grain lines too much. As we say here in Sweden, frisk vågat, hälften vunnit, or directly translated, Andrew Luth, you'll never know how snappy you'd look in stripes if you've never tried them on.

Photoshop courtesy of Matt Higgins.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Off to Sea

 I'm off to sea with my newly purchased nautical blouse.

I found it in a secondhand shop and bought it on the spot.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Next Stop: Surfing

I have now mastered the snowboard. There isn't much to be said about it except that I spent more time on my back or buckling the straps to my feet or falling off the ski lift than on the slope. On the bunny slope, I was joined by a handful of kids and their parents who eventually noticed my efforts and gave me cheerful shouts of "Next time!" and "Keep fighting!" I could never seem to master the get-up after a fall withouth sliding forward, and lying on my back, I would have to roll over and helicopter the board over  my head, at which point int time I could successfully push up and off the ground. At final tally, I have a bruise at the back of my head from hittng the ground too violently in a turn, a sore coccyx, and muscles that are likely to stiffen as I drop off to sleep.

After I had strapped the board to my feet and sprawled across the snow in an unsuccessful attempt to stand, my father hovered around me anxiously, concerned at my many stumbles and insisted I change to the pair of skis in the car, seeing as I am more adept at handling their turns. Though he said no such thing, I gather he thought I was having no fun at all and wished to spare me the pain. His well intentions, however, were unnecessary. It was gnarly, dude, but totally radical. Hang the tumbles! Falling is the lifeblood of success.

Friday, 20 January 2012

My Peace I Leave with You

When I visited last week, Uppsala was not blessed with snow--not a flake to be seen--but it remains a beautiful city with the river that wanders through its heart and the trees stark against pale skies and the bright cafes where you can duck in for a hot chocolate. My father, brother, and I went for a walk along the cobblestones, beginning at the church and ending at the same, after a stop at Cafe Linne, named after Carl von Linne, the famous botanist.

Father and son 

Uppsala Cathedral is massively impressive. Its current form comes after three different constructions and reconstructions. Building on the cathedral began most probably in 1273, under the hand of the french stonemason Etienne de Bonneuil. Masons were called in from England, France, and Germany to create something lavish in the modern gothic style. In 1702, almost all of Uppsala was ravaged by a fire. The church towers burned down and were rebuilt in a shorter, rounded style. Finally in the years 1886-1893, the church was returned to its former glory and the two tall spires were rebuilt.

Joel and I walked the halls and listened to the warm notes of the organ. The church was empty, save for a few other souls that had come to admire the architecture. We sat in the pews and leaned forward against the pews in front, and I felt that in that moment, we joined hands with all those worshippers who had gone before, who had looked on the same walls and had fought the same doubts and felt the same surrender to the same, good God. Perhaps it is most telling that we began our journey only a stone's throw from the church steps and ended it within its walls, as if drawn by some subconcious, inexplicable force.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Look Ahead

Plan for tomorrow: Slide on wooden floors in wool socks.

With Love

Someone once told me, "You'll get hair all over your trousers."
I don't mind.
I don't mind.

Dog Hair and Bruises

I did not even have the dignity to fall off a horse. I fell off a pony, on what was supposed to be my Christmas present from Ida--a horse ride through enchanted snowy woods. Instead Ida and I were left to our own devices and with what little experience we had between us, we had managed to saddle the horse and taken him down to the snowy paddock. The moment I swung my leg over Manne's back, there was a second of perfect clarity before he bucked and dashed forward in what can only be seen as a gesture of perfect happiness. I hit the ground with a bang, and Ida stared bewildered at the little pony running to his heart's content down the length of the fence. It is a bit disheartening to be dismounted in the first second, and I had no greater desire to see if I could acquire another bashed knee.    Ida looked very unhappy that her present had gone off like a shot.
    "Don't worry about it," I assured her, brushing off my coat. "I already had a bruise there."
    And she really needn't have worried. This evening, I returned home from karate bruised and bloodied. Shihan had set me against Erika, the yellow-belt-now-turned-green-belt powerhouse who pummeled me with her bloody fists for two minutes, which resulted in a red-speckled gi I vowed I would study to discover her technique and a forming blue bruise on my other knee.

 Manne had by now returned to the gate, and Ida took up his slack reins and walked us back to the stables to put him away in his stall with a final pat on the rump. It was a good day. We spent it talking to Tessan and Emma and Sara, the beagle and border terrier and border collie running around the place. Porter, the big black cat, blinked at us from his window seat. Ida and I explored the stables and were delighted to find little lambs, only hours old, staggering about on long, thin limbs. To think such fragile things were being born in mid-winter! Their mothers that stamped their feet in bravado. Perhaps we were peeking too closely at a secret, private ritual between the old and the very young.

Though there were chickens and horses to see, I long stood and watched the sheep, understanding, if only a little, the feelings the Shepherd must feel for His flock, and the peace it gives to walk through a barn and smell dusty hay and hear gentle pawings and stirrings of hooves and slow-chewed cud and to see His creatures safely tucked away from the cold of the winter winds.

Ida's father has long kept sheep, and I doubt she understood why I lingered. The most curious of them put their heads through the bars, and I rested my hands on their curly foreheads and thought of Galway Kinnell's poem.

St. Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Little Did You Know

 This week I traveled with my father to my grandparents' place in Stockholm, with only a short interlude in Uppsala to see my brother and his wife. My father met up with some friends, but my own intention was quite different. I have recently become somewhat obsessed with preserving the present, creating something that carries past my own small personal sphere of experience. My grandparents are getting old. My grandmother's hearing is ailing; she has begun to repeat herself and seems to have lost some of her ability to reason abstractly. My father's parents, though still spry-minded and quick to a pun, wince from back pains and troubled stomachs, and this realization compounded has turned my thoughts to our human mortality. Are they to go without their story written down? Will the sound of their voices never be heard again?

I feel driven to write it down, to furiously tell their tale, as if I could not work fast enough to hold on to their words. I find such desperation to be a natural part of every writer; though we may not admit to our mortal soul such petty reasons, we write in the hope that our words will be, must be enough to remember us by when we have passed beyond this earthly life.

Therefore, I have decided on another hare-brained scheme--to create a digital library, in which to keep recordings of my grandparents' stories, and possibly others of their generation. I would capture their accents, and in this small, selfish gesture, preserve the voice by which they lived.

Farfar works on a crossword puzzle. 

 "Here. Have a napkin."

I just found out I'm related to Tintin. Of course, grandfather denies all such allegations, but it is obvious that I am. In direct line. A third generation adventurer. The world has wondered what happened to the intrepid boy-reporter, and I'll have you know he married Frida and had two sons and spoke little of his past adventures. Here he is, slightly the worse for wear and tear, but never seen without his trademark quiff or that incorrigible gleam in his eye.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Bear Grylls Saved My Life

On our way through snow-capped lands

The snow has been gathering on the roof of our cottage, and it was necessary to alleviate its load before the ceiling caved in and left us with a very large, superfluously-placed skylight. Father, mother, and I drove into the woods to the house and found we had to march through four feet of powder to get to the doorstep and then another length across the yard to the tool shed to find the shovels and finally to get the ladder. Father and I climbed onto the roof and gripped our shovels and got down to the stuff of life by throwing snow off the roof in persistent swings. The first hour of the three spent was wonderful. A silent forest in the grip of white winter and not a bird to stir the air.

At one point in time, my swing was a bit enthusiastic, and I shoveled the shovel right off the roof. It landed on the ground on the other side of the house. Mother handed me another one from below and set off to retrieve the wayward tool. I could see nothing of her progress--she was making her way around one side of the building where we had parked our summer car, now buried in snow--her voice barely carried over the housetop, her words muffled into one unintelligible expression. Suddenly her voice grew shrill and she was saying something something something SOMETHING! She was in a fix that she sorted out after a bit of digging. She told us afterwards she had stepped into loose snow and fallen through until she was stuck with snow up to her chest. As it was, she made her way out, switched directions, and crawled through more snow to fetch the shovel.

I had a close call myself. Pushing layered snow off a tin-tiled roof is not necessarily without risk, and, as was inevitable, I began to slide. It wouldn't have been a great fall. I would have ended up in a snowbank, if it had not been for the extraordinary survival skills I have learned from Bear Grylls. I dug my toes into the incline and lay my shovel flat in front of me to make a handhold and moved forward in measured steps. This might be the only time I will ever use television-acquired trivia to sort my way out of trouble.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

To Live Will Be an Awfully Big Adventure

A new year has come, and I saw it over the threshold at a party in Vännäs, a smaller town outside of Umeå, with freshly-made aquiantances--Maria, Sara-Liz and her husband Linus, Håkan, Kerstin, Rolf, Kristina, and Sannah with an H.

"Make yourself at home," said Sannah with an H, the host of the evening, ushering us into the living room.
"If there were presents under the tree," I assured her, "I would open them."

At 11:58, I convinced Sannah with an H and Maria to put on boots and coats and join me outside to wait for the New Year. We stood under the cold, clear skies and watched fireworks bloom on all three sides of our vision. Every star stood out as crisp dots on blue velvet, joined by golden paper lanterns floating across the dark sky, across Orion and his belt, far above our heads. The three of us whooped and danced and shouted at the top of our lungs as the clock struck twelve, and the New Year settled into our bones. By then, the frosty air had found us through our layers, and we beat a retreat inside to find Linus with his baby girl, fast sleep in his lap. He had seen in the New Year holding his seven-week-old daughter by the hand.

2011 was an awesome year, a year of firsts. I began it in America and ended it in the north of Sweden, high atop the world (all the better to see you). The second half of the year involved great change, required adjustments to a world suddenly apart from Academia, which has required of me that I take on a variety of roles. Starting in August, I became grunt labour for the church, a Sunday school teacher, sound technician, youth leader, and a part of the worship team. I have started a prayer group, dabbled in the mysterious martial arts of kyokushinkai, sung solo, blogged consistently, become an editor for Peoplearenotforsale, improved my photography skills, and wrote a book about my father's travels in the far reaches of Asia. With this in mind, I can only eagerly anticipate the Captain Hooks of this next year, facing the arrows of outrageous fortune and coming to fisticuffs with the challenges of the world.

I hope that this New Year finds you too on the cusp of some daring and foolhardy exploit. As you consider embarking on this voyage, weighing the odds and ends of moving forward into the undiscovered country, I can only tell you what a very wise friend of mine once told me: Never cease to adventure.

Funky Chicken

 I went dancing the other day with Sofia, my brother's wife at Scharinska, a club where alternative rock is enjoyed in all its variou forms. (I'm assuming it has forms.) Joel and Jachin were somewhere in the peripheries, but neither wanted to dance, and so Sofia and I took to the dance floor by ourselves to intimidate the amaters and professionals alike.

Girls need to cut a place for themselves on the floor, which necessitates that they are unafraid of disapproval. I'm not sure what anyone else thinks of me (I'm there for the dance), but they all gave me a wide berth, which I can only assume meant they stepped back to admire me from afar as I stepped on some toes and caught some people in the ribs with my elbows. And can you believe it? Not one boy asked me to dance. Someone told me I perhaps might attract more suitors should I dance less violently, but I say, hang such notions! Banish the thought! It has always been my personal belief that if a boy is too afraid to challenge me to a dance off, he simply isn't husband material. I have no intention of contorting myself to make me more or less desirable.

The next morning, my sister wanted to know how it had all gone, how I had danced. "I've only ever seen you dance around at home." She naively assumed I moved differently in the public sphere. "When you flail around."
"Nope, that's pretty much it."
She was, I am happy to report, simultaneously disappointed and embarrassed.

Sisters Say the Darndest Things

I helpfully point out to Sofia she has lint in her bellybutton.
"What?" Sofia, lying on the bed, makes a show of mock anguish. "Who has lint in their bellybutton? That is so 2009."