Tuesday, July 28, 2009


At the moment, I’m in the woods, outside a small cabin that my Grandma and Granda built some time in the early fifties. I spent a lot of time here growing up, and in all ways relevant, it’s still more or less the same. There’s still no water closet, the only running water comes directly from the lake and shouldn’t be used for drinking, and all around are pine trees, wood peckers and squirrels. The strongest sound around is the soft sound of the wind on the lake, about 40 metres away. An enormous bumble bee just landed next to my lemonade, had a look around, then took off.

In short, I’m vacationing in Paradise.

When my Australian friends tell me about their impressions of Scandinavians, there’s always one thing they seem to be especially fascinated by: when Scandinavians encounter the Sun, they all strip down to their undies, lie down on the ground, and don’t move for hours. Or until they have to move because the Sun moves away. Since all Australians know that the Sun is dangerous and will cause melanoma, and is in general a harsh lover, they all wonder how Scandinavians can be so careless. A good question indeed.

In order to answer it, let’s look at a culturally significant object: songs regarding summer. One of the best known and loved summer songs is Idas sommarvisa (“Ida’s summer song” from Astrid Lindgren’s stories of Emil). The lyrics tell of how we shouldn’t think summer’ll arrive just like that: we’ll have to work for it! Another often played song about summer, Sommaren är kort (“The summer is short”, by Tomas Ledin – doesn’t the title say it all?). The song starts (in Swedish, but a quick and dirty translation will have to suffice):

Summer is short
Most of it rains away
But now it’s here
So grab a piece of it
The sun is out today!

So that’s what we do. As soon as the Sun shows its face, we say to each other: “It’s a shame to sit indoors in this lovely weather!”, drop whatever we’re doing, and head for the beach. Or the nearest lawn, as long as it’s big enough for our blankets, and then we lie down, and worship the sun.

I could write about the depressions that spread across the nation when Summer has been grey and rainy, I could write about the suicide statistics, or about our traditions of institutionalised tea lights and cookies to pick us up during the dark months, but instead I’m going to describe what T and I are doing right now.

Right now, we’re sitting outside, computers in laps, in order to maximise the Sun exposure. We even changed into smaller outfits with less skin cover to get a better exposure, more heat, more vitamin D. The past couple of days here in Paradise have been rainy, cold and grey, so now we’re grabbing a handful.

Paradise is beautiful, and warm!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Not home-sick

I've been in Berlin for - I don't know actually, less than a year, more than six months - now. People sometimes ask me when I'll be coming home. And I really don't know what they mean. I live here now, in this flat, in this city. Surely this is home? But then again, when travel to Lund, I say that I'm going home. And the same is true for Gothenburg.

I'm not home-sick, I'm home-confused.

When there's a post announced abroad that looks half decent, people ask me if I'm going to apply, as if it's clear that I will do just that. Apparently I've become the kind of person who at least some don't expect to really settle down in one specific place. I'm not really sure how that happened. I used to be the girl who played it safe, the girl who was going to marry a safe and secure unadventurous guy, have 2,5 or whatever children, and not really make much of a fuss. That didn't happen. I have no idea what happened, really. I guess I'll have to paraphrase a friend who said: "I just can't go on living like that. I want to laugh. I want to have fun!". I'm having fun now. I'm playing a whole other game, but , boy, am I having fun!

And that all happened at the same that that my feelings of home started to become weird.

For a long time, I pined for Australia. I still do in a way. There's a small emptiness in my chest, which can only be filled by the thought of warm air and gum-trees. But at the same time, there's another emptiness in there, one which can only be filled by Swedish west coast granite cliffs, salt water and midnight skinny-dipping. I also have a small emptiness that longs for narrow stone alleys that smell of roses in a small old university town in southern Sweden. And I'm sure that, eventually, there will be an emptiness there for flowering chestnuts in a large metropolis.

Maybe some day I will even feel an emptiness for this rootlessness.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We'd packed away our sorrows

The summer before I turned 19, I experienced a short and intense infatuation with K. K and I went to the same high school. We had no classes together, but he had for a time been together with one of my best friends, so we kinda knew each other. I'd be lying if I said we spent a lot of time together, but he was my prom date, and we were very attracted to each other. To cut to the chase, we eventually ended up in his bed, and there we listened to Tom Waits. We did other things there too, of course, but those are not what I want to talk about here. What is the issue is the music. Or more specifically, his song Martha. Because right then and there, in K's bed, I fell in love. With Tom Waits. The story of Martha made me cry then, and it makes me smile today.

Of course, things happened. K left town to do his military service only a couple of days later, and I was broken hearted for a bit, but within a couple of weeks I met the man I was to live with for the next near-six years. As I said, short and intense. I started studying at the university, years went by, I split up from the man I was living with, I began my postgraduate studies and got my first really own home. A part of those postgraduate studies turned out to be to go to Australia for some time. Exactly one week before leaving, my phone rang.

"Is this the Drakona who went to Highschool X? Do you hear who this is?" someone asked.

Of course I knew who it was. Of course I was she. This was seven years later.

Now, another six years later, K is one of my dearest friends. Not one of my most frequent friends, but one of the very, very dear ones. Almost as dear as Tom Waits. Just the other day I listened to Martha again for the first time in a very long time.

It always makes me think of K, for oh so many reasons.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Perty books!

I'm on a bit of a reading spree at the moment, and what I'm reading is perty books - among other things, I've just had a new batch of books from the Canongate Myths Series. There's a lot to be said about that line, both good and bad of course, but for the msot part, I'm overwhelmed. And the books looks so lovely.

But what's with the nice looking literature? Beautiful books, books that are like soft dark chocolates covered in red and gold wrapping. It is, I find, a joy to open a book that is printed on thick, cream coloured paper, where the margins are substantial, so as to make the lines just so long as is comfortable for the eye. Not the entire page is used up, as is often the case with grey-colour-paper pocket books, where the lines are too tight, the font too bold and the margins too narrow. No, I like well-bound books with beautiful cover-art, books that reach out for me and make me want to pick them up.

But of course, it matters little that the book looks lovely, if the content is bland or uninteresting.

I've recently read not only one, but two books that fill both the form and the content criteria, namely The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson and Girl meets boy by Ali smith. They both deal with issues like queer, norms and expectations, feminist and humanist questions as well as environmental problems and what we are doing to our world and to ourselves. Both JW and AS have a lovely, light and direct prose, they are approachable as writers, accessible as texts, and they both are very, very worth while.

And the books are very, very perty.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The wonders of technology

Many years ago now, the Swedish rock band Wilmer X had a hit with their song Teknikens under (Technical wonders). One of the more significant lines of that song is “du kan glömma dina ensamma stunder – du kan lita på teknikens under” (you can forget your lonely moments – you can rely on the wonders of technology). I was quite young when the song first came out, and I remember thinking that it sounded rather lewd. Nowadays, when I’m in a long-distance relationship, I must say that they were right. And not only in the lewd ways. Thanks to technology, especially the technology of the Internet, of computers in general, and of the mobile phone evolution, I am actually never far away from my other half.

We text each other several times a day, we talk, courtesy of special long-distance telephone deals, once or twice daily, if we both have Internet access, we have each other on each sides of our screens, either via some instant messaging option or via some forum or other. We email each other and we leave small virtual notes lying around here and there. We send pictures from our daily lives, and I’m even thinking about taking up recording voice messages for him to download and enjoy whenever he likes.

There are so many ways of being close, verbally, despite being apart.

But what happens to our writing? Back in the day, when great artists wrote smouldering letters to their mistresses, which eventually, long after their deaths were published in great books or at least put into databases for textual analyses, things were kept, saved, to a much higher extent. Will we in the future be able to take part of the passionate and biographically revealing love letters of writer X to her lover Y? Probably not, because it was all done over SMS, and when they split up, he erased all the messages she sent him.

I have a box. It’s a box that I don’t open unless it is to put something in there, of things I could never get rid of. Love letters. Small tokens of affection. Memorabilia from long lost relationships. Little things that were once important and symbolic. One day, many, many years from now I hope, my children will find them and ask themselves what their mother really was up to before she met their father. They’re unlikely to go into any great archives, and I don’t go back to it to read. That’s not what they’re for.

But what with text messages? I’m not able to put those in a small box and keep them forever. And phone memories get full – eventually you have to make choices and delete some of your cute writings. Chat is better that way. Their memories seem to save any amount of conversation indefinitely. And email? Well the servers protest after a while, but I can always save my correspondences on my hard drive. But what if it crashes? What if my back up crashes too? And what if I one day decide to do a big cleaning out? What if Strindberg (NOT saying that I’m Strindberg material, just trying out an argument here. I’d rather be Helium anyways… Misery!!!) had decided that a good spring cleaning was long overdue, and chucked out all his correspondence? What if Harriet Bosse had done the same? Then we’d have no letters of his left, mentioning how he proposed to her by saying “Do you want to have a small child with me, Miss Bosse?”. And I do spring clean.

I know it’s discussed every so often what is actually going to happen with history writing, now with the electronic medium, which on the one hand is very delicate and we have no idea how long different storage media will actually last, and on the other hand lets us keep record of soooo much more than we ever could before! But it’s also so much easier to throw things away. A lot of the really famous photographs of the past century are pics that were taken by chance or by mistake, at a fluke. A lot of the really important pictures are things that went on in the background. Often in failed pictures, the kind of picture that is very, very easy to just erase from your camera right after you’ve taken it. When the pictures were harder to acquire, people didn’t seem to get rid of them quite so easily.

I’m a little uncertain what I’m trying to say here. Maybe something like this: I miss my loved one despite being in almost constant contact with him, and I wish that I had the possibility to save every word he writes me, because, despite my professional opinion that chat and SMS aren’t really writing, but rather text mediated speech, it feels like writing, and writing ought to be saved. I don’t have a nagging feeling about the badness of getting rid of things from not being able to record and review our every conversation. I need to get my head sorted out around these issues, and try harder to stop feeling about it as text. But I guess the product is text, although the process is speech. Yeah, something like that.

But thanks to the wonders of technology, I have no lonely moments.


I’m in Berlin now. For those of you Swedish speakers, that means you can read about my German adventures elsewhere. It’s been rather adventurous moving in – first not having furniture for a week, and then not heating for about the same period of time, and, uhm, still not having a stowe and a sink. My washing machine will arrive tomorrow though, which will greatly lower my weekly spendings on underwear and socks.

They say that Berlin is the capital of decadence – at least in Europe. In America, that would probably be San Francisco. But Berlin is up there I guess. So far, decadence has, unfortunately I must say, played a very minor part in my life here. I do feel slightly decadent in one small way though. My new home is huge, roomy and just renovated. In fact, it’s still being renovated, which is the reason a hairy plummer, who’s only wearing work pants and nothing (yes, I mean it, NOTHING! Oh well, yeah, he did have shoes. And a crucifix. But otherwise: nothing) else on, is rummaging around in my bathroom. I guess that is somebody’s kink, but it’s not mine. So my flat might be way too huge for me, and thus decadent, but there’s not terribly much glamour about it. Yet. I’ll try and change that though.

Our (as in mine and my love’s) plan at the moment is for me to be here for three weeks, and then I visit him for a week. Then in between, whenever possible, he can come visit me. We’ll have two homes for two years. So I guess I’m bi-living. Or something. I tried putting ‘bi’ plus ‘casa’ together in my head, but ended up with ‘bi-casual’, which… Sounds like something very different from what I actually meant.

Well. I didn’t really have much else to say at this time – just wanted to let you know that I’m still out there, but have been swamped in boxes and moving and stuff. But I’m here. And I’ll be back very soon with more rambling and meandering thoughts.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kiddie stuff!

Lately, I’ve been reading some fantasy literature, which I believe is often perceived as being aimed at children and adolescents, and I’ve been thinking about even more examples. It’s like… I have no idea how a children’s book is deemed a children’s book. What are the criteria for the classification? That the books deal with kiddie stuff? That the main characters are children?

I think that last thing is quite important to a lot of grown ups. These books that I’ve read lately, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and the Abarat by Clive Barker, mainly, have children or adolescents as their main characters. This of course, automatically targets them at audiences of that same age.

I’m not so sure.

One aspect of reading which is important to a lot of people is identification; is it at all possible for me as a reader to identify with at least one of the main characters? Preferably the main character, but some lesser being is quite alright too. Like, if you can’t identify with Harry, Hermione could work just as well.

Or can she?

See, the reasoning behind identification is often (and I’m rambling here, NOT being scientific, you'd better not dream of quoting) based on likeness. I identify with the person who’s the most like me. I.e., with Harry Potter, I ought to identify with the clever neurotic overachiever with large front teeth and bushy hair. Thing is – I don’t really want to do that. I’d much rather identify with someone who I can feel for, someone who doesn’t have all my worst sides. I like Ginny, for example. We’re not terribly similar at all… It’s like… You trekkers out there will be familiar with Wesley Crusher, I’m sure. You know, the rather annoying young man who constantly fucks up? The son of Dr. Crusher? There are whole web pages dedicated to scorning him. Apparently, he was put on the show for young viewers to have someone to identify with. Thing is – do you really want to identify with him? He grows nanites that put the ship at risk – well, to be honest, he repeatedly puts the ship at risk! – and he’s not really much use. He’s annoying (this is an aside: interestingly enough, the actor playing Wesley, Wil Wheaton, has risen to great hights in the blogger community. Oughtn’t the bloggers and the trekkers overlap quite a lot? Really? It’s interesting). Anyway: The younger viewers don’t want to identify with Wesley, they want to identify with Picard! I want to identify with Picard. So, a younger character doesn’t make the book a book for children.

Secondly, are the children really children? *slight spoiler warning* Both in Abarat and in His Dark Materials, the children are more than ordinary kids. *end of spoiler risk* The same in Narnia: The children are ordinary in our world, but in Narnia they are special because of their humanness. They lose their plainness. With His Dark Materials, I’d say that the children aren’t even very credible as children: Lyra’s close to superhumanly bright occasionally, and generally, the children of fantasy either have extraordinary powers (like Garion or are extraordinarily clever, like Lyra, or good, like Lucy. They’re not primarily children. Primarily, they’re super humans.

But: What does seem to be an important feature of all good children’s fiction – not only fantasy, mind you – is that there’s a moral, ethical, scientific and social depth which is mind boggling, and often missing in a lot of fiction aimed at adults. His Dark Materials is filled with quite advanced theology and physics, to say nothing of quantum physics and meta physics. Don’t even get me started on the theology of Narnia. The social realism of Abarat and of Mio, my Son is occasionally plain scary, and possibly not really suited for children. At least not without adult supervision. Seriously. Read the stuff as adults and think about it.

Anyway: Let’s just step away from that narrow classification of books into children’s fiction and adult fiction. There’s such depths there, and we miss out on so much if we dismiss something because we think it’s aimed at another age group.

This is not a way of avoiding to grow up. I love being grown up. This is a way of keeping my mind open, accessible and agile. I’m trying to avoid putting stuff in boxes and labelling it. I’m trying to keep my mind young.

Intoxicate me

I’ve written this several times before, one way or other: I’m easily affected by smells and fragrances.

When I was walking home tonight, in the middle of the night after a very warm day, I was overcome by smells. They surrounded me, filled me, took charge of me… I laughed out loud, so strongly did it affect me.

It smelled of flowers and receding heat, of warm grass soon to be touched by the mild dew. Lund is a flowering city, there’s flowers everywhere. I love living here.

As always, when I’ve been walking through the fragrant night, I’m affected. It’s like… Well. I don’t see all my senses as rating equally. I enjoy my hearing. I like music. But I can live without my hearing. Really. Toucch is a lovely, fantastic hting, that I'd hate to lose, but it's not how I primarily percieve the world. Eyesight on the other hand… Much more important. How else to judge text and art? Sooo important to me in the way I perceive the world. Smell though (and taste is basically the same thing) works like a memory trigger, a Madeleine cake.

My memory this time wasn’t terribly specific. It was more a feeling. A feeling that I’ve walked in that kind of smell, in a similar kind of temperature, next to someone I like, someone who I didn’t have the license to touch just yet. Imagine that it’s about half an hour before the first touch. You want to touch the other person, but it’s totally out of the question. For now. You can walk down the street together though. Walk down the street, next to each other. Close. So close that you can feel the naturally generated electricity in the other persons body. You’re the anode, the other person’s the cathode. You’re being drawn, pulled, towards each other. The electricity dancing between you is very nearly tangible. When – by chance – the hairs on your arm brush against the other, you could swear there was a spark… You walk closely together to feel the heat emanating from the other, to try to smell the other person’s body without being too obvious about it…

I’ve been there.

As I was walking down the street, I wished I were there again, slowly being intoxicated by your pheromones.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sunday habits

Yesterday I went to church. Usually I don’t, but I had a friend staying with me, and we decided to step into the Lund Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1145, thus being a terribly old building, really. I was starting to think that I was going to have lived here for almost a whole year without visiting he Cathedral. It really is a very beautiful building.

Visit it if you come here – really! Oh – and visit me too if you come here!