Stockholm, Sweden: On Places and People

Journal    July 4, 2014
We Paid 200 krona and pulled our yellow pedal boat from under the
bridge.  Six of us steered into a deep harbor bobbing among speed boats, double deckered tourist barges and wakes from large cruise ships.   On one side the now mint green rusted roofs of  Gamla Stan bore down on us.  Karl made peanut butter and honey sandwiches that we ate in the sun.  Baby Thea stood on tip toe at the helm of the boat, looking out to sea.
You can’t believe what glacier water lakes feel like on skin parched by the Arabian sun.  Max climbed the 7.5 meter diving platform above the icey lake on lidingo island and paced, squatted, paused before he joined hands together above his head and dove into the blue below.  Opting for a much calmer arctic experience I was content to wade among the reeds with the naked babies holding bags to catch small fish.    

“The lakes were carved by glaciers” our friend and geologist tells us.  This makes complete sense as we gasp and force ourselves deeper into the impossibly blue water.  Not turquoise like the shores of Oman, but ultramarine, nearly navy in its darkest places.  

When I think of our few days in Stockholm last month my memories are flooded with four images:  green trees and fields, cold dark water, endless pale light and the sweet faces of our friends.  Sweden is 80% wilderness and in the summer months the sun shines on all of it for almost the entire 24 hour cycle.  After swimming in lakes and walking through forests and talking for hours it didn’t occur to us to make dinner until nearly 9 o’clock most days.  On our last night Max and I walked the green path to the grocery store and passed straight backed bike riders with straight white teeth.  A mother and son on an evening bike ride from one leafy treed neighborhood to another. 
We ate hot dogs with spicey mustard one afternoon and dangled our feet in a large fountain.   We had walked passed barn faced Scandinavian houses to the Vasa museum where an incredible 17th century blunder turned out to be the incredible 20th century discovery of a near perfectly preserved warship.  The Vasa, completed in 1628, was only 16 feet wide to its 172 foot long hull.  On its maiden voyage a faint gust of wind toppled the ship in the harbor and it quickly sank.  The warship, complete with 172 canons, was discovered late in the last century and has proved to be a unique relic of shipbuilding in the region.          
I once read an article written by a father who traveled extensively with his son.  He said that he traveled with his young son in order to increase the memories they had together, to have more shared experiences and more things to discuss as the child grew older.  These experiences proved to be foundational in their relationship.  Although we had kept in touch via email, it had been years since I had seen this dear friend living in Sweden.  We had created many memories in the past, but it’s hard to duplicate that kind of immediacy via letters, emails and phone calls.  It was such a joy to share new experiences in a place that was foreign to both of us – my memories of freezing Swedish lakes and cool sunlight fused with cooking and drawing side by side, the palm of her son in my hand as we walked to the bus stop.