23 June 2007

Soul searching?

When you walk on a beach do you keep your head down drawn to the infinite numbers of treasures you might find? Do you scan and search and retrace your footsteps, one more time,for that special glimmer on the periphery of your vision? Is it impossible to resist this urge? Is it the same in the forest, or when you are digging earth in the garden? Shells and stones and seed pods, slivers of polished glass and pottery shards. What is it that we are really searching for?

What is this drive, desire, delight, that we are connected to? There is meaning and magic in what we do.

1 comment:

  1. No, I never look for a dead tresure. Walking on the beach I keep my head up, looking at the horizon and at the heaven, creating stories from passing clouds.

    It might be a cultural "thing": here, in America I noticed that people look down when they pray. Not in my home country. I remember always looking up, to the heavens, to hope, and being so encouraged by my grandfather. No looking down, no excessive humility allowed, but hope and trust in yourself and in the future.

    If I look down walking on the beach, it would be for those tiny dancing crabs - love watching them, but would not want to step on any of them. Would not want to step on any of those purplish-bluish blobs of jelly fish with their long, long tentacles, either. But love the challenge and fun, and pride in doing something good, in helping some colonies of minuscule creatures by picking them up and throwing them back into the sea trying not to get stung.

    But in the forest, especially in the abundant Swedish forests, in the summer and fall I do not only search, but HUNT for traesures.

    First for the wild strawberries (fres de bois). Aah, the heavenly aroma of those miniature wild strawberries! To Swedes it is a symbol of summer: short, sweet, aromatic - and so nostalgic, so very nostalgic... Have you ever seen Bergman's famous film: Wild strawberries? It's original Swedish title is "Smultronstaellet" - a place where wild strawberries grow = a dream of summer. The English title kills the symbolism and makes the title rather incomprehensible.

    After wild strawberries come wild raspberries - red in most of Sweden, yellow in the far north - again much more aromatic and juicy than the garden variety. The red ones grow on forest clearings, which are also a home to poisonous snakes, so picking wild raspberries feels a bit thrilling ;-).
    I used to take my German shepeherd dog Fagheera, believing that her scent would scare those snakes away.

    Then come other wild berries: red lingonberries and dark blue blueberries. On September weekend mornings, many families go to the woods with larger and smaller containers and pick the berries for winter jams and preserves. My father-in-law, who always accompanied us, because he could find the most abundant places, used to pick about 40 liters ( a little over 10 gallons)in one morning, and then helped my daughter. My spouse would pick 20-30 liters and I only 10 to 15. But it was plenty to eat with your yoghurt for breakfast every winter morning remembering sunny days of summer watching snowflakes dance outside the windows.

    After a day of picking those berries the dreams at night were so colorful - red and blue and all shades of green, from beigy yellow of some lichens to dark, almost black green of needles.

    And then, finally, came mushroom hunting time, in those blazing yellow and red fall forests, when baskets got filled to the brim befornoon and than, after lunch, was time for communal cleaning and inspecting - so you would not be fooled by something looking almost as innocent as a wild champignon but being deathly poisonous. A Swedish roulette? Perhaps, but Swedish Museum of Natural Science has an exhibition of edible and poisonous mushrooms every year during mushroom picking season and live experts who - for no charge - will look through your baskets and put away the dangerous treasures. I would love to tell you the names of my favorite mushrooms, but do not know them in English. I would recommend, though, to anyone who bothers to find the poetic drama "Mr Thaddeus"? of Polish romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz, where he devotes an entire chapter to a mushroom hunt in Lithuania and poetic descriptions of various mushrooms.

    Aah, I got nostalgic myself and it makes me wonder who owns my tiny cabin in the Swedish woods now?
    And are they grateful for my multiyear efforts of planting wild strawberries on the south facing hillside leading to the cottage? I do hope so. :-))


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