This last weekend in Stockholm has brought us many blessings. One came in the form of Liam, a 60s-ish-old Irishman with a mouth full of blarney and a penchant for taking younger Americans under his wing. Under his care, my sister and I got a tour of the best views in Stockholm and an unexpected visit with Izzy Young, an American expat/folk music legend who’s been living for the last 40 years in Stockholm (apparently, he signed Bob Dylan and a bunch of other guys before they became famous *shrug*). Liam also drove us to our hotel (in the rain; thank the Gods for talkative Irishmen). The blessings also came in the form of Kerstin, a older woman from Stockholm who made us a traditional Swedish smorgasbord dinner in her home, and then took us to an ongoing traditional Swedish folk music and dance session in Gamla Stan (Old Town), walking us home afterwards.
Today was our last day, and it was All Things Sweden, All the Time. In addition to bring transported around town by Liam and Kerstin, we got my sister some homemade Swedish clogs (her one Must Have from this trip), and had a unexpected hipster meal of traditional Swedish meatballs (what’s old is new again, in Sweden as in America). Then we were just able to get in to see The Gold Room (Guldrummet) exhibit, a permanent exhibit at the Swedish History Museum (Historiska museet), which is where much of the expensive archaeological artifacts from Birka went. (It also includes a bunch of random gold and silver items–most of it from uncovered hoards and/or old churches–because GOLD. And SILVER. Why not?) And I picked up yet more useless Viking swag because, well….Vikings. 🙂
And tonight I’m sleeping on a boat. A BOAT, which is currently floating on Lake Mälaren. (It has a peephole window looking over the lake, and bunk beds, and everything!!) Between this and our visit to Birka, my inner child is running around in one constant state of SQUEEEE! Even the ugly rainy, cold, windy weather that we had today cannot put a damper on it. (Of course, our Irishman and Swedish woman helped out, too.) I am coming home tomorrow, assuming all things go as planned, with dirt and rocks from the mounds at Uppsala; a stone from my Aunt Hannah’s grave; shale from an even older family-ish graveyard; a beautiful new drinking horn (which I used at Uppsala on another cold and windy day when I hailed the Gods, ancestors, and landvattir with locally-brewed mead); a horn stand (it came with the horn /shrug); there more generations’ worth of ancestor details, thanks to a local genealogist; the love and connection with a town we never knew and the inhabitants who knew how special it was for us to visit; words and request from my deceased Aunt; pictures of the flowers I planted on her grave after we had cleaned it up after 35 years of neglect; an intimate understanding of the word and concept fika (apparently my sweet tooth is genetic); and a better understanding of the land the Vikings lived on and how it must have shaped their actions and choices.
And finally, a deep, deep appreciation of and longing for this world full of people who look like family and act so unpretentiously civilized, understated, and liberal (so unlike much of my family!) My sister describes much of the trip as being filled with constant occurrences of deja vu. No matter how you parse it, clearly, something in us was already ready and waiting for us in Sweden. As my Lady said when I first told her of the trip: “If you go there, you will see how they live, and your heart will never fully heal.” Now I get it. So many of the experiences we’ve had here have sunk in so deeply and so fast, like old gears finally shifting into place; and I have no real way of knowing if I’ll ever be back. It’s a wound I cannot heal, and I’m afraid that the more I visit, the bigger that wound will get. And that sucks.
Sweden, you are like a best friend I didn’t even know I had. And I wish I had less trite of words to speak it with, but I don’t. I just see the wall of pain and grief hanging out off of the shore, waiting to hit, and I just don’t want to go home.