Apr. 28th, 2010

marshtide: (Default)
[This was yesterday's post, and I fell asleep without submitting it. Er. Oops. And then I decided to go for a walk and take some photos before tidying it up, because it's a beautiful day, and then... no, I'm no good at daily posting.]

[personal profile] pulchritude asked if I would talk about Sweden, and how it compares with the UK. My first attempt got ridiculously long-winded and rambled all over the place, so I'll try to deal with it in little chunks. I guess the main disclaimer is that I haven't been here very long, and I don't feel like I can speak with any sort of authority about How Things Are Here. So it's How I Feel Here, with a little of how friends and family talk about things here.

Today: Seasons.

Right now, it's late April, and I'm living in what people keep calling central Sweden.* Last week it snowed, and we could reasonably expect more in the next month or so, although it would be very unlikely to settle; trees are only just getting buds; flowers are still looking kind of unsure about the whole thing, though they're getting there. The river has settled back to its normal level after the thaw, after a week when it was noticeably higher every day and beginning to flood paths. At the same time, it's a quarter to nine at night and it's not dark yet, and when the sun shines and I'm indoors the quality of the light sometimes makes me think it's almost summer, because the light here is not the same as the light in the UK, and it doesn't mean the same things.

Anyway, spring in Sweden isn't emphatic at the best of times, I think. It's not really a single big event, more like a series of hopeful moments punctuated by snow; and this year it was a long winter and a slower spring. We walked to the shops in the snow last week, and it was about 1 degree above freezing, and I muttered about it, and Val said, "but you're in Sweden now. People don't wait for spring here. They wait for signs of spring." And that seems like it. It's not officially spring yet. We just have signs of spring. But oh how people cling to those. I'm doing it too!

The first day the sun felt like it had any warmth at all, which I guess was some time in March, I was shopping with family, and we got out of the car, and went to pull on hats and gloves, and then realised it was almost warm. Everyone just kind of stopped and turned to face the light and didn't do anything for a while except have a near-religious sun experience. I gather this is completely normal. We certainly weren't the only ones.

Basically, seasons feel like a big deal here. To an extent they are in the UK too, and presumably in pretty much every other country far enough from the equator to know what they are, but all the same. I don't think it's even quite so much the shifts in temperature that do it (though they're extreme enough in themselves) as the shifts in light, because though we're fairly far south in actual northern European geographic terms the winters are still a lot darker and the summers are much lighter, to the extent that what people call darkness here in summer is more what I would recognise as late twilight, while what people call light in winter is more what I would recognise as early dusk. Maybe I need to get back to you with more detail on this one after a few years. At the moment it's a bit to do with the way people talk about it; and a bit to do with the number of songs which concern either how sad it is that everything is dark and dead and covered in snow or how everything is wonderful and sunny now but no-one can forget that it will soon be dark and dead and covered in snow; and a lot to do with the way that towards the end of winter, earlier than the experience I mentioned above, it felt as though I just woke up one day and the sun had come back, all at once, even though it was ten degrees below freezing out, and then it seemed like it would be OK. (In the south of the UK the weather changes fast but the light changes slowly. Spring itself arrives in more of a rush but the light kind of creeps back, and if I get surprised by it it's usually some time much later, maybe in May; it has to do with summer coming, not spring, or that's how it feels to me.)

It would be unfair to say that this stuff is uniquely Nordic, the emphasis on seasons and the slight melancholy associated with that, because actually, it exists in the UK as well, and you can see it in a lot of our stories and songs, and people get ridiculously excited about the first warm day and can't get out of bed in the winter and all the rest. But it's that bit more marked, further north. It's noticeable to me, just in the way I feel myself.

(But personally I think I could only have moved north from the UK, at least if we're talking within Europe. I wouldn't have wanted less seasonality, even if dark winter nights can be a drag; I have the sort of conflicted relationship with seasons that's probably more or less a prerequisite for living in the north. I complain about them but I wouldn't be without them.)

On a related note, today I went for a walk down to the lake and beyond into the forest.

The lake in February:

The lake in early April:

The lake now:

Things are coming alive, but we're basically not yet at the stage here that the UK was at when I visited in the middle of March.

First flowers:
DSC01273 DSC01268 DSC01274

Deeply appropriate quote for how I feel about spring in general and today in particular:

One calm and cloudless evening, towards the end of April, Snufkin found himself far enough to the north to see still-unmelted patches of snow on the northern slopes.

He had been walking all day through undisturbed landscapes, listening to the cries of the birds also on their way northwards, home from the south.

Walking had been easy, because his knapsack was nearly empty and he had no worries on his mind. He felt happy about the wood and the weather, and himself. Tomorrow and yesterday were both at a distance, and just at present the sun was shining brightly red between the birches, and the air was cool and soft.

"It's the right evening for a tune," Snufkin thought. A new tune, one part expectation, two parts spring sadness, and for the rest just the great delight of walking alone and liking it.

--Tove Jansson, The Spring Tune (in Tales from Moominvalley)

* It isn't, but the population distribution is such that from a certain squinting point of view it more or less works out. Which is to say, it's pretty far south still, but the number of people living further north is actually not that big. Not that the number of people living anywhere in Sweden is that big. The number of people in the whole country is possibly fairly similar to the number of people in Greater London.
marshtide: (Default)
What does one do when one feels on the edge of panic just trying to post something fairly non-controversial and otherwise not very dramatic?

It was hard work putting up my previous post, and got to the stage where I couldn't really work at it any more or make it be what I wanted it to be. I tend to be perfectionist, and I tend to permanently feel that I'm doing something wrong. I worry too hard about other people's judgements, particularly as I feel I'm surrounded by people who are basically smarter than me. I can manage to feel like an impostor while keeping a quiet journal with a very small audience, off in a corner of the internet!

This is not the sort of thing I was hoping to post about in this journal at all, to be honest, but it's clearly setting itself up as an obstacle to actual content.

How does one say what one really feels, and not fight against this all the time? I don't know, and it's actually getting extremely wearing pretty fast. The feeling that one is basically wrong about most things is not one I care for, but not one I've had much luck in persuading to leave over the last few years.


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