Fivehundred and fifth åsic- Saint Lucia brings the Light in the Dark!

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Saint Lucia or Saint Lucy of Syracuse, from round 300 AC, is today’s protagonist in many different settings… The legend says that Saint Lucia was born in Italy in Syracuse. She was of noble family, but since her father had died Saint Lucia and her mother didn’t have any other solution to support themselves but for the young Lucia to marry a rich man. Lucia, however, had already dedicated her heart to God and did everything in her power to prevent a marriage. According to the legend, Lucia’s eyes were very beautiful. She even tore her eyes out and gave them to one of the men who came to propose, because she wanted to discourage the man. When Lucia was buried her eyes had been restored through miracle and that was also why she was honored as a Saint during the Middle Ages (1).

Why would a country like Sweden celebrate a saint from Italy, you may think? In the winter Sweden and the other Nordic countries long for the summer not only because of the cold and snowy winter, but also because of the darkness. Saint Lucia is celebrated every year the 13th of December and in Sweden the tradition is still very important for Christmas celebration. Many of the traditional songs are sung not only the 13th, but also during Christmas.

Lucia processions are organized all over Sweden and throughout all different sectors in the society. Kids celebrate in pre-schools or schools and adults celebrate if they are choir members for instance. Many towns or cities i Sweden have their own Lucia processions and on TV they show the official Lucia show of the year.

As a young girl I was in my first Lucia procession when I was a few years old. As a teenager I started to sing in a girls choir called Bjursåsflickorna. We gave many Lucia concerts every year. One of the years we were asked to perform at a dinner in the Royal Castle in Stockholm. It was very exciting and a memorable moment. Princess Madeleine who is now a Mom herself, was climbing on the chairs and crawling under the table and was quite an active little girl at the time. The very same choir also performed a traditional Lucia concert at Lugnet’s sports stadium in April… We were pretending it was winter, because of some honorable guests from the International Olympic Comittée. One of them was the chairman at that time, Juan Antonio Samaranch. The idea was for us to sing to bring the Olympic Winter Games to Falun… Obviously that was a  mission impossible. Falun lost.

Singing for Lucia in strange places seemed to be one of the habits of this choir. I remember we even sang in the Falu Copper Mine, in almost complete darkness and with the damp vitriolic scent in our noses, helmets on our heads and just a candle to light our way down there. Very exciting and completely unique at that time. I know that later on, many other choirs have sung in the copper mine, too. Nowadays I come across Lucia processions ”by accident”, like for instance today when I visited the shopping mall Kupolen in Borlänge, or when students at school perform. I have also accompanied my own children on different occasions, but for myself, I would say my celebration of the Saint Lucia is found in memory lane…

Before I let you go, let’s just glance at a picture of a typical saffron bun, called ”lussekatt” in Swedish.

#lussekatter, #asaole

But hey… Why invent the wheel??? Please check this link from youtube in order to finally understand this topic!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lucy

Annonser

Four hundred and ninety third åsic- Uppe med tuppen!- Being an early bird!

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I have noticed that one good thing with travelling across time zones is that there is a good chance to change bad habits! 😀

I agree completely with the Swedish saying ”Morgonstund har guld i mund”

Generally I do get up in the morning and start my day, but I’m not really awake…Here, six hours after my regular time zone, I have decided to get up whenever I feel alert, although it’s not ”six o’clock” as usual… Today the hour I woke up was 5.30 and I didn’t mind!

 

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Yesterday night when I accidently woke up in the middle of the night, I got a snapchat from one of my daughters. I replied…although I was tired, saying ”it’s in the middle of the night!” HER snapchat was a very alert and neat pic of herself and her friend singing and playing the guitar at school and I thought: ”Oh, NO! Not NOW! I’m TIRED!” …but it also made me aware of the wonder of TIME.

I’d say TIME is a phenomenon human beings invented. My host HERE would say ”We (the AMERICANS) invented time!” … And honestly, since time flies, I don’t have time to do my homework and find out for real who ”invented” what we all refer to as time.

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I do however enjoy the many aspects of time that make a life worth living. What if we never had any sunsets? What if you couldn’t wake up an early morning in late May in Sweden and have a cup of coffee outdoors while letting the sun warm your face. What if you couldn’t catch a flight to the USA and try to leave the sunrise behind you? There is however one thing I don’t appreciate about the way WE adjust to time. I understand why we all need to do the daylights saving change of time but having said that, I must admit I’m probably the most tired person on earth when we change all our clocks in the spring. I am probably also the luckiest person next weekend when I get my reward for struggling every morning for several months. Kronblom might be TOO lazy, but he is for sure the character I think of, connected to the words ”lazy” or ”relax”.

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Here, during my visit in NJ, I have noticed that I do have a serious chance to give myself the treat of feeling alert at five in the morning! That’s amazing and I love the calm and relaxed morning I get in return for getting up early.

The lunch break in Sweden is up, but here we haven’t yet started our day. When I get back from school this evening, my Swedish friends will be on their way to bed… I can now see why there is a slight problem finding decent hours to chat online with a person from another part of the world. Being here is being ”right in the middle of things” when it’s a decent hour on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean… I’d better keep that in mind when I get back home to Sweden again! It has been said many times in Latin, not quite as many in Swedish, but it is an important thing to remember:

Fånga dagen! 

Four Hundred and Nintieth Asic- Learning Among Friends

This blogpost was first published three years ago when I was visiting NJ, USA a couple of weeks. The following few days you will have a new chance to share what I experienced ”over there”. Enjoy! 


My first minute at school in Pitman

 

Yesterday when I took a walk to the school where I will spend the coming two weeks, I was surprised to find a welcoming greeting outside school. This morning when I arrived for my first day there, I was even more surprised to find another sign welcoming me to my school visit. As if this wasn’t enough, I have felt overwhelmingly welcomed by each and every one of the people I have met in Pitman Middle School. Both students and teachers met me with warmth and generosity.

There are plenty of things I noticed that are different from what I am used to. Even if I now teach adult students, I can miss teaching younger students especially if I meet such nice kids as the ones I met today! Many of them were making impact just by being themselves in their regular surrounding. 

Both students and teachers I met today seemed eager to know more about Sweden and that made me happy. I had anticipated a more anonymous role in this school, but I am very, very happy that it turned out to be so interactive, because it makes it really interesting. I will thus have multiple chances to explore the very soul of this particular school and get a chance to understand the nature of the school system in NJ.  The many opportunities to share thoughts and reflections from my experience of teaching with my new friends in this school will be like a treasure to get back to later when there is more time. Now I merely need a good night’s sleep in order to be fit for what tomorrow may bring of new experiences.

Last time I visited a school in NJ I marvelled at the dress code. I then wrote in Swedish, but I have summoned up that text in English as well:

https://asaole.com/2014/05/18/miniaaseri-a-slingback-would-kill-me/

 

Four Hundred and Eightysixth Asic- My New Favourite Tree

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For a couple of weeks I once had the opportunity to experience a very mild and nice autumn in Pitman, NJ. One of the days we had +28C which is not at all like the temperature for September or October in Sweden. In my 485th åsic,

https://asaole.com/2017/09/17/fyrahundraattiofemte-aseriet-fargglatt-prassligt-och-valdoftande-hostens-prydnader/

I wrote about the maples in Sweden and how I used to collect the colourful leaves in the autumn. I have always loved trees and since I live in a part of Sweden where forests are a part of the nice scenery, I always find a walk in the forest very soothing if I need to relax or find new energy. I walked along nice streets in Pitman, where mainly tall maples and oaks give gardens their share of fallen leaves. One kind of tree was unfamiliar to me, but I could tell from what it looked like that it had to be a maple or an oak, so I picked up a leaf and brought it with me to #Pitman Middle School, where I asked everyone I met: ”Is this a maple or an oak?”. Most people said: ”I don’t know but I think it is…” and then two people very quickly said: ”It’s an oak, no doubt!” Now I KNOW it is an oak, since I have done what most people do nowadays… I googled it… It turned out to be a red oak.

The fallen red oak leaves has the same SOUND as the fallen Swedish maple leaves when you walk through them… Another day I took a shortcut home and ended up very far away from home in an empty yard…learning that just as ”genvägar är senvägar” , shortcuts tend to be longcuts…

One good thing by taking the ”shortcut” was that I had to walk on a narrow path in a little forest, passing a railroad to get back home. The fallen leaves in a thick layer sounded like the maple leaves from my childhood and around me both squirrels and chipmunks ran about. I knew I was very close to houses, but the trees and animals made me fly away in thoughts for a while. The beauty of coloured leaves is still the same, no matter where I am. It gives me a feeling of gratefulness to see all the colours, hear the dry sound of the leaves as I walk through them. The sunrays hardly pass through to the ground and there are merely dark soil and old leaves for the squirrels to run about in. In its lack of colours, the ground already seems ready to meet the winter. In my lack of inner compass, I also seemed ready to meet the winter… Luckily I made a correct guess and soon found my way back to Broadway again…

Four Hundred and Eighty-Third Asic- 9/11 in Retrospective

Sixteen years ago I was on maternity leave with my youngest daughter. I spent my days breastfeeding… at least so it seems in a retrospective. My daughter was the kind of baby that you cannot really feed enough, so I found myself watching all the available soap operas… There was however one afternoon (…but it was MORNING in the USA…) that was not at all like the rest. In Sweden where I live, like in most other countries, we have the tradition of ”breaking news” if something extraordinary happens. I remember the 9th of September 2001 exactly like that. I was actually watching an extra news alert with the footage of the first Tower of WTC burning when there, right then, the second tower was hit. The Swedish News reporter commented this and I remember I felt strangely aware of that particular moment, as a ”NOW” to remember forever… A truly moment of MINDFULNESS.

My first reaction after a short while, was to write to my friend in NJ. At the time he worked as a teacher in a school south of Philly. I wrote ”Are you safe?” and he pretty much replied ”Yes. Why do you ask?” and as I remember it, he and the rest of the staff in that school did NOT know from the start what had happened in NYC, but I did, 8000 km away… That was the start of a surreal experience of watching a part of our history from my livingroom. In fact, it all happened then and there in front of me and it was horrific. I remember thinking of the future then and now I think of all the things that have happened AFTER that date. There are wars and conflicts all over the globe. Terror and meaningless violence has become a part of our time, no matter what we think. It makes me sad that so many people worldwide suffer from conflicts or become the victims of terror acts.  I think the only way to change is within ourselves. Worldwide peace may not come during my lifetime, but I hope for a more generous era soon to come. It is about time we give peace a chance.

#Himmel, #asaole

 

 

Fyrahundraåttioförsta åseriet- Den svenska skogen och dess dragningskraft för själen

lingonrisA close encounter with a pine treetallskog vid Malingarna_1Tallskogen och jag har för länge sedan hittat varandra. Jag tror att jag alltid har trivts i den öppna skogen där man har möjlighet att se väldigt långt under trädkronorna. Dessutom är det ju fullt möjligt att ta sig fram smidigt och lätt, i jämförelse med de skogar där undervegetationen fullständigt tar över och man får slå sig fram genom sly och buskage. Så här års är det blåbär och lingon som samsas med kråkbär odon och mjölon. Jag hittade en tallstam att luta huvudet mot en stund. Den var solvarm och slät och i bakgrunden hördes vågskvalp. Nära stranden där jag var, fanns inte enbart de väldigt höga tallarna, utan även deras yngre släktingar… Här fanns plats för både tallfjortisar och tallungar…

tallfjortisarna

När jag var liten läste jag Elsa Beskows böcker och varje gång jag nästan pulsar i blåbärsris den här tiden på året, tänker jag på hur Putte kämpade i blåbärsskogen…

blåbärTalltoppartallskog_3

 

sjö vid Malingarnasjö vid Malingarna

I tallskogens närhet finns sjöar med rent och klart vatten. På ytan skymtar en och annan vit näckros och på avstånd hör jag storlomen. Det är helt klart tallskogen som ger mig mest energi, men den dunkla mystiken som präglar en vanlig granskog är också tilldragande!

A pointing finger in the forest När jag kommit ut ur tallskogen hittade jag en ensam gran som uppfordrande pekade mot en granskog en bit bort. Jag bestämde mig för att göra granen till viljes… och sökte mig in bland de mjuka mossiga tuvorna där stenar och stubbar sedan länge gömts undan. I vilken granskog som helst tänker jag kanske inte på John Bauer, men i den här typen av orörd urskog, så är det svårt att låta bli… Det är en riktig trollskog! Så känns det! Vid något tillfälle under min promenad vänder jag blicken uppåt och ser torra grenar på en grupp med granar. Jag drar mig till minnes att granar ibland växer i grupp, som syskon… Det såg jag också vid besöket i den Nordamerikanska skogen Muir Woods sommaren 2016.

Ändå kan jag inte låta bli att tänka på att den här skogens grenverk måste te sig skrämmande mot en månbelyst kvällshimmel… Förr i världen när man trodde på skrömt och trodde sig veta att skogsrået och trollen bodde i skogen, ville man kanske inte heller gå här på kvällstid? Bakom stenarna lurar varg och lo i den vidsträckta skogen långt bort från människors hus. Det är fint att det är dag, tänker jag… Då slipper jag undra om jag är själv här eller inte…

Alla vassa konturer och hårda ytor är försvunna under ett grönt och mjukt lager. Här och där trotsar några stjälkar harsyra eller en liten svamp den dominerande mossmattan… Där granar av ålder släppt sina barr eller ståtar med torra grenverk av okänt skäl, kämpar myror för att utöka sina domäner…

granskog, fur tree granskog, fur tree _1granskog, fur tree _2granskog_1myrstackmossamossbelupen stensvampskogen

För egen del stannar jag till och lyssnar…

Skogens omisskännliga sus dominerar i den skenbara tystnaden.

Jag gläds åt att vara så långt ifrån allmän väg att inga bilar kan höras.

Detta är en lisa för själen! 

 

granskogens mjuka konturer

Four Hundred and Eightieth Asic – The Grapes of Wrath- A Sort of Book Review

What Makes a Good Book Good Enough?

That is one of the things that keeps me busy when I start reading any book whatsoever… Like many other students I was forced to read ”Of Mice and Men” in school as a teenager, and I guess my teacher picked the novel for a few different reasons, among one was the endurable length… I was however thrilled by the way Steinbeck built up his characters and how the story developed.  From a few hints on how George and Lennie had to move on again, after something terrible had happened, I realized I was already thinking; What had happened? As a young reader of a classic novel I was thrilled enough to keep reading until the very last page… I also read ”The Pearl” with great interest and without any effort, but for a novel like ”The Grapes of Wrath” it takes 455 pages before you know the end of the story. As a young reader, I did not meet that challenge, but last summer, during a vaction in California, ”The Grapes of Wrath” was my perfect companion. I drove past the road sign with ”Salinas” and I went to Monterey and the Monterey Bay Aquarium where a section in the Museum describes John Steinbeck’s writing and I was happy to know that in my car, the book was waiting for me to turn the next page and the next…

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John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in 1962,

”for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception”

To me as a Swedish reader, both when I was young and now, I  must say Steinbeck really made a difference. I can see his deep engagement concerning important issues in society and although ”The Grapes of Wrath” was written in 1938 and first published in 1939, the content is extremely important also in 2016. In Europe where I live, migration is an every day topic, since many thousands of people are on the move between different countries. Some end up in camps or in asylum seeking procedures where bureaucratic systems cannot handle the massiv number of applications quick enough. Migrants today, face the same kind of ignorance and racism as the Okies (people from Oklahoma, moving to California) in Steinbeck’s novel. Migrants both now and then, left for the thought of a better future, filled with hope, but also fear. Their plans may be delayed or sometimes changed, and for a few the plans and hopes may never be fulfilled, due to accidents or other problems along the way.

Describing the process of change in a person’s life, like Steinbeck does in ”The Grapes of Wrath”, is a delicate matter, since it is walking on a thin line between being true or being pathetic. Neither can you exaggerate too much nor be too shallow. When the story begins we meet the American state Oklahoma when the weather conditions have been very poor for a long time. Draught and winds have left the land destroyed and every corn field has a layer of dust that makes the corn worthless. The protagonist Tom Joad, is an ex-convict from Mac Alester, where he sat four years for homicide. Now he is out on parole. Tom Joad comes back home in company with an old friend of the family, Jim Casy. In order to find job and better opportunities the Joads decide to leave Oklahoma for California. During the long trip from Sallisaw, Oklahoma to California both Grandpa and Grandma die. Tom’s brother Noah, and his sister’s boyfriend Connie leave the family for different reasons, but the rest of the family stick together. Ma and Pa, Tom and his brother Al, their sister Rosasharn who is pregnant and the younger children Ruthie and Windfield all come to California after a very tough trip through several states, over mountains and finally through the desert.

The novel very closely describes the extremely poor conditions for migrant workers in California in the thirties. Racism, cruelty and violence together with greed seems to be the rule and being from Oklahoma, means being an Okie, which is a stigmatised group at the time. No matter how hard they work, they seem to face very little understanding and empathy from the Californians. The Joads and the other Okies move from one workplace to the other and get less paid for each time they move, so it seems. For several reasons Tom gets in trouble again.

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Throughout the novel, Steinbeck give descriptions of the surrounding landscape and certain topics of interest. One of the chapters is like a dialogue between a car salesman and an Okie buyer and written with humor, although the underlying message is that many poor Okies were fooled by the car dealers, selling off good cattle or mules in trade for a jalopy. Another such chapter is a very nice description of a few instruments, the harmonica, the guitar and the fiddle and how they blend in together for the coming dance evening, when a certain piece of music is played. That is also where ”Swedes up in Dakota” (p 342) are mentioned, which is fun to read for me as Swedish.

But apart from these humorous chapters, there are also some very critical topics, as when Steinbeck describes how land owners had too much fruit and too much potatoes, too many pigs and instead of giving the food to the extremely poor workers, they poisoned the potatoes, drowned the pigs and drenched the fruit in kerosene, only for the pleasure of not giving it to the starving workers. That is when ”The Grapes of Wrath”(p 349) is uttered…

For a period of time, the Joads live in the Weedpatch camp, which is a state camp. For the first time in their lives, Ruthie and Windfield see toilets. The workers are all involved in taking care of the camp together, making sure it is kept clean. Here the Joads meet other people they can trust and make friends with and for a moment the reader is fooled to think this book has a happy ending…

I highly recommend ”The Grapes of Wrath” if you would like to get a glimpse of migrant life from the inside. The novel reveal several complex issues and through the Joads and their discussions throughout the novel, you and I get a chance to consider those issues, too. With the coming election in the USA last year when I was there, the voters could decide whether there would be harder times or not for migrant workers from abroad, picking fruit and cotton in California for the benefit of American producers. Some of the migrants came there just like the Joads, with the hope of a better future. Some of the current Californians are likely to be decendants from Okies who came in the thirties.

Let us read books like ”The Grapes of Wrath” and never forget what made us the ones we are today.

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