"Europe 2004-05" story # 14

Holmon, Sweden           August 23, 2004

Swedish folk-music bands play every Wednesday night at the cafe where I "jobbar" (work).
     The first Wednesday, the band consisted of an accordian, a violin, guitar, piano, and the drums. Their sound came from a traditional, homey, and simple life. The music was complex; at times, they really had everything wheeling along so well together that the air in the cafe danced, and the tone calmed down for a second, only to kick back up and rejoin the sailing rhythm.
     Some of their songs made me feel like a child in a small village, running with friends down an empty dirt road. Another song sounded as if an old man was sitting on his front porch, sadly playing his violin. One of the last songs was a slow-paced story told by the piano, of a sweet and romantic and simple, but nearly-perfect life of one man.

I visited rural Sweden this weekend. From the country's low, purple, salty-blowing coast on the Gulf of Bothnia, I rode a free ferry to the island of Holmon. The island's permanent population is ninety. The hay-colored interior of the island is scattered with the dark-maroon, white-window-boxed cubes where rural Swedes live.
     I stood upon a rock-sloping finger of land that twisted out into the sea. Into the brisk, what-the-hell-are-you-doing?-stay-out-of-me!-cold water, I fell with my snorkel mask. The northern water was clear, but dark like being in a room with no windows. Rock ledges below me trapped some sunlight and illuminated ghost-brown. They abruptly dropped deep out-of-view, which was kind of scary to think about.
     Transparent minnows, each wearing a black length-wise striped, shared the water. They seemed to be glowing and floating in our dark room. They were incredibly slow, I soon realized. I consider myself to be a world-class animal catcher, even though I can never quite catch those tricky animals. So, I took some grabs at the slow minnows, but I didn't nab any. They were some of the easiest-to-catch animals in the world - and I still couldn't catch them!
     I took a few more dives and a few more grabs. Finally - quick like a mako - I closed both my hands around a fish I snuck up on. Ha, ha. Man, I'm a good animal catcher!
     Just then, I yelled, "Grrsssh!" underwater. And I ripped my hands apart. That wise, little fish had somehow spiked me! He shook his tail-fin in my face as he swam happily away.

My campsite that night was beside a calm island inlet. I left behind the seagulls who followed me as I snorkelled, when I returned to Umea the next day.
     Waah-ooh, ahh-wooh! The highly-anticipated party of crazy girl Nina was happening this night.
     Nine wore a dress-and-high-socks outfit that matched black with bright green. Beneath her vanilla-frosting hair and rocky-blue eyes, she wore a pearl-like necklace. Her voice has a funny, elegant tang to it, and she welcomed guests to her new apartment with the mannerisms of a hosting countess.
     There were me, some guys, and a bunch of crazy girls. Crazy girl Maria was there, sporting a new, falling shag haircut with her brown hair. Her big brown eyes and smooth skin and relentless enthusiasm suggest she's as innocent as a kid, but she's very much a crazy girl. Her new jeans were uncomfortably tight, because fashionable Nina had told her to buy them that way. Maria wore a sleek-fabric brown shirt, with a thin slit down the middle to her belly.
     Everyone enjoyed him/herself. Nina and her roommate performed dramatic theatre, in which they acted out the lyrics to popular songs. They'd translated Swedish songs into English, American songs into Swedish, and we had to identify them.
     They also had us play a quiz game to determine who knew Nina and her roommate the best. We answered questions like, "How many guys did Nina take home last weekend?" Choices for answers included, "1. Hoppas jag!" (1. I hope!) and "Shoot, did I forget to count this one under the bed?"
     The crazy girls have so much energy. Don't ever stop being crazy, crazy girls!

- Modern Oddyseus

Thanks to Rudolf for the lift!

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