(yes, it is) 23 of May – 26 of June I’ll be one of three residents in the project Walking Peace in the Avian Kingdom in Sweden, organised by ARNA at the very spot where two pilgrim trails meet in Harlösa. Walking Peace is a green, slow and peaceful way of making new connections across cultural backgrounds and religions, creating art as a statement for peace while walking. Afterwards I'll be researching the pioneer life in Värmland.

18.8.13

New blog!

A new adventure, a new blog. Continue reading about my 40 day walk with 40 people to the Nomadic Village in the south of France here: www.asoftarmour.blogspot.com

18.7.13

being in the world


Before I left I washed my feet. They became a little less dirty. Clean enough for the pair of socks I washed the other day. Too dirty still to sit in the train with bare feet. It will take a while before they are really clean again.

I wanted to leave my working trousers behind. After all those weeks, washing them wouldn’t be of much use. But they remembered me of somebody telling me they are as blue as the lakes are in the north, in Lapland. Where they only have summer for 1 month and 11 months of winter the rest of the year. Too short a summer to have time to fear the winter. 

Some things can be enjoyed best when they last so much shorter than you want to.

The other day Emil told us this story. When he was working on a paper in the library of Sunne, an old woman came up to him. She looked at him solemnly and asked:”Young man, do you live in the woods?” When Emil said yes she just nodded and went on with her business.

In this world we have rules for everything. For three weeks I managed to evade some of them. I lived with people who live in the woods and are building their homes there. Some of the rules in the forest aren’t any different than they are in the other world. You can’t build a house without an official permit for instance. But what does it matter if the landowner agrees? If it isn’t in anybody’s view?
Some of the rules don’t exist. A lot of the unwritten ones don’t. You can walk around naked. You can abstain from a shower for three weeks or longer. You can eat food that is inedible according to the supermarket. You can have hairy legs and still be a desirable woman. You can wear the same cloths for weeks on end.

I was happy there. No worries other than having too little sun to charge the computer with the solar panel. Which meant having more time to spend with my colleagues. Good times. People like me who try to figure out how they want to lead their lives. People who want to be outside the system. People who try to live without money, according to their own rules. People who care for nature, for self sufficiency, for the beauty in the small things. People who are willing to experiment, to fail, to try again. People who smile a lot. People who care.

I wanted to stay. But I had to leave. I had made promises in the other world.

In the train from Copenhagen to Amsterdam I sat next to a young man. He didn’t speak any English or German or any of the Scandinavian languages. At some point I heard him talk to a woman in an Arabic sounding language. At every station he stood up and walked to the  window slowly, opened it and stared outside.
After we had crossed the German border the police wanted to see our passports. They spent a long time staring at the young man’s pass and then told him he was illegal and they were going to arrest him. He seemed not to understand their English or German but he understood what they meant. They searched him, made him sit down again and didn’t allow him to make a phone call when he tried to. At the next station they handcuffed his right hand to his bag. The only thing I could do was wish him all the best and put my hand on my heart. He smiled a sad smile.

I returned. To a world where a human being can be illegal. To a world with crazy rules. To a world where most individuals are afraid to do what they think is right. To follow their heart. To care for each other.

I returned. A scar in the shape of a heart on my left underarm. Dirty footsoles. Fingers too swollen to wear a wedding ring. Greener fingers. A greener brain. Filled with new thoughts. New ideas I want to share with old friends. New memories. A happy sadness.
Because from now on I’ll be slowly starting to get used to missing my new friends. Missing picking blueberries for breakfast. Missing swimming in the lake. Missing the solitary early morning hours, the first coffee at Andrea and Jeppe’s, Maddy’s weed salads, improvised dumpster dinners, the joy of a tasty lunch after hard manual labour. Listening to people making music around a fire. Learning about plants, about soil, about building.

I returned. I took a shower. I made coffee without having to fetch water first, without having to make a wood fire. I went to the Turkish baker who runs a small shop across the street to buy a croissant. His usual smile was missing, his eyes were red. He told me that in a month he would close his shop. He simply didn’t earn enough and all his attempts to turn things around, to invest in a few tables so he could have a small cafe, serving some of his delicious food and snacks, in getting the proper licenses, were sabotaged or ignored by the local authorities.

I bought 6 croissants instead of 2, sat in my noisy garden remembering Rasmus the rooster breaking the silence in the mornings. I built a small snailhouse for 4 Swedish Burgundy snails. I made more coffee. Ate another croissant. Looked at the snails. I realised leaving means you can go anywhere. Leaving means you can return if you want to. I left. But I mainly left my fears.

I could be sad. I should be. But I am not.
Something is only just beginning.




traces


feet that won’t get clean
blue stains i can’t remember the source of
a heart shaped scar from the hot metal stove door
a silence in my head that holds foot even when i walk through busy amsterdam streets
small scars from hundreds of musquito & midgee bites
scratches on my arms and legs
visibility of muscles i never knew i had
greener fingers
a soft sweet pain in my heart
new knowledge
everlasting stories
new old friends
happiness

15.7.13

another day


fetching water from the well
making a woodfire in the stove
boiling water
dried raspberry leave and orange peel tea
picking blueberries for breakfast
the date on the yoghurt has long passed
but it is still tasty
somebody bakes pancakes from last night’s leftover pancake batter

a 30 minute walk through the forest
talking, thinking,
at andrea and jeppe’s there’s coffee and freshly baked bread
going through the jobs for the day

cleaning dishes, chopping wood, fetching water
digging a hole for the overfull toilet bucket
deep and steep
wheeling the soil to the hügelkultur beds
searching for worms with a 3 year old
seeing the soil in the wheel barrow being turned into a sand castle

lentil stew and weed salad for lunch
doing yoga with Maddy with our feet in the freshly ploughed earth
watering the plants in the newly built spiral herb garden

making circles around the apple trees with soil from last years hügelkultur beds

scratching the old musquito bites
chasing away horseflies
feeling the sun burning
lemonade, cookies, time to go home

washing off the dust at the lake
swimming to the other side
wandering around a blueberry field naked
eating loads of berries, drying in the sun
swimming back with juniper branches in our hair
the only way to bring the berries to the other side

an attempt to make stuffed cabage leaves
resulting in cabage lasagne
banana-coconut mint cocktails
with liquor made out of the dumpsterdive bananas

long walk along a sandy road
to a rave party at a secret location
5 kilometres from our house
in the middle of the forest
dancing, dancing, chilling out
dancing
just after 3 it turns light again
the sound of the first birds
sleeping in a cabin with an amazing view over the forest

another day

9.7.13

Winter in summer


Being out of time is a tricky thing. You know there is another world in which the clock is ticking, but it is as if it is a book you can close, a story in which the main character resembles you, a different you, the you in the mirror.
There are no mirrors here. But you can see yourself reflected in the lake. You see yourself in the eyes of others.

There are two different kind of others here. There are the people that stay and the people that go. You don’t see the difference straight away, people have different reasons for staying, for wanting to stay. Some people are on the run, they got entangled in something they don’t want to be part of. They search for a way to free themselves. Others are curious about a different way of living. A way of being. Others are here because they think they want to learn something. But they don’t really want to. Those are the people that leave. Even when they seem to be staying.

It is easy to want to stay. I want to stay. I wanted to stay from the beginning. I thought about staying before I even arrived here. But staying isn’t easy. If you really want to stay you have to be willing to think about winter when it is summer. So you can dream about summer when it is winter. Staying means making sure you have a good roof, enough wood (which is usually three times as much as you think you need). Staying means foraging for berries and mushrooms and herbs so you can dry them, growing and harvesting and canning vegetables. Staying means being willing not to see other people for days on end. Staying means getting over your fear of winter. And the only way to get over it is to work hard. To prepare. To already feel the winter’s chill in your bones when other people are sweating in the sun.
When after a long winter the summer has finally arrived, when the dream of summer has been replaced by the presence of summer, winter is already there again. Winter in summer. Sometimes the real summer seems to be less real than the dream of summer in winter.

Staying doesn’t mean being here. It doesn’t mean planning to come back. It doesn’t mean not leaving. Staying means knowing you’ve changed because of your stay here. Staying means leaving some of your fear behind. Staying means waking up, being happy and feeling as if you’ve always been here. And realising that here doesn’t mean a red house in Bonsäter but a body with some new scars and memories. Some very valuable ones.

Maybe some peoples fear for winter is really the leftover fear of people who went to lead their life in a different way from how they lived it before they came here.




7.7.13

almost

people leave, people arrive
today it was jim, a street performer from london
who has been in this trade for 35 years and doesn’t want to do anything else
we had a nice diner earlier on
after our rain shower
rice-spruce bark-onion-egg pancakes , improvised bread, and a dumpsterdive yoghurt- leftover crumble-roasted oats-freshly picked blueberry-desert
when it got darkish – it doesn’t ever get really dark
jim played his guitar and mondharmonica, he sang
and it made me feel sadder than ever but it was a sweet sadness
music can do that, especially when played live
i sat on the couch, listened and looked
maddy was carving knitting needles out of wood
and the men took turns playing the guitar
coffee and beer and candles
stories and songs
outside a bat flew around the house and in the far distance an owl was calling
it was almost too good to be true
the truth is always hidden in the almost


6.7.13

mushrooms

We learned a lesson the other night. Even just tasting a small bit of mushroom can make you very sick. A valuable lesson, one we can laugh about now, one we even laughed about in the middle of cleaning the vomit on the stairs and making tea to ease down a very upset stomach. But around 3.30 in the morning, sitting with my computer in a warm kitchen drinking tea, I saw Maddy being very small and serious, cuddled up in her blanket on the couch, still feeling bad, about to fall asleep. I wondered what she was thinking.

Outside the first blackbird was singing, the day had already started. A new day in which she would be very much alive and would surely find it hilarious and embarrasing, hopefully in that order. The table was still covered with red en brown mushrooms, some withered flowers and just behind it, Maddy had fallen asleep. The birdsong made it all look like an opera scene.

We all ate mushrooms last night, the ones Maddy and I collected on our way back home. The “sammetssopp”, boletus subtomentosus. With the boletus, the one with the spongy underside, you can’t make any mistakes. The poisenous boletus can’t be mistaken for a good one. I never eat any mushrooms I’m not 99% sure of.
We had a nice pasta with mushrooms grilled in butter and garlic and a wild sorrel salad. The sorrel that grows in the woods is beautiful. Green tender leaves, cloverlike with three leaves but a brighter green than the regular clover and a long pink root that lets go very easily when you’re foraging. We collected handsful of it in just two minutes. Coffee and chocolat chip dumpsterdive cookies for desert. A two way foraged meal

Emile and Silke went for a walk and came back carrying more mushrooms. Big red ones, a “russola’ species according to Maddy and the mushroom book. Mick had told Maddy that there can never be any harm in tasting a mushroom, as long as you don’t swallow it when it tastes bitter. She thought there would be no harm in swallowing some bits that weren’t bitter.

When I went to bed they were still sitting around the table, being delighted by the wonderful red species they found. Two hours later, when I was sound asleep, Maddy knocked on my door, being genuinly afraid and shortly after very sick.

In the morning she told me that at some point she had thought “if these are my last moments, shouldn’t I then think about something memorable to say”? I was curious what she would have said. But she never told me.

Last words. I’m not sure if they carry a bigger meaning than the other ones, the first ones, the inbetween ones, the carefully rehearsed ones, the slip of the tongue.
In the end, silence always has the last word.  




5.7.13

The sad story of the lizard and the salamander

There is a well in the back of the garden. When we want to cook, wash, make tea, drink water, we get water from the well. Since a few days there has been a salamander on the bottom of the well. He sits there and stares at you. Halfway down the well, dry on the big stones, is a lizard.
I was surprised to see a lizard there. Don’t they like warm places? I wondered if the lizard had fallen in love with the salamander, an impossible love in the back of your wilderness.
I didn’t think about them for the last two days. Whenever I collected water I thought about other things. I did see the salamander once but the lizard had disappeared.

This morning the lizard was floating in the water. I got him out. Dead. Tailless. I wondered if he had jumped to be with the salamander that was still at the bottom of the well. Motionless. Too motionless maybe. And I realised I had only seen him in this one fixed location in the same position.

I got a wooden stick, put it in the well but the salamander didn’t move. I skooped him up, got him out with some difficulty, the wannabe salamander. It was only another lizard. Uncapable of living under the water surface.

For a moment I imagined an even more romantic story. A lizard committing suicide to be with his loved one. Together at the bottom of the well forever. But there is no story here. Only nature. A dark well build out of slippery stones. Once inside, a lizzard can’t get out.As simple as that.

Later on, Camilla told me that they have an eel in their well. A lot of wells have one. An eel to eat all the animals that end up at the bottom so the water doesn’t get polluted.

A lonely eel in a well. Another sad story.




 

4.7.13

Flaneur

The musquito bites are slowly driving me crazy. I tried to count them but I gave up. My arms resemble the surface of the moon seen from a distance. I can’t sleep at night. I try to write but the only words in the back of my mind are “don’t scratch, don’t scratch”.
I scratch. I scratch and try not to think about it. I scratch and hate myself for it. I scratch and try not to think about the scars. I scratch and think about the Captain. Something drove him crazy in this house. Not musquito bites, not something as inferior as that, I bet. But something made him cross borders a human being shouldn’t cross.

It is almost 2 ‘o clock and the darkness outside isn’t really darkness. The night is something resembling what I would call the early hours of morning. It is a quiet night. No owls, no nightbirds, no buzzing insects. The soft sound of my fingers on the keyboard. The sound of my fingers scratching my skin.

What is the sound of madness?

Dripping water. A dog growling. A buzzing of some kind. Something getting bigger and bigger. Something that ends in complete silence. The moment just before that. What do you hear? Angels singing? Snails sighing?

Whenever I enter my room, the Captain’s room, something is creaking at the far end of the room, just outside the reach of my vision. I know it is because the plank I step on when entering the room connects my feet to the little door on the right. I know there isn’t really somebody leaving the room every time I enter it. But I like the sound. It is comforting in some way.

I met somebody who recently met the Captain. Somewhere not too far from Stockholm. He was doing well. Drinking smoothies instead of rum. Trying to find a new place to live. Trying to realise his dream to sail to Fiji. Trying to forget a red house in the woods.

Being in a place that somebody is trying to forget. Being in a place to gather new memories. Ending up in the memories of others. Slowly getting disconnected from the real world. Whatever that is.

Or maybe this is the real world. Maybe this is where it meets a parallel world. A world in which the Captain is fighting a storm, alone on his dream vessel. On his way to Fiji. Always on his way to Fiji.

In fact he is on his way. This person who met him told me. She told me he inherited money after his father died. His father who owned a rum factory. He used the rum money to buy a boat. A big one. One that can sail him to Fiji.

Maybe he is already there. Maybe having bought the boat means he is already there. He doesn’t actually have to sail there because the dream isn’t a dream any longer. Maybe he can’t even sail. Maybe he is only called the Captain because he dreams of sailing.

Since I arrived here I didn’t remember my dreams. Unless this is my dream. A dream in which it is a light night forever and my scratching fingers only get distracted from the musquito bites whenever a word pops up that they have to write down. A dream in which on my right side I can see the tree tops against the pale blue night sky and on my left side the outlines of a two piece suit that is darker than any night I’ve ever seen. A dream in which I try on the suit and sit on the bench under the window, look out into the night and spell the word captain by forming the letters with my right index finger on my left underarm. A dream in which this is the only way to make the itching stop.

I searched his pockets. There was nothing there. But there is a beautiful label in his suit. It reads “Flaneur”. Walker. 

28.6.13

A red house, a blue house

I arrived in a red house. A house with a history, a story. A lonely house in the woods. No electricity or running water. I live here with some other people. Every day we walk the 20 minute walk to our hosts, to Jeppe and Andrea who are living the pioneer life and need help doing that. Building, clearing, foraging, gardening. I’m learning about plants, preserving food, self-sufficiency. About people and life. About myself.

Before I came here I was in the south of Sweden, near the city of Lund, in an art project about walking the pilgrim trails. I travelled to Sweden in a three piece walking suit, a suit that was part of my art project, a suit in which I walked the pilgrim trail from the west coast to the east coast of Sweden. A suit in which I collected stories.
For the exhibition that was part of this project I brought another suit, a suit from an earlier art project, a suit embroidered on the inside with 108 drawings and texts. And during my stay I bought a third suit for an upcoming project.

So I travelled up north with 3 suits in my suitcase. And I laughed about it. Because there is no use for a suit in a pioneer life. At least that is what I thought.

I had seen photos of the red house before I arrived. I heard its sad story. It made me think of Tranströmer poem “The blue house”. A red house, a blue house.

When I arrived in the house I was offered the upstairs room in the back of the house. It is a lovely room. It smells of dried plants. It has a window overlooking the forest.
In the room there is a closet. In the closet I discovered a pair of old shoes. A white shirt. A woolen suit. It has been worn a lot.

The person who lived in this house was called the Captain. Outside there’s a wooden boat. Nobody knows where he went. But he left his boat behind. His boat and a shipload of empty rum bottles. And a big stain on the kitchen ceiling resembling a galaxy.

All that and a suit.
----------------------

Tomas Tranströmer
The Blue House

It is night with glaring sunshine. I stand in the woods and look towards my house with its misty blue walls. As though I were recently dead and saw the house from a new angle.

It has stood for more than eighty summers. Its timber has been impregnated, four times with joy and three times with sorrow. When someone who has lived in the house dies it is repainted. The dead person paints it himself, without a brush, from the inside.

On the other side is open terrain. Formerly a garden, now wilderness. A still surf of weed, pagodas of weed, an unfurling body of text, Upanishades of weed, a Viking fleet of weed, dragon heads, lances, an empire of weed.

Above the overgrown garden flutters the shadow of a boomerang, thrown again and again. It is related to someone who lived in the house long before my time. Almost a child. An impulse issues from him, a thought, a thought of will: “create. . .draw. ..” In order to escape his destiny in time.

The house resembles a child’s drawing. A deputizing childishness which grew forth because someone prematurely renounced the charge of being a child. Open the doors, enter! Inside unrest dwells in the ceiling and peace in the walls. Above the bed there hangs an amateur painting representing a ship with seventeen sails, rough sea and a wind which the gilded frame cannot subdue.

It is always so early in here, it is before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.

A motor far out on the water extends the horizon of the summer night. Both joy and sorrow swell in the magnifying glass of the dew. We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route. While the sun burns behind the islands.

24.6.13

that's why

And what happened to the y-shaped branches I collected in the beginning of this adventure? The ones symbolising questions? Tools to find water, the source? Or usable as catapults, when necessary?

I forgot about them. And sometimes that is the best thing you can do with the "why's".

But yesterday evening I got a second chance to watch the full moon perigee. This time I didn't fall asleep. And when I arrived at the lake where my friends were already waiting and I only had eyes for the moon after I sat down, they pointed at a big branch sticking out of the water.


(photo: sara nuytemans)

more about the Y's HERE