(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.


The dolphine

The church was open. Inside, a huge palm tree was the only living creature. No priest to welcome us.
The palm tree, more of a palm plant, no proper trunk, was enormous. They had built a special construction to balance it on top of the wooden church benches.
I wasn’t dreaming.
It was the 7th walking day. We had a short walk ahead of us. Short in terms of kilometres. Only eight or nine. I wasn’t sure about the meaning of short though. I had read Thoreaux this morning early. "We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return - prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms.". I wondered where my kingdom was. I was wearing my soft armour. Double armour. Just in case. A black three piece walking suit covering the tatooed body. Dusty. Both of them. In the breastpocket of my vest I carried a small wooden “y”. Next to it the pilgrim pin. I got it from a pilgrim priest, after she sung for us in a breathtaking voice. I will never forget that. Yesterday I saw her on Facebook. She gave a life in Candy Crush Saga (a Facebook game). Generous in the virtual world as well.
You can buy the pins if you want to. But we payed for it in kilometres. I use it to pinch the blisters on my toes in the evening. Only two so far. It has been easy. In a way. It has been difficult because it has been so easy.

We start where we finished yesterday. Östra Kärrstorp. A walk through the fields to Vollsjö. We had been told there is a café over there where they sell homemade cinnamon buns. I have been on the look-out for a good cup of coffee every single walk but so far there have been no café’s on the road. I’m suspicious. The shortest walk plus a resting place with hot drinks and sweets in the middle. What will happen? Nothing will happen. But I have to be prepared.

I read Thoreaux to my fellow walkers before leaving. We promise each other we will meet at the café. I have the feeling we all make a small bough. But it is only the sun coming out behind the clouds, casting new shadows. We start walking.

Passing a house with a tree of which I don’t know the English name and can’t even remember the proper name in Dutch, one with small dark pink flowers and sharp needles, a similar one to the one in front of the house where I spent most of my childhood, I think about something else I read earlier this week. Janet Winterson, Written on the body.

“... the power of memory is such that it can lift reality for a time. Or is memory the more real place?” There are other things I remember, things coming back in my mind while walking. I’m smiling. And wonder when the memories I’m gathering now will find their way back into a future present.

After little more than an hour (i’m slow, i’m gathering things) I enter Vollsjö. To my right I see a white horse. A black raven flies past with something in its beak. It can’t be cheese, can it? I shake the ferry tale feeling off but then I encounter a sign pointing towards the pirate museum. A man is standing under it. I ask him where the café is. He tells me in Swedish and some sign language that it is closed but there is a big house to my left, 200 meters from where we’re standing, where a man sells coffee. I walk the 200 metres and find myself in front of a home for the elderly. I think of Sleeping Beauty and don’t dare to go inside. It is only a short walk to the final destination. And there is coffee at home.

But again. What is a short walk?

Apparently these were the “suburbs” of Vollsjö. An upside down world. The suburbs look nice and clean. Sleepy. People sit in their gardens and stare at me.
I pass a closed café and another one. Everything in the center of Vollsjö is deserted, falling apart, ugly. Window sills stuffed with dead plants. Empty shop windows. Office buildings with nothing but a couple of worn out chairs. A hotel, no sign of life. When I take a photo of my own reflection in the window of a former shop that looks like a thriftstore after a hurricane, a man comes up to me and asks what is worth photographing in this place. I tell him “me, being reflected in this crazy town”. He tells me he lives here and there is one good thing about the place: it is quiet. “Nobody wants to live here,” he says. But that he sometimes longs to open his door and walk to a pub and drink a cold beer with a friend. I hope he will invite me for coffee in his garden but he is in a hurry. He waves at me while I cross the village square. I don’t wave back.

The clock outside the bank shows the wrong time. 8.45. It is the time we left this morning.

I pass a burned down house. I walk around it to take some photos. On the doorstep lies a broken ceramic dolphine. When I pick it up I find a ceramic boy that had been on the dolphin’s back once. I put the pieces in my bag.

On the left side of the road they are building a gas station. Apparently somebody believes in the future of this place. And apparently more people do. A young mother passes me, pushing a baby buggy. She is dressed in black. Black t-shirt, black trousers, black shoes, black socks, black hair. The baby buggy is black too. I follow her, but I’m too slow. Something catches my eye. And when I look again there is only a single black stocking lying on the sidewalk.

I feel weird. It is an eerie place. I pass a crashed car, more deserted houses, a greenerie with dead plants. A stack of wood shaped like a house. A road sign I have never seen before warning me for something.

Suddenly the village ends. And the lawns are green and neat again. I’m entering Fränninge. The sun still shines. It is still morning. But a lot of time has passed.

Back home I go straight to the ICA, the local supermarket. I buy superglue. Glue the dolphine. Make myself some coffee. Sit in the garden. Wondering.