“I’m not convinced I know how to read. I’ve just memorized a lot of words. “

Hey folks,

Happy fall. The leaves have changed into beautiful red and orange colors, to brown and yellow, and now to empty branches and a lot of slippery leaves on the ground. It’s the best time of the year, right? We are giving nature a restart. The time for new beginnings, almost Christmas, and of course Thanksgiving before that. Who doesn’t love a good turkey, and apple or pumpkin pie? My choice would be strawberry/rhubarb, but America loves apple and pumpkin. I love fall. It’s the best time to run, a little wet but fresh and crisp air. Time for cashmere sweaters, mushrooms, boots, and beef or lamb stews. Fall came fast this year; the rain is never ending and it is so dark for hours in the morning. My lemon tree looks sad, all the grapes on our grapevines are gone, and the olive tree is dropping its leaves and turning yellow. No big harvest, no homemade wine or olive oil but it’s time to plant new bulbs for spring blooms according to the morning news. And if you haven’t started your Christmas shopping you might be in trouble. The cargo ships are still waiting to unload and there’s a shortage of plastic toys, dishwashers, medicine, and handmade pj’s from fair trade factories around the globe.  

Fall is the perfect time to read. A new study about reading levels among students (PISA study for 15y/olds) in Sweden published a few weeks ago. (I know, I’m not working as a teacher or principal now but once a teacher always a teacher.) It’s a sad story. Numbers are basically bigshits, one of the lowest of all included countries. Kids and young adults can’t read and don’t read at all for pleasure, and boys have even lower numbers than girls. Libraries are getting less funds, school libraries are not prioritized at all, and the school is focused on grades and are too digitalized. Kids only read to find information and usually only read fragments of texts to find it. They don’t get the time to read a book from start to finish. This has been an ongoing discussion in our house for the past ten something years and even more since the 12804 days since the pandemic started. I am so sorry to say but our lives are not getting happier in front of the computer. Don’t get me wrong, I really like my Surface, Kindle, iPhone etc. but they’re not doing me much good. I don’t know if you remember the last decade when we have tried to reduce the use of screens for kids. You hear tips and tricks every day for screentime and computer games and how parents are trying to trade time for the screen like it is a punishment. It’s nothing new. And I know computer games (and all that includes) and a school computer screen is different, but we are still talking screens. And since when do young kids have to watch something or play on a phone/iPad in a restaurant/Costco/the mall. Since the pandemic started screens are king. What happened?

Not being able to use your hands, holding a pen and handwriting is another story but very much connected, too. The hand, eye, brain coordination. It is part of our brain’s development and growth, and guess what? Reading, too. Running, climbing trees, crawling, beading, Lego building, drawing, using scissors, painting, stomping or jumping your feet, walking in puddles, sewing, riding a bike, sorting things, memorizing, picking rocks in different shapes…it’s part of growing and developing your brain. Kids need it all. They need activity and stimulation. They need to use their bodies to grow a healthy body. They need dopamine, the happy hormone, that has a part in motivation, focus and learning.

But… kids also need to get the opportunity to read and feel like they have and are in control of time and that it matters. Results are in! Apparently, focus and grades are more important than well-being and knowledge.

What can you do? Have lots and lots of books around, a big selection of material. Difficult and easy. Read out loud. Listen to books. Read newspapers and magazines. Show your kids that you read and enjoy it. Ask questions and be interested. Make time. Libraries are fun and bookstores are fantastic. Find the good spots where you live. I don’t know how many hundreds of books I have downloaded on my Kindle and for a while I stopped buying paper copies thanks to Marie Kondo. I am back to some paper copies, but I don’t have the need to keep books, I read and donate or sell. I also listen to a book occasionally, and I read on my Kindle every day (109 weeks in a row for me). But nothing beats walking around a library or bookstore and turning books and reading the back, the smell, the low voices, the colors… Can you imagine getting that feeling of excitement browsing your Kindle when you are 7 or 11 years old? Not really.    

Screentime is worth discussing among adults too. The pandemic made everything with screens good, social, and superduper. This was the new socializing. I’ve been there too. All meetings online, Happy Hour with friends on Zoom saved us, movies, facetime calls, games with friends… We have done that now, it’s time to move away from it. In our reality, where we live, there are still work from home recommendations and closed offices. But it will open up more and it is time to move on. I know a lot of people get more done and are extremely efficient, and I am incredibly impressed by humans everywhere. But for those of you who can, please get yourself dressed and out and about. Get your shots. Humans are meant to be together. Nothing beats a hug IRL. Or a coffee with friends, a walk in the woods chatting about nothing.

We have been starved of live music for a long time, but the last few weeks have been busy for all family members. Cold Play, Bleachers and last night Andrea Bocelli. Unlike the rest of the family, I am a big opera fan (thanks to my dad) and last night didn’t disappoint. There was a big audience in the new Climate Pledge Arena, crappy arena food, pricey drinks but a great voice. The big finish with “Time to Say Goodnight”, “O sole mio” and “Nessun dorma” didn’t leave anyone untouched. A couple of tears shed, big applause, goosebumps and a slow drive home in the rain. All the good stuff.  

Mt Adams

Here we are. Finally, mask-lessly tackling the world with our own faces, without a cover to hide our expressions. Almost naked in front of everyone, showing our bare skin to the world. After over a year of isolation, cooped up in the house, running on empty trails, it is time to break loose. What do you suggest? Party all night at the closest club, rave with your closest 500 friends, fly to Rio…Well, I ended up being home alone with the dogs for the first time since March last year. Thinking about the next mountain to climb. I guess life is not that different after a long isolation.

Glacier Peak is now a distant memory. And so is Mt Adams. Yay! The last of the five volcanoes in Washington. The one thing remaining is burnt skin on my ears and neck and a few piles of dirty clothes and gear. I might let the the piles stay out waiting for a new adventure. My legs are still sore, my mind is happy and memories are in my soul.

Mt Adams, for me the fifth and final volcano in Washington, 12,281ft (3,743m). Sandy, rocky, slushy, snowy and not interesting. A long slog to the top. Rocks and more rocks. Rainier, Baker, Helens – you kind of know what to expect. Glacier Peak turned out to be a very hard but a very pleasant surprise. My absolute favorite so far. Adams, eh.

I had a really good time; great company and the weather could not have been better. We left Thursday morning and took on the long drive to the middle of Washington, almost 300 miles from here. We drove along the Columbia River for a long time and ended up seeing new places and new roads. Passing Hood River and hundreds of kite surfers, small towns with names I have never heard before, cows, horses, small gas stations with no names…

We started our climb in the afternoon, hot and sunny, moving our way closer to the goal. After hours of walking, we thought we had come to the right spot to set up camp but checking the map closely we realize that we have another hour or so to move. We’re at 8200ft elevation and have about another 1000ft to go. We both feel good, not tired and ready to move on. We get our packs on and move. About ten minutes later I feel like I was hit by a taco truck. My body feels heavy, lungs burning and head hurting. We keep moving and I hear myself complain and whine. Every fifth step I have to stop. What the heck is going on? We reach Lunch Counter, our spot for the night and I can barely make the last 200 yards. Altitude sickness.

I am 100% sure I will throw up and I feel like I have a heavy rock on my chest. Josh is the best adventure partner, cool as a cucumber. He sets up camp, gets water, tells me to drink, to lay down, to do all those things I should do without thinking. I feel better, we eat a little, drink water, lay down, talk for a few hours, try to sleep.

After a very short night we pack up and get ready to move around 2am. The sky is full of stars, so close you can touch them. The top of the mountain is lit by the twinkling sky. It is gorgeous. We head out from camp around 2.30 and so far there are no other headlights visible. At first, I thought I could shake the altitude sickness, thought I had adjusted a little bit better. But no, it just got worse over time. It’s steep with a mix of snow, ice and rocks. I must have been the worst mountain friend. I think weird thoughts and take one step at the time. And we are up, and I get to rest. Josh looks like he took a stroll in the park and I cannot even swallow a sip of water or a Swedish Fish. I spend a lot of time behind a rock with my three jackets on and wrapped up in a safety blanket. The way down is long, I start to feel better. The crampons feel lighter and lighter, I manage to drink some water and I can see our tent from afar.

Hours later we rest up, repack our packs, and head down the mountain. I see hummingbirds and butterflies over our bright green tent greeting us after the climb. It’s time to head back. It’s a long one, we walk over snow fields, over scree fields, rocks, sand, more rocks and it’s hot. We reach the car about 12 hours after we started our day. We drive the other way back, through Yakima. Well, I did not drive, I basically slept the whole way trying to shake off that altitude sickness. And then we are home, and the memories change for the better, it could have been worse. I almost feel okay 24h later.   

Video and some photos borrowed from Josh.

Glacier Peak

Before a climb you read old trail reports, make lists, pack and organize, prepare mentally. Even if you prepare and get ready it is usually never how you imagine it. My last climb was hotter, steeper, longer and so much more of everything. Less trained than usual, with a cranky knee, but with more experience and wisdom since last climb, my friend and I met up with a guide company to climb Glacier Peak last weekend. Glacier Peak (10,525ft/3,207m) is the most remote and isolated volcano in Washington State. It is in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Since it is isolated and far out, it is a long hike in to climb the mountain, which makes it less popular to climb than for instance Mt Rainier and Mt Baker.

Day 1

My friend and I left early on Thursday to meet up with the guides and the rest of the group in Darrington, a couple of hours to drive. We’ve had hot weather the past week and it was already heating up when we started to unpack the car before 8am. Our backpacks felt heavy. We got some extra gear to carry for the group, stoves, fuel, tarps etc. My pack was filled to the top, but I managed to squeeze the helmet in there before we took off to the trailhead. It felt heavy and chunky, and was rubbing against my back and neck. It’s been a while since I did a long hike with a pack like this.

The hike started out at North Fork of Sauk River trail head. We walked through deep forest with Douglas fir and Western red cedar, we crossed the river and worked our way up almost 4000’. With the heavy pack and the extreme heat, it took most of the day. It was hot and humid, and the pack was over 40lbs. The trail starts out pretty mellow but after a few hours it turns into a climb. We cover switch back after switch back, and then it opens up and we emerge from the trees. The views are stunning, green hills, wildflowers, snow, streams, marmots, birds. We made it to White Pass and set up camp for the night.

Day 2

It is almost impossible to sleep. It is so hot. You hear noises, little critters, birds. We had a grouse calling out all night. A little bit uncomfortable, a little bit hard against your back, a little bit crowded… It’s been a while since I spent a night in a tent. And suddenly it is morning and time to stretch out and pack up. A quick breakfast and we all repack our packs and get ready to go. Your body feels a little bit stiff after carrying a heavy pack uphill for close to 10 hours.

The day start relatively easy with some ups and downs. We hike over White Pass and Foam Creek and descend into Glacier Peak meadows. The trail is still covered in snow on many places and an easy traverse turns in to a sketchy and shaky one. The chutes are filled with snow and ice and one wrong step would be quite awful. We traverse the White Chuck Glacier and the heat is almost unbearable, the sun is burning and reflecting on the snow. You can feel the burn through your clothes and the pack feels heavier and heavier.

We reach Glacier Gap Camp at 7300’ that is next to the Suiattle Glacier, set up camp and unpack. The sun is burning, and we are trying to escape the heat. You cannot find shade anywhere. We drink water from the stream, lay in our tent and chat, eat a little, talk about tomorrow and try to get ready for the climb up to the summit.

Day 3

It is so difficult to sleep when you know you are getting up around 2am. We woke up before our wake-up call and chatted for a bit. I do not even know if I slept, it felt like I just waited, looking at the stars all night. That is usually how it is before a summit. It felt a bit chilly for the first time since we started our trip. I get the puffy on and eat a little and drink coffee. Everyone is quiet, moving slowly, looking a bit nervous. We all know it will be long day moving.

We get our gear ready. Crampons and axe accessible with harness and helmet/headlight on. It’s dark outside, the sky is full of bright stars. The stars feel so close you can touch them. The moon is almost full, shining and leading the way. We all walk slow in on long row. Quiet, head down, step after step uphill, deep breaths. We stop after an hour and get our crampons on our boots, get roped up, it is getting steeper. We work our way over Gerdine and Cool Glaciers. We pass some crevasses, hear some rockfall, see big rocks roll over the ice. The sun is working its way up, the sky is magic, and you just want to bottle the feeling of the world’s greatness. I think this is the part that is the most beautiful in every climb.

We stop and prepare for the last push up to the summit. Drink some water, eat a snack, trying to visualize what it will be like. The wind is picking up, the sun is up, and it’s morning. We move through dirt that glides down when you take a step, it feels like moving in thick syrup. We reach some snow and ice and more dirt and rocks. The wind is picking up. And then, the final part up a chute, full of snow that is getting slushier every minute the sun is up. It looks like a steep wall and I am trying to think positive thoughts and holding on to my axe so hard I can feel my fingers cramp. All those feelings of fear come over me, irrational thoughts, and tears. Every time I get close to a summit. Big steps, really steep and I punch through the snow with every step. Axe, step, step, axe, step, step, axe, step, step… using the pole in my other hand to lift myself up. I look back to make sure the rope is on the right side and look down. How on earth am I going to get down? Panic, axe, step, step… and we are up. It is windy, cold and absolutely wonderful. The view, the mountains, the blue sky… I am speechless. Rainier, Adams, Baker… every mountain in Washington in full view. Absolutely gorgeous.   

After a short time on the summit, we prepare to head down. We are five on the rope, my friend leads the way, and I am second. The plunge steps down work like a charm and I forget how steep it was just stepping my way closer to more comfortable terrain. We work our way down the mountain and after hours with crampons and a few without we are back at camp in the afternoon. A quick cup of coffee and we break camp and continue our trip over glaciers and down the mountain. It feels endless, so hot with the sun burning the skin under the clothes.

We get back to the long traverse that now melted more and got even more complicated to finish. After a few scary moments and some try hard times, we get our crampons on. We have been up since 1.30am and it is getting closer to dusk. When we reach White Camp again, we are all tired. We get our tents up, get some food in our tummies, and get some rest before the last day and the big hike back to the trail head.     

Day 4

We decide to head out early because of the heat. We all feel fried after a long weekend with high temps up high with all snow and ice reflecting the sun. I am burned on my neck, ears and in my nostrils even if I applied sunscreen every hour and wore a sun hoodie. We pack up and leave camp at 7.30. It turns out to be a long day again. The first hours we pass a few snow and ice filled chutes that are a bit sketchy, and it takes us some time. Better safe than sorry. It is hot, long and surprisingly hard but we are back by our cars in the afternoon. Dry clothes, car AC and water never felt better.

Glacier Peak was a beast of a mountain. You always think that Rainier is the toughest mountain in our state but this one really kicked my butt. Long days, the extremely hot weather and a heavy pack made it challenging. It was absolutely gorgeous. The views, the air, the company – 100% good times.

Photos: Olivia Race and Charlotte

The great outdoors

Our neighbor called over the fence and told me to bring our dogs in the house. He scared off a huge eagle that has been circulating our houses for a few weeks. We have seen him in one of the trees beside our yard. The eagle had a party on the neighbor’s lawn, eating a rabbit for lunch. Our dogs are not much bigger than a fat rabbit. They bark more but I am not sure what they would do if Mr. Eagle dropped by. My grandparents lost one of their dachshunds to an eagle way back in the day. I have heard the story since I was a kid, but I never thought it could be a problem up until now. Our dogs walk in and out all day, make sure the cars are parked in the right spot, bark at delivery trucks, chase rabbits and squirrels, make life miserable for people walking by. Now, it looks like we have a bird problem in the neighborhood. I am lucky to spot eagles basically every day. I hang out where they hang out, by the water, in the forest, on mountaintops.

The wildlife and the nature around here are amazing. Gigantic trees, mountains, deep forests, rain forests, water, beaches, trails… We have been here so long I often forget how amazed I felt the first few years. The first time I saw an owl up close, sitting on our deck by the kitchen window, staring into my soul. The first few times I saw coyotes on our street, roaming around and howling at night. The first time I met coyotes when running scared me and can still make my heart skip a beat. Caroline and I had to sprint away from one last summer. He was clearly guarding something and did not want to let us pass. Similarly, the fear when I realized I had been followed by a cougar during a late-night orienteering in the forest. The amazing mountain goats climbing around us when hiking. Last year’s stare down with a bobcat in our neighborhood: I froze, she froze. Bears…they do not like getting close but sometimes they pass your route, or maybe vice versa. You live and you learn and try to not disturb and interrupt their lives and their homes.

With the pandemic we have seen big crowds out in nature, and it is great that so many choose to go outside. Our most used trails are like highways. When you hike, try to pick a trail that is not overused. You share the great outdoors with animals and their babies, hikers, runners, mountain bikers, hunters, etc. Be kind and share the space, be respectful and friendly. If it is very muddy, choose another trail to bike, do not go off trail; leave no trace and make sure to leash your pup.

A few days late, but Happy Earth Day! A little goes a long way, small actions have big results.     

Knowing where to go

I am working on a new webinar for an international network of women. I basically have free hands, I can talk about adventure, show photos of magical places far away, tell stories of races, trips, stuff. How to plan, how to train, how to… But does anyone really want to hear about that? Expectations, adventure, magic, and pain. And type 2 fun. I am not sure.

I did a solo run last week. A very cold morning, freezing temps, cold fingers, cold ears, slow steps. As always one of the best parts of running is the clarity, thinking straight, oxygen flowing. In times like this it is refreshing to run and breathe. I had hundreds of geese flying over my head, an eagle gliding around me. The trail was crunchy and the grass white. It was a slower run than usual. Not all runs are about falling over the finish line. In times like this it is a gift with sunshine on your shoulders and new thoughts and ideas in your brain. The birds over me all have one thing in common. A goal, working together but also solo. Gut feeling, goal setting, knowing where to go, what step to take next… When I look back on old posts goalsetting has been one of the recurrent subjects. Not only when it is about training but also in life. I wrote a post around 5 years ago when I decided to ditch my big Ironman goal after thousands of hours of training. A real low point in my life. I set a goal that basically ate me up inside. I followed the plan and worked 100% for it but it felt so wrong. I woke up having nightmares about swimming and hated every single mile on the road bike. I woke up one day and decided to quit. That decision ended up being the best since I found myself in Alaska a few months later. Goalsetting for life, for training, for racing, for adventure… I still have a few goals to figure out. And I need to buy a new sleeping bag.

I also found a few more not so serious goals I set for myself way back that are worth repeating.

If you cannot carry it, you probably do not need it.

Try to learn the rules of football. And cricket.

Get oil changes on time, check tire pressure.

Give lots of hugs to everyone you care for. (Easier said than done right now.)

Choose your battles.

My kids

Hi folks,

Saturday in the suburbs and life feels exhausting. Not really a reason why, but after a year of restrictions and limited social interactions, life is catching up. For some reason I do think I am one of the lucky ones. I have people around me, living in the same house, dogs to snuggle and walk with, food on the table and a fireplace that burns every day. It is good to remind yourself that life is not bad, and it is ok to feel the ups and downs.

I am lucky to have three terrific, magnificent, and marvelous kids. Three individuals with the same upbringing and the same set of genes. Same parents, same food, same house, same schools… and they could not be more different but also so much alike. They are a three-piece puzzle that fits like a glove, the best of friends and three golden nuggets apart. Right now, I am lucky to have two on this side of the world but the third is only a facetime away. The world is getting smaller every day. I am going to repeat part of a post that is over ten years old. They are all adults now, independent, well educated, smart and on their way to bounce, take a big step, fly, or maybe dive into an unknown world. They are brave, beautiful, and absolutely amazing.

  • Be nice to your sisters, always.
  • It is ok to be homesick and long for all loved ones in our other country… they will still be there next summer.
  • Never get in a car with a drunk driver. Call home, any time.
  • Work out. As much as you can and as hard as you can. And it is ok to look sweaty, not very cute and feel like you are going to puke. It is actually good for you.
  • Always work hard in school, it will pay off. But remember, you can only do your best.
  • Never be afraid to ask for help.
  • It is ok to spend a lot of money on shoes, especially running shoes.
  • Don’t worry about love when you are 15, you have plenty of time. I am sure you will not even remember the name of the cutest guy in 9th grade when you turn 30. Life goes on.
  • Accept people around you. Nobody is perfect. Not even you.
  • Do your thing. Be different. But do not wear too short skirts.
  • Travel as much as you can.
  • Laugh often and hard. And laugh at yourself.
  • Keep your eyes on the ball, in sports and in life.
  • Learn how to drive a stick.
  • Learn how to cook and bake bread. Enjoy food, it is good for you and it brings people together.
  • Change is good, scary but good.
  • Do things that scare you.
  • No tattoos or visible piercings. And no, I will not change my mind about this.
  • You are all three so much stronger than you think.
  • If you can’t think, go for a run, a long run.
  • Don’t stress… you have a long life ahead of you.

Let us review this after 10 years.

I failed with the stick shift driving lessons, we only have automatic cars. We still laugh, work out and worry about love. We drive around, play loud music, sing out loud, and eat ice cream. Very often. We get Thai food and do stupid things. And eat French fries. I enjoy every minute we spend together. I still have not changed my mind about tattoos, but I do understand that we are all adults, and it is not my problem if it will happen. We had a good run with sports. Climbing, volleyball, soccer… and I am kind of happy it is now easy going and not dead serious. We all spend money on shoes. The traveling is kind of limited. They are all great at cooking and baking. The long runs are also long walks, bike rides and long reading sessions. We all spend too much time with our dogs. The hard work in school paid off and everyone is on a great path. I never thought I would have a stem kid but here we go – women in tech.

Skogsstammis

Om man inte fotar sig med den fluffigaste av semlor, inte fotar sitt padelracket och om man inte vinterbadar med den snyggaste mössan, är man ens svensk då? Jag glömde skidspåren på ett stadsnära fält. Ja, inte vet jag. Jag ligger risigt till. Jag skulle kanske kunna producera en och annan semla med puder på toppen. Vinterbadet skulle ju också kunna produceras på bild men jag spar det till sommaren när vattnet i en alpin sjö är närmare +/-0 men solen är framme. Men racketsport och bollsport, det är inte riktigt min grej. Skidorna är ju lättare att fixa. Fast det förstås, jag smaskar ju på Ahlgrens bilar rätt ofta, köper havremjölk och Lingongrova på vår lokala Amazon, och älskar lakrits så jag är i alla fall utlandssvensk.

Frågan om svenskhet kom upp idag igen. Ni vet det här om tillhörighet och samhörighet, hemmahörande och delaktighet. Vi är ju väldigt delaktiga och involverade, fysiskt och med hjärtat, i samhället och staden där vi bor. Det har vi varit sedan vi flyttade hit för många år sedan. (Vi missade Happy Brekkan America Day i januari i år.) Vi är ju också hemmahörande och tillhörande Sverige, med pass och hjärta. Men hur går det ihop? Hjärta och smärta. Ihop och ifrån. Till och från. Närvarande och frånvarande. Aldrig har väl frånvaron varit så påtaglig. Aldrig har vi väl känt oss så långt borta. Pandemin har tryckt ihop oss här hemma men dragit isär oss andra. Vi lever mer mittemellan än någonsin. Men hur är det egentligen, var hör vi hemma? Det har snart gått ett helt år sedan sista besöket, sista rimmade laxen och stuvade potatisen, sista bokshoppingen lajv, sista kramandet av föräldrarna, sista löpturen i hemstaden…och som vi längtar.      

Här har regnet öst ner i veckor och månader. Det har blåst storm och regnat sidledes och ofta samtidigt.  Helt plötsligt klarnade himlen upp och blev blå och med den blå himlen kom kylan och frosten. Och till och med snön. Jag fick leta fram isskrapan vid halv sex igår morse när det bar av ut till närmaste skogsdunge för lite löpning i mörkret. Och om det var mörkt och kallt. Kristallerna glimmade i pannlampans sken, månen lyste genom trädgrenarna och så kom solen sakta upp och värmde luften en aning. Tänk vad friskt det känns med kall luft och frusen mark under sulorna. Luften blir så mycket lättare att andas. Däremot är det svårt att klä sig. Jag glömmer mellan varven vilka lager man behöver, vilket egentligen inte är så mycket eftersom det blir varmt så fort man rör sig. Misstaget varje gång är korta strumpor som lämnar en bar decimeter mellan strumporna och tightsen. Det hade kunnat varit värre. Nu laddar vi inför våren, för visst kommer den snart. Lagom till att vi har knoppar på träden och påskliljor som börjar titta fram så kommer snön. Idag drog jag till min vanliga skog och knatade, skubbade, och hasade runt. En liten utter, några äldre men ärtiga män med stavar och en nygammal bekant var fynden för dagen. Det var trevligt med några korta samtal i buskagen. Jag lyssnade på en vän i lurarna, närmare bestämt den guiden som varit med mig alla gånger på Rainier. Supersherpan som bestigit Everest 17 gånger. Och trevlig är han också. Jag hoppas våra vägar korsas snart igen. Tiden gick fort både i lurarna och i spåret. Jag glömde hänga upp parkeringslappen men tacksamt så påpekade Park Rangern att min bil är känd i skogen och de vet att lappen är betald för den är där ofta och sliter på gruset. Stammis i skogen, finns det något bättre att lägga till på sitt cv? Jag lägger till frekventa skogsbad i ensamhet till mitt cv också.     

Det florerade en artikel i både svenska och amerikanska tidningar ett par dagar tillbaka. Artiklarna handlade i stort om hur man blir formad av musiken man lyssnade på när man var 14 år. Mr Mister, Depeche Mode, Falco, Elton John och Lionel Richie är tydligen väldigt inflytelserika människor i mitt liv. Kul. Jag klämmer till med en gammal goding så här på torsdagsmorgonen.

Ut och njut

Det har snart passerat ett långt år av nedstängning och isolering. För ett år sedan tog en jag vända till Uppsala för att hälsa på. När jag kom tillbaka hem stängde Washington ner och så har det varit sen dess. Pandemin hade sitt riktiga utbrott här och Kirkland hamnade på kartan när det första sjukhemmet i USA drabbades av många Coronadödsfall.

I måndags öppnade det lite, vi fick en glimt av livet som det en gång var. Det är helt plötsligt möjligt att knalla in på gymmet och till och med äta på restaurang med några få människor och med väldigt få bord. Att gå till biblioteket eller något av stans museum är fortfarande inte möjligt. Aldrig har väl livet varit så asocialt och ensamt. Aldrig har man väl hunnit tänka så mycket och ändå inte avslutat en enda tanke.

Jag måste erkänna att jag njöt en aning av lugnet till en början. Det var ganska skönt att vara hemma, våren kom och det var allt lättare att vara ute. Alla barnen bodde hemma igen och det var mest mysigt och njutbart. Och sen kom sommaren, hösten och vintern och det var inte så härligt att bara vara hemma längre. Med tiden så blev det mer och fler förbud och nedstängningar. Munskydd och kraftigt avståndstagande har varit vår vardag under en väldigt lång tid. Handlar gör man på nätet, umgås gör man via Zoom, tränar gör man ensam. Skolorna har snart varit stängda ett helt år. Inte bara för universitet och gymnasium utan för alla, oavsett ålder. Garaget har blivit kittat och laddat med mer och mer prylar, allt för att komma ut ur huset. Under en väldigt lång tid var även State Parks förbommade och trails avstängda med tejp. Vägarna var tomma på trafik och vi bodde i en spökstad.

Nu ser det trots allt lite ljusare ut och vaccinationerna verkar sakta men säkert distribueras ut i världen. Även om det är långt ifrån det vi brukade kalla normalt så känns det ändå lite ljusare och lättare. Kanske beror det på att solen skiner idag.

Idag har himlen varit blå med några vita, tussiga moln här och var. Vinden ven då och då, och kröp innanför tröjan när man minst anade det. Leran var djup och sög ner skorna här och var på stigarna och i nerförsbackarna blev lätt lite på glid. Träden låg lite stökigt i skogen, ibland över stigarna, ibland vid sidan av. Det har blåst och regnat en hel del de senaste veckorna och på sina håll så ser det ut som ett enormt plockepinn.

Jag gillar rutiner, det är skönt att veta vad som ska hända och när. När livet är som vanligt tar jag mig till skogen några gånger i veckan och springer en timme eller två eller tre. Sista året har allt blivit hattigt, av pandemin, av att allt blivit lite upp och ner, av att alla jobbar hemma, men även av skador i fötter och knän. Rutin är viktigt, inte minst när allt annat runt omkring oss är upp och ner. Jag är van att följa en plan, träna enligt uppsatt schema men med flexibilitet, ha tävlingar att träna inför och veta hur mycket och varför. Dessutom är jag van att göra delar av detta med andra människor som har ett gemensamt mål. Nu är det planlöst, kontaktlöst och då blir hela livet lite upp och ner. Detta får mig att tänka på KASAM – Känsla av sammanhang som jag gissar att många av er är bekanta med. Det handlar om begriplighet, hanterbarhet och meningsfullhet och upplevelsen av livskvalitet. Dagens löprunda ägnades åt att fundera på just KASAM och hur det faktiskt stämmer. Om livets hörnstenar inte finns på plats så mår man inte bra. Men man kan må bra även om man inte är fysisiskt 100% . En av mina stadiga hörnstenar är just tiden i naturen, oavsett om jag kan springa eller inte så är tiden viktig och det är lätt att välja bort den tiden för att rutinen rubbas. Allas fysiska kontaker har ju på många sätt förändras men det säger inte att man inte kan ha sociala kontakter, bara att det är betydligt svårare. Därför är det kanske ännu viktigare att lägga extra krut på sin tid ute och på att röra på sig för att kompensera bristande sociala kontakter och att det allmänt är tråkigt just nu. Det gör faktiskt att man mår bättre. Så jag vill som vanligt slå ett slag för rörelse och för rörelse i naturen. Ut och njut! Även om det inte kompenserar allt man missar, alla kramar man inte får, eller allt skratt man missar med vänner så gör det i alla fall lite gott.  

New year

Gott Nytt År! Det börjde lite rassligt på den här sidan med stök och bök i politiken. Det är ju inte så mycket att prata om eftersom alla kan läsa tidningarna och skapa sig en egen uppfattning. Det enda som jag tycker kan vara värt att påminna alla om är att USA är stort och det bor mer än 300 miljoner människor i landet och väldigt få syns i media just nu. Mest de som bär pälsmössa syns. Jag är inte så imponerad av pälsmössan och de andra i det gänget. Och vi här har stora förhoppningar att det kommer att bli ett bra år.    

Vi har börjat året med att ha alla barn hemma. Vilken lycka, vilken ynnest. Vi är fulla av mat och dryck och det har spelats spel och umgåtts i dagarna 21 eller lite mer. Det planeras menyer, dricks högtidsdrycker och bakas mest varje dag. Nu har universiteten har börjat, jobben har startat upp sen ett par veckor och granen ligger åter igen på hyllan i garaget inpackad i en röd granväska. Hundarna frodas och promeneras, barnen blommar och träden har precis börjat knoppa. Våren gott folk, våren är nära. Men också väldigt långt borta. Skidbackarna har precis öppnat och vintern har i princip kommit till bergen. Själv är jag rätt så redo för vår och sol på kinderna. Det är väldigt grått och mörkt nu. Och blött. Jag tror inte att ni riktigt förstår hur blött det är. Jätteblött. Övervämningsvarning varje dag på nyheterna och väldigt plaskigt i naturen. Och så blev det storm i dagarna två och fullt av träd rasade ner och lade sig fint över vägar och stigar. Vi förlorade ett fint japansk körsbärsträd. Strömmen försvann för många men tack och lov så surfar vi fritt och läser med vanlig lampa. Och vi kan koka te och laga mat som vanligt vilket är ett plus.

Här hemma har vi firat jul, nyår, två hundfödelsedagar och så klart trettondagshelgen. Nej, jag skojar ju. Trettondagen gör mig som vanligt lite tveksam. Vad firar man egentligen? Och på riktigt, det känns ju som om alla är lediga från jobbet (inte här i Amerikat) men ingen vet varför. OK, de tre vise männen kom fram, dök upp, infann sig, men vem vet, eftersom trettondagen inte firas här så blir man ju tveksam.  Guld, rökelse och myrra. Men tjena, kul grejer när man har en nyfödd.

Idag spang vi i skogen, Carro och jag. Jag hade nya skor med extra mycket sula. Skorna skulle liksom studsa fram. Det var absolut inte fallet. Det blev väldigt lite studsande, mer hasande och sakta nedstigande. Kul nästan jämt. Det var dimma och förbannat kallt första halvtimmen, sen öppnade det sig och vi såg ljuset. Solen kom fram och sken så starkt att vi fick kisa. Skogen var lerig, stigarna var tomma på folk och det var… alldeles underbart. Som det faktiskt brukar vara när vi skubbar i skogen.

Merry everything and Happy always

First Sunday of Advent passed. And then the second Sunday passed too, and Lucia, and the Third Sunday and all gingersnaps are eaten. The stars are up, lighting up the windows and house. It should only be one star because – Jesus. But since the world evolved the number of stars grew. And we are all suckers for light, so you know – stars. If you are not religious, now is the time. Some Swedes never went to church back in the day but putting a star in your window is something you do, just because, it is now a cultural thing.  I grew up with church, stone buildings, more than 1000 years old, culture, white Christmas lights… America is just the opposite and all the lights are in different colors and blinking. I am still trying to adjust after all these years.

Back in the day, many years ago, you had one star made out of straw, basically made during the time of  Jesus and it was a bit burned and broken but it shone like the one and only every year. And then paper happened, and all Swedes went crazy. Paper stars with lightbulbs inside. And we all went crazy, visiting IKEA, buying more and more every year. And then the minimalistic era happened, and we scaled back. One star, one metal light in the kitchen window. One statement Eldflugan (that we happened to leave in Sweden when we moved) in the living room window. In 2020, I only care about light and bright stuff. We need happiness and vitamin D in our lives. Green trees, blue skies, friendly faces, trails, and online shopping.

We just finished Thanksgiving and we just finished the leftovers. And Christmas will happen this year too, even if it feels very unlikely. Apparently, Christmas shopping started early and as usual I am oblivious, no clue. For me it all starts December 20th. You need the glorious smell of glögg, saffron, ginger, cinnamon… you hear everyone else talk about everything being ready and I look around and see chaos. It is something I inherited from my parents. And the fun, interesting thing is that it all works out. With a few hours to spare. Same procedure every year.

Last week disappeared in a blur and a flour cloud. I am part of a board that decided to do a last-minute fundraising event to cheer up our members and raise some money before this interesting year ends. My part: bake saffron buns, a traditional Christmas bread. This event grew fast and so did the number of buns. I ended up baking over 350 buns. And the fun part, we ran out, so I need to bake some for us before Christmas.

Christmas food is Christmas. It is particularly important and as always, you gather around food and the dinner table. The love of food is one of the important things you can give your children. If you know the food, you feel more at home in a country. Music and culture are up there too. And of course, the language, how to communicate and express yourself.  

The Christmas ham, sweet ginger ribs, pickled herring, all the salmon, vegetables, bread, cheeses, baked goods, chocolate… I am proud to pass this on to my kids, the small Swedes in a new country. Every year this is a problem. Where to find it and what to make yourself. The baked stuff, we are on it. We bake and bake, every day. It is all the odd things that are hard to find or make. And is it worth it? Things, rituals, routines, is it worth it? Why do you do it, make it? Some of it, absolutely. But I must admit that I have not had sylta or eel since we left Sweden. Sad, yes, but I would ever make it. No, I focus on the stuff we really like. Christmas food in America is…cannot think of anything. I cannot think of anything that feels Christmassy. A lot of cookies, eggnog, and hot chocolate. Peppermint. Candy. But no food. Thanksgiving will cover it all. That is the food holiday of the US. But that is good for us, we can focus on the Scandinavian food for Christmas.

The first few holidays we spent here were odd, missing family and the usual. And then we found our own ways. Our own routines and our own new holiday traditions. For us it is mainly about family and food. We hang out, play endless games and cook. You cannot really buy stuff readymade if you want it your way. We make some and we skip some. Bake the stuff that we crave, buy what we can and make the rest. Create new traditions mixed with old ones. We have not spent one Christmas in Sweden since we moved here. But somehow Christmas is celebrated every year with a bang.

I am on a few months rest from running and biking for a very stubborn knee injury that I got treated. My last run for the year happened a few weeks ago. I am trying to remember the running feeling when I hop out in the garage for some assault biking with arms only. If you can spend time outside, do so. Walk, run or bike if you can. I sure wish I could. I usually get up before sunrise. Get out of the house so early the birds are still sleeping and are all fluffed up like wooly balls and you can hear the leaves fall slowly from the trees. So early that the only one you meet is an occasional coyote sneaking around the neighborhood. I am not an early bird anymore, like I used to be. I like waking up and getting the fire started, coffee going and news on. Really early is fine, but I prefer staying in the house. Maybe it is a quarantine laziness or extreme stiff muscles, what do I know. My mornings used to be busy… dressed in running tights and layered clothes, one quick cup of coffee and a banana, comfy shoes and in the car, it’s not too bad. The moon shines and the air feels crisp. The puddles on the track or trail are frozen and shine in the moonlight. I run and run and it gets lighter. And then the sun comes up and waves to the moon and the sky is all of a sudden blue. And I regret not getting a picture of the spectacular phenomenon, how the moon goes to sleep, and the sun wakes up and turns the world light and blue. Instead I hop in the car and turn on my favorite song and drive home. If you could check how many times I have listened to this song it would break Spotify. It is almost embarrassing. Now I watch that phenomenon from the couch sipping coffee. I will try to remember to never complain once I can run again. Early morning trail runs, headlight on, rosy cheeks and happiness.