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Swedish Gospel

       It had snowed for 40 days and 40 nights in Sweden. Most Swedes had given up on religion a long time ago, but Noah kept the faith. It was the time of the great white – the time of glare and whiteness. There were drifts as big as whales there was no passing, and the food was running out. It was the worst of times.

       Johansson prayed.  “Dear God, we are snowed in. I fear for the lives of my wife, my children, and my hounds. What shall I do?”

       Much to his surprise, God answered. “You have pleased me, Noah, son of son of Johan, sniffer of the snus. You are to build a sled.”

        “A sled?” Johansson was confused. It didn’t seem like much of an answer. Was he tripping? Was it those mushrooms the dog brought home?

       “This is to be a great sled,” God continued. “The mother of all sleds. It shall be 600 cubits long and 200 cubits wide.”

       “What’s a cubit?” Noah asked.

       “The length from your elbow to your fingertips,” God told him. “It’s an iffy dimension, but good enough for government work. Go out and chop down trees still left the by cutters of the clear who will smother in the blanket I have cast upon the earth.

       “When the great sled is finished bring onto it, wives, and dogs, and children, pails of lingonberries, meatballs, hard bread, a pairs of crayfish, and some party hats. Take also two of the moose, and magpies, litres of strong drink . . . and one can of surstroming which shall never be opened, even onto the year of your death.

       “Then what?” Noah asked.

       “Attacheth all of thy hounds to thy sled and proceeded south, across frozen seas, and days unknown, until thy butter melts. Then thou shall know the City of Angels in the land of California, which is also known as, The Land of Fire and floods, but this shall pass and you will bask in frequent sunlight. You shall never again to know the snow which I have brought upon the earth.

       But verily, Noah refused this advice. He borrowed his way out of that frozen hell and created clothes of many layers. He invented the sauna, backhopping, slaloms, ice skates, and a multitude of things unknown back then. Johansson’s words are written in the ancient text of, Weather or Not To Be, in which there are a multitude of followers who refuse to believe in bad weather.

“There is no bad weather, there be only bad garments.”

Thus sayeth the Swede, and it was ever so, even unto this day.

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Shovelling Snow in Sweden – Part 2 – Wednesday

Wednesday –Still snowing, another couple inches last night, and non stop all day. How old do you have to be when you get a free pass from shovelling? Ninety would surely do it. Maybe less? It’s interesting growing old. Full of surprises, moments of sudden awareness—defining moments. One of my first was at a dinner party with relatives not long after my arrival in Sweden.

There were some young children there and one of the mothers was pointing and asking a child on her lap, “Do you know who that is?” There were ten of us at the table, and the kid knew all of their names, but when mom pointed at me and asked, “Who’s that?” The boy said, “Old man.” Without a second thought. Everyone cracked up and I laughed too, but it really hit me. Wow. These people see me as an old man. The child had learned that from its elders, and in truth I was the oldest at the table-but still in my seventies. When did ‘old man’ happen?  The years follow us like a hungry tiger, then pounce.

I’ve had more of those moments this week, while watching TV. I learned I was geriatric. When you turn eighty you are automatically classified as geriatric. Sounds awful. There was a series of shows with older people who could barely move, much less drive a car or understand computers. People in their seventies. ‘She’s seventy five and driving a truck, all by herself—amazing.’ And the news, eighty year olds dying all over the place—of course they’ve always done that. That’s what people do. They die—sooner or later. If you make it to eighty you’re doing pretty good. A lot of us didn’t.

Digger Odell was a character on an American radio show called, The Life of Riley, long ago-mid 1950’s. Digger was a mortician and always ended his exits with, “I’d better be, shovelling off.”

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Shoveling Snow in Sweden – Part 1 – Tuesday

I’ve had a cold these last 2 weeks. Going on a third. The weather is shit, as it often is in Sweden. Lots of snow and shovelling. 80 years old, with cold I can’t seem to shake. I feel like shit, and I’m shovelling snow twice a day. Wife also shovels twice, but she’s Swedish. Shovelling snow comes natural to them. It’s in their DNA.

I find myself peering through windows. Has it stopped? Yes, for the moment. More is promised later tonight. I was born in Illinois, but got out as soon as I could. I remember local winter news (we had newspapers then) about men having heart attacks, while shovelling snow. There were a few deaths every year. I’ve got a good heart, I think. Just sayin’.

I’m not used to shovelling. I’m from California, and Seattle. It snows in Seattle, but seldom—and there was noting to shovel where we lived. We did not own a snow shovel. I didn’t know what a show shovel looked like. Now we have two very serious snow shovels. They are curved scoops, about a yard wide and can pick up a lot of snow in a hurry. You can slide the thing along in front of you, but snow gets heavy. Wife insists we shovel our double driveway when snow it less than an inch deep. This makes for a lot of shovelling but is probably a good idea—like I said, she’s Swedish. They know snow, the Swedes.

But I keep thinking it’s part of the Swedish DNA thing. A primal fear of being snowed in, tapped in and starving to death. I’m sure it happened in the old days. The American way, in my opinion, would be to stock up, booze and food, and wait it out. A day or two, no problem. Phones and TV work—good time to write. An introvert’s delight. I’m like a bear. I want to hibernate. This wish as yet unrealized, but with good reason. Wife has clients that come to the house. The Swedes haven’t learned about suing each other yet, but it would be an ugly thing if someone slipped and hurt themselves. Salt doesn’t work, it just lays there and looks at me. We had a chance to buy a departing neighbour’s snow blower this summer, but it was big, clumsy looking thing and it seemed silly for just a double driveway.

There were new arrival immigrants housed near hear a year ago, and the guys walking around the neighbourhood were glad to make some extra cash, and young, and strong. We hired three to help us move a very heavy dresser into the house. They were delighted with the cash earned in less than an hour, and we with their help. A nice, friendly, experience. The motel where they were staying is empty now. They have moved on. But I keep thinking there must be some dependable man one might call on the cell phone One who would be happy pick up a hundred kroner cash for thirty minutes work. Maybe next year.

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Sri Lanka – 1985 – 1

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A foolish man

A foolish man may be known by six things:

Anger without cause

Speech without profit

Change without  progress

Inquiry without object

Putting trust in a stranger

Mistaking enemies for friends.

                                                                           Sudi Arabian Proverb
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Blind Spot

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