Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lady in Fur

When I opened the back hatch, I immediately heard the smack and tinkle of glass on the pavement. A new glass jar of olives dislodged from the grocery sack and rolled out of the back of the station wagon when I opened the hatch to get a snack for Hunter.

Determined not to throw away some perfectly good olives, I drained the rest of the brine from the broken bottom of the jar until I could hold the jar upside down to keep all but three green olives, which perished on the parking lot asphalt. Holding this narrow jar just so, I gingerly picked up the remaining shards of glass from the ground (gingerly, because of my painful tail bone), and carried them off to a garbage can at the entrance to the shopping mall.

You can be sure I felt cross. Hunter trailed behind me asking a lot of questions about what I would do with the olives and the broken jar. Embarrassing as it was not to have a place to put the olives where they might rest without staining the car so that I had to hold my broken jar all the way into the mall, more embarrassing still was it to have a loudly running commentary beside me the whole way.

The wind blew hard, as usual, so that my hair blew into my eyes and the bag to the garbage can tried to blow up and out of the can while I tried to lift the metal lid with the hand holding the shards, not the hand holding the upside down jar of green olives. This crossed me all the more.

Standing between the garbage can and the electric doors to the mall was a woman in a fine, thick fur coat--fox, I would guess. On her head was a tight black cap much like from the 1920's, including a black sequin flower pinned above her ear, below which her peppered hair barely revealed itself.

"Er hår!" she exclaimed, looking closely at me through the hair plastered to my face.

Feeling like a cross, armless woman trying to open the garbage can (Hunter was unable to help as he was enamored by the woman), I tried to use an olive filled hand to push my hair away.

With the shards safely deposited, I directed a more patient face toward the woman. "I speak English," I said to the woman who proceded in Swedish.

She stood up straight, an unlit cigarette between her fingers and turned her face away from the wind. When she turned her face back to me, as if she had become someone new, she returned in English, "Your hair!"

I responded, almost interrupting the rest of her speech, "It's curly--natural."

"Och. I used to have hair like that. What a pity."

"Aw, you're still beautiful," I say, touching her furry sleeve, thinking it is what she wants to hear.

"Nej, you don't understand," she continues, lighting her cigarette into the wind and into my face. "I am dying."

"Dying?" I ask, alarmed that a casual comment has led to more serious conversation.

"Yes, I have taken those hormones," (I wish you could have heard how she said hormones), "and now I am dying." She takes a long drag on her cigarette and blows it into the wind and my hair.

Hardly knowing how to respond, standing there with my impatient son (who wanted to go to his favorite play area), with my upturned jar of olives, I say, "I'm sorry," with as much empathy as my startled mind can muster.

"It is because of that estrogin," (again, I wish you could hear 'estrogin' pronounced), "that I will now die: The reason I no longer have that kind of hair."

I begin to move toward the door at a complete loss for words and needing to run after my son who has gone into the mall.

The woman leans toward me again, the wind ruffling the long fur on her coat, "In my next life," she says, conspiratorally, "I will remember not to take the hormones. That way I can still have hair like yours."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March Winds

It looks as if someone is throwing large handfuls of gravel across the pond outside the kitchen window, the wind is so wild today. We're back in Sweden for another three months.

First snow blew horizontally across the fields and blurred the horizon. I caught a photo. Good thing, too, because the wind blew all that away so the sky is wiped to blue with sun and an edge of storm clouds riding the 27 mph winds for later in the day. You thought it was unpredictable in Idaho . . . !

But wait! I haven't told you about February and part of March in the U.S. What a joy it was to be home.

*We were and are grateful that Dad Munts quickly and easily found and fixed the leak in our new/used washing machine so that we didn't have to haul our $250 purchase to the dump.
*We had time to make arrangements with our back neighbors to help us with our garden in the summer as well as finding time for our children to play as we visited.
*We met our old neighbor's new husband, met the new neighbors, and Hunter arranged as many play dates as he could and we enjoyed several days of new snow on top of the old.
*We saw my grandmother, nearly 94, in her new assisted living arrangement, had as many meals and moments as possible with family and friends as well as church family and friends.
*I was able to take my mother and son to visit my oldest daughter for her 24th birthday in Seattle.
*Laughed a lot and chatted over an Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Onion and other delectables for Mom's birthday.
*We managed to catch a few colds and endure them.
*Phil went on a Work and Witness trip to Guatemala. He seemed to enjoy the tropical heat and fruit then adjust well to coming back to snowy life in North Idaho and eating dried and canned fruit preserved from our summer garden.
*Hunter enjoyed some time with both sets of grandparents while I went to Portland for a photo workshop and a chance to meet up with an old friend.
*I did some thinning of clothes from the closets--got rid of three large bags of clothes and was disappointed to see that the closet did not appear thinned.
*Spent time with my writing buddies on different occasions.
*Enjoyed seeing my new book in print ("How They Die," by Juliene Munts, orderable at and giving a few away.
*Gave a little presentation to Hunter's preschool classmates about our time in Sweden.
*Spent a day thrift shopping with my middle daughter--a favorite past time of ours.
*Enjoyed being able to bother my middle daughter any time of day that she was home in the apartment in our house.
*Went for a horse-drawn sleigh ride at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.
*Enjoyed an all-nighter at our crazy friends' home in Priest River.
*Had to buy more clothes for Hunter (at a thrift store, of course) for his fast-growing legs.
*Learned how to use a dance pad and a guitar program on the computer.
*Cleaned, cleaned, cleaned.
*Enjoyed driving my own car, cooking in my own kitchen, and making local calls on my own phone (even though it went down on a particularly drippy, melting snow day), sleeping on my own side of the bed and having all my junk to organize and re-organize.
*Enjoyed a tiny jazz concert in the middle of our church service between singing and a great sermon.
*Saw Phil's sister just before we left.
*To boot, the ear, nose and throat doctor urged us to go off of dairy, which has been an interesting journey--especially coming back to Sweden where we usually enjoy local cheeses, a pourable yogurt and milk on our Muesli.

Okay, okay, so it was great. But now we're back in Rang, Sweden, Phil's working diligently, and I'm trying to discipline myself to write.

The first day back, while we were putting clothes on shelves from our suitcases and getting the kitchen set up with food, I managed to fall down half a flight of stairs and seriously injure my already bad (from a fall 25 years ago) tailbone. I will be seeing a physical therapist to have an adjustment and get a better sense of how (hopefully not bad) bad the injury was. Meanwhile, I worry that this may mess up my dreams to ride a horse along the Hollviken Harbor and be able to ride a bike at all along any of Swedens many bike trails. Since it hurts to sit or walk very fast, horse and bicycle riding is out of the question indefinitely.

A funny observation from the dryer: There are six languages represented inside the door of the dryer and in English the message reads, "Clean the fluff filters after each use."

The washer and dryer are the same pair I've used the other two visits, here, only this time, we are living in the farmhouse, so the laundry facilities are right off of the kitchen. Much easier laundry days when they coincide with the wind.

In the first week back, besides falling down the stairs, Hunter and I found fun things to do in the house and around town. One day, we spent about an hour flying a nylon kite from a nearby field. It was all I could do to hold on and not cut my fingers in the whistling string. It sure did fly, though!

We also had an interview with the International school coordinator of Bladins International School. Hunter made it in for the last three months of the school year, which ends the day before we fly home. He has attended one full day, so far, and is there now. He's both frightened and excited about the opportunity. I'm a bit wistful.

Speaking of school. Hunter gets out early today. I've got to go get him! More later, my dear friends and readers!