Monday, April 27, 2009

Flagged Dung, Nudistbad, Quicksand and Bumper Cars

Saturday, we decided to do some bird watching, since I’d read that avocet breed near where we live.* We decided to get a few hours in before taking Hunter to an afternoon birthday party (he’s been invited to a birthday party every weekend for the rest of his school year). As usual, I was running late, but we picked a friend to go with us and drove toward the beach recommended to us by our landlord.

At the trailhead, Hunter saw a child from his school so that we met the parents, a French couple. We met a Swedish young man and his friendly, well-groomed, long-haired, blonde dog. We observed a new way of avoiding the plastic bag duty of dog-watching: Toothpick Swedish flags staked in piles of dog dung. Wonder if that had been the young man’s idea?

Hunter enjoyed crossing the wooden bridges over the waters of the marsh before we reached the Skanör beach. He lay in the sand gathering tiny muscle and clam shells before we’d reached the Sound. I urged him to stand up and keep from getting too dirty before the birthday party, as we expected to take him there after this little hike.

The lovely, deep blue water faded into emerald green as it approached the shallows. Each of us found tiny inlets, grassy mounds and the edges of the lapping water to let the wind and waves drown out all of our previous concerns. Time bends awhile in this state. It’s difficult to hurry OR worry.

But Phil forged north along the shore to see the end of this tiny finger of sand. He came back, nonchalantly, to report that, our landlord had been correct; there were people, up ahead, sunbathing in the nude. Now, we wore our coats against the wind, hoods up, so we felt our thin skin in more ways than one about such an open idea.

I quickly told Hunter we might find people like this so he wouldn’t ask loud questions upon an encounter. Of course, he asked many loud questions before we approached. He’s seen plenty an eyeful in the swimming pool locker rooms as he, as many other young boys, is required to go with me to change and shower in the open showers before going into the pool.

We tried to act natural and unconcerned as we passed sunning folks. Hunter did a great job holding his curiosity. Our determination to continue, instead of immediately turn back, was the avocet. However much we tried, scanning the horizons (trying to only see nature and not natura’l) with our binoculars for flocks of avocet, all we saw were ducks, seagulls and rooks.

A man and his wife, armed with beach going bags, umbrellas, picnic and a striped, four-post canvas screen stood together as the man pounded the posts into the sand to form a three-sided screen. They were of retirement age, wearing jeans, tennis shoes and wind jackets. I asked the man if he spoke English. Because he did, I asked if he knew where we could find the avocet. He pointed south of where we were headed, quite a ways. He seemed eager to divert our journey north along the shore.

Phil wanted to continue going north to see the end of the spit. When I realized this peaceful sort of humanity continued going about walking, staking and sunning ahead, I urged Phil to turn around so we could pursue these birds in earnest. By the time we passed the colorful three-sided screen, the man and woman had stashed their clothes and lie side-by-side in the sun. Phil was most ready to leave, by then.

We were in this awkward state as we walked back to the car. We approached one of the bridges across the marsh, trying varied ways to walk across the wide, muddy spots. Hunter had already “bathed” his shoes in the sea, covered the wet spots (of his new shoes) with sand and now took his chance across a nice, dark, muddy spot instead of heeding his father’s “follow me.”

He was suddenly squealing and crying, most annoyingly. We turned our attention toward him even as we picked our way across the marsh in time to see that he’d lost a shoe in the mud. Of course, we all thought he over-reacted, urging him to come out of the mud. As he tried to take another step, another shoe was sucked off of his other foot. By this time, Phil had loped over to help his son out, but Hunter sat down (fortunately his rain coat covered his rear), just as he put his hand into his daddy’s.

We could see that Phil was up to his ankles in shoe-sucking mud as he pulled Hunter hard out of the muck and retrieved the shoes. Hunter will probably never see a mud puddle the same way. While I pulled Hunter’s socks off so he could walk barefoot (“But, Mom! There’s mud between my toes, even!”), Phil said, “I’m going to wash off in the sea.”

All three of us adults felt it our solemn duty to help Hunter see the error of his ways, to accept the responsibility of disobeying his dad and the consequences of getting muddy. He met all with great weeping and wailing: “I don’t like having this consequence!” Passersby gave us wide berth.

Back at our car with a child definitely not properly clothed for a birthday party, we drove to the other marsh. Along this short stretch of road, there were several parking lots. I couldn’t decide which to use, since I wanted to be as near as possible to the bird site. The site I was driving into wasn’t close enough, so I put the car in reverse, announced, “I hope there are no cars behind me (but I couldn’t see any), and proceeded to plow backward into another car approaching the same parking lot. It was quite a blow.

Everyone in the car now looked at me. “That didn’t sound good,” I said bleakly, threw it in first and quickly parked so I could get out and work it out with the driver. He parked beside me, getting out as quickly as I had. The only thing we could see was a small scrape on the rubber part of his bumper. The back of the older Company Volvo we drive showed absolutely no damage, whatsoever.

I asked the man, “Do you want my phone number?” while I noticed his wife looking deeply disappointing and shaking her head.

“Never,” he said. “It’s okay,” though I could see his wife clearly disagreed.

We shook hands (because I didn’t know what else to do). Even the disapproving wife wanted to shake hands, though she wouldn’t look me in the eye. The man and I walked toward the back of our cars. He pointed to a gash in his back left bumper and said, “See? It is ruined already,” smiling a sad smile.

Grateful and amazed (and shaking), I thanked the man, asking once more if he were sure he didn’t want my number (where is Dad and his quick-fixing tools, anyway?), got back in the car, thanked the Lord for Volvo (something I never thought I'd do), then chose our parking spot more carefully. Hunter was still whining about not having socks to wear in the boots I should have let him wear the first time. He didn’t want to venture out to see the silly birds.

We were all shaken and not sure any of us really wanted to see any birds, now. But we tried and there were none to see.

It was time for a trip home, quick lunch and the trip to the birthday party. When the three of us adults were alone, we walked slowly along a boat harbor near the party spot, listening to the wind whistle through the ropes of the harbored sailboats and admiring the five mile bridge over the sun-dappled water. The wind picked up so that we decided to have tea and dessert. It was good to relax. It had been quite a day, already.

* My true interest in the word, “Avocet,” comes from a poetry journal by that name which accepted one of my poems a few years back.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What Did You Do for Easter?

Here are two poems and some photos of what I did the Thursday and Friday before Easter 2009.

Easter Break

Nearly all the schools in
Southern Sweden are off
for Easter Break; you can tell:
Long lines at the Vannigan
(Pool); full parking at Vellinge
Blomman, Oh! to have
Gardens for such flowers!
Where so many admire
The Shetland colt that
Coats fill the view finder.
Bulle and cakes, nearly

Gone from the café--hardly
An outdoor Table without
people or their remains.
Lines at the grocery, no room
To stand at the meat counter.
The elderly walk their dogs in the
Streets and on the beach. Youth

Walk their parents through Malls,
Sights and events. Mothers
Push their prams to public places
To watch more than a baby..
Children observe the bustle,
Finding ways to tease, some on
Bikes swerving past bag toting
Walkers, others crowding the
Korv window. Large, printed
Eggs fill gaping boxes, luring
Parents to fill with sweets for

Easter, while some children
Dress as Easter witches, hang
Colored eggs from the trees
And fasten feathers to twigs
For the harvest of good luck.

You know when you’re among
Them, standing in the same lines
Your little one determined to do
What the others are doing before
A return to rigid learning
Or celebrating a resurrection
By eating candy eggs and wearing
The ironed best. Eternity gets
lost in the pleasures of Spring.

Meeting Friday

The meeting would be at five.

Twelve adults, ten children
under nine. We’d celebrate

in remembrance of the ancient,
the past and present, of being
redeemed, forgiven and changed.

We would need chopped apples,
nuts, raisins, grape juice, matzo,
parsley, horseradish, salt water,
egg and lamb. Cooking the lamb

gets me. Chopping apples takes
sweet time when there isn’t
any. There is a knock at the door.
“Want to go flying? Today’s
the perfect day!” We do, but

the apples, the lamb! We grab
coats and cameras. We go
flying. Sun on the sea, a hem
of surf along the sand, brilliant
orange roofs on white stucco
green fields taming the earth.

Swoop, swerve, drop slowly,
bump down over grassy turf,
trade riders, snap photos, wave.
Go back to the kitchen. Stare
blankly at all that needs to be

done. See only the deep blue
sea. Another knock at the door.
Chef Jeff to save the day by
helping prepare a roux for under

the leg of lamb after hiding
cloves of garlic like Easter eggs
in the grist and muscle. Our

children play. That done, they’re
gone to come back later. No

sound of another landing but

now it’s time to go to the Easter
Egg Hunt in the spare lot by the

woods. People are waiting.
Jonagolds, bulging in bags, will
have to wait. Hunting is arduous.

A lot of chocolate is hidden under
leaves and logs and in the branches
of the beeches and pines. “There is
another chocolate bunny still hiding

in the bushes!” Kids tromp through
the brush seeing none of the shiny
foil.Bunny found, korv eaten with ketchup,
a little påskmust to wash it down,
time to go home and finally chop

apples, stir the juice, check the lamb,
prepare the plates, move furniture,
vacuum quickly. Two hours
swallowed and the doorbell
begins to ring. Food for the feast
arrives in mounds. Somehow we

get seated, even the children, light
the candle and the ceremony begins.
It isn’t only children who complain
about eating parsley dipped in salt
water. Adults want to be dismissed

from eating what might taste bad
when we are trying to remember
slavery, tears, mortar, plagues.
We drink to sanctification,

redemption, salvation, and praise.
We want to sing. We do! The
palette changes and celebration

begins with awakened tastebuds.
Amidst the laughter and feasting,

we are humbled, aware, amazed.

Until the children finish eating
and we are soon busy herding,

correcting, cajoling. Coats and
shoes and the wide outdoors for
the little ones while we eat the

Chef’s chocolate cake, learning
about Belgian chocolate, genache.
There are leftovers, dishes,
water everywhere and children

underfoot. When the food is
stashed and bagged, people leave,
family by family, group by group
until it is quiet again. The apple
“mortar” is hardly gone, no trace

of lamb. One more person to take
home, discuss the evening,

Exclaim over the looming full moon.