Running in Sweden

photo by brad-huchteman

The trees walk to the very end of the forest. Some of them lean over into the water. You can see their reflections in the surface of the lake. You can also see the water-boatmen skating across the face of the sky. You can’t see the long white fluffy cloud in the face of the water yet because its only just making its way over the tops of pine trees that circle the lake. Maybe this cloud is travelling across the face of another lake turning the dark ripples of water white. 

There are many lakes. Some, made up of three great expanses of water, are clearly linked. You could get into a small boat on a day like today and row from one to the next and all you might feel is the warmth of the wind against your cheeks and the enormous quietness that is waiting everywhere. Other lakes appear singular and separate but are in fact linked by narrow inlets obscured by pine, birch and fir. Some bodies of water appearing like bright shocks of liquid light through the dark green trees, are not linked on the surface but hold hands through underground channels that cool and earth-scent the water. So much of importance cannot be seen with the eyes only.

Today I have come to the edge of the water. I have run for 4 miles in the hot sun through the forest that offers its daily lessons to anyone willing to stand in a puddle of silence long enough. The cars belt by. The cities are loud with effort. As I ran I thought about the big bulky brown bear that never stepped out of the forest onto the road to meet me. I thought about how she might smell and the black shiny hooks of her claws. I thought about converting km to miles, about the other hot roads I’ve run along skirting the turquoise sea at Cadaques or lined with olive trees rising towards Eus. I thought about how this bone-dry-road will be weighted soon with snow.

I thought about how running allows me to make the connection with the place where I’m staying. How it gives permission to open the door to something greater than talking or teaching in the small rooms of my mind. How running gives me the permission I need to shake off the elevated fabrications and rituals I call my ‘life’. When I run, other than the few thin, old clothes on my back, the breath and the generosity of my bones, I have nothing. Free of ownership, I am nobody, and nothing, and I am free.

My mind, of course sells the usual small story, its too hot, I’ll never make it, what’s the point? Always the same – nothing new. I think further, of the necessity of human evolution and the enormity of the task at hand in seeing beyond the mind. I feel the pull of the muscles in my calf. I cross the road and head for the shade cast by the tallest pines. 

I run past a huddle of red wooden houses. There is something I cannot take seriously about the Swedish flag that flutters from the eaves of every other cottage. Something about the pale blue and yellow that reminds me more of a Pendletons Ice Cream Sandwich wrapper than national pride. There are so many flags. I wonder if without them people might fail to remember where they are. Some of the houses have bright red geraniums trailing from window boxes, and tables and chairs on porches laid for breakfast. A ride-on lawnmower is parked on a lawn that stopped growing months ago. Deliveries of gravel and wood are piled on drives to assist the national programme of summer-cottage upgrade. The little houses overlook or back on to the bright blue lake. Today the light green lily pads the size of dinner plates are rippling and rising and falling on the face of the water. I think of Monet and when I get to a row of letterboxes standing to attention on the side of the road, I turn back. On the other side of the lake three children play on a jetty made from grey slates of warm wood.

After my run I sit at the edge of the water next to the bent bodies of the birch trees wrapped in their silver and white bark. The water feels the same temperature as my blood. No resistance or contraction as I wade in up to the waist. I dive into the silence and am reluctant to rise from the weighted silk of the water, from the quiet that feels so familiar and eternal. Everyday I wash in this water. I think about particles of my DNA floating beneath the surface of thick ice in January. Perhaps wherever I am I will hear the sharp blades of skates scoring the white surface. Leaving something is my way of staying. Staring out in the middle distance I think of the difficult times in my life. How far away they are now. A dream. Nothing left now except the movement of the water and the trees and the clouds and the silence that is everything. 

Colette Power Sweden, August 2018


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