Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rättvik and Stora Skedvi; 11-20 September, 2009

I returned to Rättvik from Växjö on Friday night, and soon thereafter tried to get back into the swing of monastic nonsense conkimplation. This would have to wait, however, for a brief adventure through the kindness of the northerly branch of Sundmarks. Björn’s parents (Göran and Britt) and sister (Ylva) live not too far from Rättvik, and they offered to take me on a tour of the Lake Siljan region. On Saturday the 12th, I was given the grand tour, starting with Dalhalla, the outdoor concert hall in the old limestone quarry. We proceeded around much of the lake, stopping in the villages that often each have their own artistic specialty, such as Nunas, where all the “Dala horses” are made. We did not get to go to the village that specializes in hair art (my fear of such a place is understandable at the moment). We lunched in Mora, had a picnic on a scenic overview, and generally got a feel for the place, the history, the culture. The Sundmarks were lovely and jolly, so much so that I took them back to Rättvik with me in a small plush pouch, from which I could produce them whenever I needed advice on mushrooms, berries, charcoal, art, mining, education administration, and quasi-yodeling—or when I just needed a good cup of tea.

Back in Rättvik, I got back to work on my various nonsense writing projects, correspondence for the anthology, and of course, getting to know the countryside. In particular, I'm writing a piece based off of Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach." To achieve this, I am channeling a certain Walt D. Meathorn, who has titled the work, "Rover, fetch." Another piece, called "Do not clothe gentiles in hats of white," by Lady Hamsnot, is also progressing nicely. You'll have to guess the work that this one might resemble...

One of the highlights of this time, aside from channelling some of the finest poets who never were, was discovering lingonberries. I had heard about them in Växjö and actually seen them unknowingly before, but now after getting just enough extra information from Ylva, I was determined to find them, to use them, to eat them, to dance with them in the spinning sunset. The next day, my expedition to find lingon did not fail, and I came home with a nice store. I promptly made lingonberry råröda, which is just raw lingon stirred with sugar, a concoction I ate for the rest of my time in Rättvik.

The next weekend, I was invited out to Stora Skedvi and environs, where the Sundmark clan lives, to witness a charcoal pile deconstruction. How could I refuse? Ylva took me round to this very traditional activity, something that has recently been rescued from extinction by the younger generation. We arrived just after the pile had been decimated, but the rows of smoldering coal were there, along with a crew of men covered head to toe in black ash. I thought they might at any moment break out into the Swedish version of the Lumberjack Song, but instead, I heard the girls as they played in nearby, doing their strange Swedish yodeling, a back-and-forth singing exclusively for females and traditionally done from hilltop to hilltop as they herded the flocks and needed to communicate with each other. I wish I had a recording to share…

I also went on my first real mushroom picking sojourn with Ylva, who taught me the novice’s course in the arcane art of mycology.

We came back with baskets full of chanterelles, sops, glops, flops, and 6.5 other kinds of questionable fungi, all of which appeared in our chicken dinner that night and various omelettes. I stayed the night with Göran and Britt, spent the morning of the next day doing a more mushroom hunting, learning the trade from Göran, and seeing more of the area. Eventually, I had to take the bus from Falun back to Rättvik. Once again, the Sundmarks have been most hospitable, most welcoming, and most educational. Many thanks to them!

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