Thursday, August 5, 2010
Wild Strawberries and Special Places
There is a word in Swedish for an idyllic place: smultronställe.
Translated directly it means "wild strawberry place," but it's really a beautiful metaphor for a uniquely special spot, even if it's only special to you. It can be a favorite vacation venue, a cafe, a certain tree in the woods, the curb by your mailbox--anyplace that that feels "right" to you. A place that resonates with you, that makes you happy.
I was thirteen the first time I tasted a wild strawberry. It was the summer after my dad died, and my mom took me back to Sweden for a visit. We spent a fair amount of time on Ljusterö, the island where she spent her summers as a child.
My aunts took great pleasure in dragging me out for long hikes through the fields and woods. I suspect they thought I spent too much time with my nose in a book (they were right) and not enough out experiencing the real world.
I tolerated the nature marches mainly because I knew there would goodies brought out at some point--chocolate or pastries or, if I was lucky, both. I was a dedicated "snask gris" (a pig about sweets) and they were well aware of it. Considering they were not mothers themselves, they were clever about bribery.
One day we came across a patch of newly ripened smultron. I was enchanted by their tininess--not at all like the giant strawberries I was used to seeing in Texas. After getting the go-ahead from my aunts, I picked one and popped it into my mouth.
Oh. My. God.
The flavor! Imagine the ripest, strawberriest strawberry you have ever eaten, and then multiply it by a gazillion. It was sweetly, intensely berry-ific. If there is any food on this earth I love even more than chocolate, this would be it. And you know how I feel about chocolate. After that day, convincing me to go for long walks became an easy task.
It doesn't take a genius to see how the metaphor came to be. Those Swedes and their poetic, food-loving souls, God bless 'em.
That spot on the island was forever after my main--and quite literal--smultronställe. But since I can't visit it on a regular basis, I've added a few more:
~A spectacular cherry tree I pass on my walks through the neighborhood -- it looks like a giant bonsai, and I always half expect to see a ginormous hand reach down out of the heavens, with snippers, to tend it. It's a tree fit for a fairy tale, and I love gazing at it.
~The collection of benches and chairs around our fire pit out front -- a magnet for our neighbors on balmy evenings. Sharing drinks and conversation there gives me a glow.
~And my "writing" smultronställe -- right here, on my well-worn leather sofa, in my den, in front of the fireplace (we keep candles in it during the summer), with my trusty laptop. The beauty of this particular spot is, from it I can dream up endless imaginary wild strawberry places. There are no limits.
How about you? Do you have a smultronställe, either for writing or just for being?