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?

20 comments:

Kari Lynn Dell said...

I have lots of smultronstalle...literally. The wild strawberries are ripe, and with all the rain we've had the sides of the coulees are covered with them. *mouth orgasm*

SM Schmidt said...

There's a path I walk on my way to the track that's a little overgrown with roses and ferns. The leaves are never raked, the lighting is perfect and I always feel inspired on my way home walking down it.

Sierra Godfrey said...

When I turn my face up to the evening sun, when it's golden, and feel the warmth on my face -- that is my smultronställe.

Jessica said...

WOW, weird. And I just blogged about "The Perfect Chair" - although I said it's just me coveting, but I think you've summed up what it is I want when I dream of having it.

My smultronställe (thank God for copy/paste) is the back patio before (or after) mosquito season. There's a huge Maple in my yard that my grandfather planted in 1957. It shades the whole yard.

kristina said...

I think that for me, my "awesome strawberriest" spot is in my head. As in, when I stop all the voices that give me angst (the dishes, laundry, dustbunnies, etc all talk to me in my mom's rather snarky voice! Lol!) and settle myself then I can be at peace in most any place.

Which is both a good and horrid thing. Seeings as I mostly write in my very messy house. :)

Tawna Fenske said...

Oh, wow. I don't think I've ever tasted wild strawberries and now I really want one!

I have lots of special places (most not even the dirty sort) but I really like sitting on my front porch in the sunshine with a good book & a glass of wine.

Tawna

Linda G. said...

Kari Lynn -- LOL! Mouth orgasm? Now THAT is the most perfect description I've ever heard of biting into a wild strawberry. Love it!

SM -- That sounds truly lovely. :)

Sierra -- Wonderful. And relatively portable--handy, that. :)

Jessica -- Maybe you'll find your "smultron" chair someday; in the meantime, your back patio sounds darn near perfect. I adore old maples.

Kristina -- The good thing about having a smultron head is that it's always right there with you. One hopes. ;)

Tawna -- Oh, you MUST taste them someday. SOOO yummy! Your front porch would be the perfect place to enjoy them. If, you know, they grew around there.

Thank you all for commenting! I love hearing about other people's special places. ;)

Elizabeth Ryann said...

I think this might be my new favorite post of yours. So pretty! I want to go to Sweden now, and I'm not even a huge strawberry fan!

My favorite place in my current apartment is probably on my couch right by my giant picture window. There's lots of flowers outside, just taller than me if I'm lying down, and I get tons of sunlight streaming in, as well as a decent breeze. And of course the cats come cuddle, without fail. Sitting there with a book is the best, like sitting outside, but way more comfortable and private.

At my last apartment, I managed it so that the light from the window hit an iridescent whiteboard that threw rainbows everywhere. I need to figure out how to recreate that because it was awesome.

Lola Sharp said...

Lovely post, Linda.

My smultronställein life is the beach. Any beach will do, but my favorite is a small beach near Charleston, SC. There is something meditative, magical, about the sound of waves and gulls combined with briny air, and toes in warm sand.

In my childhood, it was under my special weeping willow tree, where I felt safe.

To write all I really need is my MacBook and my sweet bichon cuddled up next to me and I'm set. But I do love writing in the winter near our fireplace. (puppy still next to me, of course)

I suddenly have a craving for chocolate covered strawberries. :)

Love,
Lola

beingcrys said...

Oh I haven't had a wild strawberry in a couple of years. They are so delicious!

I have lost my me space, but am regaining it, though I am afraid it will take quite a few years. We planted a willow tree in the front year, and in about 10 years when it's big enough, there will be a pond and a bench underneath. The space has been declared mine, so everyone already knows.

In the meantime, I have lots of lovely little spaces to go rest, but they aren't quite the same.

Jeffe Kennedy said...

I am blessed by my patio with a view. And I'm with Tawna, a comfy chair and a glass of wine makes any spot perfect!

Linda G. said...

Elizabeth -- Thanks. :) Your apartment sounds great--I love big windows and lots of light. Sounds like you have the best of the outdoor and the indoor world right there on your couch. The rainbows you managed to manufacture in your last apartment sound pretty cool, too--hope you can recreate the effect.

Lola -- Thanks.:) Glad you enjoyed it. I love weeping willows too! The people up the street from us when I was a kid had a huge one--my friends and I always used to play there. Felt like we were in our own special world.

beingcrys -- Another willow tree lover! I can just imagine how beautiful it will be with the pond and the bench. May your haven grow fast. :)

Jeffe -- I've seen pics of your view on your blog -- it's gorgeous. A perfect spot, made even more perfect by the wine, of course. ;)

LR said...

Ooh I love strawberries!

I live by a lake and there's a great place to sit and just watch the water ripple in.

Linda G. said...

LR -- Lucky you, to live by a lake. To be able to just sit and watch the water ripple sounds heavenly. :)

Jen Stayrook said...

I don't think I've really found my smultronställe yet. There are places I ENJOY writing, but nothing that stirs this kind of passion in me, to move me to write. Music does that for me. Maybe the music itself creates a mental smultronställe that allows me to write.

A side note, this is a beautifully written blog post. Not that I don't enjoy the dirty words and jokes of your other posts (don't stop, please), but this one was just sweet. Very very sweet.

Linda G. said...

Jen -- I like the idea of a mental smultronställe provided by music. Just open your ears and you're there.

And thanks. I'm glad you liked the post--I'll have to remind myself to mix a little sugar in with the salt more often. :)

beingcrys said...

Thanks Linda. It's just a baby right now. Really, it looks like an 8 foot tall twig sticking out of the ground, but I know one day it will be glorious.

abby mumford said...

a patch of sunshine turns any spot into a smultronställe. though, i'm sort of with Jen on this one, in my tiny apartment, i don't really have one smultronställe, so i often have to turn to music to help create one.

to parrot the other commenters: this has rapidly risen the ranks to become one of my favorite posts. it's such a vivid, wild, sweet post which is in delicious contrast to all of your normal, hilarious, oh so perfectly dirty posts. this is a perfect balance. :)

Hanna said...

Heh, am I the only commenter not copy/pasting that "ä"? :)

Where I grew up, outside Eskilstuna, there were lots of wild strawberry patches around our house. Living in the middle of nowhere had it's blessings. Now I'm thankful my parents still live there...

Så jag måste nog faktiskt säga att mitt föräldrahem är mitt smultronställe. Jag älskar Stockholm, men att komma ut till tystnaden och lugnet vid den typiska röda stugan med de vita knutarna är svårslaget. Särskilt såhär års. Vi svenskar har ju en tendens att vara väldigt stolta över våra somrar, antagligen för att de inte varar så länge. :D

Linda G. said...

Hej, Hanna! Tystnaden och lugnet ute på landet--jättefin! Och nu ska jag fortsätta på Engelska, därför att min Svenska har blivit så dåligt...förlåt mig! :)

You're so lucky you grew up with smultron close at hand. The typical red cabin you speak of is near and dear to my heart--my aunts' cabin on the island was just as you describe your parents'. So many good memories of time spent there!

And, of course, Swedish summers are indeed something to be proud of. :)