A Californian finally feels spring winter in Sweden

This week it seemed like spring in Stockholm. The snow is melting, leaving thin sheets of ice over the shadowy depressions in our park. There are green shoots poking through the earth, and the temperature got into the high 40’s probably.

But I am not deceived.  I know the winter will return.

But it will be what Swedes call spring winter. This is mostly a northern mountain phrase, but to a Californian it goes for Stockholm as well.  It is the time of year when the sun is returning but the winter refuses to go.

In years past it has been the hardest time of year.  My body feels the winter ending, feels the sun warming my closed eyelids as I stand and face the heat.  But the winter does not end. I still dress the children in snowsuits, I still bundle up, my feet still freeze.

It seemed like spring stalled, leaving me in a winter limbo.

I am a minority on this, I think.  People seem to love spring winter, getting to ski in the sun, camp and ice skate, that sort of thing.

And this year I get that.  I get spring winter. I have finally been in Sweden long enough for my soul to calibrate not to the snow, not to the temperature but to the sun.

The sun returns slowly, inching forward, but then near the end of February seeming to come 10 minutes earlier each day and linger well after we have come back from work and preschool.

In Sweden they do not measure seasons by the calendar but by the weather.  So spring comes when the temperature is above freezing for so many days in a row.  That sort of thing.

But that does not reflect the joy of the sun returning, even behind overcast clouds, even in a freezing wind like today. So we get spring winter.  And I get to know that in less than three weeks, we will be tipping over the spring equinox and suddenly days here will be longer than in the US.

And that brings the promise of summer and of the forest and the blueberries and the lake by our summer cottage and riding my bike to the country store miles away.


Video: The Backyardigans are cool. Especially when they surf.

We used to watch the Backyardigans every night for our brief “afternoon TV.”  Sadly no more.  Because I loved the Backyardigans.  Great music. Great genres. Great boy and girl characters.

I really loved the surf episode with the Afrobeat music. It made me cry once with longing for California.

There are, like, four great songs in the episode, dude. But this, dude, is a good choice on a rainy, icy, overcast day in Sweden.

Dude. (And, yes, I really used to say dude this much.)

The echoes of jet lag in the half-light of a Swedish winter day

The opening lines to Pattern Recognition by William Gibson.

Five hours’ New York jet lag and Cayce Pollard wakes in Camden Town to the dire and ever-circling wolves of disrupted circadian rhythm. …

She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien’s theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.

Eugenia Sheppard, New York Herald Tribune News Service, March 4, 1965

From then on, there’s no quick cure for jet lag, described by various sufferers as “like a long hangover,” “like dancing out of step,”  and “like feeling as if there were a huge sheet of plate glass between you and the world.”



From the sun to the snow … looking back after the jet lag

This is where we were.

Though it could be windy.

Mostly glorious, especially in January.

And now back to this.  That poor kid falling down says it all.  Except that my kids had just spent 20 minutes falling down on purpose and screaming with laughter about it.  So all is not gloomy when you get fresh snow on your return from the beach …

My apologies to the good people at the Seattle airport

My apologies to the good people at the Seattle airport

So I complained about the lack of play areas for kids at airports. But I had never been to Seattle, where they have this heaven for small children. We had a four hour layover and it saved us.

So between Stockholm and Seattle, we encountered two wonderful playgrounds.

Which leaves no excuses for all the other slackers. And, yes, I am looking at you Oakland.

In praise of playing – and play areas – at airports

We fly off tomorrow on a three-flight, 24-hour odyssey back to Sweden.   We do this sort of thing often enough.  And I have just two words for airports worldwide:  play area.

We stumbled upon on our first play area in Salt Lake City a few years ago, and it was like a gift from the heavens, with a big choir singing and everything.  Since then, we discovered a shabby one in Chicago, which likely saved us and hundreds of people on a series of airplanes from a toddler meltdown.

Seriously, why does not every airport have play areas?  All people do is complain about small kids on planes.  Why not give them a place to have fun before they get on board.  Why not get them out of the waiting areas?

A few weeks ago, in Stockholm, E and I wondered why the Stockholm airport had no play area.   It seemed thoughtless and odd.

Then we  found this, based on the work of a beloved early 20th-century children’s book illustrator Elsa Beskow:


Seriously, you could charge for this collaboration with Junibacken, a cool children’s museum in Stockholm, which opened in 2011.  It could be an attraction.  We might come early next time around.

Why is this sort of thing so hard?

Let us play, let us play, let us play.