This is something I wrote on an airport bus a few weeks ago:
To understand Sweden is to understand the limited time each year where nature is on our side, when we no longer have to fight it. While southern Europe lives with weather that gives out warm hugs each morning Sweden faces a long lethal battle against all the devilish thing nature throws at us. The vibrant landscape and change in people is simply a reflection of the limited living time provided. I have lived through so many winters it is difficult to not feel a small hint of melancholy when I look outside the bus window knowing how fleeting all of it is. Soon nature will turn on the country and once again make it grey, dark and gloomy.
Seeing Sweden in early summer is like seeing a beautiful woman at the beginning of a long drunken night. When her make-up is perfect, her perfume still filled with carefully selected aromas, when she is portraying herself at her finest, as if this was the only version of her, a perfect mirror of something constantly beautiful, something which does not include the inevitable decay by the end of the evening. By then her make up is loosing grip, when too many alcoholic beverages and cigarettes has chased away her perfume. She becomes fall in Sweden, not necessarily without beauty and appeal, but with harsher edges and a loss of the seducing aura of the yet to start decay.
It is to summer Sweden I return, to the vigorously green mid June landscape. Surrounded by loud Dutch teenagers with deep voices and hair soaked in jell I sit ‘in a bus, on a bus back home to you’, as the Canadian indie rock orchestra Wolf Parade puts it in one of their songs. In the bus the contrast between the peaceful nature outside the bus window and the brute sounds from the surrounding teenagers is one filled with conflict. Between the urban nodes of Skavsta Airport and Stockholm City the countryside looks like it always has in early June, covered with various green tones and a sparse collection of red cottages dotted out in a very moderate fashion. Sweden is very moderate, or ‘lagom’ as we say. I forgot how green Sweden is in June, how fast the dead landscape that plagued the dark February mornings on my way to school could transform into such an organic and inviting place.
On the flight between the low cost carrier airports of Eindhoven and Skavsta two business men behind me were speaking like only two mid fifties business men can; full of confident knowledge and a striking ability to turn any kind of reality into a monetary perspective. They were discussing the week ahead and one of them asked the other what value it would have for him. The business man whispers something and the other one laughs, they have their own business man secrets. A business man without inside knowledge is no business man, even us unfortunate Ryanair travellers knows this.
After a while the business men begin to marvel over the forests that cover the Swedish landscape. ‘It’s amazing isn’t it’ the business man with the window seat tells his business man colleague. ‘Imagine how much money all this forest is worth, it really is amazing’ he continues, his pitch now suddenly a bit higher, as it probably always gets when he can transform something into money. I look out of my own window, at the far reaching forests that is mixed with lakes and green fields. ‘In southern Europe they have soon cut down all the forests and they don’t replant anything, it is such a sad development’. ‘Financial suicide’, the other one fills in.
They fall silent while gazing over the landscape that creeps closer as we approach the airport, as if the magnificence with the Swedish forest is derived from its monetary value. I look out the bus window and a deer runs by, I wonder how much the business men would appreciate its value to? Perhaps its value as a touristy Sweden promoting scene would be considerable given a correctly segmented audience? Too bad my Dutch neighbours on the bus are too busy discussing sleeping arrangements in the hostel they have booked in Stockholm to notice the tourist friendly spectacle taking place outside the bus windows.
We pass an intersection called Tystberga, meaning Quiet Mountain in Swedish. There is no stopping the frisky Dutch teens that surround me, especially not a Swedish language road sign. They are bubbling with excitement, like all teenagers travelling abroad. I was the same, when I was still a teenager; does that make me a hypocrite or just aging? Going to Sweden in June is cheating. It is like sitting down at a set table, everything in order and all the darkness and hardship that has lead to this greening explosion, all the snow blisters and ice cold winds that only a few months earlier covered this very landscape: they are impossible to picture now. In June Sweden graduates, with shiny new clothes, well ironed dress pants and the smell of a thousand flowers she stands confidently at the steps of summer, everything glimmering. Not even the sun dare’s to set on its beauty.
Finally the warm evening sun manages to silence the testosterone filled crowd of Dutch teenagers. Even they struggle to look away from the beauty of the nature and its striking fauna which is impossible to not admire. On a bus back home to you Sweden.