I Declare this as the First Day of Spring in Stockholm

Opinions differ on the day Spring arrives, especially at the northern latitudes, Stockholm’s being 59 degrees north.

Fruits and vegetables at “Haymarket” (Hötorget), near today’s objective

The Vernal Equinox occurred locally on 20 March, and today is the 22nd. Until today, the temperatures for the past many weeks were consistently between -10 and zero degrees Celsius. Last week the streets and paths were ominously slippery with layers of ice and hardened snow. The gravel strewn by workers cannot always be on every slippery patch and cannot be strewn immediately and everywhere after every ensuing snow or freezing rain.

But today! The local temperatures ranged between 5 and 10 degrees, the ice and snow have melted sufficiently to allow people to stride without worrying, not allowing the sound and feel of the crunch of gravel beneath their feet to detract from feeling their regained freedom and the warmth of direct sunlight.

Yes, the sun. At this latitude and time of year, it shines directly in your face from the south on a clear afternoon such as today. The days are currently advancing in length at 5.19 minutes each day—that’s thirty-six minutes in a week.

But these facts and numbers are not what gave me the feeling of spring today. It was my walk from Sankt Eriksplan to Hötorget, warmed by the radiance of the sun and my visual impressions along the way.

Along Oden Street (Odengatan), some of the cafés and restaurants had already placed chairs and tables on sidewalks which were occupied by customers facing the brilliant sunlight of the early afternoon. Flowers vendors were displaying their offerings for those preparing for the Easter holiday, including birch branches with colored feathers affixed to their ends.

I turned right on Queen Street (Drottningsgatan) which leads directly downtown and from which I will take a slight jog at the end, to reach my objective: a coffee shop near Hötorget to have fika with friend Eric Gandy.

I was grateful to have sufficient time to visit a favorite used bookstore on Queen Street (Antiqvariat August) which was having a 50%-off sale. Oh, joy! I bought, for 45 Swedish Crowns (around US$5.50) a biography of the Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi (translated from the French to English), about whom I know too little, but whose music I treasure.

Further along Queen Street at the intersection of Wallen Street (Wallengatan), I was struck by the beauty of a building I had passed by many times without noticing.

At the corner of Drottningsgatan and Wallengatan

The feeling of Spring sprang mostly from the attitudes and energies of the people I passed and strode along with on my jaunt of around an English mile. Jackets, including mine, were no longer fastened to the neck, scarves were absent or loosely hanging, gloves were stored in pockets or purses.

And, the days are longer than the nights for the next six months.

Therefore, I declare: Spring!

Posted in Books & Literature, Music & Musicians, Stockholm | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nothing New Under the Sun

When one is old, as I am, one learns to remain silent on certain things, except when in the company of close friends of a similar age.

One’s physical complaints, of course, are never to be mentioned, or only in a mildly joking manner. One often lives with constant pain, certainly with discomfort, in one or more joints or sinews, or perhaps in an organ or two, most of the time masked by one’s wonderful brain which commands, “carry on.”

An old person’s musings about: “yes, that also happened to me when I was younger, and this is what I learned…” evokes glassy eyes and body language signaling a yearning for escape. And, of course, the younger ones are right: experience is the master teacher, along with pain and suffering.

Recently, I have been musing, mostly silently to be sure, about the vast store of knowledge and experience I have accumulated and remember during the four score years since before the United States entered World War Two.

I met a man a few evenings ago, the husband of a writing colleague—a charming, engaging, and accomplished fellow. Our conversation was wide-ranging, chronologically, geographically, and philosophically, a real treat for me (and my poor hearing required my interlocutor to work hard for me to understand him in the noisy room). At one point in the conversation, he realized that I was much older than I originally appeared to him (a family trait) and interjected to remark that I must have been present or aware of certain well-known historical events. Yes, I was, and briefly gave details of a few.

This pleasant experience remains with me to savor for a while. But the rarity of such an experience reminds me that I and my cohort have knowledge, or at least information, largely untapped, which will expire with us.

I feel that the main motivation for my writing is to leave a record, necessarily incomplete, of what I have seen and learned, at least as interpreted through my biases and prejudices.

I remind myself of “The Diary of Samuel Pepys,” which was more fully appreciated by later generations and stands currently as a valuable historical document.

My musings observations are not as important as those of Pepys, but I fancy (the word is based in the concept of fantasy) that there will be at least some minor value, perhaps entertainment, to people in later generations if they are made generally available (which, thanks to the Internet, already are). In addition, if they survive and are made available after I achieve room temperature, I have retained decades of correspondence with friends and family, both in digital and hard copy form. (Oh, yes, I am obsessive about certain things).

How full of myself I am to think, or at least hope, that my scribblings have and will retain value. As the wisdom contained in the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us:

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Scholars may learn from history, but it seems the rest of us do not. My father tried to impart to me what he had learned, which was much, and I did listen and record what he said. Nonetheless, I had to live a full life, making my mistakes, to fully understand what he was trying to help me learn and avoid in life.

Thanks for trying, Dad.

Me ‘n’ Dad

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