Tag Archives: Family

Christmas. And Stockholm in My Heart.

Darkness fell early. Around 3 p.m. But it wasn’t really dark. Stockholm, my former home town, was lit up for the holiday season. Chandeliers and Christmas stars lit up almost every window of the respectably old buildings in the city. And the streets were decorated with Christmas lights.

drottingatan X17 UD146The day before Christmas Eve, I decided to take a pre-dinner walk down the memory lane in the historic Old Town. Coming up from the metro station I was happy it wasn’t raining. My puffer jacket proved its worth in the near freezing temperatures and I felt ready for a long urban hike.  A man selling Christmas flowers greeted me from inside his tent.

flower stall X17 UD146I walked the narrow cobble stone alleys admiring the old buildings, a few built as early as the 13th/14th century, most in the 15th to 19th century. All of them modernized for comfortable city living.

Walking on one of the main streets, I made a nostalgic discovery. Our favorite Italian restaurant from the late 70s and 80s, Michel Angelo, was still there.

restaurant Michel Angelo UD146.jpgI walked closer and snapped a picture of a very special table. Husband and I sat there one cold night in February over 30 years ago. And got the fastest service ever. You see, I was expecting our son. And it was obvious he would arrive soon. The waiter politely asked me when the baby was due. I responded truthfully that he was due two days ago. I will never forget the expression on his young face. Needless to say our pizzas arrived in record time. Quattro Stagioni with different toppings for each quarter, like the four seasons.

rest michel angelo table ud146Here I was, so many years later, a reflection in the window of my memories.

I continued my walk trying to find my way to Stortorget, the main town square in Old Town, where the traditional Christmas Market has been held every year since the 1920s.

street in old town 2 X17 UD146My sense of direction has always been poor so I ended up enjoying many an old building on my way. I came to a smaller square, Järntorget, where a big tree lit up the surrounding buildings. And tomtar, reindeers, dala horses and viking helmets filled the shop windows.

jarntorget gamla stan UD146_edited-1

shop window in Old Town UD146I crisscrossed a few more alleys and finally heard the music and saw the familiar sights of the Christmas Market.

xmas market X17 UD146I lingered there between the stalls for quite a while. I was looking for a Yule Goat, just like the one husband had bought over 30 years ago. And found the last remaining one! It is now continuing the tradition in our son’s family glogg UD146_edited-1home. I also found warm glögg and enjoyed a small cup with a ginger bread cookie in the company of visitors from Japan and Poland.

It was all so familiar. Heartwarming. I felt at home right there standing in the crowd sipping my glögg.

Now all warmed up, I continued my journey through the Old Town finding many interesting buildings and churches built starting in the latter part of the middle ages.

And finally arrived at the Royal Palace. It has over 600 rooms, but looking up from the darkened court-yard only a few windows were lit here and there. A soldier stood guard at one of the entrances.

royal palace X17 UD146

Royal palace court yard UD146_edited-4From there I walked down the castle hill and continued towards another island, Riddarholmen, the Island of the Knight. You see, while the earliest findings of human activity in the Stockholm area date back to the stone age, about 6000 B.C., the city of Stockholm was built starting in 1180 and was officially established in 1252 on Stadsholmen, or the Town Island now broadly referred to as the Old Town. The city then gradually expanded onto several other islands connected by bridges.

slottsbacken X17 castle hill UD146From there I could spot Kungsholmen, the King’s Island, were we used to live in our early years in Stockholm. And where we got married at the City Hall seen in the distance.

mot kungsholmen X17 UD146From the bridge to Riddarholmen I also spotted the Royal Opera House lit in changing colors for the festive season.

the royal opera house UD146I then walked over the bridge to the beautifully lit city center…

bridge to old town X17 UD146

sergels torg 2 X17 UD146…and took the metro a couple of stops back to my sister’s home, also located in a century old building in central Stockholm.

gathorna X17 UD146 Once inside, I was wrapped in the warmth of the Christmas spirit…

xmas cheer X17 UD146

xmas star in te window X17 UD146

amaryllis X17 ud146…served delicious traditional meals, loved and hugged by family.

julbord X17 UD146 And I was kissed by a sweet boy. He did a great job in comforting me when I missed Dylan. my sweet boy UD146While being the first without my dad and husband, this Christmas truly nurtured my heart and soul.

Thank you for being here, and for all your encouragement throughout 2017. I wish you all good health, renewed joy, love and peace. May your light burn bright in 2018.

fire X17 UD146_edited-1

Yule Goat.

Snow boots. A hooded winter coat. Gloves. Leggings and jeans. Wool sweaters. Layering tops. Christmas gifts. My trusted carry-on refuses to collaborate. It will not close. And don’t dare to sit on it. I give up and go to fetch my large suitcase. The Florida girl is going to Sweden.

I feel emotional. Browsing my photo libraries for pictures of Christmases past. I travel back in time. All the way to our son’s very first Christmas. He’s crawling under the lower branches of our live Christmas tree. Mesmerized by the lights and the sparkling tinsel garland. It’s Christmas in Stockholm.

MJ first ChristmasOur home is filled with seasonal aromas. Ham and rutabagas, potato, carrot and macaroni casseroles. Meatballs and spicy sausages. Jansson’s Temptation and herring salad. I’m in the kitchen cooking traditional Christmas dishes for my little family. Husband and son play in the living room. The camera clicks.

Christmas foodsSnow. I taste the word. Cold. Fluffy. Beautiful. And again I’m back in Stockholm. Playing in the snow with my son. Husband taking pictures. Those precious moments frozen in time.

Mom and son StockholmAnd soon I will be there again. Same city, different time. Christmas. Hopefully white. Long walks with my sister’s family and their poodle. Beautifully decorated streets and shop windows. Delicious traditional dishes. Christmas market in the historic Old Town.

I look at the old yule goat on my dining table. Its yellow straws and red ribbons are still fairly intact, after faithfully standing on whatever table it decided to jump onto for over 30 years. Every Christmas, on three different continents. It asks me if I remember. I nod.

yule oat 2It is a crisp, snowy December evening. The Old Town is wrapped in Christmas spirit. Seasonal music streams from the market stalls. Warm glögg and lussekatter. Husband stops at a stall and the yule goat becomes part of the family. Life is good.

Now silently conversing with the yule goat Love wraps me in a warm blanket. So much to be grateful for. I wish you all a wonderful, soul-warming Christmas and a happy holiday season. Feel the spirit.

Snapshots of the Now. Waiting.

I have finally reached the point on my journey to acceptance of what happened in July, where I would love to get back to blogging. But I am not ready to write my usual ‘light touch’ nature stories. Nor have I been able to engage in photography like I used to. Or to focus on reading.

I have realized, however, that life is a string of snapshots of the now. I will be attempting to post frequent snapshots of my life ‘now’ as it unfolds for the next few weeks. Maybe just an iPhone shot, a short poem or something similar. Simple. Often mobile. Comments closed.

To get started, I am sharing a few snapshots of my life in the past two weeks.

Waiting for some dolphins to appear on the Labor Day weekend, when Hurricane Irma was still churning far out on the Atlantic.

labor day 2 watching dolphins ud137.jpgAnd they did…playful as ever. Good times. Grief slowly fading into the background.

labor day 2 dolphin ud137And then there was the quiet before the storm. Calm seas. An eerily beautiful seascape on a perfect day. But nobody was enjoying it. The lonely lifeguard shack was waiting to be moved to safety. Like most of us.

beach view before Irma ud137This peaceful scene was in sharp contrast to my frantic search for a flight to get out of here with Dylan. Paradise in Zone A. Mandatory evacuation.

I have crisscrossed the globe, but seldom been happier to finally see a plane at the gate. One of the last planes to leave the airport before it would be closed. Our temporary home would be wherever that plane flew. A ticket to anywhere.AA plane ud137Flashback. The last plane out from Addis Ababa at war. 1990s. A week after husband and son had been evacuated. Essential personnel.

philly studio ud137_edited-1A small studio apartment at a hotel in Philly. Waiting with Dylan and Wolf Blitzer. Wanting to go home. Whatever that might mean. Waiting.

Snapshots of the Now Series (1)

An Amazing Bunch of Friends

When you experience unimaginable heartbreak and sorrow, you need the support of your family. But you also need the support of your friends. When I lost my dad and my husband in less than two weeks in July, both to a massive heart attack, I was grateful and privileged to have both ‘support groups’ close to me.

I was completely lost, but everyone was there to support me. Family came to stay with me, friends traveled huge distances, including from Sweden, to be here. Flowers, baskets, homemade food, cards and hugs arrived for weeks. Blogging friends reached out to me with private messages on email and messages here on my blog. Several of you are still ‘checking on’ me, which I greatly appreciate. Thank you, friends, from the bottom of my heart.

Our neighbors and friends, including those at the dog park were here to support me and Dylan when it mattered most. And that support has continued. What an amazing bunch of friends you all are!

dog park friends 1 ud135_edited-1
Some of our dog park friends

After everyone returned to their daily lives, and our home suddenly felt empty and huge, Dylan has provided a wonderful, comforting presence.

Dylan running ud135He has dragged me out for long walks daily, however bad I have felt, and snuggled next to me every night. He had many daily routines with ‘dad’ and is now training me to perform those tasks. He pulls me into the salt marsh and dog park most nights just before sunset. He enjoys the company of his friends as much I treasure the company of mine.

saki ud135
Saki
Bently and Dylan ud135
Bentley and Dylan
Eli and Deb ud135
Eli in Debbie’s lap when it thunders
Dylan and his friend Kaci ud135_edited-1
Kaci and Dylan
Priya ud135
Priya
Moose ud135
Moose
pepper ud135
Pepper

These guys are an amazing bunch too. While I have not yet gotten back to my usual photography routine, I snapped a picture of Papa Osprey at the Sailing Center late one evening when I happened to carry my camera. Just seeing him around warmed my heart.

papa osprey at sunset ud135And the Mayor was there too, greeting us from the low tide waters right below the sea wall.

great blue heron mayor ud134I do feel the call of my feathered friends and hope to be able to get back to observing them on a regular basis soon. At latest when I return from my family/work/’me-time’ trip in early October. I hope this upcoming trip to Europe will give me new perspectives and valuable experiences. And I intend to share some of them with you.

All, take care of you and your loved ones. Thank you for your encouragement and friendship. I want to end this post with a poem I wrote about a week ago.

ACCEPTANCE

Acceptance of what is

now has a completely new meaning.

When tidal waves of loss

wash over your head

you don’t philosophize

you just want to breathe

for one more minute.

Happy Father’s Day, Papa Stanley!

This great dad celebrated this Father’s Day close to his little family on the bay side. After the day’s fishing trips, Stanley perched at the sailing center just before sunset. Like on so many evenings these past two weeks.

papa osprey watches Arlene ud131That is an excellent location to keep an eye on his daughter, Arlene, who seems to have a long-term rental on Marriott’s roof nearby. She was sleeping there with full crop while drying her wings. All was good in Papa Stanley’s world. One chick had survived and now, exactly three weeks after fledging, she was a thriving young Osprey. That was the best gift he could get.

arlene sleeps at sunset ud131_edited-1Mama Sandy kept an eye on their chick from the other side of the same roof. She likes to perch on the antenna, a high vantage point allowing straight line of sight to Arlene’s comings and goings. And a welcome nap after a hot day.

mama osprey on the roof ud131_edited-1From their respective vantage points, the Osprey family could see the nest and the salt marsh colored by the setting sun. If they looked carefully, they will have noticed that the Mayor and little Miss Rosanna have stricken a new friendship.

Great blue heron and roseate spoonbill at sunset ud131

roseate spoonbill B ud131

great blue heron B ud131_edited-1And on this evening they were able to observe the lively bird life on the bay too, like the Snowy Egret patrolling the seawall in her yellow shoes…

snowy egret at the seawall ud131…and the Little Blue Heron foraging nearby utilizing the low tide.

little blue heron at sunset ud131And of course they saw the sun about to dive into the Gulf on the other side of the salt marsh.

todays sunset ud131_edited-1After this beautiful day, Papa Stanley is likely retire to his secret spot in the park. And maybe he’ll stop for a while close to his favorite roosting branch and reflect on his day.

papa osprey after sunset ud131Happy Father’s Day to all other fathers too!

In Focus: Incredible Arlene

On a stormy evening late last week, Arlene was perching on the boat lift at the sailing center. She was scanning for fish. Suddenly she flew up, hovered for a few seconds above the water and dove feet first into the water. She didn’t catch the fish. Not yet. But she had all the right moves, including shaking off water in mid-air like a pro. This was less than two weeks after she fledged. And that’s nothing short of incredible. I didn’t carry the camera so you just have to take my word for it. Dylan is my witness. After coming home, I caught this picture of her from my terrace. She was back up there staring into the water…and she would try again. I call that determination.

arlene learns to fish on her own ud130She is scanning for fish often now. And her parents, after seeing her early progress, have clearly taken the back seat. Mama Sandy is still around occasionally keeping watch for any dangers. Sometimes I have not seen her for a day or two, but she comes when Arlene calls her. Like last night when the skies suddenly darkened and the wind picked up before strong thunderstorms. I could not see Arlene, but I heard her. She was somewhere on the roof. Sandy was flying towards her pushing against the strong winds. Really struggling. She came from the north along the bay side and landed on the roof. I guess Arlene needed adult company in the storm and her mama was there for her. Dylan and I ran home and rushed into our garage just when the first fat raindrops started falling. And then pretty much everything went out of focus.

storm on the bay out-of-focus 2 ud130Sandy probably feeds Arlene only once a day now, if that. Her parenting is encouraging independence. But still providing protection. And Arlene is confident in her abilities, as she has been from the day she fledged. A strong female leader in the making, as I see it.

Mama osprey keeps watch ud130On Sunday morning, Arlene’s two-week fledging anniversary,  I saw her perched at the sailing center. Ten minutes later I went for a walk and saw her eating on Marriott’s roof, at her favorite spot. I wouldn’t rule out it was the first fish she’s caught by herself. No parents were in sight.

arlene eats fish ud130Young Arlene has not followed the conventional path to independence. You see, normally, Osprey chicks stay at the nest being fed by their parents at least 4 weeks after fledging. They start to follow their parents on fishing trips during the 3rd week and start to try to fish on their own at 4-6 weeks after fledging. Not Arlene. She left the nest the day she fledged and directly started to fly with her folks. She was diving for fish 12 days after fledging…and now, 16 days after her fledging, I think she might be able to provide for herself already. I am sure Sandy will not stay in the vicinity for long. And Arlene, too, is likely to move a bit further soon. But as long as she stays here you’ll have ‘full and impartial coverage’ on this brave and beautiful chick by this media outlet.

Arlene at sunset June 9 ud130On Sunday, I also briefly visited the salt marsh between heavy showers. After two weeks of rains, everything at the salt marsh was green and the water level was high. Consequently many of the waders were keeping away for now. I guess they don’t like their bellies getting wet while wading in high waters.

salt marsh after the rains ud130But that memo had not reached the juveniles. Or perhaps they are more adventurous simply because they are not looking at the world through the lens of conventional wisdom. Some of them were happily wading on previously dry mud flats or amongst the high grass. First I spotted the same juvenile Little Blue Heron I saw a couple of weeks ago. He had turned much more blue already, as you can see.

juvenile little blue heron ud130

juvenile little blue heron 2 ud130The second juvenile wading at the marsh was a very small, young Green Heron. He still had some of his white ‘baby hairs’ right on the top of his head, but was bravely doing it alone.

juvenile green heron 2 ud130

juvenile green heron 1 ud130_edited-1The third juvenile I spotted was a Boat-tailed Grackle. She was in the company of her mother…and although she had fledged, she was still asking to be fed. Quite unlike Arlene.

female boat-tailed grackle with a juvenile ud130_edited-1The fourth juvenile, the Roseate Spoonbill I had named Rosanna, was observing life from a tree at the deep water channel.

young roseate spoonbill ud130The only adult wader I encountered was the beautiful Snowy Egret. I thought she looked like a white flower in the midst of the green grass.

snowy egret ud130And that’s when they arrived, the two Black Skimmers. They flew at extremely high speeds while skimming the surface, water spraying all around them. They put on a wild show. I enjoyed trying to catch them in flight. But they did beat me time after time…resulting in many pictures of water, sky and grass – without a Skimmer. One has to learn one’s limitations the hard way.

black skimmer 1 ud130_edited-2.jpg

black skimmer skimming ud130 We all wish you a wonderful rest of the week. Thank you for visiting.

Enough Drama Already!

This Memorial Day weekend was like one long suspense novel. And I’m afraid this post is also novel-length compared to my usual posts.

It all started on Friday evening when Dylan and I passed the nest on our way from the dog park. I could see the Osprey chick was flapping her wings vigorously and actually getting up, a foot or so,  in the air. Finally the survivor would fledge!

osprey chick pepares to fly ud126_edited-1So on Saturday morning I took my camera and went to the nest to observe her flying exercises. She flew from one side of the nest to the other. Repeatedly.

ospery chick lifts off ud126

osprey chick in flight ud126_edited-1

osprey chick lands ud126Mama Sandy was watching her from the perch. I’m sure she was proud and relieved. And when a juvenile Bald Eagle flew by, she was sounding a sharp alarm.

mama osprey alarm ud126_edited-1

juvenile bald eagle 3 ud126The chick watched curiously, but didn’t say a peep. Maybe she didn’t know why this was such an alarming situation, or maybe she has yet to learn the alarm call.

osprey chick looks at the big bird ud126_edited-2It was wonderful to see her up in the air, but she didn’t leave the nest while I was there. At times she was looking at me as if saying look I can fly.

mama osprey and chick at the nest ud126_edited-1So on Saturday night when Dylan and I went to the dog park, I took my camera along. The chick was still busy practicing.

mama osprey and the chick sat evening May 27 ud126On Sunday morning I was full of anticipation. I would see the chick fledge! I looked out from my bedroom window – and saw Mama Sandy alone in the nest. The chick had already fledged!

Mama osprey waiting for chick ud126So after breakfast I hurried out to the nest to see her return. Sandy had flown away, but Papa Stanley was waiting for the chick on the perch.

Papa osprey waits for the chick ud126He was looking keenly toward the tall trees in the park. I didn’t know why. I waited at the nest. No chick. Finally I decided to walk around the marsh to greet the other residents. First I spotted a beautiful, young Roseate Spoonbill. She had not yet developed the characteristic dark band around the base of her head, had a few feathers on the top of her head and was much smaller than Miss Rosa. Perhaps a relative, or even an offspring. I named her Rosanna.

young roseate spoonbill ud126Next I spotted another juvenile. This was not a Snowy Egret, but a young Little Blue Heron. She was still almost white, but I could see the first light blue spots developing on her back and wings. This was a day of juveniles and the fledging day for the osprey chick. But she was nowhere to be seen.

juvenile little blue heron 2 ud126I continued to wait…and walk. I spotted both Mama and Papa Moorhen…

Mama moorhen 2 ud126

Papa moorhen ud126…and the Mayor. He was walking past his office inspecting the surroundings.

great blue heron ud126Suddenly I heard the Osprey chick. She was asking for fish and her call came from the park north of the salt marsh. I walked towards her call, but couldn’t find her. It was very hot so maybe she was seeking shade in the forest. Or perhaps she was resting on the ground just like her brother Lofty, who fledged exactly on the same day two years ago. I had spotted him on the ground the day he fledged.

lofty on the ground under the tree UD9When I came back to the nest, Stanley was still there. He was talking to Sandy. She was flying from the bay towards the forest carrying a newly caught fish. I assumed she was going to feed the chick.

female osprey with a fish 2 ud126_edited-1Finally I had to leave without seeing the newly fledged chick. Papa Stanley was still waiting for her at the nest.

Mama oprey is an empty nester ud126 on May 28In the afternoon I checked on the nest several times. Nobody at home. I checked again just before going out with Dylan in evening. Still an empty nest. I started to get really worried. Usually the newly fledged chicks fly short rounds over the park and return to the nest in minutes, or at latest by dinner time, just like Lofty had done. But not this chick.

We didn’t go to the dog park in the evening, but instead walked on the bay side. I was hoping I would spot the chick. But no. Until we were almost at home. I saw three Osprey flying together above the Marriott’s roof, a place favored by both Sandy and Stanley in summer time. I didn’t have my camera so there was no way to see who was who. But then I heard the familiar gimme fish. The chick was alive! And probably in the company of her parents.

osprey chick 2 at Marriott ud126Then on Monday I kept an eye on the nest throughout the day. The parents visited a few times, but not the chick. It is highly unusual, almost unheard of, that an Osprey chick would follow her parents from the day they fledge. But this girl was an exception to the rule. I would not spot her until Dylan and I went to the dog park at sunset time on Monday evening. I heard her right away. She was sitting on Marriott’s roof asking for fish and looking towards the bay.

osprey chick calls for mama ud126_edited-2A few seconds later, Sandy appeared next to her. But she had no fish.

osprey chick hangs out with Mama Osprey ud126_edited-4So there she was hanging out with Sandy. I was very happy she was alive and well. Soon Sandy flew away, probably on a fishing trip, and from far away I saw the chick flapping her wings.

osprey chick on Marriott's roof ud126_edited-1Soon we spotted Stanley too. He was perching at the sailing center about 150 yards away. I snapped a picture of him from the side-walk. Dylan was in a hurry to see his friends.

Papa osprey waits ud126_edited-1This was a unique scenario. Either this girl was truly exceptional and had started her fishing lessons right away, or she simply felt the nest was too small a landing strip for her at this time. When I looked towards the Marriott from the dog park, she was gone. Maybe she followed Sandy out to the ocean. Coming back much later, we found Stanley at the Marriott. On the ledge, one level below where the chick had been.

papa osprey watches the chick ud126And just when I was ‘shooting’ Stanley, I saw movement in the corner of my eye. I looked up and saw a tail of the chick. She was landing on the upper level. Soon she looked down, both on us and her papa.

Almost the same scenario was repeated last night. Stanley was at the sailing center, while Sandy and the chick were perching on the roof. This time she didn’t ask for fish so I assumed she had already eaten her supper.

osprey chick looks at papa ud126This adventurous girl deserves a great name! So today we did the ‘same procedure as last year’. Dylan picked a name from the hat – one among 16 names proposed by you, our friends. So how did we do it? I hope the pictures talk for themselves.

lottery hat ud126

Dylan and lottery hat ud126

Dylan does the drawing ud126It was difficult to ‘watch not touch’ the 16 treats in the hat, but Dylan waited patiently until I gave him a go ahead. And then, with lightning speed resulting in a blurred picture, he picked only one treat. The winner is…

the winner ud126I was very touched. And I want to tell you why. Pat proposed the name Arlene, I believe, because Arlene was a dear friend of many neighbors here on the island as well as many dog parents at our park. She had a wonderful little puppy, Hogan, who was friends with Dylan and other dogs frequenting the park. One morning in August last year, Arlene left us suddenly after being hit by a car while crossing the road right here in our neighborhood. She and Hogan were on their way home from the dog park. Tiny Hogan survived and was adopted to a good home. So now we have Arlene, this very special Osprey girl, flying the skies above all of us. And that feels just right.

Thank you all for participating in the lottery and congratulations to Pat!