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Monday, July 17, 2017

La Fête Nationale, aka Bastille Day

July 14: French National Day, Bastille Day, La Fête de la Fédération: All names for a big day of celebration in France. (If you click on the photos, you can see them in full frame.)
My favorite uniforms. I want one of those hats.
We were happy to be here to experience this national celebration. The first event of the day was the military parade that winds downs the magnificent Champs-Élysée. We live a mere 15 minute walk from the parade route so we figured we should get up and check out the happenings. At 8.30 a.m. streams of people were already finding their way for a 10.00 start time so we were glad to have arrived when we did. We were interviewed for French tv and a clip of me was on the news! Pretty funny. The parade itself kicked off when President Macron drove by in his own vehicle. We got a mere glimpse of him.
The parade was interesting, full of pomp and displays of military color and might. There were no bands so we listened to recorded music as the various uniformed French military paraded by. Some of the uniforms were magnificent to behold. I'm not a big military girl, but it was fun to experience France's display of the branches of their military. 
The firemen got a big cheer. Those helmets glistened!
Once the big trucks and tanks began to roll through one had to admit that it was not a sight one sees on an ordinary day.

It also reminded me of times in France when the military presence was not so peaceful and of the great carnage that this nation suffered during the two world wars. The plane flyovers were the most magnificent of all and it was fun to watch the steady stream of jets flying in formation overhead. All in all, it was fun to be a part of these festivities.
We were pretty tired from the previous week so we just relaxed most of the day. We decided to take a walk around the Eiffel Tower around 6.00pm as we knew people would be gathering for the firework show that night. What a zoo that was. We were thankful that we had our own secret plan for viewing the fireworks that did not include fighting the thousands of people jockeying for position on the Champs du Mars. 
A wonderful young woman who has been a terrific youth leader with us this year joined us at about 8.00 p.m. and around 10.00 p.m. we climbed the spire of the church. It's quite a straight uphill climb but once there, totally worth it. The view was magnificent and the sunset was unfolding and we knew that our perch was going to be perfect for the fireworks show. We popped a bottle of champagne, toasted to our life in France and waited for the spectacle to begin.
We were not disappointed. I have seen a lot of firework shows in my lifetime and this one was one for the ages. The interplay of the Eiffel Tower and the fireworks against the dark sky was a sight to behold. We were dazzled time and again by the beautiful artwork that dotted the sky.
Soon it was over and as we watched the masses scurry home, we simply climbed down the ladders and made our way to home. We all felt satisfied with the way in which we embraced living in France and celebrated Bastille Day in a very French way. Vivé la France. They celebrate well on their national day. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sweet Summer in Stockholm

We have just returned to Paris from Stockholm. It is still strange for me to leave Stockholm to go home somewhere else!
 But it was an amazing delight to return during the long, light days of summer in that beautiful city we called home for almost 17 years. After an oppressive heat wave in Paris, the cooler temps that drove me crazy when we lived there were a welcome respite from urban, humid heat. The quality of the air, the cleanliness of the water, the deep green of nature, and the calm of the city were all things that reminded me of all that is good about living Stockholm.  One of the great gifts of returning to a place you've lived is that you are reminded of the things that kept you there with joy and delight and all of the stuff that bothered you or was hard fades deeply into the background leaving you with a treasure trove of warm memories that is pure gift.
Our trip was divided into distinct sections! The front end was spent with dear friends who have welcomed us into their home on countless occasions especially holidays and with whom we feel a very warm and familiar connection that includes their 3 adult children. 
Being in their home is like coming home to a warm cocoon. Hospitality oozes from every corner and we are so thankful for the ways in which they embrace our comings and goings. Their home that sits close to a lake was a perfect place to start our journey! One of the evenings we had a gathering over delicious food that included a significant conversation regarding my Louisville Institute book project. The depth of conversation and insight was so inspiring and I feel I am now well on my way with my project. SO EXCITING. 
We also shared a traditional Indian meal with our brother from another mother. They have moved to a new place that overlooks the sea so our waterside walk enabled us to take in the glorious sunset that put on quite the show that night.
The middle section of our trip was spent celebrating midsommar in the manner we had for years upon years with more extended family. What joy to re-live these weekends. It was cold, but not rainy. Doug swam on midsommar eve late in the evening after all of the dancing, eating, drinking and singing was done. It was too cold for me so I waited until the next morning when the sun was a bit warmer. All of the friends who we had gathered with over the years were there and it was as if we'd never left. Babies and spouses have been added along the way and it was a delight to see how these young ones are growing into responsible, beautiful adults. 
We returned to Immanuel International for the first time in 2.5 years. 

It wasn't weird. Didn't feel strange. We were warmly welcomed back with lots of love and appreciation, told we were missed but also understood that it was OK that we were no longer there. What a delight to enjoy the warmth and vibrancy of this lovely congregation. 
The last stop was the archipelago and time by Baltic. We longed for our boat and our doggy but at least the family we were with had both! We enjoyed returning to the home that we called our summer home on the outskirts of Stockholm and took delight in the comfort of yet another place that wraps us in warmth and welcome. We motored out into the archipelago to spend one day and night with more dear friends who own the very best summer place in the world. 
We have always enjoyed the days spent out here and this time there was no exception. The boat ride was beautiful and we arrived and got safely ensconced in the house before a raging thunder and lightening storm hit hard. But it blew through and gave way to a gorgeous evening. Late into the night I could not get my eyes off the horizon. The morning gave way to a gorgeous, warm morning so I took the chance to dip into the Baltic. I do miss swimming in the clear, clean, and yes, freezing cold waters of the Baltic. Everyone else thought I was crazy but I loved it. The boat ride back into Saltis was glorious and Doug and I both soaked in that beauty that dazzled our senses summer after summer in Stockholm.
Finally on our last day we held one more gathering of Immanuel folks to discuss my project and this was equally as fascinating and enlightening. Held at the home of a couple who met at Immanuel and eventually invited us to tie the knot for them, their hospitality overwhelmed us. Victoria's cooking is at the top of the my list and I just love being in her presence. She and Ingvar are filled with grace and openness and it was a delight to experience that once again. That night, we stayed up very late with a young couple who again, are like family to us, talking, laughing, sharing heart ache and joy.
Final day coffees with friends at the brand new Mall of Scandinavia, an epically huge and gorgeous US type mall, proved to be a perfect way to bring this trip to a close.
It's impossible to express what it's fully like to return to a place you loved and at times, drove you crazy through the years! We are both content that Stockholm is no longer our place of resident but we are also both fully convinced that there is a big Stockholm shaped place in our heart that is filled up with the beauty of the city but more importantly the beauty of the people with whom a deep love is shared. 
It was joy pure joy to return and enjoy these moments and memories. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Solstice, Stockholm Style

A few years have gone by now since we've experienced the joy of a Swedish summer.  
I have always said that when weather is good, there's no finer place to be. 
The challenge for the years that we lived here was that often, it was not hot enough for my taste. Now that I have experienced the summer heat of the desert, (often hovering around 45C/115F) and the hot, humid urban heat of Paris, sans a/c, well, these "cooler" Nordic days feel pretty darn good right now!    Swedish colors, represented in wild flowers
And with the cleanliness of the air, the deep green of the foliage, the sparkling clear, clean water that is everywhere, and of course, the endlessly long daylight, well, I am reminded of why we loved summer in Sweden so much.
Additionally, we had developed quite the tradition around celebrating the big midsommar holiday with our dear friends in a small little village a bit south of Stockholm. I have not been a part of this celebration since 2013 because in 2014, I was in CA dealing with the aftermath of my father's death. So it's a real treat to think about renewing our traditions with this fine family and enjoying all of the silliness that accompanies our time there.
It is great to return to Stockholm in the summer. In 2015 we spent 2.5 quick winter days here so to be here now for a few days, savoring time with sweet friends, is quite wonderful.  We're enjoying meals and conversations with dear friends, will attend our former church for the first time in 2.5 years, and will spend some time in the archipelago. We long for our little boat and of course think of all the joy Tanner delighted in when he lived here but are thankful for the memories that being here evoke and for the opportunity to dip our toe in a summer solstice in Stockholm one more time.

Last night we had dinner with a dear friend along the sea front. 
He cooked up some of his Indian cuisine that we adore and have missed.   A bonus was that the sunset put on quite the dazzling show of color and light.
 We were mesmerized and could not get our eyes off of the sky. 
I look forward to enjoying the light, the sky, the long daylight of Stockholm over the next several days as we celebrate midsommar and enjoy the archipelago.
I still feel the same...when the weather is good, there's no finer place than Stockholm in the summertime.   
Last light of the day...almost midnight.