The drive into Ekerö from the city takes about 20 minutes, shooting west through Kungsholmen, out past the royal residence at Drottningholms Slott, past spandexed cyclists and thick fields of stiff grass, gilded green. Clouds are painted in swirls of white and gray with a hundred different brushes — a filmy watercolor to the left, opaque oil puffs to the right, whimsical woodblock prints overhead.
We pass a giant cargo ship tipped on its side and leaning against a hill behind a deep waving swath of grass. It looks like it was beached there by a giant wave and left to dry out. Its steampipe is graffitied in big, red bubbly letters. The neighborhood thinks it’s an eyesore. I like it. The sight of it gives me something to chew on for a second. Who is the owner? How did he park it on the side of a hill? Who tagged its little white cap?
My colleague’s house could be a cement-colored Scandinavian beach house jutting off the side of a little island, except it bares its broad face to a cropped, well-behaved lawn instead of the ocean. The wooden deck holds a dining table and a blocky woven dark wicker lounge set. The Spanish-style white stucco wall beside the concrete pool reminds me of L.A. We dig up little carrots from the garden in front of the pool house. The wild red raspberries we pluck from the bushes behind it are as sweet as jelly candy.
The clouds have magically dissipated, the blue canvas sky wiped almost completely clean. We eat home-cooked Thai food outside under a few patio umbrellas. The suntanned kids begrudgingly eat a few freshly fried spring rolls before jumping into the pool. Over curry with pineapple, a spicy beef larb, sweet and sour shrimp and a chaise of rice, we mix all of our languages — my colleague’s native Swedish, his wife and her cousin’s native Thai, my native English.
The neighbors/best friends, another Thai-Swedish couple, come over for dessert — a hot crumble made with the liters of wild blueberries the wives picked in the woods behind their houses. “Lagom söt” says the neighbor — just the right amount of sweetness. The inky purple fruit turns the melted ice cream lavender.
I am so grateful for the kindness of acquaintances. Every invitation I accept into someone’s home makes me want to be a better neighbor, to open my door wide and say, Yes! Varsågoda! Welcome to my home. Welcome to my life. Every day here, I marvel how a million new experiences can become commonplace in six short months, or how the ear can learn to find the words in a stream of foreign sounds, or how quickly a stranger can become a friend over a few spoonfuls of rice. The heart gobbles the trail of breadcrumbs so the mind can find a new way home now and then.
My colleague tells me that in two months, the gaggle of kids splashing
and fighting in the pool will stop playing in their front yard, as
everyone cocoons for the dark, cold months. The patio furniture will
be tucked away after only a few short months of use. The short days
will zap people of strength, and the neighborly camaraderie will
hibernate for eight hard months, waiting for the sweet moment in May,
maybe June, when it can emerge again.
For now, the sun takes its sweet time setting, leaving a periwinkle night light on the horizon at 11pm. I take a taxi home, the smell of mosquito incense clinging to my hair. The slow-burning green coils remind me of Thailand and the Hudson house. In the future, they will remind me of a quiet summer evening I spent in Ekerö, eating wild Swedish berries with new friends and weaving our stories together in three tongues.