Tag archives for Rain

Mean Mr. Mushroom

I have a confession to make. Even though last year’s mushroom picking adventure (my first time!) was awesome, just unbelievably fun and relaxing, it could have been better in one small way. We could have found more mushrooms.

Last year, we hunted in three different forests over a span of two and a half days, and while I had a great time learning about the different mushrooms and trying to find them, we really didn’t have that much to show for ourselves at the end of the day—just a little half-full bag of chanterelle and “brown soup” mushrooms, plus one giant Porcini (which is called a “Karl Johan” mushroom here).

Not that I’m complaining or anything, obviously, because we had such a great time. It was one of the highlights of my year, I swear. This time around, however, I really wanted a big haul, a huge sack of mushrooms so big it’s worth posting on Facebook and calling your mother six time zones away.

Now that's what I'm talking about. This year's haul of "forest gold," or chanterelle mushrooms. Photo: Kate Wiseman

I had already seen some status updates on Facebook bragging about mushroom hunting expeditions that had resulted in several kilos of freshly-picked chanterelles. It’s with some shame that I have to admit that I was not happy for them. I was jealous, jealous to the point of being resentful, jealous to the point of making several threats against them in my head. If there aren’t any mushrooms left by the time we get around to making our trip out to the woods, I’m going to…

It wasn’t pretty. I’m shocked and appalled by my own vileness when faced with a limited supply of some natural resource. That’s how important the mushroom picking is, though. (Or maybe it’s just me.) In any case, it was making me seriously worried that the evil Kate Wiseman would rear her ugly head and behave inappropriately in front of unsuspecting friends.

God bless Sweden, though, and the ridiculously rainy summer we had, because as it turns out, there’s no rain without a mushroom rainbow. Apparently Skåne had one of the rainiest summers of the last 50 years, with the corollary effect of a multitude of mushrooms in the forests. Phew.  (I am getting a little sick of the extreme weather, though. I would take a regular winter and a regular summer with great pleasure at this point. Stop testing my love, Sweden.)

So this past weekend, finally, my boyfriend and I and four other friends went mushroom picking in Österlen, the southeastern part of Skåne known for its rolling green hills, its apples, and its artists. The second we stepped out of the car, I knew we were in for a good time: the air smelled of forest and mushrooms. That night, the men made dinner for us and we all went to bed early, eager to get an early start on the mushroom picking the next day.

Of course that sounds really romantic, and it was a nice idea, but what really happened is that we woke up fairly early for a Saturday and then proceeded to have a two hour breakfast, followed by brewing a little extra coffee for a mid-mushroom hunting fika and packing up supplies for the dogs and then finally getting on our way around noon. Typical.

Lots of nature... not so many edible mushrooms. Photos: Kate Wiseman

The first half of the day was fairly unsuccessful. We saw a lot of mushrooms (and blackberries… yum!), but not many of the chanterelles we were looking for. Adam suggested that we take a strategic fika break and start again in a new section of the forest, which turned out to be a great idea.

Seriously, I love Swedish people. There's no such thing as a bad time for coffee. That's all I'm going to say. Coffee and cinnamon buns in the forest. Life is good. Photos: Kate Wiseman

An hour or so later, our designated mushroom bag was legitimately heavy. Score! Major happiness. At that point, we were all ready to head back to the cabin and relax from our extremely taxing day in nature.

Mushroom hunters! Photos: Kate Wiseman

This is the other really great part of mushroom hunting. Once you’re done, you’re in a cabin in the woods with your friends. It’s a lot like the atmosphere after a day of skiing. Everyone’s a little tired and smells funny, but everyone’s happy about the day and ready to hang out.

The smartphone addicts in the house played Wordfeud, a few tired souls took naps, and I continued with the book I’m reading, Broderna Lejonhjärta (The Brothers Lionheart) by Astrid Lindgren, and took advantage of the assembled Swedes by asking for translations every paragraph or so.

Then it was time for dinner, for chanterelles cooked in butter, for a giant bowl of chili, for wine and a long night of Trivial Pursuit from 1984. The outdated Trivial Pursuit made answering certain geography questions much easier… the USSR and Yugoslavia are so much easier to guess than the parts they’re broken into today! And yet, as always, it was generally impossible to answer the majority of the questions.

In the end, though, the best part of the weekend turned out to be something other than the mushrooms—it was the feelings of familiarity, of comfort, of “this is easy.” Those are the first things to go when you move to another country and everything is a little bit different, and those feelings have always been the first things I’ve noticed when I go home to my family in the States. Little by little, however, I’m feeling that way here.

Last year was new and fun and exciting, but this year is better in a different way. We’re building traditions, and I’m feeling more and more confident speaking Swedish. I’m even slowly but surely starting to understand jokes and cultural references. I don’t feel like I’m worrying about first impressions anymore or struggling to take part in conversations or just be myself. It’s taken a while to find that sense of comfort, and it feels good.

Cope With Summer Rain Like a Swede

I posted a brief update earlier this week about how the cold snap had ended and the sun was out and an evening canal boat just made my day by being too-cute-to-be-true.

And then the next day the rains started again.

I would just like to say that I am trying very hard to be positive here, because by suffering through one of the coldest Swedish winters on record I feel like I earned a summer characterized by above-average beauty, unbroken pleasantness, and gorgeous weather.

Yes, some might say: But Kate, you went home to the US for six weeks and skipped most of January! You were barely here during the winter! What are you talking about?? DON’T CARE. WAS TERRIBLE. WANT SUN NOW.

So anyway, positive thinking, zen, ommmmmmmm, rain is dripping on me in my lotus pose, ommm…

In the midst of all this pain and suffering, though, is the truly hilarious range of reactions I’ve seen Swedes have towards the rain. There are a few who have gone into full-scale depression, hiding under blankets and drinking hot chocolate and bemoaning their impending doom/the coming of winter (surely somebody besides me did this), while the vast majority are just engaging in some moderate complaining about the injustice of it all.

Then there’s a third group: a select number of people who have clearly become totally numb to the concept of weather and refuse to pay any attention to it at all.

On Friday, I went to Lilla Torg (means, literally, “little square”) in Malmö for dinner and drinks with a couple of friends to say goodbye to Frida, who, incidentally, is moving to Scotland to be with her Scottish boyfriend. I tell you, these Swedes… just finding love connections everywhere.

Lilla Torg is in extremely old section of town, and it’s really cute: lots of restaurants and bars clustered together, all with outdoor seating areas, umbrellas to sit under, blankets for when it gets cold, heating lamps, etc. We were at an Indian restaurant, and we had just gotten our food when it started to pour monsoon season levels of rain on the whole square. I expected the normal migration of people from outside to in, waiters taking peoples’ food and dinner guests collecting their purses and coats, but people were totally unfazed.

I don’t know if you can really see this, but it’s raining so hard on the cobblestones that there’s about 1.5 feet of bounceback. Crazy! Photo: Kate Wiseman

When the rain started, the people eating shifted chairs and bags and moved a little closer together to avoid the gaps in umbrellas. The waiters took roundabout ways from one table to the next to avoid being showered more than necessary. And people continued to line up outside for a table—people in high heels, silk dresses, and umbrellas.

Can you see the woman's shoes? She's on her way out the door... Wowzah! Photo: Kate Wiseman

Unbelievable! I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It was a little like when I was in college, and there was some sort of policy that dictated the start and end dates for heat and air conditioning. Regardless of whether it was 100 degrees out or 50, the heat would be on between October 15 and May 15. And then when the air conditioning was on (between May 15 and October 15, of course), the ambient temperature indoors was cold enough to give you double pneumonia and the flu if you didn’t bring a cardigan indoors with you… even in July.

It’s the same here, but with people: clearly, it doesn’t matter whether it’s warm or cold, rainy or dry—if it’s summer, they’re going out. The weather doesn’t play a role in the evening. The decision has been made: if they’re going out, they’re going out! They’re certainly not wearing anything boring, either; forget the rain boots and jackets that I was sporting. It’s full force party wear accessorized perhaps with an umbrella that can be discreetly tucked away.

I love it. These people are a total inspiration to me. I, too, would like to be totally impervious to the fickle Swedish weather. I haven’t made it there yet, but perhaps with time…

Mmm... proof that the weather is not going to hold us back from enjoying some of our most-cherished memories of summertime. Photo: Kate Wiseman

And lest you think the pain is unending over here, well… it’s not. The skies cleared for the whole day today, and my friend Malin and I bicycled to the beach where we both had some delicious ice cream. Sooooooo nice… and especially appreciated after the downpour.

Breaking news: lame joke bears eerie resemblance to real life.

In an odd twist of events, an incredibly lame joke about the weather turned out to be strikingly similar to real life experiences. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

I grew up in Michigan, which means lame jokes about the weather are nothing new to me. For example, “You know you’re from Michigan when you know only two seasons: winter and construction.” Or, “You know you’re from Michigan when you prefer driving in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.” Then there’s one that I’ve heard in Sweden, too. “Don’t like the weather? Wait five minutes.”

Har. Har. Har.

The prevalence of terrible jokes about the weather makes sense; I will grant you that. In places like Michigan and Sweden, the weather is a big deal. The snow, the rain, the dark, the cold—all of these will actually affect your mood and significantly impact your daily commuting experience. And the jokes are lame, but they’re also a way of signifying this sort of shared camaraderie in fighting against the misery of winter.

But never in my life did I expect one of these jokes to be even slightly similar to reality… until last Friday.

I made the mistake of celebrating the start of spring about a week ago because I found the first spring flowers just barely poking little yellow bulbs through the mat of dead grass by a bike stand. Spring is here! Spring is here! I cried, with a delight that can only be compared to the happiness of a thousand little munchkins at the death of the Wicked Witch of the West. Sadly, I had spoken too soon, and a mere three days later I returned home to Lund after a long day of working in Malmö to find snow on the ground. SNOW. Then, on Friday, it seemed like the weather was once again becoming more spring-like.

The first spring flowers! These yellow crocuses (croci?) are just poking their heads out from below a bike stand.

I woke up in the morning to sun, which already is a big success in March. Then I packed up my things and went back to Malmö, where I proceeded to sit at the same table in front of the same windows for five hours while teaching English. During the five hours I spent in front of those windows, the sun gave way to hail, which receded and then came back again twice as strong, setting off car alarms and ricocheting off of innocent pedestrians as they scrambled for cover. Then hail session number two eased into a blizzard-like snow, which, within an hour, became torrential rain. Then about half an hour before my scheduled 3 pm departure time, the sun came out, and I was able to unzipper my coat on my bike ride home.

Now please, someone, explain to me how this range of weather phenomena is possible. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. I keep trying to talk about this day with people here like it was something extraordinarily strange, WHICH IT WAS, and everyone just shrugs their shoulders at me and look at me like, “Yes, and…?” NOT THE RESPONSE I AM LOOKING FOR. The response I am looking for, by the way, is more along the lines of, “Oh my God, the apocalypse. THE SKY IS FALLING!”

Anyway, now that I’ve shared this slice of life of you… here are some photos that I find encouraging. Spring is on its way!

Little shoots poking through the dirt.

Flowers are beginning to bring color and life to Lund! You can see the remains of last fall's ivy, which was stunning a mere five months ago.

Some more early bloomers,