Friday, September 20, 2013


In the chilly air and outside my window summer has begun her slow surrender. Acorns litter the street and gray squirrels seem to be everywhere, running along the fences, shaking the branches of the dogwoods, darting across streets in almost perpetual movement as their pineal glands, alerting them that change, shift them into overdrive.  Frenetic activity triggered to ensure survival.  Unpacking this morning, I found a CD that we bought in Sweden.  The band is Stormsteg, a folk trio that Beanie's violin teacher at the International School was a member of.  Their music is created with two violins, a guitar, and a remarkable level of artistry.   I pop the CD into my laptop checking the title of the first track. Hösthast, (Autumn Rush).  I stare out my window as the melody resonate through me. The gray moody skies are so like Autumn in Stockholm.  I need a moment to absorb them and orient myself.  External realities, and strings of memories drawn out by the melody begin to tangle my mind.  I stare out the window absently watching my yard's fluffy tailed inhabitants, with unease as I tease through the disonnence. 

I have spent the last 4 weeks rushing to get the basic structure of our life in place so the kids could start school.  Setting up the kitchen so we could begin our cross contamination detox from 9 weeks of dining out and road food.  Setting up bedrooms to support sleep rituals and find matching socks and clean underwear efficiently when busy mornings return.  We have received and unpacked three shipments of goods, two from Sweden, the other from storage.  Our stuffed suitcases that sustained us during our nomad summer have been emptied and stowed in a closet till adventure calls us again. Each room has at least one pile of objects or clothes waiting to be stored, or donated.

Aside from unpacking and setting up a functioning house, my days have been busy seeing doctors and dentist so that the appropriate forms could be submitted to register the girls for their schools.  Then quickly sorting through children's desires and getting them registered at the neighborhood dance school and soccer league for their extra curricular activities.  Placements test and meeting with school counselors to create class schedules, each teacher providing a list of supplies to be bought and ready for the first day.  Remarkably I got it all done and as I write this, they have completed two full weeks at their new schools. 

My behavior has been a lot like the squirrels. Rushing, not thinking spurred only by maternal instincts, with a tick list of pieces that needed to be in place. Expending energy to focus on my family's needs to ensure happiness and survival as we repatriate.  I have been been driven by an abstract desire, to experience the sigh of relief, that occurs after arriving home after an extended journey, when the rest of the world falls away because you are finally home. But the sigh is not coming.  The unspoken promise I made to myself that once I find a place for everything and put everything in its place my longing for home will subside.  The closer I get to being settled the more unsettled I become.  

If I were still in Sweden, I would be sharing a fika with friends celebrating all that I have accomplished in such a short time.  Then listening as they retell stories from their summer travels and discuss which cities they may be visiting in the up coming year.  Me, percolating with happiness at my good fortune to be among such a remarkable group of individuals who have negotiated cultures, countries, parenting and still maintained a sense of personal wellbeing.  After staying well into the lunch rush at our favorite cafe, I might return home to my Swedish Dream House do some quick chores, dinner prep then work on finishing the latest read for my upcoming book club meeting or maybe write at my leisure. 


I guess my 'sigh' is holding out for the return of my Swedish life.

I will be the first to admit, my life in Sweden wasn't all roses and sunshine, but there was something about it that fit.  There was a rhythm to my life that I haven't experienced since my childhood growing up in Westchester, before the Martha Stewarts and Ralph Laurens bought the houses up the street.  A more simple rhythm I imagine that doesn't even exist there anymore.  The harmony of water, woods, horses and trails where human impact and contact are fewer and far between.   I even came to appreciate the social coolness of Swedes and how it provided freedom to be around people but still enjoy a bubble of privacy without social judgement or being labeled unfriendly or snobby. This created a peaceful existence where it was easy to hear my thoughts and regain my equilibrium.

I return now to the life I knew before, but in the two years that I have been absent it has been altered, just like me.  My comfortable place in social circles has been filled by new faces. Neighborhood dynamics feel a little foreign.  Activities that I engaged in before I left, have been discontinued, or no longer match my interests.  Even though I am back in my old territory, and so happy to see so many friends and relations that I missed, I am not sure where I belong anymore.  It is all a bit awkward.  On top of that, as much as I try to ignore it, I am terribly homesick for Sweden.  I miss it as much as I missed my life in America when I left two years ago. Two homes. Two loves. My heart currently caught between.

While I was still in Sweden seeking thoughts on whether to move back to Surely Manor or make a fresh start somewhere new, a very wise expat (a diplomat partner) told me,  'You already know how to build your life from scratch, you've proven that your whole family can survive starting over in a new place and flourish'.   This particular woman possesses wisdom and optimism that is infectious. She also has a blog, Lana in Sweden that I visit when I am missing her positive energy.  She was right of course, my friend, but instead of starting somewhere new, I am starting over in my old house and my old 'hood.  It is a slightly daunting balancing act.  Building a new life in the shell of the old.

The first track of the CD has long been over, as I focus attention back to the task at hand.  I will keep pushing forward in my personal Hösthast.  Unpacking, organizing, donating unwanted items, setting up our house.   I will focus on the life I want and the essential elements I need for happiness, one piece at a time.  I will work diligently collecting the fattest sweetest bits, holding them close, while clearing out the old and outdated.  It isn't time to think, it's time to do.  Keep moving forward till I find the illusive sigh of my spirit. The moment I feel home again.    


  1. Recently I stumbled upon a quote by James Kavanaugh...(a priest who left the Catholic Church because he wanted to marry). I love it, because he captures my feelings so well...and I suspect yours too.:) Thank you for your words. They truly resonate with every emotion I've felt over the years skipping continents.

    “I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know – unless it be to share our laughter.

    “We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love.

    “For wanderers, dreamers, and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.”

  2. Wow that is an amazing quote. YES it captures my feelings as well. It also reminds me of one of the magical parts of my expat experience which was to be surrounded by other 'searchers', and the gifts intrinsic in that community. Thank you as always for your words and inspiration :) Kram.