28 December 2012

The Memory of Places

Kiruna, Sweden
I've done a lot of moving the in the past five years. Some of my recent homes include: a 7th floor apartment in Paris, where I'd climb onto the roof with friends and enjoy a bottle of wine while gazing upon a sea of rooftops; a tall blue house on Munjoy Hill in Portland, Maine, just a half a block from the Atlantic Ocean; an apartment in St. Elmo, a neighborhood in Chattanooga at the base of Lookout Mountain, where the Confederate troops were defeated by the Union army in the fall of 1863; a basement room in Iceland off Laugavegur, Reykjavík's long main street - I remember going to sleep at midnight there and it still being sunny outside due to the bright Arctic summer.

Next week, I'm adding another place to my list: Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  I'll be living there for the next few months to take a position with WUNC. I'm excited to have a whole new town to discover and call my own, but for a lot of reasons it's also bittersweet. The place I live in now, an old white house in a diverse Chattanooga neighborhood, will be another home I've lived in and left behind with a whole host of great memories.

One thing that I like to do when I'm living in a place for a while is find some sort of token - take an object, however large or small, and make a memory out of it to keep with me. When I lived briefly in Norway in 2010, I visited some outer islands in the middle of winter and found a small frozen shell to take back. In Scotland, I picked up a smooth pebble from a beach on the west coast. To remind me of Sweden, I have a tiny pair of earrings:


I lived in Sweden for two months in December 2009-February 2010 (to see this).  Because it was my first Christmas away from my family, and I hadn't lived there long enough to know anyone, I decided I would buy myself one Christmas gift, my only gift that year. I wandered through the town of Kiruna, way up above the Arctic Circle in Lapland, peeking in shops and stores. In mid-December there, the sun sets for about three weeks, so the town was dark and covered in snow drifts and ice. I remember finding a little Swedish gift shop and spied these earrings under a case. They were made in the Saami tradition, carved from a reindeer antler and birch wood.  I bought them and kept them with me the rest of the year.

Kiruna at night, December 2009
My Christmas that year ended up being a nice one.  A scientist friend invited me to go cross-country skiing with her family for the day, and to share dinner with them afterwards. And the town was just beautiful.  Kiruna has a gorgeous old Swedish church that was decorated for the season, and I got a taste of Swedish holiday food that I never would have been able to experience if I hadn't been there for Christmas - things like blueberry soup, smoked eel, reindeer meat, lingonberry jam, and my personal favorite, Janssons frestelse, which is basically a potato casserole with anchovies and lots of cream. Oh, and lots of snaps and glögg (mulled wine).  It was a lonely time, but a beautiful one, and I'm glad to have a little token to remember it by.


Do you have a certain object that reminds you of a particular place or time in your life?  I'd love to hear!

2 comments:

  1. I carried a small piece of kyanite in my pocket for three months while traveling through Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Bolivia. Now it sits on my mantle, reminding me of my journey.

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  2. That's neat. I like that you leave it out so you can see it. Some of my little pebbles and shells I've put in a pocket or drawer, so that I stumble upon them at random.

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