Krik? Krak!

Yesterday, I was browsing half price paperbacks at our local student bookshop. To my amazement, I found a collection of short stories called Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat. On the back, it says: “Before some Haitians tell a story, they ask, “Krik?” and their eager listeners respond, “Krak!”.” Isn’t that beautiful! I just love it. I had to buy the book, and it is now my first priority Christmas read.

I haven’t ever doubted the name Krikonkraken for my blog or company, but this information really sealed it! I think it is fair to say that my interest in stories and storytelling is above average. One of my possible futures involves a storytelling/ life story project. This experience feels like a strong confirmation that I have found the right “branding” name. It has become “me”. And I am Krikonkraken. Weird. But fun.

A New Start

I’m back again! I’ve decided to pick up the blog from where I left it a year and a half ago. A new beginning…

When I set up the site several years ago I was in a very different place from where I am now. Then, I had collapsed under the burdens of work and life, and was trying to untangle myself. I’m still trying to do that, but have come quite far on that journey compared to where I was!

Now, I’m on leave from my academic life until the summer of 2019 and am currently training to become an organic gardener and entrepreneur. It’s all very exciting! (The photograph above is from a glorious morning a few weeks ago at Skillebyholm, my college.)

I don’t yet know what my life will look like in a year’s time. Or five. I might be back at my University job. If so, I’ll be much better equipped to to a good job than what I was before I went on my two year break from it. However, I might find myself running my own green business in some form or another. Or I might be working part time at a nice garden centre and writing novels in my own garden as I grow food for my family.

Whatever I do; gardening, ecology, sustainablilty, politics, creativity, wholeheartedness, ethics and writing will all be active ingredients. And I will start my own company, regardless if it is on a hobby basis or the source of my income. Here in the blog, I shall continue to tune in to myself, develop my thoughts and refine my visions. Whoever wants to share some steps in this personal (but not private) journey is welcome to join me on the way ahead.

So! Here we go again! Welcome here, or welcome back!

Perfektion och reflektion

Det är länge sedan jag har skrivit i bloggen nu. Inte sedan Trump valdes till president. Det är mycket jag har velat skriva, men jag har inte haft orken. Men i det jag tog några bilder av min fantastiska balkong för att visa upp hur perfekt det ser ut, fick jag ett stort behov för att reflektera litet kring prestationsångest och kravfylldhet i trädgården. Här är en liten hälsning till alla som tycker det känns inspirerande, fast ändå litet jobbigt att titta på vad alla andra gör i bloggposter och på Facebook och Instagram… 

 
 
På 90-talet var jag i 20-åren och odlade så smått blommor och ätbart på en ute-balkong i Oslo. Jag blev biten av den gröna bacillen, fast det var inte så svårt när informationsflödet var så litet. Läs på paketet, stoppa i ett frö, vattna och vänta. Punkt slut. Nu, 20 år senare, alskar jag min inglasade balkong med liten frostvakt i Sthlms förort. Vi har även en stor trädgård i stugan 15 minuter hemifrån och lokal kollektivodling på gång, så här hemma förodlas mycket. Och jag läser på, och njuter av all kunskap, nya idéer och möjligheter.
Snart, fast kanske inte i dag, ska miniväxthuset på balkongen fyllas på med några omskolade småväxter från sovrummets växtbelysning. Jag har precis planterat några köpepenséer  bland andra, övervintrade blommor (jag kunde inte låta bli, fast jag har lovat mig själv att (nästan) inte köpa blommor i år). Och jag har petat ner några spenat- och sallatsfrön i jorden. Jag pysslar och vattnar och lär mig nya saker varje dag. Det låter ju bra, och bilderna visar ju en härlig, vårlig balkong, eller hur! 
 
 
Men, och detta är ett viktigt MEN till alla som strävar efter perfektion. Det finns inget sådant. Kanske du vet det egentligen, men glömmer det av bara farten. Det gör jag… Det var många år av mitt liv som det inte hanns med mycket jord under naglarna. Små barn, pendling och heltidsjobb tog all kraft. Fast ändå ville jag laga god och nyttig mat, ville ha snyggt hemma, vara snygg och snäll och allt. Och så några frön. Och för två år sedan i mars brakade jag in i väggen.
 
I en månad låg jag på soffan. Där grät jag när jag inte sov. Den nästa månaden klarade jag ibland att komma mig ut på balkongen och till landet. Då satt jag bara och stirrade mycket av tiden. Sedan började jag i liten skala börja röra mig och jobba i trädgården. Depressionen, ångesten och utmattningen blev bättre av att arbeta med frön, med jorden och med att röja tomten efter vintern. Efter ett tag kunde jag njuta av dofter och växtkraft, sol och regn.

I augusti 2015 började jag jobba halvtid, och från mars 2016 heltid. Då hade jag precis startat upp denna bloggen, våren var på gång och jag trodde att jag skulle klara mig på mitt universitetsjobb. Det gick inte så bra.

I januari 2017 tog det stopp igen. Mitt i värsta mörkret.

Så jag går här hemma. Inte hela tiden. Jobbar deltid. Men jag har tid till odlingarna just nu. Jag har möjlighet till att fixa med växtbelysning, bokashi, sådder och omskolning och pill och dill. Visst ser det fint ut, visst ser det ut som om jag fixar det mesta! Men glöm inte att det långt på väg är en chimär. Det är inte perfekt, fast det ser fint och flott ut. Jag orkar inte varje dag, och kanske inte så mycket de dagarna jag orkar. Men det blir ju mycket mer än när jag jobbade heltid och inte var sjukskriven. Och därmed blir det kanske kravfylld för andra att läsa!

Jag ville bara säga detta. Dels för att säga något om hur läkande och helande trädgård och odling är. Men också för att jag vet hur lätt det är att jämföra sig med andra, och för att påpeka hur olika våra möjligheter och resurser är.

Strävan efter perfektion går emot naturen. Naturen är inget utan dens ständiga död och nedbrytning. Men det är just i denna ambivalensen, växlingen mellan liv och död att naturen själv skapar näring och livskraft.

 

Det är fort gjort att skapa en bild av vad en själv tycker att man borde få till, en utopisk bild som så alltför ofta går långt ut över vad som är praktisk möjligt. Många är som jag, tror jag. Vi samlar mentalt på alla bilder av alla perfekta tomater och köksland och komposter vi ser – och skapar omöjliga ideal som vi strävar efter. Även om vi inte vill, blir vi litet besvikna på oss själva när inte vi får till det lika bra. Och då blir plötsligt inte odlandet lustfylld och helande längre. Då blir det ännu ett prestationskrav.

Gör inte som jag gjorde. Ta hänsyn till dig själv istället. Och din omgivning. Utmattade människor i sin närhet är inte kul för familj och kollegor. Även om det kan verka skönt att vara sjukskriven och gå och pyssla med odlingarna är det inte en önskvärd situation. Jag har svårt att tänka, har svårt att planera, glömmer allt, är alltid trött och sliten, och den minsta lilla oroliga tanke gör att stressen skjuter i taket.

 

 Låt gå, låt bero, låt vila.

Gör bara det du mår bra av på din balkong, i din trädgård. Och gör det bara när du orkar och kan. Och gör det utan att tänka att det ska bli perfekt. Det kan kosta på tok för mycket.

 

Living in a Shifting World

Today, November 9th, the world shifted. Trump was elected President of the USA. I’m not American, obviously, but the elections echo and possibly predict developments in Europe as well. I am doing my best to think constructively about it. I need to work out how to put my energy, emotions and thoughts into political action. I refuse to give up hope for a better world. I strongly believe this is a stronger enabler and motivator than hopelessness, which inevitably leads to passivity and depression.

I am not alone in having an acute awareness that we are actually facing a true dystopic future. As many of my readers know, I have done some research into Science Fiction and ethics. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale from 1985 is eerily relevant. When we are facing true dystopic possibility, I think we more than ever need creative visions of that we might otherwise move towards. Not in the form of impossible, naive utopia, but as informed, reflective, complex imagination of the new paths we as global and local community/communities need to create.

Beginning with myself, I am thinking about the contexts in which I can raise my voice. I need to face today’s disaster, coupled with Brexit and other political developments in Europe, with a call to keep democracy, fairness, truth, solidarity, hope and kindness alive. The content(s) and meaning(s) of these words need continuous negotiation for them to have moral, relational and political authority locally and globally. 

The photograph of my chilly pelargoniums illustrates ambivalence and difference. Summer and winter, hope and despair, inside and outside, colour and whiteness, home and away – all in the same image, in my close vicinity. Reality is complex and paradoxical. We need tools to cope with this thickness and diversity, and strive accordingly towards wise action.

Don’t forget Obama’s “Yes we can”! We can. And we must. We must, however, begin with ourselves.

So what can I do? I can think. I can write, and I need to raise my voice. However, I need the courage. It is not easy in a screaming and potentially hateful world. I don’t think I have that courage. I also have, what seems to be, green fingers. My plan for political action, which I have written about before, is more important than ever. Gardening can be politics too. I can, and will, create a community garden for and with my neighbours. I need to start doing it.

What can you do? What do you need in order to act constructively towards a better world

(This text was slightly edited on March 14th, if only to make it more readable…)

Fredens Rike – En trädgård för alla

I Flemingsbergs centrum finns en skulptur från 1991 gjort av stenkonstnären Pye Englund. Den heter “Fredens Rike”, och är baserad på en text från Jesaja 11:6-8 i Gamla Testamentet/Den Hebreiska Bibel:

Då skola vargar bo tillsammans med lamm och pantrar ligga tillsammans med killingar; och kalvar och unga lejon och gödboskap skola sämjas tillhopa, och en liten gosse skall valla dem…”.

Nu är en ny trädgård i Flempan på gång, en stadsodling. På måndag 26 september skall det hållas ett informationsmöte i Fleminsgbergs bibliotek, där jag berättar om de planer som redan finns, tar emot nya förslag och idéer – och bildar en odlarförening, om allt går efter planen. Kolla vårt infoblad Fredens Rike – en trädgård för alla!

I augusti kom vi i lokaltidningen: Läs artikeln här!

På bilden ser du en av ungdomarna i Tillsammans för Flemingsberg, som i sommar började lite med vad som ska växa till en trädgård. Fastighetsbolaget Huge hade stora stöpjärnurnor som vi fick fyllda med jord – och jag och ungdomarna planterade blommor, bönor, tomat, örter, rädisor, asiatisk kål, mangold, trädgårdsmålla, ringblomma och mer. Det är ingen prunkande trädgård just nu, men den finns – och bara vänt till nästa år!

Trädgården i Flempan kommer att bli väldigt viktig i mitt liv, och jag hoppas verkligen att vi får till detta! Jag ser även fram emot att berätta mer!

 

The Garden(s) in August

Summer is coming to an end. On Monday, the autumn term starts at Uppsala University. All I’ve posted since June, was about patchwork quilts.

I have spent a lot of time in the garden(s), or cooking, or sewing, or playing games with the children, or travelling. A lot of the time has been offline, and I have needed this. I don’t know, but suspect that as the days become shorter and there is less to do outside, the blog will come to life again.

So, folks, Krikonkraken isn’t dead! She has just been fattening up, gathering strength and preparing the soul for a long winter ahead.

Today I started the day working on the balcony. I then picked up my old sewing machine from it’s first service in probably about 30 years! I spent the rest of the day working from the summer house. Just as I was closing up my documents for the day, I saw that through the darkish clouds, a little stream of beautiful evening light spread through the garden. Here is what I saw. It made me happy!

(Comment to the photos: I’m having trouble with getting photographs the right way up on different platforms… I “straightened” them out on my iPhone, and they went wonky on my Mac. I think I’ve found out how to solve the problem, but it takes a little time. So bear with me and angle your head (or not), depending on which platform you are reading this on!)

Patchwork

I love quilts. When I was six years old, we lived in Pasadena, California, for a year. My mamma took a patchwork class, and made a beautiful quilt that we have at Engholmen, our summer house in Norway. Since Pasadena, I have loved the idea of creating something new of small pieces of fabric.

I have several books about quilts, and my favourites are those that show quilts with stories and histories. Some quilts I just love because they are beautiful and make me happy. Often, however, there is so much more to a quilt than the aesthetics. As certain aspects of American woman history is powerfully told through quilts, the stories can be sad, strong, harsh and brutal. But somehow, there is redemption in the piecing together of scraps to create a new, whole and precious comforters. For that is part of what a quilt is. You wrap it around you to keep you warm and comfy. I am fascinated by the idea of wrapping myself in female history and women’s stories.

When I was younger, I loved picking pretty, matching patterns in a shop. Now, when I do patchwork, I always use fabric with a history. Preferably our own family clothing history, as I know the stories behind the clothes so well. I find it extremely difficult to part with my kids’ or my own clothes – even if they are outgrown or damaged. The colours and patterns are full of memories.

I also enjoy “upcycling” old clothes from second hand shops. For one, it is definitely cheaper. Old fabric is far superior to new, because it is soft and “lived” and looks and feels ever so much better than chemically treated and stiff material in trendy colours and patterns – however nice.

I’m not a careful seamstress. I measure roughly, take silly chances that things will fit together. If not, I try to turn the problem into an asset, and more often than not, I come up with better ideas than I initially had! I race along the seams on one of my two sewing machines. They are a Husqvarna from 1935 that I use at the cottage. It only has backwards and forwards mode, and only one stitch length. It works like clockwork! At home I use a Brother machine, which was the first thing I bought for my new household when I moved to Oslo as a new student in 1991. It’s noisy and I have ongoing issues with the under spool. I love them both.

I thought I’d show some of the stuff I’ve made the last five years. I really, really wish I had time to do more, and that I could develop my skills further. I also wish I had the patience for a really, really spectacular piece. I don’t, however, and to be honest, speed belongs to the pleasure. In a few hours (or in some cases, a few days), a bunch of old trousers and blouses and sheets become transformed. By me. And as quilting is craftwork more than artwork, I can actually use the results, – and feel that I have contributed to the world in a tiny, little way.

The first two pieces are baby blankets, made for my children’s twin cousins. The next is a bedspread (now an un-ironed wall hanging) I made for my daughter’s fifth birthday. There is a blanket we keep in our living room made from four pairs of corduroys and a skirt. Today I finished making a picnic blanket, which one of our dear family friends is modeling. It is made from IKEA-scraps and a waxed tablecloth. Finally, are the bedspreads I made for the summer house bedroom…

 

 

 

Damson days

I was quite overwhelmed with all the response I got after I posted my experience of “Kraken days” last week. I had comments and messages on Facebook and messenger, I got emails, IRL-conversations and phone calls from so many friends and family. Your concern really touched me and I felt very uplifted. Thanks, all you gorgeous people. How much you mean to me!

Fortunately, and this is a major difference from a year ago, there are also many “Krikon days”. (Or, because the alliteration is better in English, “Damson days”.) Yes, I had a few down days and they were not nice at all. Quite horrible, in fact. However, they were followed by good days. And this is normal in life. And what, when you come to think of it, is “good” in this context? When I stretched out a hand from a Kraken day (articulating what I probably never would have done on a Krikon day) it led to a shower of kind words, of people stretching out their hands to me. If this isn’t good, I don’t know what is. This is, however, a sign that I am better. When I was at my worst, I couldn’t grasp a stretched out hand. Now I can. I hope.

For being better, or even well, doesn’t mean that all is well always. But it does mean that the view from the bottom doesn’t have the power to define what I perceive as “me” or “reality”. It is challenged by the other stories, the experiences of happiness and fulfilment and people close to me who love me – and whose love I can accept because I can, despite my feelings of otherwise, see that I am worth it.

I think this is the worst part of bad days: Not feeling worthy of love. The deep embarrassment of being who I am, cringing with and crippled by shame. And not being capable of taking in another person’s story of who I am. On bad days, the story I tell about myself is told by what I on good days can see is an untrustworthy and destructive narrator. She (my shadow?) holds up a black mirror to my inner self. And I believe that my own voice represents true reality. I cannot do otherwise. I cannot challenge my own, false – or rather, narrow, story. That is what the sickness is. The black mirror of depression and exhaustion.

I want to develop some thoughts I had at work today which relate to all these personal experiences. This is an aspect I love about my job: it gives plenty of opportunities to really think things through, in dialogue with bright minds. The trick is, though, to carve out time enough to actually think som long thoughts…

In preparation for our weekly ethics seminar this afternoon, I had the opportunity to think about narration of life (a favourite theme), with special regard to the relevance of narrative perspective. Is life, and thus morality, told from the first, second or third person perspective? From which perspective ought the ethicist work? We discussed a new book by a person I admire very much, the theological ethicist from Åbo in Finland, Tage Kurtén. In his book, he claims that moral language must have a first person perspective and that we as ethicists ought to be wary of the claim of a neutrality of a third-person perspective.

I really enjoyed thinking about these patterns of thought. It also occurred to me that although I agree with the primacy of a first-person perspective, a more distanced perspective is needed for the first person’s complex subjective experience to be fully articulated. (I don’t think Tage disagrees. What I am saying here is not in opposition to his book. It is a personal spin-off.)

Let me take an example. Think of a coin. And it’s two sides. It is impossible to see both sides from a single perspective. But both are needed for the coin to be considered valid as currency. They belong inherently together – but can only be seen in full one at a time. You have to know, or trust, that from a different perspective, the other side exists.

When I fell in love with my husband, one of the things I fell for was his relaxed and tolerant attitude, his laid-back-ness and, not least, his acceptance of me. Warts and all. Now, after ten years of marriage, I sometimes need to remind myself that these exact character traits are the still there and typical of him (bless him), but that I sometimes only see the other side of them. The dark side.

In a stressed daily life and from the perspective of a bad mood, I can interpret these traits in negative terms. Hubby therefore sometimes sometimes comes across to me as lacking in initiative and responsibility, a person who lazily accepts problems without trying to solve them and who doesn’t challenge my story when I need it to be challenged (at least not in the way I want to be challenged). If, however, I can take a step backwards, I can remind myself that I am seeing HIM in a black mirror. I therefore need to challenge my first person perspective. I need to take a step back from the story I am telling in order to incorporate both, true sides of who he is. And I need to listen to HIS story, his first-person narration.

I also need to see both sides of my own, dominant character traits. When I’m up, I need to remind myself to take responsibility for the dark side of myself. When I’m down, I need to remind myself that all is not hopeless – that I am worth something. That there is value in who I am. Although I can’t see it when I am down, I need to trust that it is there. Like both sides of a coin, for it is difficult to see both at the same time.

So. That all became rather complicated. But Krikonkraken is, in many ways, a project in which I am exploring all these double aspects of life and identity. I have Kraken days, and I have Krikon days. Both are ambiguous. Life IS complicated.

A very concrete example of a Krikon day was last Friday, when a friend and I visited the major Swedish Garden Fair (Nordiska Trädgårdar). Guess what I now have in my garden: Gamla Wasa blåkrikon! I have been so frustrated, because damson has been almost impossible to buy in Sweden. And I really wanted one. My friend saw it first, and the rest of the fair I walked around with a big grin trying not to poke people with my little tree. It is, in fact, not much yet. As you can see in the picture above. But it IS a damson.

To close this rambling post: There are ups and downs, straight aheads and status quos in life. The trick is to go with the flow, I find. Not panic, but live through the downs, enjoy and relish the ups, try to navigate where to go ahead and allow restfulness in status quo. Also, and this I have learnt is important: to accept backwards steps. They can lead to new directions and different perspectives. This blog is a way in which I try to cope and understand all these movements and directions in my own life. And to see that Kraken days can, in fact, highlight happiness, friendship and love.

Kraken days

In earlier posts, and in my presentation of myself, I have said a few words about depression and exhaustion. I have been meaning to expand on this, and write a longer post on “stress related fatigue syndrome with depression” – which was my diagnose. I have thought that when I am well, I will write retrospectively and wisely about being ill. Fat chance.

I’ve found it too difficult to sort out my thoughts about being (mentally) ill, and what I want to go “public” with. I do want to write about it because so many I know are affected, and I think we need to talk about it in public. Not that it is never done. It is an affliction which is getting more and more attention in the media and in society. But still: How ought I write? It is difficult to write about and talk about as there is so much shame and embarrassment connected to mental illness. And I don’t want to be too private. But how not be private, if we are to talk about it in society?

Also, I haven’t lately had much time or energy to reflect, let alone write about it. All my effort has gone into managing work and family. What little time has been left I have gardened, sown and prepared for the growing season – and spent time at the summer house in order to gather some of the precious energy spent otherwise.

Finally, and the main reason for why I haven’t managed to write about it, is that I am not through it yet. And I don’t think I will be for some time. I will have to write in medias res. From the middle of muddle. So. The short story of the last year is this:

In March last year, I “crashed”. Escalating stress and depression which had built up over years floored me, and I couldn’t cope. All physical and mental capacities just closed down. I slept. And slept. And cried. And hid from the world. Apart from these “activities”, all I could do the first months was to watch the sitcom “Modern Family” and read old favourite books for the millionth time. Terry Pratchett, Susan Howatch, James Herriot… I couldn’t take in a whole film or a new story. Watching or reading the news was unthinkable. The world was too big for me.

I couldn’t plan a meal. After a month or so I had a close friend to visit, and decided we would have herring and potatoes for lunch. That would be easy, I thought. I forgot the potatoes. I’d always forget the main things I needed when I went shopping, even if I had a shopping list of five items. I’d forget to look at the list. I went out without my purse one day, and had to go back home three times to get it – but kept forgetting it because I went to the loo, or couldn’t remember why I’d come back. I thought I might have alzheimers. It was horrible. I couldn’t get my daughter to cello lessons in time, and missed the few appointments I had.

With April and May last year, spring came and I started to read gardening books and watch old gardening programmes on You Tube. They were easy. I could just open a book anywhere and dip in. No “whole” to cope with. Just a chapter on asparagus here or a film on permaculture there. The weather was good, and I’d be able to do work in the garden. I didn’t have to do anything, so whatever I did was a bonus and gave me a sense of meaning. And the garden was full of symbols. The image of “Krikon” represents all the hope, power and beauty of life that I started to sense again. Spring. New life from dead material. The garden saved me from sinking too far, dragged down by “Kraken”. I got foothold on land, and slowly managed to climb up.

In August last year I came back to work half time, which was tough. But I managed, more or less. I didn’t do a good job, but every now and again things went all right and I thought that I might have a future at the university after all. Only on the first of March this year I came back to full time work after a year of sick leave. Now, in my second month back at work, I cope most of the time. But not all the time.

For I do have days when the Kraken dominates. It drags me down and I have to fight the monster. It is exhausting. Yesterday and today are such days. My mind and body gang up on me and decide to “play dead”. I am constantly tired. Tired in a sense that I never quite understand. Deeply tired. And quite sad.

So why now? I really do not have time for a visit from the Kraken now. But it seems to know when to attack. Last week was intense with lots of classes and administration. It was stimulating and fun, but it took a lot of energy meeting so many students and people, and having to organise all that needed to be organised. This week is full of grading and administration, which is also intense, but in a different way. I can work from home. I should be able to cope.

But no. The Kraken is hovering. I’m behind with my work, and students are waiting for their results and my comments. I just want to sleep and sleep – and have in fact slept away hours. I’ve tried to find some extra energy by repotting plants, which did help a little. Writing this post is a little bit of procrastination, I admit that, but it is mostly a very serious attempt to face what is going on in me and to realise that I am not quite well yet, and must respect that.

In order to fight the Kraken and cope with my work load, I need to tell myself that it is not that I am lazy or a fool or incompetent. It’s just that my mind is not yet restored. Reading and commenting text after text does not compute well in a burnt out mind. And this applies however well the students write, for I am very pleased with most of what they have done. It’s not them, it’s me. And I wish I could give them more than I can. But in order to do the job I need to accept that I’m slow, which is hard. I want to be perfect, which I’m not. I need to fight the perfectionism, as it is part of why I became ill. Why is it so difficult?

So, for whoever has bothered to read, this was a small excursion to one of my Kraken days.