There was a time, in my early twenties, that I wandered far afield, and I alit in Europe in general, but especially in Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden). I did some grape picking in France and some olive harvesting in Greece. But, for me, the focal point was travels in Norway, where I primarily worked on dairy and sheep farms, and many trips in and around Sweden.
In Sweden I encountered the family Hellgren, who, I think, recognized that I was living within a cloud of adventure, youth, and confusion, and they in some way adopted me. Birger and MajLis Hellgren were in their early thirties, raising two kids (Maria–8 years old; Anders–6 years old), in a small town called Vansbro in county Dalarna. I traveled in and out of their lives many times, and always they showed kindness to me.
I’m a parent of two boys–19 and 22 years of age. They’ve grown up; they’ve moved well beyond the sphere of my direct influence. It’s a lonely realization of a natural fact. Their trajectories are ever more their own, and I bid them well on the journey of their lives. And I hope that these fledglings, in their encounters with the world….will have the good fortune to encounter such fine and kind-hearted people as the Hellgren family.
And so the extended family Hellgren, thirty four years after first contact, are mustering to make possible this swim-across-lake-siljan. On the pilot boat will be my original friend, Birger (observer); his son Anders (was 6 when I met him, now is 40; will be support leader); Birger’s nephew Stig (boat owner); Birger’s son-in-law Owe (kayaker); and Birger’s grandson Emil (kayaker).
Here’s a picture of Maj Lis and Anders, and Birger and myself, back in the summer of 1981. I don’t have a picture of Maria (Anders’ sister). Maria is married to one of the kayakers (Owe), and the mother of the other kayaker (Emil).
I arrive in Sweden on July 21st, and the swim happens on July 26. Then I’ll be hanging out with the Hellgren family until I fly back home on August 10. Fishing, hiking, staying at their lake cabin…
The cabin is on a nearby lake called Djupsjön, and the cabin has the name “Hällebo”. Three decades ago I spent a lot of time at that cabin, fishing, playing cards, swimming, with many generations of Hellgrens. (It might be that a translation of “Hällebo” is “Hellgren’s nest”.)
Bonus picture: This is Emil from one or two years ago, when he killed an älg (moose).
I ate a lot of moose 3 decades ago when I was living in Sweden; I expect the same on this trip. (I am gonna literally be “älg-powered” on this swim–as described in an earlier post The Swimmer’s Energy)