XI. The family Hellgren

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).

sweden_BMAHere’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).

emil moose 2011

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)



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