Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A summer of contrasts

Every year, around this time, J and I start planning our summer vacation. Having families in two different parts of the world, each family with their own summer plans, and two cats that need a sitter, planning is not an easy feat.

This year, some puzzle pieces are falling into place without us having to lift a finger. The first leg of our summer tour has already been booked. We're leaving for northern Sweden as soon as our vacation starts, for our annual pilgrimage to the Swedish mountains. J's family has had a tradition going for over 20 years, where they rent a cabin right by Kungsleden – The Royal Trail (a 400-km long trail in the mountains) - and then spend a few days hiking there.

The flora diversity in the area is astounding

It's become my tradition too. I've hiked around these mountains a few times, taking in the amazing views of the Norwegian mountains across the border, meeting reindeer, listening to the eerie lament of Golden Plovers in the fog.

These mountains feel so ancient, so permanent, that if you sit down to rest, you start melting into the scenery after a while. You want to stay there, just breathing in and out calmly, at peace with yourself and the world. In the shadow of this gigantic landscape, everything else seems small. All everyday worries, all quibbles, all petty annoyances are put into perspective. The mountains will still be here long after you and your troubles are gone.

Last year I tried adding a new component to the tradition. I would add some running to my hikes, on some trail or at the base of the mountain. Unfortunately, I got ill and spent my time reading books in the cabin instead. Hopefully this year my health will allow me to follow through with my plans. I started eyeing an 11-km stage of Kungsleden, which I've hiked before. Running it twice (there and back) will be a challenge, as I'm not used to running on trails. But with some practice beforehand, and if I take it easy when I'm there, it should be no problem. The days are long up there; I will be in no hurry to get back.

A week later, I'm heading south to my family. To a very different environment. To the sea and warmth.

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