Last year at this time Zippy and I were in Uppsala, Sweden, visiting our son Zebu. He took us to his favorite place to fika. In Sweden, everyone takes a daily coffee (and pastry) break with friends, family, colleagues, fellow students, etc. Unfortunately, we went during a non-fika time so the place was empty. Still, it was easy to imagine the rooms filled with students drinking coffee and eating enormous cinnamon buns.
As I write this, Zebu is in Colorado finishing up his third final final-exam. He graduates later this week and one of my hopes for his future is that he always makes time for such a mid-day break. Fika strikes me as a very sensible path to health and happiness.
Sometimes I read a scene I’ve written and think, “Whoa, that’s way too much choreography. You’re doing a play-by-play of your character’s every move.” Then I cut some verbiage, chastising myself for cluttering yet another scene with too much distracting movement.
Today, I came across this photo of Zebu and me taken last spring in Uppsala, Sweden.
There’s a whole lotta movement going on in this slice of real life and the photo is a good example of what I want from the choreography in my scenes. I want the movement to tell a story.
* Edgar Degas
Last August, my 20-year-old son left for Uppsala, Sweden. He lived and studied there for two semesters. As I write this, he is flying back to Colorado. His study abroad adventure is nearly over. (The adventure continued up to the last minute: He and nine other passengers were caught in a long, passport line and arrived at their gate just after it closed, so Iceland Air stopped the plane out on the runway and had a bus deliver Zebu and the other nine passengers to the plane.)
Over the past several months, Zebu has said that his study abroad experience has been the best year of his life. It didn’t start out so well.
When he arrived in Uppsala, he discovered that TSA had locked his suitcase. Half his belongings, including his raincoat, were inside. He paid a taxi driver way too much to drive him into the city and then spent an entire rainy day hauling the 50-pound suitcase around the cobblestones, trying to get it unlocked. Kind people in luggage stores tried different keys, with no success. Someone finally directed him to a shoe repair store where the man cut the locks off the suitcase.
Zebu later confessed that that day, as he struggled with language barriers, a lack of wifi, hunger, and jet lag, he wanted nothing more than to turn around and fly back home.
Obviously, he’s very glad he stayed. And here he is in May, standing outside that shoe repair store.
I asked to see that store when we visited, because it felt symbolic. I was privy (via phone call and texts) to his frustration and panic as he couldn’t get his suitcase open, and tried to help from my end. He ended up finding his own solution. And ten months later, a confident young man is returning home after the best experience of his life.
For that, I am very grateful.
Today is the day, I thought. Today, the photo of me with the Stabby bus will make its blog debut. (The image was captured our first day in Uppsala. Zebu spotted the bus coming up the street, and I quickly handed off my phone and posed next to it when it stopped. Those who know me well know that I quite frequently “feel stabby,” which is why I was thrilled when Zebu captured the original Stabby bus image for me.)
Today is one of those “I’m feeling stabby” days. So I went back and found the photo.
Huh? That woman does NOT look as if she’s feeling stabby. She’s smiling, happy, and, aside from the claw-like curve to her right hand**, looks pretty damned relaxed. Not at all stabby.
I almost gave up on today’s stabby theme. And then it hit me: this photo is perfect for today’s post. Why? Because the reason for my stabby feelings is that I’m struggling with two characters’ friendship in the opening pages of my new project. I’m struggling to smooth out their interactions so as to establish their relationship and character arcs, and suddenly, it feels as if the first 60 pages are a steaming pile of mixed messages.
So what better photographic representation of mixed messaging than this photo of the smiling me next to the Stabby bus?
HA! I’m suddenly feeling slightly less stabby.
** me simulating holding a pointy object in preparation of stabby motions.
We’re back home from our travels. My body is slowly adjusting to its usual time zone, but I still feel like I’m sleepwalking through glue.
I wanted to document the wallpaper I put on my phone at the start of our trip. The Minneapolis Airport had an employee art exhibit that we really enjoyed. This painting by Julie Fischer is titled QUARTER-LIFE CRISIS, and it won Best of Show in the Airport Foundation Employee Art Show.
Over the past ten days, I saw this image every time I looked at my phone. Something about the oxygen mask and a jet plane through the solar plexus felt very apt.
This afternoon, Zippy and I took the train from Stockholm to Uppsala where Zebu has been studying for two semesters. He took us on a walking tour of the university town where I was thrilled to see evidence of a phenomenon he’d described during one of our Skype sessions:
Bikes in the river.
Thanks for making my day, anonymous bike-thrower!