• elizabethpeterson922

A new season at Bastubacka

When we were here two weeks ago, it was still summer. Now autumn is in full swing.


The summer here was so long and relaxing, so full of wonder and discovery and growing familiarity. Now, like any relationship expected to last: we have to adapt to each other's changes. During the summer, the first thing we did when we arrived was to check the garden and go sit by the beach. Now, the first thing we do is light a fire. And we really need to finish up that indoor toilet.


The forest, of course, is the site of the most dramatic changes. The blueberries are still hanging on, but they won't last much longer. Yesterday we finally found the most prolific small meadow of berry bushes we have so far, and not a moment too soon. At this point, the blueberries--which, to be more accurate, are actually bilberries (low-bush wild berries)--are giving way to deep red lingonberries. Yum.


While two weeks ago the forest was a symphony of different shades of green, now it's a conglomeration of contrasting colors. Nothing could prepare me for how weird forest mushrooms look in Finland. I am no mushroom expert (and probably never will be), but I have it on good authority that the one in the basket pictured here is a porcini.



There were many others porcini, but it seems they are already past their prime, full of worms and mostly gnawed away by insects.


(The apple in the basket is another story, by the way. It is from our apple tree, but the apples are still tiny, very sour, and as hard as rocks. I don't know what kind of apples they are, or what we will do with them.)


The vivid colors of the mushrooms make for a decided Alice in Wonderland type of experience.




A few other surprises are scattered throughout our forest, too. Every time we visit, we find something new to discover: a pet's grave, a neolithic-looking ant hill, a set of moose antlers. Yesterday I found two old bottles of Karjala beer nestled in amongst some blueberry bushes. From the look of them, they have been there for a few decades already, never opened.


Of course my imagination goes off and running. Who left those bottles there, and how long ago? Was it kids, like described by Knausgaard in his book My Struggle, Book 1, when, as teenage boys in Norway, they hid their beer in a field so they could retrieve it later for a party? Or was it someone like my own dad, whose stash of beer was hidden in a remote corner of his acres of farmland, away from my mother's (and the rest of the town's) critical eyes?





Poor Dad. I didn't keep his beer stash a secret.

One time, during a visit to my parents as a young adult, I decided to go for a walk around Dad's farm, which, typical for Mormon villages, was a few miles outside the main town. During my inspection of his acreage, I came across several unopened cans of Olympia beer lying in a corner of a field.


When I arrived back home, Mom and Dad were in the kitchen. I announced, "Dad, I found a bunch of beer in a field at the farm. Isn't that weird?" The look on both my mother's and my father's faces at that moment. Dad blushed and raised his eyes skyward. My mother cut him some serious slant eye. There was silence. And who knows what trouble ensued later, when they were alone.


As a little kid, I remember Dad coming home smelling ripe with sweat after a long day in the fields and opening a can of Coors beer. I remember the acrid, unfamiliar odor of the beer, and that he sprinkled a little salt around the opening where the pull tab had been. I don't remember when that ritual would have stopped, only that at some point it did. My mother, who was always the more exact and observant of my Mormon parents, must have finally won the argument about following Mormon guidelines: no beer, no alcohol.


For Dad, however, apparently the outcome of this series of arguments was to no longer drink beer at home. The farm was his territory. Out there, he could do whatever he wanted.


Later that night, after my trip to Dad's farm, one of my older brothers pulled me aside and whispered loudly, "Don't you know Oly is Dad's brand? It was his beer, and now you got him in trouble."


I guess my older brothers must have known all along. They were in on his secrets, and I wasn't.


I know it's a bit late, Dad, but I'm sorry for ratting you out. And also, if you are reading this, I miss you.


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