A year after we arrived in Sweden I started working at a health centre on the other side of Örebro. The suburb in which we live is on the south eastern corner of the city and in my musings as I cycled to work every day I reflected on the fact that I was cycling north, away from the warmth and toward the polar regions. As the months slipped by autumn deepened into winter and I experienced for the first time real cold. I remember the novel feeling of icy raindrops hitting my eyes as I sped down the hill. The greyness of November days was swallowed up by the blackness of lengthening winter nights.
November must surely be the worst month of the year. It is cold and wet and overcast and once the leaves have gone there is little to relieve the grey drabness. Two things stand out in the greyness of November in Sweden. The first is Allahelgonsafton – All Saints Eve – when churchyards all over the country come to life with candlelight. On the Saturday of that weekend people visit the burial places of their ancestors, leaving a long burning candle on the grave. Since many people are no longer buried, but rather cremated, when they die, leaving no headstone to visit, there are memorial gardens in cemeteries and churchyards too and these become a veritable sea of flickering candlelight. As morbid as it sounds, it it the graveyards of Sweden that bring relief to the darkness of November.
The other thing that marks this month is the mid term break, the so called höstlov – autumn holiday. It is perhaps not much of a time for a holiday, so nowadays many travel abroad, southward to warmer climes – Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Canary Islands.
We stayed home however, and one afternoon took a stroll through our local forest – Markaskogen. Walking back toward home in the darkening afternoon we heard telltale sounds overhead and as our eyes were drawn upwards we caught a glimpse of migratory birds, their long necks straining forwards. They too head south at this time of the year, away from the cold drabness towards somewhere warmer and happier. Some, like the swans in this photo, go no further than Denmark, but others have the good sense to not stop until they have crossed the Mediterranean into Africa.
Heading south seems the smartest thing to do when November greyness threatens to drown us in its drudgery. Times like this we wonder why we live in this cold northern land and not in our other home, Australia, the Great Southland.