Hemester. Svemester. Fitting words that have entered the Swedish lexicon, derived from hem (home)+ semester (vacation) or Sverige (Sweden) + semester (vacation). Their version of the English-language staycation to describe holidaying at home this summer due to the coronavirus. I like to call it my Swecation or Swedish vacation. My family usually spends long weekends and a large part of June, July, and August at our second home in the Stockholm archipelago. For the last ten years, we’ve interspersed those months with trips to the United States to visit family and friends along with jaunts to Italy, Greece, France, and Turkey. I love the combination of having the archipelago as our base, where we can work and play, enjoying the overflowing light and fleeting warmth, mixed with exploring new cultures and landscapes abroad. However, the virus, travel restrictions, and our strict policy to avoid flying unless absolutely necessary have changed our plans. Staying in one place for an extended period has given us the opportunity to reflect and recharge and we don’t miss the stress of airports and lost luggage at all!
The archipelago in the shadow of COVID-19 has often felt like an alternate reality. One is able to social distance more effectively, the air feels cleaner, and the surroundings seem more protected. Life proceeds at a leisurely pace and sometimes I’ve forgotten, however briefly, that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. I’ve also gotten a lot done on my new novel (first draft complete!) and since the setting is a fictional island on the outskirts of the archipelago, there’s been an abundance of inspiration and fresh impressions. Above all, I’m very grateful to have this place my family and I can retreat to, especially as I think about those who have been sick with Covid-19 or lost loved ones, in addition to the devastating economic impact.
This insidious virus and its aftermath are far from behind us. If anything, it is having a resurgence and we must remain cautious and vigilant. It can strike anyone at any time. My Swecation has offered joy and solace but the summer will eventually end, and we’ll have to resume our modified form of human existence. Until then, I’m cherishing this time in the archipelago and hope these snapshots will convey moments of beauty and enjoyment amid the chaos and uncertainty.
There are so many idyllic vantage points in the archipelago; boats, beaches, and charming coves.
I arranged store-bought blooms for a recent tablescape when we had friends over for lunch. Entertaining is a big part of the Swedish summer tradition since the warmer climate and relaxed atmosphere put everyone in a great mood!
We served Swedish classics: Skagenröra (shrimp with mayonnaise and dill), pan-fried perch, new potatoes, asparagus, and sugar snap peas. My sixteen-year-old son and his friend made the fish and it was perfect!
I love to read and enjoy my morning coffee outside. The roses in our garden have also exploded!
This summer has reminded us how fragile life is and gifted me with a renewed appreciation for homegrown pleasures. I hope your summer is filled with happy occasions; please stay safe and healthy!