Finally a Summer at the Summerhouse
There is a place up north where I spent all my summers as a kid. It’s right by the water, surrounded by the deep pine and spruce forest. Just like many other Swedish summerhouses this one is red with white borders. My grandpa started building it 1950, and it was finally done in 1955 after a couple of setbacks. Not a single day is the same up there, sometimes you can’t see the other side of the bay because of all the mist, and other times the whole water body is clear as a mirror as you watch the sky turn pink when the sun sets. Sometimes, in the middle of the night you can watch the lightning penetrate the water from the large panorama windows in the living room. Sometimes you can smell the summer rain in the morning or that strong and sometimes overwhelming smell of labrador tea if you are out on the mire.
This is where I learned the names of the different plants that are common in the boreal forest. That same knowledge that brought me to Alaska and then later on gave me free trip to Nome. Pine, spruce, labrador tea, fireweed, larch, birch and the list can continue in all eternity. This is where I learned when to pick the blueberries and how to make blueberry porridge. This is where I learned where the gold of the north grows, and the pain you sometimes have to go through to get those precious berries. But more importantly, this is where I learned how to swim, fish, and care about the nature.
It’s a Fishy Business
At the summerhouse our main food source was the fish. We ate (well i guess we still do) fish for breakfast lunch and dinner. In the evenings we would get the boat out and go fishing farther into the bay. Sometimes we took the boat out to the “black sea” as we used to call it, because it was so deep and the water was all black out there, and tried our luck with the fishing nets out there. That place scared me, but it was always a thrilling adventure to go all the way out there. Most often though we took the boat out and laid our fishing nets straight out from the shoreline. This became something that I helped my dad with a lot. Laying out the fishing net in the evening, and picking it back up early next morning, before the seagulls started to get into them.
This summer W, his mom and aunt came with me to Sweden and the summerhouse. We had such a nice time and I loved that I was finally able to show them where my roots are. In the evening we all went out in the boat and put out three fishing nets and wished for the best.
As a fisherman, or fisherwoman the are no late mornings, and we got up early the next day to claim our bounty before the seagulls did.
Once the nets are back up on dry land the tedious work begins. First, the struggle to untangle and remove the fish from the net, and second to clean the net.
My dad of course knows how to untangle the nets like the back of his hand. He is a man of many trades and being a fisherman is one. He easily balances around the stones by the beach before he pushes out the boat from the shore wearing his clogs, just as easy as he removes the fish from the net. He knows exactly how much or how little of the juniper you need to get that perfect smell and flavor of a smoked fish.
Life is calmer at the summer house, and maybe this is also where I learned to appreciate life. From now on a visit to the summerhouse will be on my bucketlist for every single year ahead. If you ever wonder how it is to feel rich, this is it. A freezer full of fish and berries, and everything else you can acquire from the land.
When I was young my mom taught me how to clean and fillet the fish, she was a master of this and one summer I became one too. That was a long time ago, and I can’t really remember how to do it. But every now and then when we buy whole fish I magically know exactly where to cut the fish to remove the bones. My dad was doing this job now, he claims he’s not good at it, that mom was the master. The more I think about it, the more I understand where my ability to prepare things from scratch comes from. It all started here.