Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Of the Ghosts of Birds and Their Feathers

.
Through the 1960's and 1970's
When I was growing up
We often drove two hours
Down almost to the Jersey shore
Stopping in the pine woods
At the edge of the marshlands
Where my grandparents lived
The latter 30 odd years of their lives
A quiet place far removed
From the madding crowds
Far from the beach and casinos that came later
Us kids we roamed those woods and marshes
While parents sat indoors
Speaking of things we could not fathom
We chased the squirrel, crawled with turtles
Endless days in the endless woods
Glimpes of vast spaces out across the salt marsh
Gulls and hawks soaring the cerulean blue
.
On two tall cedar poles in the clearing by the house
Two bird hotels stood welcoming all comers
Not surprising, my grandfather was in the hotel business
In my childhood years we watched
As swallows or finches or common sparrows I suppose
Came and went on their mysterious business
Bird business driven by basic survival
.
In 1988 I went back there and made these photos
The cedar poles sturdy as they were
Were still standing
But one house had lost its roof
Another was leaning, tilting
Succumbing to the inevitable force of gravity
The passage of time the rotting of wood
Painted once but never repaired
Hands grown too old to tackle such tasks . . .
Already then there were no inhabitants
Only the ghosts of birds and their feathers
Haunted those houses . . .
.























.
.























And why do these images fill me
With infinite sadness and longing
I want things to be different
But I know they never can be
We must live with our own reality
Even when that includes
Bird houses fallen down
Bird houses lying on the ground
.
Twenty years later
In April 2008 I went back again
Found one house fallen down
But surprisingly almost intact
With a hammer some nails
A can of white paint
A few hours of blood sweat and tears
Things could be made as good as new again
(In my bird brained dreams) . . .
What was the name of that book ?
You Can't Go Home Again ?
.




































.
.

39 comments:

louciao said...

Echoes, or beginnings of, your fascination with falling down abandonned houses? Almost controllable on this scale, at least seemingly so.

All life is change.

Change here for your future!
Ding! ding! ding! goes the folly.

The Sagittarian said...

Oh I know that book. I made the mistake of going to see my grandparents old house...it seemed bigger when I was younger and the new inhabitants had changed the look of the place and the big ol' hedge was gone...
Odd, Louciao and i arrived together!

Owen said...

Will wonders never cease then ??? The two of you thus have justly earned a well deserved Early Bird Award, which requires no acceptation speech, in fact it requires nothing at all, no image to post to your sidebar, no one to pass it on to, and today's prize, speaking of side bars, is to consume as many as you feel you responsibly can, of whatever libation the Saj decides to create today for tippling... Ding ding ding goes the trolley bell, dong dong dong goes the bell in the old asylum courtyard, where the blind and insane come out to take their evening constitutional... :-P

And Lynne, yes, you may be partially right, although the fascination may have started even earlier with childhood trips out west, where ghost towns were visited, hard to say where such a fascination starts... but I am still seeking that dream house...

So a very happy Tuesday to the two of you mad hatters... I'm off to tuck my head under my wing for a few hours...

Steve said...

I think what makes it most sad is that as bird houses... you almost wish they could fly...

Adam said...

The ghosts of early birds and their worms?

Birds make their homes almost anywhere, so I imagine that these houses were still in use long after the paint began to peel off and the pole began to fall towards the earth.

designslinger.com said...

I was born and raised in Chicago.
Moved back here just a few months ago after a long time away.
Been visiting old haunts, including the apartment building my grandparents purchased as immigrants in a new land.
It's not quite a bird house, but it was my first house.
The neighborhood does look like your 2008 bird house, but the old homestead doesn't look to worse for wear - which made me feel good. Even after all these years.

Jill said...

Hello Owen, I'm just taking a break (tea break) from scraping and sanding my front porch railing, which is in need of fresh white paint. If I have some left over I'll start on that bird house, okay?;)
So, what kids did you have to run around with at your grandparents' place?? siblings, cousins?

Loulou said...

Enjoyed very much flying on the flow of your words, nostalgic words, touching sadness... thank you Owen
Loulou

Patricia said...

Was this the Pine Barrens? We love that region and almost lived near there when my husband thought about working in Cape May. Great birding region...in fact, it the great flight patterns should be starting right about now.

La Framéricaine said...

There's another book: You Can Go Home Again: Reconnecting with Your Family by Monica McGoldrick... And I read it in March all the way to the funeral of my (step)grandmother in Oklahoma. It's very empowering and revelatory.

I too have always haunted the old houses where I lived as a child, as well as some where my parents lived as children. The first box that I opened in Le Blanc in September turned out to be full of old journals, clippings, archival material, and photos that I had taken 27 years ago of old homesteads Scotch-taped to ones I had taken 15 years ago when the house in question no longer existed in the space it had occupied before.

But I have the photos and I can recall Smokey the 5th or 6th racing through the apartment out the back door with my multi-hued blue-palette parakeet clutched in his jaws and my fat-wheeled bicycle no longer on the sidewalk out front where I had left it the night before in fatigue, inattentiveness, and, especially, lack of experience with petty thieves. I remember my twin bed in the walk-in closet, too. My mother's acquiescence to my request for "a room of my own."

Beautiful photos, touching poem, inviolable memories, Owen. Super bird hotels, too!

Janie said...

Great photos of the ghosts of youth. Somehow, even if things haven't changed so much, our perception of them has, as we grown older.
Very sad to see the bird houses abandoned and fallen into decay.

Karen said...

I remember driving to South Jersey from Central NJ. We usually went to the shore but sometimes to the pine barrens, the children's fantasy play place, or the Wheaton Glass works. I revisit that area sometimes when I go back. I fly into Atlantic City, rent a car, and drive up the back roads to Toms River. Some places haven't changed at all and others are unrecognizable.
I grew up further north and did do a nostalgia trek a few years ago. Very many changes and some well loved places just gone.
I think it's not that you can't go back but perhaps one shouldn't.

Japy said...

I like the last one with the birdhouse lying on the ground. I think it´s a very powerful photo. Greetings.

jeff said...

Fais gaffe Owen ! T'as un blogger qui s'appelle "Quiche" et qui n'est pas encore venu ! Je dis ça au cas où !
Je vois que tu as eu la nuit agitée et au matin... la cabane est parterre ! ! ! C'est Madame qui doit être ravie !...
Mais tu peux pas faire des poèmes en bon français ?... No passaran... Va de retro ! je ne lirais pas l'anglais, je ne lirais pas l'english, je ne lirais pas l'english... Tu n'y arriveras pas à me faire perdre ma bonne chère langue d'origine ! Je pense en français, je dors en français, je rêve en français, je... en français... et pas en english ! ! !
Maintenant, je sais que je dois m'attendre à des représailles de ta part mais viens... vas-y ! je t'attends de pied ferme ! non... je ne suis pas sous l'emprise de la BEEP ! Mais en colère de ces textes que je ne comprends pas même traduits, parce que cet idiot de traducteur me sort des inepties qui ne sont pas fidèles à ta pensée première... alors bon... que faire ? je te le demande Owen ! Que faire...? He bien rien ! je ne te lirais pas, je ne te lirais pas...;-)))
Par contre, les images, ça, j'y arrive ! Et tu vois, rien qu'à la lecture de tes photos, j'y mets toute ma poésie et mon interprétation... et pour quoi pas !
En ce qui concerne une future visite vers Hyères-les-Palmiers... tu fais les dents Owen ! ! ! Tu peux te rouler ! ! ! Je ne t'ai pas invité... Même en rêve ! ! ! Bon, ceci dit, la bouteille est au frais et t'attend toujours ! ! ! Parce que trêve de divagations... viendras-tu un jour dans le Sud ?...

Allez pixelpote !
Je t'adresse toutes mes amitiés ... françaises... et te dis à bientôt !
Ciao ! ( see you ?....Merde ! je l'ai dit ! )

TechnoBabe said...

Seem like these were honorable and strong bird hotels for a long time, and made by the hands of one who took the time to do a good job. That's why they lasted as long as they did. Your memories and your photos are a tribute to your grandfather.

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Owen~ I have that same wistful, nostalgic feeling at the end of summer. I'm going home to California for a week next week, but I won't feel quite like that as my mother is still living. One day, though, it will slowly disintegrate, and I'll be finding the odd rusted bit of something in the overgrowth. Sad. No, I guess we can't go home. I liked your tender, elegiac poem and thoughts.

Harry 'aka' Mojo said...

Hey Owen..as you know I spent many years in Southern New Jersey..at the shore and out in the Pinelands, this is where my brothers and I grew up..and what a place to be a kid!!! in the woods..My childhood home was in Absecon, and my family had a business on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey..my College years were spent at Stockton State College as it was called then..What part of South Jersey did you Grandparents live ? Wonderful story..and photos friend.. :-)
Harry/Mojo

Walter said...

Owen,
Those were the Martin houses for the Purple Martins that lived around that part of South Jersey. I'm amazed that much of one of the houses was still there.

Have they turned the property into the park that was talked about? I need to try to get out there for a look the next time I'm up that direction.

Walter

Owen said...

Hey Walter ! It's been a while... thanks for remembering about Purple Martins, I'm not sure I ever knew that, or if I did once, I'd forgotten long ago. I was amazed too that they were still looking this intact, just goes to show how solid they were, if 20 years later from the first photos, and probably at least 40 years after they were built by... Grandad ? His helper Paul ? they were still holding together and not totally disintegrated...

I was back there in April 2008, and could see no signs whatsoever of anything looking like a park, or a park-to-be; looks more like a park-that-isn't-going-to-happen... there are no trespassing signs up saying it's private property, but as I'm a very private person, I went anyway. The house is falling into disrepair, and was boarded up, siding was missing in some places, no sign of life at all. The paths to the inlet were overgrown, the bridges to the islands were down in the water (I did a post in these pages about that quite a ways back), but worst of all, the whole place is absolutely crawling with ticks. I walked all the way out to the far island across the marsh, and when I got back near the house I spent a good 20 minutes pulling ticks off my clothes, fortunately none had latched on yet, but just in that sense alone, the place is a disaster, let alone the house and entire property totally neglected. History... ancient history... I could see through a window by the front door that one of Grandma's porcelain owls was still on the mantel over the fireplace. I was sorely tempted to break and enter to re-possess it, but fear of judicial proceedings containing such words stayed my feloniously inclined hand... thanks for dropping by...

=======

Harry, a million pardons if you told me before that you were from South Jersey, if you did I must have read, filed, and forgotten, am suffering a bit from information overload these days... but I'm not sure that you did, because I think that would have rung a big brass bell in my head, just like happened now when reading this... Absecon ??? Did you say A-b-s-e-c-o-n ??? My Grandparents place was up near Smithville, between Smithville and Port Republic, which as you know is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Absecon... actually, they were close to Port Republic, but on the other side of the creek. If you go a ways back in my posts, maybe to last Fall, I think I already posted a photo of the Port Republic church from across the water... a beautiful bright white steeple. And if you click the "poems" label way down the right side of the sidebar, and look for a piece called "Between Two Islands", that is all about the marshlands near Port Republic. So I guess you know all about the Brigantine Wildlife Preserve, actually it seems now to be called the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, that was just up the road from my Grandparents place... Back in the late 1950s I think, my Grandfather picked up 400 acres of pine woods and marshland with a tidal inlet on it. Back in colonial days there was a small boat building shop there that built sloops which went out through Great Egg Harbor to harass British shipping... when I was little we used to dig up nails from the boatbuilding place. Anyway, sure Stockton State, and Wildwood, of course. South Jersey ! What a trip you lived in Absecon. We used to go through there all the time to head out to the beaches on Brigantine where our cousins lived, or into Atlantic City when the boardwalk still had some charm, before the casinos came... well, I could go on for hours, but that's fantastic, thanks my friend...

Owen said...

Everyone:
had a busy day a work, will be back just as soon as I can to continue answering your lovely, thoughtful comments here... gotta go get my beauty sleep now...

======================

desi said...

This is so so sad... :(

I know the feeling. I grew up with my grandparent on their farm. was the typical farmgirl...
20 years later, the farm is sold, and nothing is the same there anymore. the places where i use to feel so comfortable feels so strange today. and i realise that life goes on..but memories remain.
that's why photographs are so important. one should own one as a child..

desi said...

Own a CAMERA as a child...
:)

magnoliaamber said...

Owen it's been a while for me not to drop any comments...sometimes I just enjoy your photos. But this one really intrigues me..

You raise the childhood memory of everyone, I think.

Wonderful. And yes I do feel sad to look how you portrayed the fragile woody bird house from standing boldly, tilting here and there and fall down in the end.

It's rather sad...

K'line Bloom said...

Bonsoir Owen,
Est-ce la nostalgie qui enjolive, sublime les souvenirs, ou est-ce le temps qui, en passant, transforme nos rêves en de tristes épaves ?
Je te laisse méditer...
Amitiés,
K'line

babbler said...

Owen,
An image of Mr. Goat, er, Butter, comes into view, he is investigating your fallen birdhouse and looking at it with an inquisitive eye....he gently gives it a loving butt with his head and trots down the hill to find a clump of fresh grass to nibble upon. Chewing thoughtfully, he turns and looks at the birdhouse to see if it has moved. It has not. It is at rest, and Mr. Goat does not even realize that it is a sad sight for a grown kid. He thinks, "I was a kid myself, once. I might have eaten that birdhouse if I were a younger goat." He has taken another bite of grass and returned to his goat house for a nap.
Warm goat bellies in the sun to ya,
Mrs. Slug

Alberto Oliver said...

Owen, it was a quite moving story. Thanks for sharing those memories. The time doesn´t respect anything standing, anything who breaths. But time have no chance to beat the memories, the visions from the past. That´s is why I prefer not to look pictures from childhood, i prefer my childish visions, when I was able to create a deep forest from some bushes, when my grandfather was a giant, when I thought everything will last forever. =)

Owen said...

Steve, I guess just about anything will fly if you put a big enough motor on it... and a pair of wings...
:-D

=======

Adam, I was looking for the guest register book, to say when the last guests had checked out, but it was nowhere to be found... I guess the ghosts of worms carried it off, while the ghosts of birds looked down from above helplessly...
:-D

========

designslinger, that must be something to move back to where you're from, I've sometimes thought about that, but it probably won't happen in reality... but never say never, eh... glad to hear positive reports about your past haunts. My trip back to South Jersey for a day last Spring was very intense, and not necessarily just a trip down memory lane bathed in nostalgia, I also discovered some places I'd never seen before, it made me want to go look around more, but didn't have the time. In all the years we'd been going down that way I'd never been to Mystic Island or out Great Bay Blvd to the north side of the inlet to Great Bay... Doesn't "Mystic Island" sound like a great place?

========

Hi Jill, ok, hope that porch railing is going to be shining bright after all your hard work, and you are more than welcome to start in on the bird house !
:-D
Running around in those woods was mainly with my two older brothers, but from time to time there were some cousins there too...

========

Bonjour Loulou, my goal I guess is to take you up flying sort of on a magic carpet ride, to give you a better view from up there, and maybe you can then also do some photos à la Yann Arthus Bertrand...
:-D

========

Hi Patricia, Well, I guess the place is not within what is formally referred to as the Pine Barrens, but it is just down the river a little way from the Barrens, and the woods around Port Republic are nearly identical in character to the Pine Barrens, or Wharton State Forest. And you are right, birds abound there, especially in Fall and Spring. Snow Geese make migration stops in the wildlife preserves near Absecon in great numbers, or they used to anyway... turned the marsh white at times... Perhaps you've been to Batso ? Or boating on the Wading River... in those iced-tea-like-tannin-rich waters ?

Lyn said...

So much tenderness, and yearning..no you can't step in the same stream twice..but this is good, isn't it..it makes us move on!
The toppled house, the last photo, says it all.

Roxana said...

this is one of your finest posts, Owen. i can't even tell you how much it has touched me. you know that i am obsessed with similar topics, passage of time, memory, impossibility to go back - but this is not the point here, because even if i hadn't been, i could easily become like this after this post... the black and white photos of the past, almost unbearable in their clarity and stillness, the unexpected return to colour only to witness with an even more aching heart the inevitability of decay - woven with your confessions and stories - it's all so wonderful, dear Owen...

Owen said...

Roxana, thank you... from the heart, thanks...


========

Dear All,
Mr Toad is having a challenging week at work. Mr Toad had been fallen upon by a hoard of Stoats, Weasels, Badgers, Common Rats, a swarm of Cockroaches, a bevy of crocodiles, and all manner of other objects falling from the sky, or welling up from the deep sewers of the Earth... I hope to be back here soon to answer all these kind words... please pardon my less than usual rapidity...

Owen said...

Dear Fram,
Sounds like you are going to have some good long hours in months to come going through the contents of all those boxes. That may be the best, most positive part of moving house, we are forced to take a hard look at most everything we have, and by curiosity and enchantment, get dragged back into corners and papers and photos that had lain dormant for years. Will have to add the book you mention here to my reading list... which is long already. I just started reading "Infinite Jest" by Mr Foster Wallace, can see I'm going to have some good long hours of reading in days, weeks, months to come with that... And that naughty cat of yours, running off with the parakeet... funny how so many details can come flooding back with just a little prodding. I remember perfectly the smell in the little side garage bay where my Grandfather had a workshop, a smell of penetrating oil used on all the tools in there... those bird houses may very well have been built in there for all I know... And at least you got your own room... even if in a walk in closet; it was preparing you for life in the beater trailer later perhaps ? Thanks for all the memories, it is a good thing to look back sometimes... just don't look back too long while you are riding down hill on a bicycle in the dark... (which is exactly what I did once, while out on a night bike ride along a highway that wasn't open yet near Philadelphia -the famous Blue Route- and I ran smack into a big barrier with "road closed" signs on it made out of 2x4s with sand bags holding it down... the thing practically exploded when I slammed into it... bent the frame of the bike... I walked away after realizing there were no broken bones. See you soon I hope...

============

Janie, for sure, and we are not getting any younger. Up to each and every one of us to manage our level of nostalgia, I guess, keep it under control, too much is not a good thing I think, but a little bit from time to time is valuable...

desi said...

Only now i realise how short our lives is!!!

Owen said...

Hi Desi... Very short... one must make the most... while one can...

So you grew up on your grandparents farm ? I hope you'll tell us more about your childhood in your pages soon, and show some of the landscapes of the farm... I would so love to see South Africa some day... one of my favorite films is called Breaker Morant, which is set during the Boer War. So did you have a camera when you were little ? I didn't start shooting any pictures until I was about 13 or 14, and then very few, but enough to get me hooked I guess. That is one thing I can really thank my father for, he had two 35mm cameras, and let me try using his Minolta... as well as developing film in his darkroom at work...

========

Lyn, a thousand tender thank you's... yes, moving and looking forward is a good thing (but glancing back to where we've been once in a while helps keep perspective...)

========

Hi Alberto Oliver, so your grandfather was a GIANT ? Hmmm, how tall are you, anyway... :-D

I'm all for deep forests in small patches of bushes, sort of like whole kingdoms through the back of a wardrobe... where lions and witches may dwell...

=========

Dear Mrs Slug,
I'm glad Butter decided not to eat the bird house, or butt it to pieces... ooffff, a relief. I think Butter has the good life, nibbling grass, occasionally butting heads, warm bellies in the sun, yep, sounds ok to me... as long as he doesn't munch or butt or walk on too many slugs or your fine cousins the snails... I'm always happy when you slide by...

==========

Bonjour K'line, hmmm, ch'suis perplexe, de tristes épaves ? De tristes hotels oiseaux... oui, peut être, vis à vis des souvenirs portant des enjoliveurs, je ne sais pas, mais j'aurais voulu garder cette maison pour oiseaux, la ramener en France pour joindre la collection crapaud ici... mais j'aurais eu du mal à la faire tenir dans ma valise, donc j'ai renoncé enfin... gardant finalement juste... une photo... Sauf erreur de ma part, je pense c'est dans un des livres de Philippe Djian (37,2 ??) où il remarque qu'à la fin d'une vie finalement tout ce qui reste est un petit tas de photos... celle-ci serait une des miennes... à bientôt...

========

Hi MagnoliaAmber, many thanks for dropping in... yes a bit sad, but then one can also hope for a Phoenix type story of optimism and rebirth and rising from the ashes, or the spirit of birds rising up into the sky to soar the heavens again...

babbler said...

Owen,
Thanks for your reply, what with all of the stoats and weasels and assorted varmints trying to get your goat. I appreciate the time it takes for you to write all of your dutiful replies to all of us pesky mollusks out here in slide-berspace. Here's wishing you a smooth and victorious glide through your weekend.... As Mr. Lunchbox says, "I can only take one hop at a time."

jeff said...

Ya quelqu'un ? Houhou ! Personne ! Merde !... Owen ! Arrête de te cacher ! C'est plus rigolo !...
Searait-il vexé pour de bon ce brrrraaaaaaaaaaaave Owen ? ! ?...

A bientôt amigopixpotOwen !
...;-)

Bimbimbie said...

Hi Owen ... nostalgia flies on wings and holds us captive for always*!*

Owen said...

Halllloooooo Jeff, je suis là ! Je me cachais au lit, car après une semaine en enfer, ou je rentrais entre 06h00 et 07h00 tous les jours, j'étais kaput, et bon pour dormir tout le weekend... mais là j'émerge enfin du fond de mon lit, enfin, pour revenir voir ce qui se passe dans le blogosphère... j'espère que le boulot va se calmer un peu, mais tu sais, depuis un an maintenant c'est la crise, et depuis un an plus personne qui part est remplacée, et du coup, pour nous pauvres, les braves qui restent, la quantité du boulot est colossale, et la pression pour maintenir la "Qualité" en dépit de tout est énorme... je menage donc mes forces un peu pour éviter l'infarctus ! Une bonne tisane tomberait bien là, je t'assure...

Et j'enchaine sur réponse pour le bon grand mot plus haut que tu as laissé... ah sacrée Jeff, oui, je sais, ce n'est pas évident, je suis en France, je suis français, donc pourquoi je n'écrit pas tout en bon français ??? Et le reste du monde ??? Je n'aurais jamais le temps de tout traduire... et puis la famille et amis aux vieux pays, comment feraient-ils pour comprendre, ceux qui ne sauraient pas lire la langue de Rousseau et Voltaire et Molière ??? Ah, ce n'est pas facile... tout le monde devrait être multi-langues... qu'est-ce que j'aimerais comprendre le japonais, le chinois, la russe, et encore et encore... c'est un grand défaut d'être uni-langue ou bi-langue... mais bon, c'est comme ça la vie... mais tu sais, même les pilotes français parle anglais avec des controleurs aériens français ? L'anglais, pour des raisons que j'ignore, a pris une certaine place dans le monde. Ceci étant dit, on voit dans la presse de plus en plus de bruit qui dit que le pétrole ne serait plus échangé toujours en dollars US, mais en d'autres espèces... donc c'est peut-être le début de la fin pour le hegemonie financier et linguistique américain/anglais ??? Bref, si tu as compris que c'était ma maison qui est tombé par terre, et que nos lits et meubles sont dans tous les sens ce matin, tu as compris l'essentiel... ! Ciao pxpt...


=========

Dear Mrs Slug, I've built a weasel-and-stoat-proof pen deep in the forest to hide my goat so they can't get it ! And nothing pesky about mollusks, you know, since reading your wonderful blog I have smile everytime I see a slug or a snail around here, and there are plenty of them... I say, oh, there goes Mrs & Mr Slugs distant cousin... thanks !

=======

Dear Margaret Panpipes, I wish you a very happy trip to California. Was just reading the beautiful article in this month's Nat. Geo. about the Redwoods out there. Enjoy ! And many thanks...

========

Hi TechnoB, they were built to last, for sure, given that roughly 50 years on they were still pretty much intact... my Grandfather loved to walk in the woods around his home, and loved to watch the birds, he always put lots of feed out for them... there was a big metal trash can in the garage full of bird seed, and a scoop, to go carry see to the feeders around the house...

Owen said...

Japy, many thanks !

=======

Hey Karen, was just looking at your pictures from Paris, wow, you made it, and are enjoying crepes and quiche and onion soup and patiserries ! Mmmm, looks dangerous all that ! Sounds like you know New Jersey pretty well then... Toms River and Wheaton, sure rings bells for me. I only could spend a day when I was back in 2008, but it sure makes me realize how little I really explored the area around there, and I'd love to go back and really roam around some more... well maybe after winning the lottery... (I can feel it coming any day now!) :-D Have a fabulous time in Paris !

========

Hope I haven't missed anyone here, this week was a bit disjointed, and coming in from work at six in the morning is simply not conducive to blogging, or anything else for that matter... hopefully that will calm down a bit, and I'll be back sliding in the track again... I missed you all !

Jukka said...

It looks like my childhood churses in Finalnd. I sepnd ages trying to avoid them. Now when I live in Uppsala and is a bit older I sometimes walk into a church.

Really like your blog. I'm a follower.