adventure, anthology, debut, Flash Fiction, memories, review, Ripples on the Pond, short stories, Stockholm Archipelago, Summer of 1968, Sweden, teenage, teenage adventure, teenager, time-travel, travel, Varmdö, young adult
Recently, Ray Not Bradbury https://raynotbradbury.com posted a review on Ripples on the Pond https://raynotbradbury.com/2018/06/25/book-review-ripples-on-the-pond-sebnem-e-sanders/ .
I was pleasantly surprised to receive this review which she kindly posted on Goodreads, as well. I loved the photo of the book Ray took, which she used on her blog and on Instagram, and asked her if I might use it for a future post for Ripples.
Scrolling through her blog, I discovered Ran Not Bradbury is a pen name for Victoria Ohlsson who lives in Sweden. So the picture was taken in Sweden by a Swedish reviewer. Well, this brought back some memories from many years ago, to be exact, fifty years ago, from 1968 .
So, I time-travelled to the summer of 1968, when I spent about six weeks in Sweden, and a few days in Copenhagen.
I was one of the Turkish students invited to attend an International Lions Youth Camp in Sweden. It was my first trip abroad and the Sterling Airways flight took me to Copenhagen where I boarded a train to Stockholm after making sure I was in the right car labelled Stockholm. When we reached the sea, the Stockholm labelled car slipped onboard a ferry. After arriving at the Swedish shores, the car was attached to a Swedish train. It was dark when we reached Stockholm.
I entered the terminal in apprehension. How was the Swedish family I was to spend a week with before the Camp going to find me? Then I heard an announcement in English on the loudspeaker, calling my name and asking me to come to the Information Desk. A very blonde and blue eyed Swedish lady , Mrs Bernstrand, accompanied by two young boys with corn silk hair, greeted me with a smile. After dropping my small suitcase into the trunk of her car, she drove away to a destination unknown to me.
I was very tired. I hadn’t slept since the early hours of the previous morning when my flight took off from Istanbul. The stress of finding the Copenhagen train station, buying the ticket, and making sure I was in the right car added to the tension. But the good thing was everyone in Copenhagen spoke English, even the dustman who guided me to the ticket booth. Although I had relaxed a bit on the train, the American sailors who boarded at the next station and tried to chat me up, gave me the creeps. As soon as I told them where I was from, they asked me if I had “Hash”. I was terrified. I clung to my handbag and my suitcase, praying they won’t steal my travel allowance of about 200 dollars in my wallet. I stopped talking to them, and luckily they went away.
So trying to keep my eyes open and answer politely to Mrs Bernstrand’s questions was a hard task. I kept drifting off and waking up, thinking this is very rude. At the end of the journey, sprinkled with polite conversation, we came to a jetty and parked. A very tall and well-built gentleman, Mr Bernstrand, came to the car, and after greeting me, carried my suitcase and guided me to a motor-boat waiting at the jetty.
About ten minutes later, we arrived at another jetty, where he tied the boat and we disembarked. Mrs Bernstrand took me to a wooden cabin and introduced me to a teenager, about my age, saying, “This is your bedroom. Chloe will help you settle and she’ll show you the way to the main house in the morning. “
Chloe was an Au Pair, taking care of the young boys in the summer. I think she was French, but spoke English. Kindly she offered me the bottom bed of the bunker. I collapsed and fell into deep sleep. I hadn’t slept for twenty-four hours.
The cabin was equipped with a bathroom and shower. After the morning ablutions, it was time for breakfast.
I emerged from the cabin and found myself in the middle of a pine forest. Birdsong filled the air, and the red house we were heading to was perched upon a hill facing the sea.
We entered the kitchen with a magnificent sea view and sat at the generous breakfast table. Pickled herring Eww… No, I can’t have that for breakfast. It’s sweet too. I love the cheese though, and the crackers. And that little instrument that shaves the cheese. Ham, no problem. Coffee or tea, I can’t remember. Probably tea, I wasn’t a coffee addict, then, just acquiring new tastes. I loved the strawberries, though I couldn’t understand why they were pouring milk on them. Later I found out this was cream, not milk, though I still love my strawberries plain.
I was at Varmdö, the biggest island in the Stockholm archipelago, where Swedish families spend their summers. An array of colourful wooden cottages sprinkled inside a pine forest where strawberries and raspberries grow wild, under the shade of the trees. No borders or hedges between the houses, a lifestyle without borders.
I was lucky. The summer of 1968 was one the hottest summers in Sweden in thirty years. So, I took my first dip into the Baltic Sea and had a great time.
Photos: The book picture is taken by Ray Not Bradbury
The photos of Varmdö, from Google, exactly as I remember this gorgeous island.
The photo at bottom right, is one of me and friends at Varmdö, after playing croquet
To be continued….
An ad I came across on the Internet got me pondering. Round mirror for sale, never used.
Once I arrived home, I confronted the hexagonal, guild-framed mirror hanging in my lounge, one I’ve had for a while. “Are you used? Your frame must be chipped and the glass slightly scratched, but that’s not what I mean.”
How can a mirror be not-used? Hasn’t the factory worker ever looked in it after coating the glass with a reflective surface? The framer assessed his work, as he raked his fingers through his hair? Hasn’t the seller peeked and winked at it while smoothing his tie? Or a female customer paused in front of it for a moment to refresh her make-up, and continued shopping. So it’s not wear and tear I’m talking about, it’s the functionality, the main task of a mirror that should count.
A mirror’s first duty is to create a perfect reflection of the person or an object in front of it. If we accept some of the above probabilities to be true, then we must conclude that the mirror has been used. Yet, there’s no proof because the mirror doesn’t have a memory. It doesn’t record anything. There’s no flashback, a rewind button, or any tangible evidence. In that sense, a mirror is inferior to a camera that produces printed or digital copies which people can later peruse and reminisce the moment.
So, my lovely looking glass of thirty years, every time I glance at you, you reflect back my current state, but nothing from the past, when I was younger. Nor my late mother’s image when she stood before you and touched her hair, or any glimpses of my beloveds who are no longer in my life. You say the departed cannot be perceived with the eye because they become tiny specks of light. I agree with that, but I’m still here, so are the estranged ones.
I can’t remember when I first saw my own reflection in one, but I do recall watching my father shave before the bathroom mirror, his face covered in white foam. And my mother sitting at her dressing table and putting on lipstick, then dabbing it lightly with her finger.
Is it vanity, a narcissistic habit that we consult mirrors for approval each day? Or is it a self-destructive approach that gives us pain as we age? I don’t know when the attachment starts, perhaps with a shy peek during teenage years, until it becomes an addictive routine. I’m three-dimensional, though the image you project is two-dimensional, an illusion of how others see me, just like the photos.
Yet, when I look into you, I see other things than what you show me. I can search your depths and bring back visions from my mind’s eye. Maybe I should avoid you, stop witnessing my aging process, if not day by day, but from year to year. Perhaps, you’re being kind by not showing me the past. Telling me I should stay in the moment and not delve into the folds of time.
Sometimes I see my mother peeking back at me or my grandmother’s eyes in mine. Other times the radiant face of a young girl greets me with a smile and whispers, “What will be, will be.”
aftershocks, age of aquarius, apathy, causes, chores, commitment issues, delayed plans, depression, earthquake, eclipse, excuses, Flash Fiction, memories, new order, old order, plans, symptoms, the universe, total solar eclipse
Leila read on the web, “Sometimes it’s perfectly okay and absolutely necessary to shut down, kick back, and do nothing.” The message boosted her ego, but she knew it was an excuse, not a solution to her condition of apathy. Why had she ended up this way? How had she lost her joie de vivre? Why was she so paralyzed to carry out her plans, from daily chores to meaningful pursuits she once believed were the purpose of her life? The conversations with her alter ego, more demanding than those with a school principle, led nowhere. She sat frozen, as time sped, not willing to clean the flat, organize her home, take care of her hair or body. Each day, she delayed these tasks until tomorrow, yet when tomorrow became today, she postponed her plans until the next day. This had been going for a while. The heat, the humidity, combined with the occasional threats of earthquakes in the Southern Aegean did not help, either. A series of excuses, symptoms – not causes.
Faced with the question, “When were you last happy?” on an internet questionnaire, Leila stopped to reflect. She couldn’t remember. This is pathetic, she thought, and tried to recall a moment of bliss. She was not an ungrateful person, she loved her home. Each night she went to sleep with the thought, and woke up feeling safe in her comfort zone. Scanning through her memories, she finally found a happy moment. The boat trip along the Bosphorus in Istanbul. The plankton explosion, the turquoise sea, on a warm and sunny day in June. That was two months ago, which reminded her that the suitcase from the trip still lay on the divan in the spare bedroom, to be dealt with tomorrow.
Life passed her by, despite her conscience disturbing her from time to time, and urging her to do something – anything. I need help, she thought and reached for the phone to call an old friend. One she didn’t have to pretend to and say she’s fine. Joy answered, in her soft-spoken voice.
“I was thinking of you. Glad you called. How are you?”
“I’m not well. It’s like I’m having commitment issues. I can’t get anything done. Days go by and I lack the enthusiasm.”
“You’re depressed. Are you taking anything?”
“You know I don’t take any pills, just my vitamins. I’d rather have a drink.”
“A drink or drinks?”
“Drinks, some, but that’s not the issue. I can’t understand why. It’s hot and humid, uncomfortable, and the political situation is very frightening. It’s like someone, something has turned off the light. I’m late for everything. I’ll be late for my own funeral.”
“The political situation is dismal everywhere. We’re not the only ones. Look at the US and Europe. UK, Brexit, North Korea, the threat of nuclear war.”
“There were days when I was so busy I didn’t have time to stop and read or watch the news. Now, it’s compulsory. Something bad is happening all the time and it’s pulled me into an abyss I can’t see a way out of.”
“Don’t read it or watch it. Stay away for a while. You won’t miss a thing. What will happen will happen. Remember that film, Stranger than Fiction, when the guy was told to sit still, not to do anything? He squatted on his settee until a bulldozer wrecked the front of his flat.”
“Yeah, I remember. Great film. Maybe that’s the answer.”
Leila switched off the phone and feeling marginally better, thought tomorrow is a new day before she went to sleep. I’ll be more productive. One step at a time and I’ll do the chores and manage the more meaningful plans…
The anticipated solar eclipse over North America reminded her of the total eclipse over Turkey back in 1999 and the subsequent earthquake. A memory which haunted her every time the earth rocked beneath her feet. The after-shocks of the Bodrum earthquake in July heightened her fear. Her favourite astrologer said the eclipse is the beginning of a new age, The Age of Aquarius. All the troubles in the world could be explained by the resistance to let go of the old order, an attachment to the past, a denial of change by some humans. The sun is the light, the moon is the past. Let go and enter the new era.
For the next few days, Leila found the incentive to carry out delayed plans from personal to practical, indicating her intent to the universe. She cleaned the house, dyed her hair, sat at the computer writing and editing her work, and felt good about her small achievements.
The eclipse took place and she was relieved nothing bad happened. Leila carried on, taking baby steps to realize her plans.
Sitting at the computer one evening that week, immersed in her work, she heard a distant noise that magnified. The house shook, the furniture rattled and the walls moved back and forth. She froze. Then, forced herself to rise, grab her handbag and the phone. Staggering to the kitchen, designated as her safe area, she found her pills and stuck them in her bag.
She gripped the edge of the table with both hands, waiting for the reverberating roar to end. The lights flickered. The earthquake-proof walls creaked and began to crumble down. Curled into a foetus position under the table, the floor tiles pulsated against her body. Thoughts flashed in her mind, as the flat plunged into darkness. Is this how my life ends? No. This is the end of what used to be and the start of a new beginning. I shall rise.
Photo Credit : Eclipse over Jackson, Wyoming
Like the flickering sunrays at the end of the day, Emily was at the sunset of her life. The golden ball of light would soon sink into the sea, and disappear temporarily, until its rise the next morning. That was a ninety-nine percent probability. She had witnessed this certainty throughout her life of eighty-five years. The one percent she put aside as a possibility for things that might happen otherwise. Just in case.
Yet, her life, as an aged mortal, offered her no guarantees that enabled her to witness the dawn tomorrow morning. That was a fact. Besides, as an old person, her beauty had faded away while the eternal splendour of the sunrise and the sunset remained. People did not possess the rejuvenating powers of the elements of nature, which made them preserve their appeal, at least for the duration of a human lifetime on Earth. Their bodies and organs deformed, though their souls remained young.
A dismal picture. Decay and die. When exactly the decaying process began, she couldn’t put a finger on. Maybe it starts at birth, or after puberty? Who knows? We only begin to see its visual signs in mid-life, during our forties and the fifties, and it’s downhill from there.
Emily was not a religious person, but thanked her stars for still being in command of her body and mind. Her movements, thoughts and decisions still under her control, she had wanted to go to the seaside café to watch, perhaps, her final sunset.
At the Retirement Home she had moved into five years ago, relenting to her granddaughter’s will, watching sunsets and sunrises was not an option due to the location of the building and its small grounds. From her home, at the top of the hill in the village, she had seen a myriad of memorable episodes of the same scenes, with different variations of light, cloud and wind, making each one unique.
On this glorious day in April, she had risen at first daylight with the wish to see the sunset that day. Her transport arranged by the staff at the Home, she settled into her reserved scenic seat at The Sunset Café. Her handbag and the just-in-case cane next to her, she ordered a glass of Merlot to enjoy the show.
Memories of long gone beloveds on her mind, she sipped her drink as the colours in the sky changed from golden to pink and coral. The orange sun turned into a crimson hue, and sank into the sea.
Emily lit a cigarette and inhaled. Thinking about her long lost daughter and husband, tears welled in her eyes. The loss of a child is the hardest to bear in life. I could have gone, she could have stayed. Life is unfair. Still, believing Bill was up there somewhere with her, gave her some consolation. At least, she’s not alone. My darling, you wouldn’t be able to cope with it. She fought a losing battle with the illness.
Emily’s mobile rang. She fumbled in her handbag, found the phone and pressed the key. “Hello.”
“Nana, how are you?”
“I’m fine, sweetheart. Just watching the sunset, maybe for the last time?”
“Oh, Nana, why the last time? Don’t make me sad.”
“Sorry, Natalie, I didn’t mean to upset you. Just memories.”
“I know, dearest. Listen, I’m coming to pick you up next Friday to stay with us over the weekend.”
“Ah, you’re planning a birthday party?”
“Yes, and without you, I’d be sad. Say, you’ll come.”
“Of course, I’ll come. But I’m hoping you’ll accept a cash gift from me. No nice shops around here to find something special for your fortieth, and I might buy the wrong thing.”
“Thank you, darling Nana. We’ll go shopping together, if you like.”
“I’ll enjoy that, sweetheart.”
“See you, Nana.”
Emily put the phone in her bag and sipped the remainder of her wine. The pinkish brush strokes against the pale blue sky seemed to promise a few more sunsets and sunrises in her life.
The view from Lapad Bay © raspu / Moment Open / Getty Images
Memories gathered dust among the cigarette fumes. The smoke had always surrounded them in times of love and pain. A silent witness to the affair, it rose in spiralled clouds that vanished into the atmosphere, the hint of its existence trailing behind in scent. Consumed yet lingering, like the hurt in her heart.
She sat on the open deck of the channel ferry, as the scenery passed before her eyes. Her thoughts eclipsing the images, life seemed to evolve without her participation. Sunsets and sunrises, the moon and the stars no longer evoked feelings of wonder. Their charm exhausted, their meaning lost. A meandering melancholy had stolen the colours and transported her into a scene from a black and white art film with little conversation and tedious gazes shot in slow-motion.
In a state of detachment, she continued to stare into the distance, as the ferry approached the terminal. A scurry of muffled footsteps and snippets of conversation sneaked into her reverie. Silhouettes passed her by and disappeared, until new figures emerged and left at intervals.
Cruising back and forth across the channel, the vessel made its scheduled trips, as she sat unmoved through the motion. Daylight turned into night, electric beams lit up the distant hills like a shower of fireflies.
A ferry conductor’s voice broke her thoughts. “Lady, this is the last stop for the night. You must get off.” The pixels of his face materializing before her, she tried to command her paralyzed legs to get up and move. Holding onto the barrier, she stood and staggered to the stairs. The abyss frightened her. One step at a time, shaky limbs proceeded towards the set destination. Reaching the bottom platform, she paused and took a deep breath.
The conductor following her asked, “Are you on drugs?”
“If memories are drugs, that’s what I’m on.”
“You lost someone.”
“You could say that, but not to death.”
“Ah, to someone else? That’s even sadder.”
“You seem like a ghost in the land of the living. That’s bad.”
She resumed her steps and froze when she came to the portable bridge connecting the ferry to the quay. Images of falling into the gap and of being squashed between the vessel and the concrete rushed to her mind. Cold sweat broke out on her forehead.
“Here, let me help,” the man said. He held her hand until she landed safely ashore.
“Thank you,” she said, her voice quivering.
“Stop and think,” he said, and smiled. “Fear of death means you want to continue living.”
“Live it up, then, instead of ignoring it.”
“There are no buses at this hour, you must take a taxi.”
“Thank you for your help. Good night.”
Her steps now more confident, she ambled to the taxi rank and took a cab.
Home she thought, and the sanctuary of her bed. She needed a rest from the memories. Tomorrow would be a new day, when, perhaps, she would allow them to gather more dust while she followed the cigarette smoke to new destinations.
Smoke Works, Cutting Edge by Mehmet Özgür, Mehmet Ozgur
Many thanks for publishing my drabble. 🙂
I wish I could forget, but I can’t. I’ve rewound the tape, it’s on repeat. The island, the beach and the sun. The cities, the dinners, the fun. The cottage, our love and the river. Me sick with flu, you and your tennis elbow.
The Far East, the last of the colonials and the tropical storms. The first Walkman, the automatic camera.
My town, your town, and the path that brought us together, for a while, then split. Did I understand? No. Did you? I hope so.
I’m writing about love. I have no other reference. So I indulge.
Sebnem E. Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey. Her work has appeared on the Harper Collins Authonomy Blog, Sick Lit Magazine, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, and Spelkfiction.
Photo of a child at İçmeler Beach, Marmaris. (2016)
The sea and I are friends
from a long time ago
We like each other’s company
and miss each other on the days we can’t meet.
I have been in many seas,
but I think it’s just one big sea,
regardless of the names.
The sea has seen me age,
but the child who dipped into the water
for the first time
Many thanks to SickLit magazine for publishing my story.
House of Detachment
When the memory police knocked on my door, I knew I would be in trouble.
“Hi,” I said in the most pleasant voice, trying to hide the painful recollections that had invaded my mind a few minutes ago.
“May we come in?”
Despite my unwillingness, I had to let them into my flat. In my untidy lounge, neglected due to the thoughts I had been compelled to write instead of doing housework, we sat facing each other. One of the officers coughed and explained the reason for their visit.
“Too many bad vibes are coming out of your house. It’s polluting the environment, and we need to stop this.”
“But I’m not harming anyone. Only myself, with my surplus of memories.”
“You’re transmitting negative thoughts and sorrow into the area. We have measured it. You’re also harming yourself, recalling past events that cause tears, excessive drinking to…
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Fragments of sorrow in broken sequence,
the details evaporate to ether with fleeting time,
while the core remains.
My pain I cannot put down to paper,
that would be unfair,
words are not capable of describing my loss.
I can only set the atmosphere
and the emptiness that surrounds me.
The colours have faded, the sounds have lost
their harmony and pulse.
Things are the same, yet different,
in a void of inspiration
meanings have become meaningless,
dull and barren,
without the silent conversation.
If I say I miss you, will that fall short of describing my state?
Or if I say wish you were here, will that suffice?
I remember so much I don’t want to recall,
I wish those memories would vanish into the background,
and set me free.
The past into the present, threatens my future,
I fear I keep losing the moment I should live,
as I continue to linger in the void.