Friday, May 28, 2021

Spring has Sprung in Sweden

Long days and short nights.  Warm weather.  Rain.  Beautiful sunshine.  Gorgeous flowering foliage.  Fun missionaries.  Lots happening right now.  The pictures below show everything from broken windshields to videos of ants, snakes, slugs, snails, and temples.  

But first, a recent missionary experience . . . Josephine, a Swedish woman had a dream of visiting a beautiful building with her deceased grandmother and wondered what it meant.  The missionaries found her and began teaching her about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and in their teaching they showed her a video of the Rome Italy temple.  The woman was astounded -- the temple was the building in her dream.  She continued studying the gospel and recently joined the church.  She was thrilled to learn that because of temple ordinances, families can be together forever.  I've put a link to a video of the Rome Temple at the end of this post.  It really is a magnificent building.  LeRon and I, along with our Catholic friend from home, Zorka, were able to tour it before it was dedicated in 2019.  There is also a temple here in Sweden, about an hour's drive from where we live.

Now for the pictures.  Be sure to click to enlarge.

Look at this pile of chipped windshields!  In the winter, Sweden lays down lots of small rock chips on its sidewalks and roads to help with the slippery conditions.  After all, there is no shortage of rock here!  (In Canada we use sand on the roads but not on the sidewalks.)  The rock chips really do help -- for driving as well as for walking.  But we think the windshield companies are in cahoots with the companies that put down the rock chips.  They are making a pile of money replacing chipped and cracked windshields!

I have been captivated for a long time by this crying boy sculpture.  I have now seen him with a covid mask, woollen scarves and warm toques (rhymes with spooks for us Canadians).  I have wanted to put my arms around him and comfort him and I always wondered what the story was.  Well I have finally learned the history behind Gzim och den frusna sjön or Gzim and the Frozen Lake.  You can see his pack of meager belongings on the ground beside the bench.

Someone has put a spring sprig in his hands this time.  But why is he crying?  Modern artist, Knutte Wester, had an art studio in a refugee camp in Boliden, which is further north in Sweden.  He met a young boy who had fled Kosovo with his family during the war of 1998-1999.  The boy was happy to be in Sweden and had dreams of making something of his life.  But . . . the family was soon to be sent back to Kosovo.  As the boy talked with the artist on the shore of a frozen lake, he burst into tears at the thought of leaving.  The artist said that just as the lake was frozen, the boy's dreams were frozen.  So sad.

Another rainy day and this time the spring sprig is gone and the boy is wearing a warm toque.  Apparently Swedish grandmothers keep him regularly warm with a variety of toques and scarves.  The artist said that, " . . . by the time the sculpture took shape, the boy had moved on in life.  But now there were other people, other benches, and other lakes that froze to ice. ”  So hard to see children suffering.  Someday all that is wrong will be made right.

Under that flowering tree is a sea of . . . dandelions!  It's not illegal to spray but no one does.  Dandelions are everywhere and they are very pretty . . . until they go to seed and then they are quite ugly.

So excited to see flowering Schubert Cherries!  We caught a delicious smell and sure enough, there were the cherry trees.  Made us homesick.  We have a few Schubert cherry trees in our yard and they are gorgeous covered in white blossoms.

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!  So many flowering trees.  The smells are heavenly.
This is a map of the forest we walk in regularly.  Not sure what's going to happen when it's hunting season.  A fellow we met on the trail says that people hunt in this forest.  "When people walk here?" we asked.  "Oh yes," he said, "but not to worry.  We (the hunters) always wear bright orange clothing."  LeRon said, "But what about the walkers?"  He said that they put up signs when they hunt to make walkers aware.  Oh my.  The signs will be in Swedish too!

This tree looks like it's going to walk away.  There really are walking trees, but they don't live here.

Not sure what day this was, but it was the first time we didn't need jackets!  Yeah.  Spring is here!

Huge ant hill!!  See below for a video of the ants.  And below that is a video of a snake!  I first thought it was a very long worm.  But no . . . it was a snake crossing our path!

I have spiffied up my office.  Always nice to have plants, even if they are fake.  And I moved this picture of Jesus so it can be seen when we walk into our office.

Sunday night evenings with the missionaries are the BEST!  Even if we aren't finished until nearly 11 p.m.!  Makes for a late night but it is a highlight of the week.

Crazy hat night!  Even LeRon has joined in with his Tilly hat.  Back L-R: Elder Äldste Scott (my 3rd cousin), Äldste Austin (shirt-tale relative -- he descends from Thomas E. Ricks as does LeRon), Äldste Spellacy.  Front L-R: Äldste Wrangell (from Finland), Äldste Nordgren (who reminds us of Kevin & Peggy Torrie's kids), Äldste Rönndahl (from Sweden).  Äldste Torrie on right.
We even had a jug band that night!  Äldste Rönndahl on the bucket bass that Äldste Torrie made.  Äldste Scott on the guitar.  Äldste Austin on the banjo. Äldste Spellacy on the ukulele. And of course Äldste Torrie on the keyboard.  What fun.  See the video below.

Love the red with the white trim.  So pretty with the greenery.

Climbing wall built into the bedrock.  Fun to have that in your backyard, eh?

Love this tree!

Heavenly smells from these Schubert cherry trees.  Elephant ears below the trees.  They grow big here in Sweden.

The senior missionaries went on a tour of Gamla Stan (the old town).  Our guide was an immigrant from Croatia.  He was surprised to learn that we have been to Zagreb where he is from.  We told him we had a good Croatian friend, Zorka.  Fun to talk with him.  His English was excellent.  He's pointing out a Viking rune stone that was built into this very old building as part of its construction.  Now it would be illegal to do that.  The canon barrel was placed here to protect the corner of the building from horse-drawn vehicles smashing into it as they careened down the hill.

Love this play area for kids!!  How fun to have an old tractor to play on!

The artist, Carl Larsson, was born and raised in this house in Gamla Stan.  He lived in poverty with an abusive father.  It was not a happy place for him.  Read more about him in my previous post called A Tale of Two Museums.

Here are the seniors of the Sweden Stockholm Mission.  L-R: Elder & Syster Wilhite, Syster & Elder Cowgur, Syster & Elder Torrie, President & Syster Davis (who are really NOT seniors!), new arrivals Elder & Syster Lake, Elder & Syster Moleff, Elder & Syster Johnson.

The smallest street in Gamla Stan!

Just missing one of the senior sisters.  She was off looking at things and didn't get in the picture.  I (in the sunglasses) am the oldest of all of them! And Syster Davis (next to me with the pink jacket) is the youngest.  The rest are in between.  But . . . the missing Syster Moleff is older than me.  But then who's counting years anyway.

Äldste& Syster Torrie in Gamla Stan.

Love this painted mailbox.  Here's two sides so you can see the whole picture.

And here's the other side.

And the top with the cute baby owls.

European black slugs are . . . very interesting!  When they are young, they are white or yellow, and then they turn grey and then brown and eventually in adulthood they turn black.

Slugs everywhere on the paths in the forest.  In the fall, a slug can lay up to 150 eggs every 1-3 weeks.  Not all of them hatch (thank goodness) and after they do, they take 9 months to mature.  Since this one is brown instead of black, it probably hasn't reached maturity yet.

Darling snail!!  At least I think so.  But our son, Michael, doesn't think snails are very darling.  Michael tried to grow a small balcony garden one year in Provo, Utah, and one night, snails moved in and ate ALL of the plants.  He tried everything to get rid of the snails and was unsuccessful.  Goodbye garden.  

The flowering spirea in our yard is gorgeous!  Spring time is very beautiful here in Sweden.

Looking out my west window at 10:45 p.m. on May 28.  You can still see the glow from the sunset.

Above is a video about the Rome Italy Temple.  Two apostles of our church lead us on a virtual tour of the temple.  After a temple is dedicated, only qualified members can enter it, so this video is perfect to show those not of our faith what a temple is like inside.

Can't resist putting in some pictures from our visit to the Rome Temple before it was dedicated on March 10, 2019.

Colleen and Zorka at the Rome Temple in February 2019.

Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen, sculpted the original Christus and the 12 Apostles in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Now a copy stands here in the visitor's center at the Rome temple.

Gorgeous stained glass window by Tom and Gayle Holdman of Provo, Utah is in the visitors center.  You can look at this artwork for a very long time.  It depicts many scenes from the life of Jesus.

Above is a very interesting 3-minute video about the original Christus and how it got to the Rome Italy Temple.  Well, I guess this is enough about the Rome Temple.  But honestly, it was so beautiful and inspiring and peaceful and almost beyond words.
The Stockholm Sweden temple is beautiful too but was built in a very different architectural style from the Rome Italy temple.  Each fits nicely into its landscape.  Each is dedicated to the worship of God and each teaches the same doctrine and provides the same ordinances, such as marriage for eternity and baptisms for those who have passed on.   

The following videos have been produced by the church so that others may know that even though our temple worship is sacred, it is not secret.  If you want to know what happens in our temples, listen to these 2-minute videos the church has produced to answer these questions.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Tale of Two Cities . . . I mean museums

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Royal extravagance and luxury versus war and poverty and the life of the common folk.  Royal intrigue and political alliances versus sweet, simple family life.

Before I tell you about the two very different museums we visited in the past two weeks, I want to tell you of a continuing miracle that has been happening in our mission.  Our mission president and his wife, President & Syster Davis, have been repeatedly exposed to Covid.  Not that they may have been exposed.  They have definitely been exposed many times.  But every time they have been tested, they have not had Covid.  And they have not received their vaccines yet either.  A total miracle!!

Now for our visit to two very different museums.  First, the museum/home in Sundborn of Swedish artist, Carl Larsson (pronounced lar-soan' -- long "o" -- with the accent on the second syllable).  When Swedish people say it, it sounds like one word -- carlarsoan'.  Sometimes we haven't been sure what they said.  Carl Larsson is famous for the watercolor paintings of his home and family.  His paintings give us a peek at what life was like in the late 1800's and early 1900's here in Sweden.

The second museum is Livrustkammeren or Royal Armory, attached to the king's palace in Gamla Stan.  It's the oldest museum in Sweden, having been established by King Gustav in 1628 after he decided to preserve the clothing he had worn in battle in Poland.  It was fascinating, with royal clothing, armour, and royal carriages.  A museum not to be missed.  And free during the pandemic. What a contrast between the extravagance of royalty and the simplicity of peasant life.

Following are pictures from the Carl Larsson-Gården.

Carl Larsson was born in 1853 in the slums of Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm. He had a very unhappy childhood with an abusive father.  Because of that, he was determined to give his wife, Karin (pronounced Kah-rin), and 8 children a very happy life here at his home and farm called Lilla Hyttnäs (The Little Hut on a Point).

The Larssons moved to this farm in 1888.  The yellow building is a small dam and hydro-electric facility, giving the Larsson family electricity earlier than most.

Our guide, Luisa, is welcoming us to Carl & Karin Larsson's home.  The home is as it was in about 1928 when Karin died.  Originally it was a 4-room house, but Carl and Karin added on in a higgledy-piggledy way, and people at the time were shocked.  Luisa is wearing a dress designed by Karin Larsson, who didn't like the tight, corseted, fashions of the day.  She preferred comfort, and designed and sewed her own clothing.

No photos allowed inside, of course.  This is a view of the outside.  Carl and Karin didn't care what other people thought; they built the house the way they wanted to.  Neighbors thought it was an eyesore!

This painting of 4 of the Larsson children is outside the front door.  On walls, doors, and cabinets all through the house are paintings of Carl's children and wife.

Since we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the house, I bought a book about it.  You can see the bold colors and designs.  Karin was an artist also, but she preferred designing textiles and furniture.  All of the fabric and much of the furniture were designed by her.  On the door you can see Carl's painting of one of their daughters.

Other views of the exterior of the home from the book.  Many houses in this area are painted red due to the abundance of the red-colored by-products of the near-by copper mine.  Hope to visit the mine sometime before we leave.

Another interior picture showing Carl's decorative paintings on the wall and cabinet, and Karin's cushions on the chairs.  The banner above the cabinet translates to "Love each other, children, for love is everything." 

Carl Larsson was a "farmer" in the sense that he owned a farm.  But he had employees to do the work while he did the painting.  LeRon and I love this 1905 painting called Harvesting the Rye.  Torries grew dryland rye for many years.  Thankfully, they harvested with a combine!  Of his farm, Carl said, "I will paint the whole farm, everything there is to see.  I will paint when we sow and harvest, and when we pick applies in the autumn, and when we plough and harrow, and when we dig ditches in the spring."  And of course he was using the "royal we," since he didn't do the work himself . . . but maybe he wished he could have.  LeRon thinks everyone should want to be a farmer!

Most of Carl Larsson's paintings were of his home, his wife and his children. He later said that these paintings were "the most immediate and lasting part of my life's work. . . . these pictures are of course a very genuine expression of my personality, of my deepest feelings, of all my limitless love for my wife and children."
The family picking apples.  Most of Carl's paintings were sketched in pencil and then with India ink and then filled in with watercolor.

Christmas celebrations were, and still are, very big in Sweden.  One of Carl and Karin's daughters is decorating the tree with candles.  My mother's family put real candles on the Christmas tree.  Mom said they would only light them on Christmas Eve for fear of setting the tree, and the house, on fire.
Karin on the Shore, 1908.  Karin loved loose dresses and big aprons.  A small lake was on the property, and when we visited, there were people boating on the lake, just like in this painting.  Lots of beautiful foliage and flower gardens.
Love this domestic scene.  Carl and Karin's daughters, Suzanne and Kersti, are churning butter.  The kitchen window is open with the curtains flapping in the breeze.  Food waiting to be cooked on the coal stove in copper pots.  Dishes freshly washed in the wash tub.  The red chair with the green spice cabinet.  Karin's woven rug.  The cat, looking for a mouse.  The clock says it's 5:15. Would that be a.m. or p.m.? An amazing look at the life of common people so long ago.

Swedish people love their "fika"(pronounced fee'-kah), which is coffee and pastries any time of the day.  For us members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, fika is not coffee, but hot chocolate and pastries!  People often invite others to join them for fika.  Swedes like to use these tiny trays for fika, and many of them have Carl Larsson paintings on them.  I even bought a few myself.  Not sure they will be for fika though.

The Sundborns Kyrka is close to the Carl Larsson home.  It's a wooden church that looks smaller than it actually is.  The adjacent bell tower is also made of wood, and both are painted with the red that is so common here.

All of these churches have beautiful pipe organs.  The pews are painted a gorgeous blue.  We were surprised how many pews there were.  You could probably seat 200 people here.  In non-pandemic times of course.

Carl Larsson painted the interior of the Sundborn church.

The church is on the shore of a lake.  So peaceful.  I've always wished I could be buried in a churchyard or on our farm, but it's not to be in Canada.  My eyes are closed because the sun here in Sweden is so bright.  Not sure why it's any different than at home.  I usually wear sunglasses, and even then it's very bright.

Elder & Syster Wilhite joined us on this expedition.

The church was built in 1755.  Strong door handle!

Carl & Karin Larsson are buried here in this Larsson family plot in the church cemetery.  On the cemented walls are the names of all 8 children.  Baby son Mats died at 2 months; son Ulf died as a teen.  So hard to lose children.

An hour north of Sundborn is the birthplace of the Dala Horse.  We need to go there sometime.  In the meantime, here is a gigantic Dala Horse somewhere between Sundborn and Stockholm.

The Dala Horse has become a symbol of Sweden.  Wooden horses were carved as toys for children from the 1600's.  They became very popular when painters started painting them.  And of course, they painted them in the orangey-red that is so common here.  Because tourists love these horses, they are now painted in many colors, not just red, but always with the bridle and saddle, as above.

Lots of round-abouts in Sweden.  And they all have interesting things in the middle.  On the right is a grain terminal.  That caught LeRon's attention!  The drive from Stockholm to Sundborn was beautiful, with freshly worked fields and winter wheat greening up.  Not so many trees as closer to Stockholm.  A very beautiful 3-hour drive.

Now for the tale of the second museum, Livrustkammeren, or the Royal Armoury.  Sweden, like many countries, was involved in war after war.  The knights in armour look romantic, but life was brutal.  Imagine wearing such heavy armour and fighting hand to hand with swords.  Not fun.  While soldiers were fighting and the common folk were starving, royalty was enjoying a pretty extravagant life.
Could you even walk wearing that heavy armour?

And the poor horses.  Could they even hold their heads up?  But I guess the point was protection, not comfort.

Not all royalty were enjoying the good life while the soldiers fought.  Some fought also.  This is the actual horse that King Gustavus Adolphus rode when he was killed in the Thirty Years' War in 1632.  It looks in pretty good condition for being almost 400 years old and having gone through a war.

Horse and soldier ready to fight for king and country.  Or maybe this is King Gustav.  I can't remember.

More royal apparel.

Why would a queen need armour?  Did women fight in wars?  Maybe they did.  At least Joan of Arc did.  She was pretty amazing.  Her story is very inspiring.  See a great video about her at or at

Sofia of Denmark was betrothed at the age of 5 to the future king of Sweden, Gustav III (who was also 5 at the time).  It was of course a political alliance.  She wore this dress when she was married in 1766.  This is the back of the dress with its long train.

And this is the front of the dress.  Looks elegant but very uncomfortable.  Gustav's wedding clothing is also displayed. 

Intricate wood carvings on each end of the royal cradle which has been in use since 1650.  It is still used today when a royal baby is born.

Sorry about the reflection so you can't really see the ornate baby cradle.  Oh well.  On the wall are pictures of the current king and queen of Sweden.

Clothing from a by-gone day.

The royal children played with these royal toys.

LeRon made a wooden rocking horse when our first child, Michael was born.  The kids played on that rocking horse for many years.  And many royal children played with this royal rocking horse.

The royal coaches were beyond description!  Very different from the carriages in the Remington Carriage Center in Cardston, Alberta, Canada.  But those carriages are pretty cool too.  They are just not royal.

Yes, I was there.  I'm usually taking pictures.

A one-person carriage.

This royal coach carried Sophia of Denmark to her wedding with Gustav of Sweden.

Love the detail.  The three crowns is the national emblem of Sweden.  But at different times, it has symbolized different things.  At one point it symbolized the union of the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. 

Ornate bridles

One of the carriages was pulled by 6 horses.  I guess you would call it 6-horse power!

These carriages look beautiful but the cars we ride in today are much more comfortable!

Queen Sofia and King Gustav rode in this carriage to their coronation in 1772.

Close-up of the coronation carriage.

Elaborate and very intricate wood carvings.

Detail of the wood carvings.  Click to enlarge.

Two children's sleighs.  LeRon and I remember our neighbor, John Kast, driving into our yard with his horse-drawn sleigh one winter day.  Nothing quite like gliding smoothly over the crunchy snow with the sounds of horse hooves and jingle bells.

Another intricately carved sleigh.

King Gustav III still overlooks his palace.

So there you have it.  A Tale of Two Museums.  Both interesting in their own ways.  We liked the glitter and beauty of the royal carriages, but we actually prefer the simple life as portrayed in Carl Larsson's paintings.  We sing with John Denver, "Thank goodness I'm a country boy!"

Following is a quick link to the video about Joan of Arc: