Midsummer's eve. I love it. I love everything about it - the golden sunlight bathing everything in the evening. The smell of honey wafting from the field, the wildflowers of all colours and shapes in glorious profusion, the wild strawberries you can eat straight from the field. The songs, the traditions, the gathering of like-minded souls, some old friends, others people I've never met. Jem the fire master setting up awesome burning rafts, cartwheels, posts. The few hours of "darkness" between sunset and sunrise, when the sky never goes completely black, but stays that beautiful shade of deep blue. The homemade cheese and beer and strawberries and rhubarb slice that people bring to the celebration. The mist down by the lake as we watch the sky growing lighter, the way all the birds call wildly as the sun comes up again. The purple-red sky before the golden orb rises, the bittersweet melancholy that takes you over when you remember the days are now going to get shorter again. Every year we go through the same process, the same rituals, but every year it is different. Different mix of people, different ways of getting through the dark hours, different reflections on the year that has gone and the year that is to come.
Can you see what I'm holding... that explains my self-satisfied expression
Procession up the hill to watch the sunset
Burning last year's wreaths
Watching the bonfire
Walking down to the lake around 4am - Mikus was the youngest kid who stayed awake till sunrise. Lovable, stubborn tyke
Jem's last fire show - a burning raft
Here comes the sun
My family haven't equipped me for the realities of life. From my early days I remember my mum "shooing" big huntsman spiders from our bedrooms with the use of a broom. When there was an ant colony that established itself near our pool, we put in a structure to help the drowning ants hop out of the pool. The occasional mouse that entered our place was caught via a "bowl balanced on a toothpick with a bit of cheese" trap - you know, where the mouse pulls the cheese and toothpick and the bowl drops over them. GOTCHA! We would then drive a couple of kms and let the mouse out in a carefully selected location. I have nursed quite a few baby birds with mashed up worms, and taken in the stray cat who was old and crochety, and still shied away from people in boots, obviously a remainder from a sadder abused life. The only animals I can remember my parents deliberately killing (apart from mozzies, of course!) were brown snakes, in our yard when we were little. Dad going out with a spade, and him feeding the dead snake to the kookaburras down the back paddock. I may have found some rat poison in the cupboard at some point as well, but noone talks to me about that. So who know what went on there :)
So in light of all this, we are in a bit of pickle at Kugures this year. Our hired help, who is usually wonderful, started feeding a stray cat a while ago, unbeknownst to us. So today we arrive in the country after being away for a few weeks, and a new, dependent and hungry lookin' cat comes towards us. She promptly decided to assert her territory and beat up our own cat (little princess) and then moved on to threatening my brother's cat. I got really mad, lost my cool, and started to gather a pillowcase in which to stick the stray into and take it far, far away somewhere (perhaps a coping strategy from my childhood mice herding?) - because the sad reality is, that although our hired help may feed the cat occasionally in summer time, if the stray gets dependent on our house for food, it will simply freeze to death in winter - because our house is shut up and cold - VERY COLD. No cowshed with livestock and chooks and hay to keep warm in. So I figured if there was no one willing to give the cat a home during winter, there was no point in feeding it all summer, have it beating up our own cats and make everyone miserable, only to meet a sad end in six months time. It would have more chance of survival if it roamed free and searched for a different house that was occupied in winter. A long shot, I know, but better than going to the pound, where it was sure to be destroyed.
So I ranted and raged and got the keys for the car and a box for the stray, and then inspected the cat herself. And she led me to her hiding spot.... to see her new litter of kittens. Under our woodshed. As it turns out, now we have a few more mouths to feed.
What to do? In Latvia, its still pretty common to send the litter "to naval academy" (I think you can guess what I'm talkin' about), but with the bleeding hearts club at Kugures there's no chance of that. Leaving all of them in the country means that they will either become feral in autumn or freeze to death in winter. The pound? For all of them?
I already suggested to our hired help that he should be taking in at least one of the kittens, seeing as this whole situation is his fault, but he's unwilling. My brother is moving towards taking one of the littlies. I'm not feeling particularly keen on taking a kitten - good lord, I have enough trouble with our "princess" Fizzy already. My mum is already the resident "crazy cat lady" in town, who feeds all the alley cats who come regularly to the soup kitchen she runs for feline outcasts. Don't think she could handle a permanent house guest.
So.... what to do, what to do?
As far as I can tell, mamma stray has at least two kittens, they look about 2 weeks old - all round with blue eyes, wobbly on their feet, with wonky ears and tiny tiny stripey tails. Squeaking and mewing when waiting for mum. I must admit I did suddenly find a soft spot for the mother cat when I saw her babies. The way she let me see them, and purred contentedly when she crawled into her makeshift home to feed them (see pic above - blurry bub on the left). That maternal instinct, its a millstone, yet it makes the world go round...
Last week we were in Stockholm celebrating a Very Significant Birthday, and meeting some Very Special Guests. We ended up in a museum, of course - the Nordic Museum - where we pored over beautiful examples of folk art.
Ok, so the last photo is of a contemporary piece instead of made-on-the-farm handcraft. You could buy it in the museum shop. We did not, on account of the price. But one can always dream...
Stockholm metro is a bit of a treat, the stations have been set up as art galleries. Only saw a couple, but they were very functional. And clean. With art works instead of advertising posters.
My kids were very excited to find a marking that looked like an "Amazing Race" route marker (I am grooming them to enter as a team in the year 2025)
And they also thought this brand of chocolate was pretty tasty. It also stimulated a storm of funny sentences and hysterical giggling for half an hour after buying the unfortunately named bar.
Then we took a cruise ship to Tallinn - and inspected for ourselves why Latvians seem to be so envious of Estonians.
For one - they have a huge and super-cool medieval old town...
Second - Tallinn alone has THREE (yes - I said THREE) children-focused museums, including this little ripper of a science centre, where you can pretend you are Dr Frankenstein and animate very life-like body parts with electrical zappers. That's right. Kids animating body parts with electricity.
Third - because they have a ultra modern multimillion euro new art museum called Kumu, which displays and interprets Estonian art with insight. Sob.
They also let kids scribble on the floor of the art museum.
On this trip the kids (oh ok and the Grandparents) listened to their fair share of audio guides. And loved it. They listened to more audio guides than me, and Mikus pointed out various features of various places to me that he had learned about through listening. Wonders will never cease.
Tallinn also has quite a few nice historical wooden houses in desperate need of love and attention. I managed to swallow my stray-dog-loving instincts when I saw this little beauty. Next house I own is going to be a modern version of a design by Frank Lloyd Wright. Definitely no more wooden frills for this try-hard renovator.
BTW - have I mentioned Estonian museums yet? They ROCK.
On returning home we had a birthday party for this rough, tough man o'mine...
...who was very brave and endured the Latvian tradition - being tossed in the air 40 times by the women who attended the party. A bit tipsy at the start, girls, but we all sobered up towards lift no. 39 when the chair broke, and we had to keep him in the air!
Happy birthday, my love