Anything is Possible in the Mystery of Not Knowing

The first time I went to Ã…re, Sweden, it was springtime, and I took a taxi from the airport in


The first time I went to Ã…re, Sweden, it was springtime, and I took a taxi from the airport in Ostersund, an hour south. The driver, a large man with a red nose, was nice if somewhat eccentric. As we drove the shoreline of Storsjön – the Great Lake – he told me about fishing and growing up on an island in its middle. He also told me a giant monster dwelt there, and that he had seen it several times. I was new to the area and ready to believe anything. I nodded, smiled, and stared out across the cold, steely surface.

There was a womb-like comfort in the lapping waters, the surrounding sweep of birch and pine, and a land that rolled to the horizon like a carpet bunched in the hall. Signs warning of marauding moose picketed the roadside, and tidy red cottages in countrified Scando style rose and fell from view. There was a creeping familiarity. As we drove into Ã…re, I saw the ski runs gathering the mountain’s upper reaches into the village square and remember thinking, “I could live here.”

Nothing I experienced that visit did anything to change my mind: skiing soupy May snow and gazing out over the snowy highlands to the west; watching a big-air contest under a molten late-evening sun; raccoon tans and smiles in every quarter; outdoor parties, good food, crazy drinks, welcoming people; life as simple celebration. It was the ski town I knew in a country I didn’t. That was a teaching moment.

I could live where ancient and recent hold hands around every corner. Where culture and tradition have a place in the march of a modern world. Where people aren’t shackled by history, but acknowledge it with every nod and action. As if they’re part of something bigger, something great, something that can only get better.

I could live where the sky holds the mountains in its hands. Where storms come in low and black, pressing you to the earth and making you wonder aloud what’s going on up there. Where you can tramp through wet autumn woods while a brisk northerly tears clouds from snow-covered peaks like presents being unwrapped. Where one sunny day can make up for weeks of darkness, and clean air and fresh water are a right not a privilege.

I could live where people laugh and smile not because they feel the need to, but because they can’t help themselves. Where people live a little outside of the world not because they reject it, but because they care so passionately about it.

Ultimately, the lesson of Ã…re was that I could live where people might be uncertain about everything else, but very certain about why they were there: to be part of a family sharing a to-do list of endless possibility.

I’ve visited many times since and always think about the taxi driver. His monster wasn’t real, but it had meaning. An expression of humanity’s most deeply cherished ideas: the unknown, wilderness, possibility. There’s something in these words we need to believe. Because if we ever actually found that monster it would be over – no more unknown, no more wilderness, no more possibility.

Some people invent monsters because they want to believe anything is possible; the rest of us, to make it simpler, move to the mountains.

Photo of Ã…re, Sweden, by Mattias Fredriksson. See more from Mattias here.

 

Showing 41 comments
  • JonEric
    Reply

    “the rest of us…move to the mountains”….Thanks for keeping those of us who are not yet there dreaming of the monsters!

  • Richard
    Reply

    To be honored enough to wear an Odin jacket, you must have voted for him. The republicans promised to end bureaucracy, the democrats promised to end poverty, Odin promised to end the ice giants. Do you know any ice giants? Vote Odin

  • Vacations2Discover.com
    Vacations2Discover.com
    Reply

    Great article. Thanks for sharing!

  • Justin
    Reply

    Well written. Would love to visit someday.

  • victor snover
    Reply

    Heading to Whitegrass in WV this weekend to xc ski and will have this in my head while there! Thanks for the article!

  • jake
    Reply

    no matter the country, we all speak mountain

  • Sara P.
    Reply

    I would love to go there…

  • Clare G
    Reply

    “… and remember thinking, ‘I could live here.'”
    Had that thought many a time. Wonderful.

  • Seth
    Reply

    Sure do love the monsters in my mountains … always good for a dream or two.

  • Oliver
    Reply

    That was a great piece, and it reinforced my desire to visit that part of the world.

  • Brian C
    Reply

    Living in Denver I’m fortunate enough to be near that unique mountain vibe, but man there’s nothing quite like immersing yourself into it. To see is one thing but to experience is another entirely. Given the opportunity I’m shacking myself up there to get my own racoon eyes and find likeminded people who smile simply because it’s their default mode.

  • Chia Tan
    Reply

    road tripping sweden and norway this summer!!

  • Kevin
    Reply

    Beautiful and amen.

  • Chris McPartland
    Reply

    Great article!

  • Michael Duggan
    Reply

    Picture=Great
    Article=Awesome

  • mal
    Reply

    Aw how ive had this feeling so many times. I had a similar experience recently in arctic norway where i was thinking ok even though its arctic cold i could put up with this for the beauty and tranquility, Problem is i realised it was arctic norway a place where most live for generations around the same communities and making a living revolves around specialist sectors such as mining or fishery etc , i could really try harder to make it happen but for now i will just look foward to enjoying another trip and the experience, also i guess wherever you go, living in a place is a totally different reality to travelling for a short period of time, i can never understand why people want to visit my city but people still visit and really seem to enjoy it, i guess i just dont make the most of it and kind of take it for granted.

  • Mason
    Reply

    Your ability to write is a great possession. And now, I am happy 🙂

  • tom polk
    Reply

    I have come to love getting my doses of AJ. I find it to be just the right sort of thing to give me a moment to stop and appreciate. I love that the articles are not long, in depth – YOU NEED to KNOW THIS! No screaming E!rumormill. The brevity of the stories & reflections make it poetic & insightful. Pictures here, cabins there, crazy action going on and just a few moments of zen for my day
    thanks for this little gem

  • Matt
    Reply

    What a wonderful article. Thank you so much for sharing!

    “I could live where the sky holds the mountain in its hands.”

    Perfectly poetic.

  • Gary Johnson
    Reply

    Swedes know how to do it!

  • Andrew Guthrie
    Reply

    I have been to that same place but it is called Scandicci, Italy.

  • rick
    Reply

    the way things should be

  • alpentalic
    Reply

    Would love to go there some day

  • JC
    Reply

    mmm…snow.

  • DF
    Reply

    Looks sweet!

  • Brad Jorde
    Reply

    Incredible. I am equal parts worried and hoping that if I visit, I might not come back.

  • John
    Reply

    Spot on. That’s why we moved to the mountains too. “Oh the places you’ll go and the people you’ll meet.”

  • Travis
    Reply

    These few short paragraphs precisely capture the magic that drew us here, the beauty that keeps us here, and the awesomeness that is: living in the mountains, “where people laugh and smile… because they can’t help themselves”.

  • John
    Reply

    Reflections on Are remind me of that constant search to find home. I think, like in Are, it’s where we feel grounded, and it seems the mountains ground people more than any other feature of nature.

  • Dave
    Reply

    A friend of mine recently observed that “there are mountain people and there are water people” (and, I guess we have to suppose, other people, like city, plains, and desert people). You really captured the essense of mountain people. Thanks.

  • Joaomc
    Reply

    Somewhere, over the rainbow…

  • J Arneson Bucher
    Reply

    Well worth the read! Well worth the attitude…!!! For may any monster’s that dwell below cease in the clean fresh richness that flows down in our accomplishments from our successful completion of those to-do-lists as in our greeting and or possibly coming to terms when we can plus will face either those monsters and or our claustrophobic notions in actions that hinder the abilities to enjoy ourselves and one another in healthy lifestyles and real sincere productivity! Beautifully & poetically written….a wonderfully shared accomplishment! Thank you!!!

  • Rebecca Johansson
    Reply

    As a Swede I can attest to the beauty of the country and the people! I’m sure many of us, with a love of the outdoors and movement can share in the idea of “lagom” and “allmansratt”.

  • David D
    Reply

    ok

  • Sean
    Reply

    I’m surprised there arent more monster stories here in the finger lakes. I mean Seneca is like 500 ft deep and Cayuga is like 400. Who knows whats hanging out down there

  • Dave
    Reply

    Great essay

  • Audrey
    Reply

    Very poignant piece. I’ve always appreciated others’ appreciation of nature, simpler pleasures, etc.

  • suzy
    Reply

    I agree, just move to the mountains!

  • Steve
    Reply

    The best trips, regardless of what they are for, immerse you into a way of life you haven’t experienced before. I love how Adventure Journal captures those immersive experiences in the context of so many different activities; skiing, backpacking, road tripping, etc. I think immersing yourself into another culture and letting your blank canvas be painted with experiences, is the best way to build bridges that last a lifetime.

  • Patrick
    Reply

    This leaves me longing to be back in the mountains I love.

  • Mel Beaury
    Reply

    To live outside the world not because you reject it but because you love it so much is a great summation for living in a small town

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