The aroma of my rose garden was everywhere in the air, but it was the flock of birds on the lake that caught my attention. It moved like a black and white fluttering sheet across the surface of the water. Always forward, always forward. The last of the birds in the flock overcompensated for falling behind by flinging themselves ahead. As the flock made its way around the bay seeking the best breeding ground - our place is too full of beaver nests as evidenced by the gnawed-off trunk floating in the water - it struck me how similar all of us are.
Ellie the dog wines when I sit on the warm dock. She's a black dog and cannot tolerate the sun. But when I have my morning hour of reading in full exposure to that glorious warmth which is a blessing during these days when the mercury hasn't risen above 14 C, Ellie protests. She wants to be as close together as possible, just as when she lies on my feet under my writing desk where I hammer away only half conscious of why my feet are so warm.
I wander across the property wondering where everyone is. Where is my husband? Where is my daughter? My son is away in southern Sweden dancing around someone else's pole. This beautiful place I've considered my only true home in the world since the moment I set eyes on it suddenly starts to feel alien; as though despite countless lines in books and articles written about it, it never really was mine. I hear feet stepping in dry grass. All is saved. My husband is pulling out the weeds that always violate his vision for the garden. I look where I always should have, down at the gazebo, my daughter's latest paint project. She's always working. I should have known she'd be there with paint brush in hand. Everything is alright, I'm still with the flock, and like the last birds which overcompensate for being behind, Ellie the dog runs ahead wagging her tail so that her body bends like a banana, to greet my daughter.
Belonging is that most essential driving force of everything that walks and crawls, and yet when I turn on the television during the evenings, I realize how destructive it can be. An apology to all of you who enjoy football, but when I watch all of the head butting, tripping up, and often feigned agony in order to force an advantage for the team, I am disturbed. Above all, the thirst of the crowd to see the gladiators go to battle for that entity that has got us into such trouble - the nation - makes me wonder whether we can ever distance ourselves from the destructive sides of our need to belong, or whether it will always catch us like a spider's web and suck the life from us.
Zlatan steps into the VIP section to watch - the disarmed Swedish gladiator come to observe future enemies. His face is stern and his fists clenched, just as a great warrior's always should be. A hush comes over the tiny blue and yellow contingency in the threatening sea of green and yellow. Zlatan is here to defend us, to uphold our national honor even if our team didn't make it into the competition, they think, and everyone heaves a sigh of relief.
"Better that they fight it out on the football field," my husband says. He is glued. I don't buy that argument. Is the only alternative for these young men to become hooligans on the streets and to satisfy their need for belonging by tatooing themselves with a gang symbol, rather than mumbling an anthem to a flag before a match? Fine, let them play sport, but if this type of nationalism is the only answer we've got to dealing with the more dangerous sides of our need to belong, then we are on a slippery slope.
In the end, all of us face our maker alone. Perhaps our existential fear of the inevitable is the thing that drives us insanely towards dangerous forms of belonging. The roses in the vase I picked yesterday have bowed their heads. Their modesty makes them more beautiful today than they were yesterday. Soon they will all return to the same earth. That very idea is what makes them divine.