"Revive spark of wonder dimmed by the passage of time"

The visit of some English friends gave Nicola Foleher the chance to rekindle her sense of wonder at northern Sweden's beauty.

The bonkers beauty of the Winter Swim.

The bonkers beauty of the Winter Swim.

Foto: Donna Richmond

Engelska2024-02-26 09:00

Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting friends from the UK for a week. It was an eye-opening experience to see Skellefteå through their perspective, as people who had never been here before. 

We only arrived here just over three years ago, and I like to think I still appreciate the beauty that surrounds us in each season, but I realized during their visit that I had unconsciously become a little desensitized to some of the glorious things I now accept as everyday normal.

One of the most vivid examples of this was taking them to see the winter swimming. We wanted to see how the northerners of Sweden compared to those from northern England. (It's a stereotype back in the UK that those "Up north" are far tougher than the "southern softies") How does north compare against north?

Judging by the expressions on the faces of our friends, bundled up in layers of coats, the sight of people climbing into the ice-carved pool and swimming up 200 meters was quite a shock. The disbelief and awe was obvious!

Furthermore, the fact that a lady used a fishing net to scoop newly formed ice from the surface of the water between races totally blew their minds. They found it crazy that people willingly put themselves through such extremes, yet they loved the experience.

Walking across the ice to the Winter Swim 2024.

For me, however, this had become a regular activity, the initial wonder having worn off over time.

The novelty of being able to walk across water on ice that had grown well beyond a foot thick also fascinated them. Seeing snowmobile tracks stretching across the ice as far as the eye could see, seemed equally incredible to their newbie eyes.

During that week, we also went sledding in a nearby field, enjoyed lunch at a hillside grill with breathtaking views, and had supper and played cards in a tiny candle lit cabin (essentially a shed on wheels) nestled in the field behind our house. 

All of these activities have become normal for us, and yet, for them, every outing held a sense of magic and wonder.

This experience served as a reminder that it's easy to become complacent and take for granted the beauty of our surroundings. Seeing Skellefteå through the eyes of our friends, with their unbridled enthusiasm and sense of discovery, reignited my own appreciation for the extraordinary aspects of this place we now call home.

This is a column and the views are the author's own.

The bonkers beauty of the Winter Swim.
The bonkers beauty of the Winter Swim.