Daniel's train pulled out of the station at 8:35am on Easter Monday, and as the lights disappeared from view around the corner I stopped being on holiday and landed instead in the middle of an unfamiliar city completely on my own. I stood for a minute on the platform, completely at a loss with what to do next, where to go, how to be in a place where I know almost nobody, where almost nobody knows me. Luckily I had come prepared: I was wearing my running gear, and was carrying energy gels and drink in my bag, so, naturally, I went for a 20-mile run around Stockholm to soak up the last of the Easter sunshine, and to indulge myself completely in every newly-hatched memory from the wonderful four days behind me.
Normally I get no more than 3-4 waking hours with Daniel every day, but still I couldn't get enough of his company this weekend, with every waking hour spent mostly walking and chatting, while sleeping hours were intermittent, disturbed by the familiar discomfort of squeezing two full-sized people into one very small single bed.
We got to know Stockholm from its gloriously wide boulevards and sweeping waterside walks, wandering around the islands hand-in-hand, taking photos and getting increasingly excited with each stunning view that appeared around the next corner (and there were many). I'm living right on the edge of the main city area, on the last stop on the underground heading northeast, and there are some stunning waterside footpaths and forest trails right on my doorstep. Much of the water around Stockholm is still frozen solid, and you can hear deep groans from way beneath the surface of the ice as it begins to pull apart in the relative warmth of the impending springtime. On a chilly morning run we climbed up to a viewpoint and watched and listened for a while, taking in the foreign landscape, the moaning of the ice's underbelly, and the freshness of the air.
We slept in and breakfasted late, lunched on lingenberry bread and cinnamon buns with strong Swedish coffee, wandered the modern art gallery, wrapped up from the freezing temperatures (which came as a shock to us even after the recent British weather), ate the perfect late-night pizza, tucked up with a film and desperately weak cider, soaked in the sunshine on a waterside terrace and ate crisp sandwiches in the snow. But mainly we walked and walked and walked for miles, and talked constantly about everything that exists between us: the past, the present that we're building together in York, and now the future too, which is ours to share. I explained again my views on language acquisition (the theories of which are difficult for a literature graduate to grasp, it appears), while he told stories of travelling in Colombia and Ecuador - stories that I love to hear time and time again (mainly because I often forget what the stories are about).
It was an Easter weekend almost free of chocolate, free of the celebrations that are going on worldwide that I never feel quite right taking part in. The treat instead was being together so completely for a blissful four days, being on holiday while also being on an important working mission of my own. We finished off the mini-holiday with a slap-up meal at a vegetarian all-you-can-eat buffet, looking out onto the most famous Stockholm views. While walking back to my flat, full of good food, numerous refills of Yogi tea and talk of our up-coming wedding and the amazing year behind us, I was struck again by how abundant life is, and how responsible I need to be in taking it and drinking it in as completely as I can. The emptiness that currently has hold of every cell in my body is also the most wonderful fullness that I could ever wish to have: the missing is part of the having, part of the lucky happenstance that it is simply not possible to have all of the joy all at the same time. The space that has been left by Daniel's absence, by the home that is waiting for me back in York, by the exciting parties, weddings and hen dos that I'll be missing out on while I'm here; this is surely important space to fill with Stockholm, with Swedish cinnamon buns, with long walks or runs by the melting Baltic waters, and with the exciting project which I have come here to do. I feel as if this might be a second (or third?) chance at grasping something a little bit scary and making it something completely awesome. Hindsight is to be taken with a pinch of salt at the best of times, but it isn't often that we get to act upon that hindsight and make it count. I'm fuelled up on joy and cinnamon buns, and about ready to start my month of Stockholm.