Yesterday we drove out to Tysslingen, an area to the west of Örebro where migrating swans land every Spring on their journey north to the still frozen wastes of Finland and Russia. Tysslingen is a small lake, partly marsh, at the foot of Kilsbergen, the blue range of hills running north-south on the western edge of the Närke plain, on which Örebro lies. The annual drive out to Tysslingen is like a rite of Spring here, a moment when crowds of swans meet crowds of humans. I wondered whether the birds regard us with us much curiosity and wonder as we regard them. In a few weeks I suppose we will drive out to Öbykulle to see the snakes emerging from their winter hibernation to spread out over the marshlands of eastern Närke; that is another of the rites of Spring, but it comes a little later when the sun is strong enough to warm the sluggish snakes as they come back to life after their long sleeping.
I find myself wondering about those migrating swans who stay a day or two here every year on their journey north; they seem to head south in a much more random fashion in the autumn. These majestic birds spend winter around the coast of south-west Sweden and among the Danish islands, but in the summer they spread their wings and lose themselves over wide expanses of the arctic north. How do they deal with this splintering of their existence? Do they wonder, like me, where they belong? Are they equally at home in Russia and Finland as in Sweden and Denmark? I suppose our human borders mean nothing to swans whose lives are governed by other urges and instincts. But they live their lives in two different worlds nonetheless. As we do.
We seem to spend our lives flying between two different worlds, one in the north, one in the south. I have always thought of myself as Australian, but after five years in Sweden my australian-ness has been diluted. As Maria’s Swedish-ness was when she lived in Australia. And now both of us feel a certain split within us. We are both-and as well as neither-nor. We belong in both places and in neither. This has created a deal of stress for us, as it does for our children whose personalities are still forming.
Our identities are the result of this journey. We are not migrants, but we are migratory, as are the swans of Tysslingen. It is my hope that we can realise the wonder of such an existence and not be simply weighed down by the burden of it. There is great beauty in the migration of these birds and their stopovers bring joy to many, as their flight brings wonder. It is my hope that as we continue the journey of life our migrations may be not only a source of joy for us but a blessing for those we share the stopovers of life with, wherever they may be. Like the swans we have two homes, and we fly over a whole world in between.