Click! Click! Click! Once again, Ellie the dog and I have been immortalized in a Chinese photo album. The Eastern visitors in the park find us to be an object of fascination. I am uncertain as to why. Perhaps it is the sight of a defenseless woman having the guts (or the stupidity) to walk a fearsome black canine. While the Chinese tourists photograph Ellie, they indicate clearly that they’d prefer not to greet her.
Cultural attitudes towards animals run strong. A friend of mine from Paraguay reminds me of why I’ve never warmed up to cats. Growing up in developing countries with a lot of rabid strays around – deserted scavengers that hiss and scratch to survive – hasn’t cultivated a warm and loving instinct towards our feline friends.
“Whä di Chinaaa Palace?” asks one of the Chinese tourists while taking a snap of us. Bewildered as to why someone from China might have come all this way to see a Swedish King’s imitation Chinese leisure house, I point to the hill behind the long row of fountains. The tourist and his fellow travellers turn immediately and shuffle rapidly in that direction. I think of shouting out that it will be open for a few more hours (it’s only 9 in the morning), but sense that this piece of information may be in vain. The gaggle of tourists is already snapping its cameras half way up the hill to the China Palace.
It’s been a week of worries in the rain. Precipitation and cold as we pass into June is enough to send most of us in Sweden to the psychiatrist. The Euro crisis, the neo-Nazis in Hamburg, bisphenols in our packaged food and even global warming (although it hasn’t seemed evident during the past week) begin to seem like walls closing in on us.
Then the sky begins to break up and this morning the sun shoots through the linden alleys at the Palace. The lilac, which has been drenched in rain and now the goodness of the sun, lives up in its own sensuous perfume. The rhododendrons strike me as the underside of a ballerina’s tutu. In fact, it is not hard to understand why flowers are associated with women: their various shapes mirror the shape of clothing we have worn over time. Everywhere there are blossoms spilling over the fences and into places that are supposedly out-of-bounds. The early summer pushes out limitations and breaks them down. Everything is possible, solvable, doable.
The transformation of my week by the drying up of the rain and the return of the sun’s rays on the early summer blossoms is a reminder of how little we need to change our perception of things. Whole realities can be transformed by small adjustments. Sometimes our inbuilt volatility can be frightening: on one day the world can be black, and on the next it can be white. On the whole, though, I take our capacity to rapidly change the way we see things as hopeful. The greatest of all dangers lies, after all, in stagnancy and intransigence.
The Chinese tourists are done exploring King Adolf Frederik’s Chinese Pavilion, a small “birthday gift” to his wife Ulrika Lovisa. Each of them has got at least a hundred snaps of it. While I am quite sure that Ellie and I will quickly be deleted from the collection that gets shared with relatives back home in China, perhaps just one more look at the image of the friendly black dog will be enough to shift some attitudes. It only takes the memory of a little wag of the tail to move mountains.
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