on pancakes and poetry.
“It’s a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters… We get one story, you and I, and one story alone.”
—Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts
I can still taste them now—thin as a crêpe, gently smothered in jam, and with enough cream on the side to ensure each bite of pannkakor, or pancake, was duly covered.
It was my first day in Europe in 2008 and I was sat in Café Gråmunken in Stockholm’s old town with Kim and Emily enjoying our first meal—not necessarily the most exotic or unusual, but significant nonetheless because of that all-important distinction: it was our first.
Just as we’ll always remember our first love or first kiss, I’d like to think we also hold onto our travel firsts—be it our first flight, our first overnight train, or the first stamp in our passport.
Now fast-forward to last weekend in Åre, Sweden. Every morning I’d loaded my plate at the breakfast buffet with bacon and eggs, yoghurt and berries, and a sizeable sandwich or two (I’m blaming the mountain air, okay?).
But on our last morning, I noticed a new addition to the buffet, a familiar addition: warm Swedish pancakes with jam and cream. Nevermind that I’d already had my normal breakfast—there was room for a pancake or two, purely for the poetry of it.
The poetry of what? I can hear you asking—and give me a minute to explain. Like Donald Miller says just above, I love to think of life as a story—a story just like a novel, complete with themes, motifs, symbolism and yes, a little bit of poetry.
But these things don’t always jump out at us—sometimes we have to go hunting for them, to draw out the connections, to listen for the narratives our lives are telling.
In my own story, at least, I’m reaching the end of a chapter. While I’m headed to Spain tomorrow (and thus not leaving Europe just yet), I can’t help separating these next few weeks to come into a different chapter—a non-London-based chapter, if you will.
And so in my mind, this trip to Åre was closing out a chapter—and to find it ending in the same country where it began nearly four years ago, with the same exact meal, was a fitting kind of poetry to the literary geek in me.
I’m weird like that, I know.
But besides drawing such a bizarre connection between breakfast foods and life, there’s one more thing this post is meant to be…
a giant wrapped-in-pretty-foil-and-coated-with-love thank-you note.
These past two or so months in London would not have been possible without the tremendous generosity of some dear friends. I’ve been given beds to sleep in, spaces in which to store my ever-bulging duffel bag, and spare closets to hold bags of books I should seriously stop accumulating.
As I close this chapter, it’s overwhelming to think of the community of friends I have here in London, a community for which I couldn’t be more grateful. I may be leaving tomorrow, but I’m already looking forward to the next time I see them.
Until then, it’s time to pack up, put the backpack on, and whip my Spanish back into shape…
What are the travel firsts you most remember?