by Lesley Darling

Gustavus Adolphus College

Luffare. While in a course on sustainable living, I wandered through the Swedish countryside with a group of wonderful, easy-livin’ Swedes. Rather than list the numbers, facts, and statistical quotes about my time, I want to say that the people I spent my time with sought something different, something overlooked. Our patchwork group included meat-eaters and vegans, farmhands, butterfly-catching birdwatchers, and Stockholm dwellers. We were the alternative set, the wanderers, the seekers, the land-folk. Our collective drifting was a stark counterexample to the mainstream, and sometimes our existence alone seemed to put us out of place.

We sought a connection to the old, to the earth. We sought a good life, an independent life, a life founded on the idea that everyone can find harmony with the land and make a glädjerik living with nature. Everyone wanted to do things themselves: weave clothes, whittle spoons. We wanted to experience life through learning, and learn about life through experience.

Yet while we dug into these earthly roots, our experiences were deeply mindful of the changeability of all things, the acceptance of seasons, and growth and dying. When you realize that you’re standing on nothing—that there is nothing to stand on in the transient sea of experience—it’s much easier to take the hands of the people around you and stand together. Folks who think like this are a niche, to be sure, but it’s a niche that you can find growing all over Scandinavia, pushing up slowly through the moss.

These photos seek to share a sense of this lifestyle, with all its transience, impermanence, outsiderness, and soulful appreciation of time spent in good company, be it earthly or human. Though safer than language, these photos still pale in comparison to the experiences they mimic. I hold these memories dearer than anything, but somehow they will always remain unapproachable. The body simply cannot process their emotional magnitude. As such, the experiences lay latent and unexplicated, lest they be marred by the damnable inaccuracy of words.

Lesley Darling ’15
Gustavus Adolphus College


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