But thankfully the sun has been shining more often than not since my arrival in Langeland, off the coast of southeastern Funen in Denmark. A welcome change from the heavy rain and flooding the residents of this lovely island have weathered this summer. Low-lying and endowed with rich earth for farming and many kilometers of coastline for fishing, it is attached to mainland Fyn by a series of three bridges. Along the roads, between fields of golden wheat and small patches of woodlands, storybook villages, clusters of brick and half-timbered houses hug the narrow roads, late summer roses still blooming brightly in tiny pocket gardens. And for the moment – fields that have turned to ponds. The rain – an occasional inconvenience for me – has been a crisis for farmers trying to harvest grain. The sunshine and coastal breezes have helped dry the fields – tractors pulling wagons filled to the brim with harvested wheat pass by regularly throughout the day and night.
I am here for a month in my mother’s homeland, and for a little while – a close neighbor to my beloved Danish family. A dream come true, peppered with the reality of travel and work, and of navigating the day-to-day in a new place. Langeland’s riches go far beyond farming and fishing – with art parks, castles, art towers and nature trails dotting the landscape. With bustling sailing harbors, vacation villages and a small town – now famous for the setting of a recent academy award-winning film. With old flour-mills and modern wind-mills on the horizon. And rustic, tiny farm stands at the end of gravel driveways, overflowing with the harvest from back-yard vegetable plots and fruit orchards. An old tradition and culture of self-serve/self-pay roadside stands is still active and thriving, and offers the best grocery shopping. A constantly changing array of produce and home-made products usually dictates the menu for the day. The current crop of tiny new potatoes – with their thin skins, and buttery, melt in your mouth flavor – top the list of favorites at the moment. With the farm-fresh eggs, raspberries, pears, jams, newly spun honey and smoked salt vying for top spot. But it is our friendly and generous neighbors, our hosts, dear family and new friends – who come by bearing gifts of orchard fruits from their own gardens and just-baked rolls from their kitchens, who invite us in to share meals around their tables – that have been the best gift of all.
The day is beckoning – time to step out into the sunshine. With wellies on my feet and an umbrella in hand. And with thoughts of my devastated, flood-torn Vermont, I am keeping family and friends close, while so far away.