The Forty-fifth Letter from Lund... a goodbye.

Ernest Hemingway has a quote that I've loved for a long time, and though he said it while speaking about Paris, I have always exchanged that name with Santa Barbara. And now I must put another city into the quote as well...

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Lund as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Lund is a moveable feast.

Lund is a special place, as an understatement. This medieval, charming, small town has hosted a university since 1666, and over the centuries the students have cultivated an atmosphere that is spectacularly unique, creative, wide-ranging, and outrageous. I heard so much about it before I came, and could not have grasped this "moveable feast" until I actually lived it. In many ways I did not get enough of life there; I had only one year while most of my Swedish friends had about four. I will ache for certain things about Lund for a long time, perhaps forever. One time I had my neighbor over one hungover Sunday morning in winter, and she mused at how quiet the town can feel on the surface at night, truly cozy and calm, but you just know that in dozens of places within just a couple square kilometers there are pulsating crazy parties going on, be they costume parties in an administrative school-owned cottage, student clubs in the basement of an old elegant brick building, or a formal ball in the student castle where having suits and floor length gowns on puts no brakes on the mischief there is to be made. I always was so amazed that at a university with 40,000 students I still felt like I was in a small community, meeting the same friends in so many circumstances, always having mutual friends with anyone you meet. There was also so much going on, with the student union, the student nations, your class, your committees, theme nights, concerts, theater, and on and on that you could never really drink it all in.

My graduation night was amazing. Our program had a fantastic dinner together and danced for hours. The fun kept going even as our venue closed, and many hours later I found myself on the rooftop patio with a few people, watching the sunrise and having some last beers. One guy, before I realized what he was doing, blew lighter fluid out of his mouth and onto a flammable napkin wrapped fork. The fireball was huge. We laughed and yelled in disbelief. "That's so crazy! I can't believe you'd put that stuff in your mouth and then have your face so close to the fire!" I said. He looked right at me then, and said, "Corinne, don't you want to do it too?"

Of course not, that is outrageous, I thought. For the first two seconds. Then in the next two seconds a year of scenes went through my mind... the standing on the chairs and waving napkins and singing at every ball, the dancing around the tree outside in the snow in our Christmas party dresses, the rolling down a hill in the mud in circus outfits, sitting on a roof with 200 pirates as we welcomed in the spring, singing a Beyonce song in front of over 100 people at a previous graduation party, and also the final turning in of my thesis, triumphantly crowning a year of the hardest academic work I'd ever done. This year was outrageous... and I knew I had to finish it off in the same way. I had to blow a fireball.

So I did. And it was the most amazing feeling, I got rush of adrenaline, I literally jumped up and down and pumped the air with my fist.

Someday when my kids are old enough to hear about such crazy things, I will tell them stories about my year in Lund, and how there would have been no better way to end it than with a fireball finale.


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