Tuesday, June 18, 2002

On my way to pick up the husband from work, I passed through Humlegården - the bumblebee park - the park that surrounds the Royal Library. The park was filled with numerous groups of Swedes drinking beer and playing boule or kubb - an ingeniously simple game from the Swedish island of Gotland - under the trees.

All life has moved outdoors, and the nation can't decide whether or not to believe the weather forecasters who are predicting rain for Friday, which is midsommarafton - midsummer eve, arguably the most important holiday of the year.

My beloved little brother and his wife the Rebel will be arriving tomorrow night, and on Thursday we will make our way in the afternoon to Ornö, an island in the southern part of the Stockholm archipelago. Ornö is the site of the summer home of P. and E., the parents of the Swedish photographer who lives in London with his English wife.

P.'s grandfather was the schoolmaster on the island at the turn of the century, and P. still owns the farm that his grandparents bought in the twenties. There are three or four small houses on the land, and I think we'll be staying in the one that is haunted by the ghost of Mor Anna, who will only let you open the door to the house if she likes you. (She likes me, evidently, because I had no trouble opening the door when I was there last summer.)

P.'s grandparents moved up to Ornö from southern Sweden for some unknown reason; and sometime shortly after, the island became an arts colony of sorts - Strindberg lived there at some point in his life. The island has become more of a summer spot these days, although there is still a grevinna - countess - of the island, who can be seen buying ice cream in the small market down the road from the farm of P.'s grandparents.

As for midsummer, it will be a mix of some 25 English, Americans and Swedes, and I suppose that all who are familiar with the traditions of the holiday will have to do his or her part to train everyone else - the toasts, the singing of "små grodorna" and dancing around the majstång - maypole, the eating of herring, herring and more herring, the toasts, the wearing of midsummer wreaths, the OP and beskadroppar, the toasts, and the playing of games, for example.

So, what are we waiting for? Let's get on with it.

postscript: my friend A. tells me that the word for bumblebee is humla and not humle, which is hops. But bumblebees are so much more picturesque and appropriate for a park than hops are. I think I will start calling it Humlagården instead of Humlegården.

- by Francis S.

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