Sunday, June 22, 2003

It was, and it wasn't a proper midsummer.

We took the ferry, a charming old wooden one that creaks and lets in a little water around the edges, and we sat in the corner at a table, happy to have gotten a seat since the ferry was as full as the crew will let it get.

We arrived at Birds Island, and we ate herring out on the porch under the overhanging roof, which protected us, mostly, from the drizzle. We drank vodka and Dutch gin, and we sang a few meager drinking songs appropriate for the occasion, all proper midsummer.

But we were too comfortable up at the house and having fun talking, and it was too cold and wet out in the meadow to bother to jump like little frogs around the midsummer pole out under the grey sky, or to gather seven different kinds of flowers to make midsummer wreaths to wear on our heads. And then we had dinner too late to go out and dance two-by-two on the jetty, although sometime after 1 a.m. I did bring the architect from San Francisco out to my favorite spot at the rocks at the end of the island to sit and watch the sea while the sun prepared to rise.

Late in the evening, O., the 16-year-old daughter of the fashion photographer, was trying out different ways of signing her name, as 16-year-olds sometimes do, and soon we were passing around our own signatures.

"What is that?" A., the assistant director said. They all wondered at the letters I wrote as they watched me sign my name.

"We don't use capital letters like that," said the actor, who had once played Jesus Christ on the stage. Apparently, sometime in the seventies, Swedish schools stopped teaching children how to write upper-case letters in cursive script, and now they are taught only the lower-case letters.

They made me write the entire upper-case cursive script alphabet.

"What about å, ä and ö?" the actor asked. I told him, silly, we don't have those letters in English, but he made me write them anyway.

The Swedish word for the day is handskriven. It means handwritten.

- by Francis S.

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