Friday, July 19, 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream

My daughter taking a dip at 10pm. 

Last June, our Swedish friends invited us to join the New York Swedish community at Battery Park to celebrate Midsummer.  My kids and I meandered our way there a little too late because it began to pour heavily just as we arrived.  I stood in the shade, staring at the Statue of Liberty amidst the grey sky and rough waves, determined to have a 'do-over' the next year.  That was assuming my Swedish friends were going to stay on.  They returned back to Sweden in the early part of this year and the 'do-over' became a bit more complex.

So this June, we trekked all the way to Stockholm to visit little Erik's family.  We timed it for June 21 so that we could have the full experience of what is perhaps their most important holiday after Christmas.  Among the Scandinavians, the Swedes are the most observant and enthusiastically celebrate this holiday, a leftover from ancient times to commemorate the summer equinox.  The city wound down on Thursday June 20 as everyone went away to spend time with family and friends, mostly out in the country.  My friends hired a vintage boat to take us through a canal that then led out to the Swedish archipelago, eventually to an island called Grinda.  They were very concerned that it would rain, as tradition dictated year after year.  We packed newly purchased rain gear, only to be rewarded with glorious sunshine throughout our entire time in Sweden.

Sweden is north enough to experience long dark winters and probably feels cheated by short sprints of summer.  Yet, the summer days are long and I wanted to get that sense of the 10pm sunlight, having grown up in Singapore where the sun predictably set at 6.38pm every single evening.  Our Swedish companions enlightened us to the delirious joy of soaking in the sun at its best - with rounds and rounds of schnapps and wine,  interjected with top quality coffee to stay up all night.  We feasted on different types of pickled or marinated herring, fresh and creamy boiled baby potatoes and cubes of Vasterbotten cheese. The children had delicate pancakes and Swedish meatballs, but of course.

It was a delightful time to see pure happiness amidst some of the most beautiful people I've ever met - inward and outward beauty.

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