It was in the 70s or maybe in the 80s. I don’t
remember very well. I was spending two weeks with my parents in our summer
cottage in Kivik in the south of Sweden. I had eaten my mother's Scanian apple
cake with vanilla sauce and played tennis with my father. He was strong and
agile even in his 60s.
The two-week sojourn was at its end. I was leaving for Helsingborg.
"Take a piece of the apple cake with you," my mother had said, so I put a large piece of the cake in a plastic bag and stuffed it in my backpack.
"And then take this too," she said, handing me a jar of homemade cookies. "You will need the cookies," she said. Yes, I always was lean, and still am, though I eat all the high-calorie foods.
Now I was on my way to Helsingborg in a rented Toyota that lay like chewing gum on the road. I took the road past Vitaby, crossed Ravlundavägen, and drove up a long hill, to a glade in the forest with a mile-wide view of Hanö Bay. In the southeast, you could see Bornholm as a dark blue spot and the silhouette of Ryssberget in the north.
A stiff breeze from the southeast blew in the scent of salt and seaweed from the sea.
Although I had driven for less than ten minutes, I felt the urge to sit down with a coffee and apple pie and enjoy the view and the scent of conifers in the background.
The hands of my watch were approaching three o’clock and the shadows were beginning to lengthen. It was high summer. I had spent a midsummer fortnight at Kivik.
I spread a blanket on the grass under a spruce, poured out a cup of coffee from the thermos, and took a bite of the apple pie.
"Are you offering a cup?" a voice suddenly spoke up. The person had silently sneaked behind me, but the voice was familiar.
It was Lena, standing there with her bike and a wide smile. She was an old friend from Kivik. We had been as close as siblings since childhood.
“I took a healthy ride, a round-trip Eljaröd. And I found you here. What are you doing here? Are you on your way to or from Kivik? ” she asked.
I poured her a cup of coffee and told her about my vacation at Kivik and how I had spent my time there. We began to reminisce about our childhood and could have continued in this way for the rest of the day, but she suddenly interrupted me. "Funny that you would stop right here," she said, looking at me expectantly.
I mulled over her question and asked, "What do you mean? Is there anything special about this place?"
"Yes, there is."
"Come here and you will see," she added and entered the dense forest by a small path.
"What’s on your mind? Are you going to seduce me?” I joked.
She giggled and said, "You know I should not."
She was Beatrice-Aurora incarnate and I was the self in that song and wanted to chase after her.
Entering the semi-obscurity of the forest was like stepping into the beginning of the opera about King Roger where the action begins in semi-obscurity and ends in brilliant sunlight.
It was quiet there. A hallowed atmosphere. About twenty meters further inside the darkness, I could make out three huge meter-high anthills; hundreds of brown-black ants, large as termites, scurried back and forth along their miniature highways following the right-hand traffic rule.
I stood, amazed at the bustling world of ants that I had never known.
We observed the ants for a long time. The way they hurried around collecting conifer cones and small twigs to build on their already huge stacks. Here we were, two Gullivers who had entered their realm unannounced, but they did not care a whit. They worked tirelessly at their tasks. Who told them what their tasks were and by what means were they told?
"How long have you known about this?" I whispered so as not to disturb the sanctity of the moment and the place.
"Since last year when, just like you, I stopped to admire the view."
We walked out of the gloom into the sunshine. The wind had turned. Now it was blowing from the west.
"I can’t believe it," I said. I was overwhelmed by the encounter with the hidden world.
Lena looked out over the sea. "Yes, it's very, very strange," she said. "Maybe a zoologist could give us an explanation … the size of those ants. Such large ants are only found in Africa!” she said.
"That won’t be so good," I thought.
"Soon we might have all of Europe's zoologists trampling all over this place," I said.
"Exactly. That’s what I thought," said Lena and then added, "We could do good business as bog guides!"
But then we agreed to keep the hidden world to ourselves.
Are they real, these giant ants? As a reader of this blog, you may be wondering.
Yes, it's true. Of course, you may try to find the hidden world. But it will not be easy; the forest is quite large and several places fit the description I have given.
But if you find it, I will congratulate you. You will probably agree with me that we should let those busy creatures live their lives to the fullest.
Who knows? Their world may be happier than ours.
Copyright (C) 2021 Björn Johnsson