birch bark rings

In honour of Midsummer’s night, a little story. When I was a little child of seven, I traveled with my European parents to their homes. We came to Scandinavia at Midsummer, bonfires all night on the beach, when the sun merely touches the horizon and bounces up again. In verdant Finland, my mother’s home, I was given a remarkable present.

birch bark © elisa rathje 2011

A birch bark ring. Elfin thing. I treasured it for many years. The tiny folded ones I came upon this weekend are just like the one I had. I bought two at the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, one for each of my little girls. They are handmade following a simple traditional pattern.

birch bark © elisa rathje 2011

One for my sweetheart who is far away from me today, and one for my own hand. The old story goes that a Finnish lad, fallen in love, would fashion a ring out of birch bark, to give to his sweetheart and ask her to marry him.

birch bark © elisa rathje 2011

I love the circular impressions on the large rings. The rings are like leather, rubbed and twisted into solid bands.

birch bark © elisa rathje 2011

The fellow who made these is often at the Fair, he loves to make many traditional Finnish wood and bark pieces. I recognise them from all over my mother’s house. He calls the large bands wedding rings, and says the circles represent years of marriage. I hope to visit Finland with my little family someday, and Midsummer would be the perfect time. It’s been almost thirty years since I was there, but the lakes and cabins, the saunas, the wonderful traditional foods, oh, I remember it all so clearly. Happy Solstice! Do you mark the coming of summer? We’re planning a day of beachcombing and making sculptures in celebration of the warm season.

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