Right now, if I lift my eyes off the screen and stop typing this, I’ll see one of the most beautiful views over Helsinki. I’m sitting at an outside café on a hill, overlooking the bay, with the National opera, the Finlandia Hall, the National museum, the House of Parliament, the museum of modern art, and my old gym to my right.
And one lonesome swan slowly swimming across the bay from north to south.
It’s taken it a good ten minutes, so you it’s taking it easy, because one lap around the bay is two kilometers.
The fact that it’s a swan is significant, because swan also happens to be the national bird of Finland. So seeing that national bird swim majestically across the bay puts a smile on my face, the same way almost riding my bike over a blonde Finnish teenage girl yesterday did.
One, because I only almost crashed into her.
Two, because it wasn’t really my fault, she just didn’t see me at all … because she was busy reading Väinö Linna’s “Unknown Soldier” – the great Finnish war novel – walking past the statue of Paavo Nurmi – a legendary runner – at the Olympic Stadium.
So you see how a swam swimming from the National Opera to the Finlandia Hall could be a loaded Finnish moment.
Except that I don’t much like birds. Son likes to chase pigeons at squares and while I may sometimes tell him to take it easy on the birds, I admit, I too like to see them fly away. I don’t find bids cute or attractive, except penguins, maybe. I think most birds are a little scary with their claws, and their beaks, and their crazy eyes. All birds have crazy eyes.
Mostly, though, it’s the dropping. The guano. Bird shit. I hate it, I hate the look of those white droppings on a sidewalk, and there are few things that I think are more disgusting than getting bird shit in your hair. It’s happened to me twice. The first time I was quick to look up, and I caught a glimpse of the seagull, and one day, I will catch him. He can fly but he can’t hide. I never forget a face.
The second time, it was a flock of birds, shitting down on me, Wife, Godfather and his wife, but I got hit the most.
And frankly, swans are no better than other birds. Sure, they swim “majestically”, and yes, the one I just saw looked beautiful from a distance of about 150 meters.
But I’ve seen swans from up close, too. Swans are everywhere in downtown Stockholm, swimming – majestically – under the bridges between the Royal palace, and the Grand Hotel. One time, when I was on my way to the gym during lunch, 15 years ago, a swan had apparently got lost, wound up on the street, and was now walking back and forth among the pedestrians – not majestically.
As I got a little closer to the bird, it … crapped right in front of me on the street.
There was nothing majestic about it.