ulrika eleonora

IN THE MOSSY verdant Botanical Garden along the river, so lush-humid and choked with greenery and mist, the land in the middle rises up in rings with a crater set at its center like a Roman theater. At the foot of a wooden staircase, a sign informs the most curious of passersby that this was once a Swedish bastion called Ulrika Eleonora, after the younger sister of Charles XII, and the future monarch of the empire. There’s a mysterious charm to these gilded relics of the Imperial Swedish age in Estonia, as if they were all gold-covered pieces of chocolate. I related the story to my editor over wine at a restaurant a night later, and she too, in her blossoming, billowing yellow dress, was surprised to learn the garden was built on the back of the bastion Ulrika Eleonora, and that on the back of this Swedish royal now grow many fragrant flowers hosting many foot soldier butterflies of the Great Power Era, the stormaktstiden. “It is amazing how little we know,” she admitted, “even about those things closest to us.” The wine was summer white, and there was light off the candles and the perfume of happiness. My belly was full of the butterflies too, for the first time in a long time, and my how they fluttered. This is how I forgot all about the little white owls and Icelandic girls at faraway pools. This is how I forgot everything and was reborn into time. I must thank that dead princess one day for reviving the life in me. Tack så mycket, Ulrika Eleonora. Tusen tack.

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