Klovharu is an atoll-shaped island of about 6000–7000 square metres. It’s one of the many small, rocky islets that make up the Gulf of Finland’s outer archipelago. Time has eroded a lagoon at its centre, which makes it seem as if the island has spilt in two. There is little vegetation on Klovharu, although marram, wild pansies, bedstraw and purple loosestrife nestle in rocky crannies. Year after year, the only tree on the island, a rowan, followed the comings and goings of the islanders from beside the cottage. Rose bushes also thrived in front of the cottage.
Seagulls and terns also nested on the cliffs, and they found it hard to adapt to its new inhabitants.
‘Of course I know that the seabirds were here first! They have registered their claim to this territory for who knows how many generations and their hatred for us is obvious: they swoop at us with their beaks open, screeching. The terns are the worst, true warriors who really know how to aim their poo. These shining white symbols of freedom and the horizon drive us mad. Tooti can’t work on her drawings without an umbrella, and when she jumps rope in the mornings, they take it as a declaration of war (which amuses me). We can’t swim, we can’t put down nets, we can’t even go out in the boat – I’ve never been hated so conscientiously!’
On Klovharu, the arrival of summer went hand in hand with the arrival of the swallows.
‘The swallows came and put on a great display, flying through the air like screaming knives, circling the cottage time and again with great excitement and expectation – and then poof! they were gone, without promising a thing.
[...] The swallows nest in Ham’s old summer hats and on tempting shelves and in the boxes that Tooti has nailed under the rafters.’
The little island was also a nesting site for eider ducks and, for many summers, one female set up home in the rose bushes in front of the cottage.
The outer archipelago experienced violent storms that washed away jetties and other yard fixtures. As time went by, Tove started to view the sea’s stormy nature in a new light.
‘And last summer, something unforgivable happened: I started to fear the sea. The giant waves no longer signified adventure, but fear, fear and worry for the boat and all the other boats that were sailing in bad weather.
[...] We knew that it was time to give the cottage away. We assured each other that it was more stylish to leave in good time, before we were forced to leave, but it began to sound like nagging when it was said too often.
[...] And so we’ll never fish again. Never chuck wastewater into the sea or check the rainwater barrels. And never fear for Victoria – and no one will ever need to fear for me! Good.’
– Extracts from Anteckningar från en ö (Notes From an Island, 1996).