The island isn’t far from the coast and as we approach, I hear hammering and see people working. The landscape is not as dramatic as I thought — there are no ancient rock formations — but it looks vaguely famil- iar from Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice which was filmed on Gotland and probably from some Bergman movies I’ve seen. There are very few trees on the island and it feels like a giant field, the size of about four soccer fields. I walk in the direction of the builders.
They are working on a structure that looks something like a piece of playground equipment, or pieces of playground equipment attached to each other to create a larger construction. There is a swing set and a seesaw. One young man sits lounging on a swing. I count six others hammering or sawing on various other constructions that look like they will be attached to the main structure. For the most part they are young people: I’d guess between 22 and 35. They notice my presence and a few people nod their heads in acknowledgement, but no one comes over. I don’t know whether or not I can ask for Almborg. As a non-builder I suppose there is nothing that says I can’t speak, but if the participants haven’t heard spoken language for a long time, I don’t want to impose. I err on the side of caution and remain quiet, looking around to see if I can find Almborg. One of the builders points down towards the beach and I see that a few people are swimming about 200 metres away. I walk over to them, and a man with a camera spots me and walks over. He greets me with a handshake and an awkward smile and I assume this is Almborg. He makes a gesture that I interpret to mean something like, ‘Welcome, make yourself at home.’ He points at my bag and then points in the direction of what looks like a campsite. I nod, smile, do a little bow to say ‘Thanks’, and walk over to the campsite to leave my bag.
At the campsite there are two large tents, and I drop my bag down outside one of them. I look around and see the remnants of the night before: a pit filled with campfire ash, some empty beer cans, plastic cups that look like they contained wine, cigarette butts. I also see what resembles homemade musical instruments. There is something that looks kind of like a guitar and a pair of makeshift drums. I wonder if singing is allowed as I take a blanket out of my bag and walk back to the construction site. I sit on the blanket in the grass and observe the builders. The first thing I think of is Cistercian and Carthusian monks, who not only spend their lives in silence, but also emphasize manual labour and construction in their activities. None of these monks actually take a vow of silence, and discussion and conversation is permitted under certain circumstances, such as functional communication for teaching or work; what is disallowed is leisurely chatting. Such behaviour, such strict observance of a rule, is usually associated with asceticism. The austerity is based on a notion that there is a level of spiritual or religious happiness far superior to any happiness one can find through indulgence. I wonder if the builders are feeling something like this, or if they constantly feel as though they are refraining from something vital by not being able to use language. I wonder if they feel as though their silence is bringing them to a higher spiritual plane, whatever that might mean.
I am curious how it works with the food: Is all of the food brought by the fisherman? How is it coordinated? Just as I start thinking about food, it appears to be lunchtime. No one makes an official sign or signal, but everyone seems to notice when two persons starts cooking. They heat up the cooking pan over the fire and make falafel balls from a packaged powder.