Last year on this day I had been out with the French until 9 am. I woke up at 2:30 to the parade of geese that always walked by my apartment next to the national library, and I looked at the wall and saw a blotch of purple.
I remembered that harsh violet smear from sunrises in Oxford, England, when I was always trying to get some piece of Romantic poetry into my head before my tutorials. It usually turned out that the sun would rise, the birds would sing, and I would realize that the only thing I had going through my head was the shoddy Nirvana lyrics I’d been listening to while browsing Coleridge.
So maybe I have always hated seeing sunrise on the wall from my bed.
Last year, it wasn’t sunrise I woke up to. It was sunset. I had missed the few hours of sun of the day, and had another 19 hours to wait until I would see the sun again. As it happened, I again wound up with crazy foreigners—this time salsa-dancing Italians—and again missed the sun the next day.
Now I live a more sensible life. I woke up on time and waited for the sunrise. With extremely heavy cloud cover, it never really came. It went from deep black to the thick blue grey that you might imagine Jack the Ripper walking around in.
So this is solstice. (Yes, it fits to the John Lennon tune.)
My editor keeps on telling me how pagan today is… a lot of talk of blood sacrifice and of how Christmas tradition is derived from pagan rituals, etc.
This ain’t exactly a shocker to me. I’m living in a country where they still use Yule (Jól) instead of the Christian name for the holiday: I get it. I went to college in the days of revisionist history, where one of the many authorities we learned how to attack was all organized religion.
So I know about the little druids. And I guess I take my hat off to so many people finding the energy and the good sense to celebrate dark days with friends.
But ultimately, I don’t think all the pagan celebration is that noble or clever. I’d personally like to find a nice stereo system and a stack of books and hide away. A thousand years ago, many people wanted to slaughter stuff.
Another John Lennon song comes to mind: Whatever gets you through the night…
And with that, I am leaving Iceland for three weeks to submit my novel, to eat cheese curds and drink Leinenkugels in my home state of Wisconsin, to visit Icelandic communities and the new MoMA in New York, and to possibly take in a hockey game and a couple rounds of curling. Best wishes for whatever holidays you choose to celebrate. BC [email protected]