Let There Be Light
LUND--The day had been warm, or what could reasonably pass for warm in January in Sweden. Skåne (Scania in English) the southern tip of Sweden, is bounded by water on three sides and washed by the Gulf Stream. Consequently the temperatures rarely go far below freezing despite Lund being at a North latitude of 55 degrees and Wooster at not quite 41 degrees. My friend Michelle, who lives in Cincinnatti, a farther south latitude even than Wooster, said in her last e-mail that the cold was so intense that it sucked the air from her lungs. To date it has never been that cold here.
Still, this much farther north the nights come early and most days are grey and cloud-bound. Here in Skåne there is a constant wind, blowing down from the Arctic and across from Russia one way and across the North Atlantic the other. You find yourself walking down the street, constantly blinded by tears. It sounds grim.
It often is grim. In December there were eight hours of sunshine but I may, in my writings, given too dark an impression. I have not, in re-reading them, spoken of the warm light cast inside by candles and orange paper stars or the talk and and generous gatherings that these northlanders use themselves to get through these months.
It is always easier to write of the bad, the annoying, the hardships -- to become lost in the words of winter and dislocation. As well, I tend to write of these things regardless of climate. Perversely, it is easy enough to share pain with the world. Joy is a private thing, fragile and rare--a thing that one does not speak or write of lightly in fear that it may go away when it is so rarely had. It is easy enough to tell you of everyday trouble but harder to speak of simple happiness or of terror.
This move has been difficult. For over ten years amidst all my jobs and wanderings I never accepted my life or home in Wooster. I never unpacked to stay. I was never preparing my house for a life but was always preparing to leave. As such things happen it was only there, at the very end, that the Ohio air became unbearably sweet and clear and I could feel that the friends and community loved me as well or better than I loved them. And I left them in the fullness of that. I left my family and my friends, new friends and friends that in the course of my stay had become old and trusted friends. I left there and I left them with three suitcases and what I could carry on a plane to go to a woman I loved but in many ways barely knew. It was the only thing I could do. I had thought so long about her, and for so long about leaving, that had I not gone I would have damned myself as a coward for the rest of my days though no one else would have. And there, at the end, the incentives to stay were many. Still, I went.
I will write more of the joy because it is there. I see that I have done a similar disservice to Central America, made it a land of little but sickness and poverty and death and Scandinavia little but unfriendly clean darkness. Neither are accurate. The clouds sometimes clear and there is a little more blue and a little less grey. The night now is cold and clear and the light of the moon is brighter than many of the days so far. In the dead of winter the light is something like I have never seen. It seems to touch nothing, to be a fluid through which things move untouched, but the light, when it is strong, seems like it could last forever.
PS-And in the interests of full disclosure my Lena, in a fit of pique at my melancholic writing, began a photo blog proving I am not, in fact, moping around all the time... www.tonninsweden.blogspot.com