Thursday, December 22, 2005

To the sweet sunny south take me home

In the past two days I've said goodbye to Ricky's host family (hard) and to Jørgen (easy) and finally to Ricky. I wrote my love letter to Denmark the night before I left and leaned out the window to read it aloud to the cold sky. On the plane I cried as we flew over Jutland, the yellow farmhouses and windmills hidden by the clouds.

The US feels familiar and strange at once - the position of the lightswitches on the wall, the clothes in my closet, the penny dropped on the floor, the way strangers say "bless you" when you sneeze all surprise me. The house is sweetly cedar-scented and still. Everyone else is asleep, but I've been up for hours. All is as it should be.

Here at the year's end, at the feast
Of birth, let us bring to each other
The gifts brought once west through deserts—
The precious metal of our mingled hair,
The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses—
Let us celebrate the daily
Recurrent nativity of love,
The endless epiphany of our fluent selves,
While the earth rolls away under us
Into unknown snows and summers,
Into untraveled spaces of the stars.

- from "Lute Music" by Kenneth Rexroth

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I think I'll read instead

There are some things I can do better after a glass of wine, like touching my thumbs to the ground.

Juggling, it turns out, is not one of those things.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I think I'm at just the right balance between loving my time here and being ready to go home. I'm excited about Ellwood Thompson's and cooking and my Christmas tree and NPR and my mother's blue ceramic teapot that she says I can take with me to school next semester.

I want to write a thank-you letter to Denmark. A love letter, really. I toyed with the idea of sending it to Queen Margrethe (the embodiment of Denmark, as evidenced by Ricky's habit of muttering "Forgive me, Queen, for I have sinned" whenever he crosses a street without waiting for the green man), but I don't expect she would get it. Other options were writing it on sand or a foggy window so it would be dispersed into the sea or air. My current plan is to do it on paper and either burn or recycle it - both very Danish ways of destroying a sheet of paper.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

What words say

It's funny what words say about a society. In Russia the word "state" shows up everywhere - Moscow State University, etc. In Denmark the word you see everywhere is folke - "people." Denmark has people's highschools and Copenhagen People's University and the Danish People's Party. But the word doesn't mean "a collection of individuals" like you could use "people" in English - you can't say there were a lot of folke at the party. It's the nation, the community. In Russia you only have individuals and the state. In Denmark the state is the people's.

The other night I was at Ricky's house during bathtime for the youngest son, who was squeezing his bar of soap to make it shoot up in the air. I began counting backwards in Danish as if for a rocket launch, but when I got to what should have been "blastoff", I realized I had no idea how to say that in Danish. I asked Ricky, who didn't know, and we asked his mother. "What do you say at a rocket launch after 'three, two, one'?" Dorte looked puzzled: "Zero?" Only then did I realize that of course they wouldn't know - Denmark has no space program. There is no word for "blastoff" in Danish.

Monday, December 05, 2005


When I was maybe nine years old, I went to the park with my friend Britton and his brother and my sister and our mothers. I was running down the path through the woods, and he ran after and caught me in a hug at the bottom of the hill. I was surprised because we'd always done that sort of thing (there are some very cute photos of 12-month-old me climbing on 5-month-old him) but now we were too old for it. People would think (oh fate worse than death!) that we liked each other. Britton was just being the same spacy, nice kid he had always been, and I was sorry there was a barrier between us there hadn't been before.

Being friends with Ricky is like going back to life before that barrier. It's like life when what you wanted most in the world was to spend the night at your best friend's house and eat cookies and watch movies and talk and giggle until you fall asleep next to each other. Except now there aren't any parents to tell you it's a school night and you can't. And he's somehow made it well past childhood with his hugging instincts still intact.

People need more friendships without barriers. It used to be common and acceptable for women to have intense, intimate friendships - to spend lots of time together and hug and write each other passionate letters. The tendency now is to label those relationships as sexual, and probably some of them were, but I think most of them were probably just because people want to be close to other people and this was a way they could do it. Half of Bryn Mawr thinks M. Carey Thomas was a lesbian, but if you read her diaries and letters it's obvious that she wasn't sexually into anybody at all. But she gets labeled as such because she lived with her best friend, who was a woman.

Of course people leap to the same conclusion even more when the friend in question is of a different gender. I've got the "No, just friends" practically down to a single word by now (although what I can't explain is that "just" doesn't seem to belong in that sentence.) Yesterday when we went to a Quaker meeting someone inquired if I were Ricky's wife. I was good and waited until we made it to the elevator to burst out laughing.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Last night I did yoga for the first time in about seven years. This morning I felt pretty stellar, but now I feel stellar in the sense that if this were a cartoon you would see little stars and exclamation marks coming from my body when I go up stairs. I kind of enjoy it, though.