22 December, 2008

darling scandinavians

There is something very spiritual and grounding to me about opening a pomegranate. Mom bought one at the grocery store on a whim and asked if anyone knew how to open one, much less eat one. Gratefully, Emily showed me how to do it at Bolin Heights, in a bowl of warm water, gently, slowly, and I thought of her yesterday as I separated the ruby gems from the white membrane, watched them sink as shiny red kernels. It is deeply satisfying to peel open and look at; Grace says she's going to try to paint one soon.

While I was working at Main St. Books yesterday, a family came in, speaking a language I could identify as European but could not discern which one. My first guess was a Scandinavian language, but then I thought that was too unreasonable so I thought it might be German. The older couple was followed by four young adults, who all looked around the same age, late teens, early twenties. The boys were talking about Davidson College basketball (I heard the name "Stephen Curry") and I heard the white-blond girl say, "Middlemarch" and "Daniel Deronda" in the back. I listened to them talking and then one of the boys came up and asked, in a perfect English voice (sounded more British than anything else), "What is this music you're playing?" I told him it was the local classical radio station. "It's lovely," he said. "It sounds like traditional Swedish music, like we have at home." I lit up. Swedes! Darling Scandinavians! I was right. I wanted them to stay, to talk to me, and they would reminisce about the rough winters and the beautiful landscapes and we would laugh together and our cheeks would flush and we would become bosom friends and they would invite me to stay with them when I came to tour Scandinavia... but that didn't really happen. The family left, I waved. After they were gone, the radio announcer said, "And you were just hearing a folk ballad from Norway..." He was pretty close; just next door.

It made me wish I could speak to them in Swedish. I have an irrational desire, when I hear people speaking other languages, to jump in and say a few words in that language. I wish I spoke, understood more. My opportunities for doing that here are very slim indeed. (Although, thanks to Guion, I got to utter a few phrases of Japanese last week.)

I'm reading Wise Blood (Flannery O'Connor) now. I think I must have read part of it before because I know this storyline: the cantakerous protagonist, the "blind" street evangelist and his sketchy daughter, etc. But it's O'Connor and she's always rewarding. I am also reading For the Time Being, Annie Dillard's attempt to explain God and eternity through Emperor Qin's terracotta soldiers, French paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, sand and the maternity ward of a hospital. She is delightfully strange and swift and hard to keep up with at times. But I really like her. And then there's Matsuo Basho, perpetually fresh and brief. I am about to start Raymond Carver's prized collection of short stories, Cathedral. It will likely be my unseasonable Christmas reading.

Rachel's novel, Noise from Babel, is really good. You should read it, if she'll let you.

I think that's all I had to tell you tonight.

P.S. No! I lied! There are two things I need to tell you still:

1. Craziest thing happened at The Beehive today. I'm ringing up a customer, a man in his thirties. While I am swiping his credit card, this tiny older woman with long stringy grey hair and big glasses is looking at me, and then back at him, and then some more at him. I don't know what she wants. Suddenly, she squeaks at me, pointing at the man, "Is he your husband?!" My eyes widen and I laugh. So does the man. "My husband?" I ask. "No, no, he's not my husband." She looks back at the man and then says. "Oh, good! Because I'm INTERESTED." The man looks at me, terrified, and says, blushing, "I'm married." Her face falls. "That's a pity. Because I was definitely INTERESTED." And then she walks out of the store. That poor man looked scared to death. It was a nice laugh.

2. http://www.blogotheque.net/Fleet-Foxes,4521


Anonymous said...

up at the grandparents' house in wisconsin this past week, we've been celebrating our danish/swedish heritage.

a particularly useful swedish word, I've just learned:

shmur- n. butter
uses include: "tastes like shmur!" or as a triumphant yet derisive comment against one's opponent in cards

emily said...

Oh, I may just be that old lady in 45 years, looking for boytoys everywhere.