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Published: October 19th 2014
It is hard to believe it has been months since my last update! The summer slipped by quickly. The time with family and friends hiking, yoga-ing, eating, singing, and such seemed to fly.
Now I write from a drizzly fall day in Sweden. The week has been rather gloomy and gray, but it is hard to complain after weeks of clear blue sky and bright yellow leaves.
I suppose one might think that I would have greatest insight into Swedish culture and life, seeing as I live and work here, but lately I have been exposed more to Danish life, thanks to Mads.
In August, not long after I had shaken the grogginess of jetlag, I found myself part of Mads’ brother’s wedding. It was a relaxed event with a little tent in the park, guests brining dishes to share, and chitchat. Though the speeches were lost on me (no, I still do not speak either Danish or Swedish…) I did pick up on a few traditions. As the party carried on into the night, and dancing began, the guests
circled around the bride and groom, dancing closer and closer until the couple was pressed together cheek to cheek. Not long after, the groom’s friends took off one of the groom’s shoes and cut off the tip of his sock. No one can really give me the rational behind this, but some reason it has to do with him not needing to show off or appear put together anymore.
The school year has unfolded a bit dramatically, but my students remain wonderful. And, I was grateful for the chance to attend a workshop in Coventry, England, for the Theory of Knowledge class I teach. Spending a weekend surrounded by fellow world wanderers was somehow nourishing. Though I cannot say I will hurry back to Coventry, walking the city and standing in the shell of the remains of the WWII bombed out cathedral was certainly an experience.
The ARoS Museum in Aarhus, Denmark has been on my radar for a few months. Though I love visiting the nearby Louisiana Art Museum, the ARoS museum seemed worth a weekend adventure. Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark,
and I was truly taken by it. Mads and I traveled from Copenhagen by bus to a high-speed ferry. One more time, AirBnB was great! We stayed right near the part of town which interested us, in a really cool apartment. We were thankful for our host’s recommendations, as we both continue to gush over the dinner at OliNico and brunch at Drudenfuss.
ARoS did not disappoint. On top of the museum is, basically, a giant color wheel called, “Your Rainbow Panorama”. It is by the Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson
. It is fun to have experienced a few of his works, this one and another in Aarhus, the “Waterfalls” in New York City, and “Riverbed” at the Louisiana. I expected as I walked through the panorama to see the city outside through these different colors, but, for people who understand the physics of color will not be surprised by this, it was only a slight change to the color. To see if this was because we were walking slowly therefore allowing our eyes to adjust…well, Mads and I decided to run the loop. Maybe you think that is not great museum behavior? Well, it
was a fun! And, at a run, we could see the bright colors. That, and no one seemed peeved by our antics.
We then wandered the museum, enjoying another piece by the same artist where the room is filled entirely with smoke and with colored lights. It was bizarre walking in color, unable to see even your feet! The draw to the museum had been the sculpture, “Boy” who is a 15 foot tall crouching boy. Seeing it in person was as impressive as I had hoped.
The city of Aarhus has a wonderful buzzing vibe, without any sense of being touristy. About five years ago, they uncovered a river that runs through the city. It now is an artery that has life and cafés bustling along it. It was a weekend well spent, to be sure.
Tis the season in my life for weddings! It is a bit gut wrenching to miss the weddings of dear friends in the States. Last weekend I attended another Danish wedding, this time for one of Mads’ dear friends.
This wedding, Mads declared, was more traditional than his brother’s. We drove to a church in a city 40 minutes outside of Copenhagen. There are certain givens that one might expect at a wedding, so each nuance and difference is striking. Here in Denmark, the groom and his best man are seated in the front of the church facing two empty chairs. Everyone stands for the bride and her father as they walk down the aisle, and then they sit facing the groom. Once they are married, they switch seats so that the bride and groom sit together on one side, symbolizing the joining of the families. I am unsure if the music is in fact a bit somber, or it if was the tone picked up by this particular organist. But, as soon as the ceremony was over, the energy and excitement picked up. Waiting outside of the chapel was coffee and the wedding cake! Another little difference. As we sat enjoying the cake and company, we were roasting in the sun pouring in on us. I took off my sweater, but all the men were just complaining it was stuffy. Custom says that they
must wait for the groom to remove his jacket before they can.
We took off from the church and toured the region, passing gently rolling hills and green farmland. The wedding party was held at a boarding school that was out on holiday for two weeks. All guests who wanted to stay over brought bedding to make up the dorm beds and some candy to leave for the students for sharing their rooms. What a cool use of the empty space, and free for the guests!
Dinner began at 5:30, which I thought was early, but I learned that there would be 5 courses with breaks in between and speeches during! It is also a tradition that the bride and groom have their first dance before midnight, so all the speeches and dining need to wrap up in time for that. The speeches seemed heartfelt, and there were many songs, both traditional and where someone had altered the lyrics of a famous song to fit the couple.
Occasionally, there would be a clanging of forks and knives, which would cause the bride and
groom to stand up on their chairs to kiss. This was nearly always followed by a stamping of feet, which sends the bride and groom under the table to kiss. It was quite acrobatic! As I was enjoying my selection of Danish cheeses, the scraping of chairs and hurried steps drew my attention to yet another tradition: when the groom leaves the room, all the men in the room give the bride a kiss, the same for when the bride leaves.
As I reflect on why the wedding was so remarkable, and how I enjoyed myself even with the many hours of listening to a language I do not know, I realized that there was a sense of presence. Not once did I see an illuminated screen. Not even one phone for the whole night! Not in one of the hands of a smoker outside, not one taking a photo of a cute couple or crazy dance party, nothing. Everyone was really there. It is shocking to say that is refreshing.
Next week I head off for an opportunity I cannot believe I am
afforded. For my fall break, I will attend a mindfulness retreat at Plum Village with Thích Nhất Hạnh. A week with no internet. No meat or dairy. No phones. No agenda. I wonder what will fill up all of the space left by those nos.
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