Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
This week, we of the northerly persuasion are celebrating Midsummer, and I will relate various traditions from this very local part of the world, Viborg – I apologise beforehand to anybody living in the Southern Hemisphere for leaving you out.
I have some musings on running in summer weather, rain and shine; there is summer knitting going on; and my book of the week also has a summery theme – it is The Great Gatsby.
So, let’s dive in!
The Apple of the Week
It is Midsummer! Summer Solstice, the longest day and the shortest night of the year.
Did you, like Daisy Buchanan, watch for the longest day of the year and then forget? Probably not: you have more sense and presence than that, don’t you? (And I have a sneaking suspicion that her distractedness is an affectation, anyway.)
The shortest night is, like the other astronomical high points of the year, imbued with magic and special powers.
This is the time when the Sun turns around and we are once again headed for winter and darkness. Of course, it is not the Sun who turns around and moves away from us, merely the effect of Earth tilting on its axis so that the sunlight in winter reaches us at a shallower angle.
But to ancient peoples knowing nothing of orbital astronomy, the effect is the main thing: right now, on Friday 21st June, is the longest day of the year, and that has to be special.
All around the world, the solstices and equinoxes have special significances and rites or traditions connected to them. Maybe not surprisingly, Midsummer festivals are most widespread in the northernmost parts of the hemisphere, where the days are really long and even unbroken, with the midnight sun reigning to the far north; even here, it doesn’t get quite dark at night, though the sun does go down for a few hours.
The Midsummer bonfires celebrating the Sun and the light are well known and attested – and around these parts, often a wet and windy affair. There is a running joke that the weather is the same on Christmas Eve and on St. Hans (St. John’s) Eve: 12 degrees and raining. And though we have had a couple of white Christmases lately, it is not far off; today, it’s 15-16 degrees, grey and wet and windy. So, all the mayors around the country preparing their bonfire speeches for tonight may have smaller audiences than they would like.
Here in Viborg, the ‘official’ bonfire is lit on a raft out on the lake, with the speeches and songs taking place at Borgvold, a park and restaurant area right on the water’s edge. We haven’t usually gone, as it is rather late for smaller children, particularly on a school night; and now, my boys aren’t really all that interested. They would rather have a small bonfire in the garden, if the weather behaves.
The official celebrations this year are connected to the festivities surrounding the Hærvejsmarch which takes place during the last weekend of June, but have already begun this weekend. Hærvejen (Army Road), Ochsenweg (Cattle Road) in German, is the ancient cattle and military road starting in Viborg and leading southwards to Germany – and ultimately, for wandering pilgrims, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Viborg is an ancient holy site: the vi- part means holy or sacred and is derived from an Indo-European root *weik- meaning ‘choose, separate, set apart’. We find words from that root in various modern languages: English victim from Latin victima originally denotes a sacrificial animal, chosen to be a gift for the god(s). The same root also appears in wicca meaning ‘sorcerer’.
And borg or bjerg corresponds to burg and means hill or hill-fort.
So, Viborg is ‘the sacred place on the hill’, has been since the 9th century CE, and thus has been long established as the appropriate place to set out from for a pilgrim’s walk to the other end of Europe.
The more modest, though taxing enough, way to do it is to walk 45 kilometres each day on Saturday and Sunday; women can choose the 40 k route, and there are shorter walks for less able persons and families with small children.
For the more adventurous, there is a seven-day pilgrim walk to sites around Viborg during next week, or the Hærvej relay run starting in Flensburg, about 200 kilometres south of here and ending today.
There will be festivities all week; on Thursday, I will be telling a little story at Café Fredina along with a couple of others from the story tellers’ club (Viborg Fortællekreds). Rather exciting: I am not at all used to performing in public.
I have been out running my little bits during the week, in varying weather; we have rather humid conditions for the time being, with warm temperatures at first and now cooler. On Wednesday, it was grey and rainy, so I thought it would be rather cool and put on my long-sleeved skiing undershirt – which quickly turned out to be a huge mistake: the sun came out when I did, and it was warm (18 degrees) and muggy. Then on Saturday, it was 15 degrees and grey, and I put on a short-sleeved tee; much better, though my hands were cold all through the run.
I keep saying ‘run’ – actually, I’m alternating running and walking, now 3 minutes of each for 30 minutes in all. I have some residual soreness in my right ankle now; I do hope it’s not the peroneal tendonitis coming back. That, I can really do without.
|They were clean once, I promise!|
I so enjoy getting out there, feeling the air and watching the lush, green foliage come out and change colour, the trees blossoming, running barefoot in wet grass – this week, I have run the last of the 3-minute intervals without shoes. To begin with, I run in Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa, the most light-weight of them all, so taking them off is really mostly a matter of conditioning the soles of my feet; there is no difference in support or cushioning or angling. But it’s fun to be completely barefoot for a bit.
The Ninja cowl is snoozing for now, while I work on more summery projects; like the secret stuff, still, that is coming along very nicely. I expect to finish it up during next week, and then there will be a pattern coming out.
I started swatching for, and working on, a summer skirt, in Allino from BC Garn. This is a sport weight cotton-linen blend; the two fibres give the yarn a slightly variegated look, and I chose a dark, denim-ish blue to make the skirt as versatile as a pair of jeans. So far, that plan seems to be working: whenever the skirt project happens to bundle up to something else, the yarns look good together. The skirt itself is worked top down in a chevron pattern, with the chevrons growing gradually wider downwards. Very simple, very easy. Again, there will be a pattern coming out soon.
Less summery, but also moving along, is the V neck jumper for Victor; I have almost finished the body now and have to start thinking about the rib at the bottom.
As so often, when a big film comes out, I go to my Read The Book default setting. In many cases, this is the thing to do, and the film can take care of itself; sometimes, I do both.
In the case of the Shakespeare plays for which I catch the commentary on Chop Bard, I listen, read, and watch the films – for Hamlet, I watched two, both the David Tennant version and the Kenneth Branagh one.
And I am really looking forward to Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, by the way.
Now, we have The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, filmed by Baz Luhrman and with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby himself; I may watch this at some point, but I feel no particular rush to do so.
Ages ago, I read the book; this was one of the dozens of books, literary classics and otherwise, that I read in Danish simply because they were sitting on the book shelves in the living room at home. So I may have been 11 when I read this one first time around, and I wasn’t terribly impressed.
Now, I have the Audible version read by Jake Gyllenhaal (and generously shared by my sister; we do regular audio book swaps), I have Heather’s Just The Benefits commentary – at least, when the app and the wifi decide to play nice once in a while – and I started off by listening to the BBC World Book Club (free podcast) episode about the book. And, of course, I have years of living and reading experience in which to anchor this story, so this time, I am terribly impressed.
The language is richly poetic, mellifluous and poignant, like honey with flakes of chilli in it; Fitzgerald describes people, emotions, actions and reactions with surprising and evocative turns of phrase. The central plot is a love story, but of course there is more, not least pointed commentary on class and social censure: the value ascribed to persons of different social and economic standing – and personality.
In case anyone doesn’t know already, the story takes place in the summer of 1922 in Long Island and New York; the narrator, Nick Carraway, rents a house by the shore while working in the city and finds himself a neighbour to Gatsby, of whom he hears numerous more or less outrageous rumours before meeting the man himself at one of his many extravagant house parties. Gatsby is in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy, who is married to the very unpleasant Tom Buchanan; he has worked his way from nothing to nouveau riche – and so still nothing in the eyes of the ones coming from old money – in order to be worthy of Daisy.
I have a feeling that the end is going to be heart-breaking ...
I have found another literary podcast – or rather, I have finally gotten round to taking a proper look (or listen) at a podcast mentioned by Heather on CraftLit some time ago, I’m not sure when: in my time, it was sometime last winter, maybe, in real CraftLit time, it was probably years ago. Anyway, this is Forgotten Classics with Julie D.; and it does just what it says on the tin. Julie takes classic books that are forgotten and unread by most, and reads them out loud in her mellow voice.
I subscribed on iTunes a while back, and it offers me episode 198 as the first. I could go back to the beginning via the archive on the Forgotten Classics website, of course, and I may do that some day. For now, I have begun listening to the book that begins in episode 200: The Unforeseen by Dorothy Macardle. This is an Irish story, set in the 1930’s, about 40-something Virgilia, her daughter Nan, and Virgilia’s new ability to apparently see into the future.
I find myself relating to the mothering theme: the intermingled difficulty and pride in allowing your fledglings to fly off and make their own mistakes; Nan has gone off to London to become an artist, and Virgilia would prefer her to come home, but knows that the young woman needs to live her own life, at her own risk.
My boys are still at home, all of them – but in only a year’s time, two of them may be ready to move on: Andreas will finish his IT education and go off to work, and Thomas will finish school and may want to travel and/or work before starting whatever higher education he chooses.
So it goes.
Virgilia has a lovely cottage in Ireland, south of Dublin, that Nan comes back to for the summer – for this is another summer book, beginning in early June. Whenever they need to go shopping, they bicycle into Dublin; having been there a couple of years ago, I enjoy the mention of specific street names and places.
Well, this is it for this week – I am going to go and enjoy the summer before it starts raining again :o)
I hope you have a great week; I will be back next week with more summer shenanigans.