Tag Archives: Summer

Paddocks of Apples – part I

Ebeltoft means Paddock of Apples, and happy couples who marry at the old town hall receive a glass apple. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Ebeltoft means Paddock of Apples, and happy couples who marry at the old town hall receive a glass apple. Photo: Mick. 2015.

It is advised to savour the journey, not the destination. In our time here in Denmark, we may have a base on Nørrebro in Copenhagen, but we have been busily journeying from there.

Last week we travelled to a great little summer cottage at Boeslum beach on the east coast of Hasnæs, Mols. We had borrowed this gem of a holiday house from friends of my family. Unfortunately, August suddenly decided to turn from sunny and warm to unstable, rainy and cold. Yet we made the best of it, getting around on the tandem or the ordinary town bikes in between the rain. Continue reading

Cycles and summer

When the Danish summer is good, it really is very, very good. Many Danes go south for their summer holidays, to be sure to see the sun. This year July was cold and rainy, but just as people went back to work and school, August teased out the sun. We have had plenty of warm days with bright blue skies and lovely mild sunshine, perfect for a cycling trip.

Cycling in Copenhagen is not as much about fitness as it is about transport. Transport of almost anything. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Cycling in Copenhagen is not as much about fitness as it is about transport. Transport of almost anything. Photo: Mick. 2015.

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Going on a holiday

Surf Lifesavers were not too busy - the rain and temperatures below 20 degrees celsius kept swimmers away. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Surf Life Savers were not too busy – the rain and temperatures below 20 degrees celsius kept swimmers away. Photo: Mick. 2015.

I have been on holidays. Even people on sabbatical need a holiday. With my siblings and their families, we went to The Skaw – Skagen – the tip of the Jutland peninsula and home to Denmark’s most northerly point.

Some swimmers braved the cold! Photo: Lone. 2015.

Some swimmers braved the cold! Photo: Lone. 2015.

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Affluence and effluence

The soon over RF15. Photo: Lone. 2015.

The moon over RF15. Photo: Lone. 2015.

I have been a bit distracted from writing in the last few weeks. One reason is the visit by my 18-year-old son, who did long-haul travel from Australia to Denmark for the first time on his own. Another is the abundance of activities going on in Copenhagen coinciding with summer’s arrival – if momentarily.

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Fire, evil and tradition

Enough to scare the witches on their broomsticks. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Enough to scare the witches on their broomsticks. Photo: Mick. 2015.

When politicians talk about preservation of Danishness, I often wonder exactly what they mean. Perhaps Danishness is most clearly expressed through the traditional celebrations. The Danes do love a good celebration. At one point the calendar had so many holy days to celebrate that a whole host of them had to be combined into just one holiday, Store Bededag or Great Prayers Day. Far from all Danish celebrations are of the religious kind. Many, including those appropriated by Christendom, have their genesis in pre-Christian traditions and beliefs.

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Beauty and blue

October provides purple paths all over Brisbane. Photo: Mick 2014

October provides purple paths all over Brisbane. Photo: Mick 2014

As I walked over the purple carpet of spent jacaranda flowers I thought about the fleeting nature of beauty. Jacaranda trees are a hallmark of Brisbane in spring. They dot the urban landscape with bright purple crowns, like lanterns, and look beautiful against the high blue Queensland sky in October. deciduous as they are, their tiny compound bi-pinnate leaflets turn yellow and drop in winter, before the tree smothers its twigs with trumpet-shaped purple flowers in October that beckon the insects and critters for help with fertilisation. Only then does the bright green foliage return, providing great shade in this sunburnt country that is curiously low on good native shade trees. Once spent, the flowers fall, like droplets of purple rain, and are then followed by round, flat woody seed pods, about 5 cm in diameter, from which flat, winged seeds float when they open, ready to generate new trees.

R. Godfrey Rivers' Under the jacaranda from 1903 was purchased by Queensland Art Gallery - Godfrey Rivers was instrumental in establishing the Queensland National Art Gallery in Brisbane in 1895 and his painting features on the cover of the Gallery's publication about its survey of Australian Art from 1850 to 1965 shown n 1998.

R. Godfrey Rivers’ Under the jacaranda from 1903 was purchased by Queensland Art Gallery – Godfrey Rivers was instrumental in establishing the Queensland National Art Gallery in Brisbane in 1895 and his painting features on the cover of the Gallery’s publication about its survey of Australian Art from 1850 to 1965 shown n 1998.

Jacaranda trees are prolific in Brisbane and important to the Brisbane identity. But the jacaranda is not native to Brisbane or even to Australia. It is an invasive species that easily germinates near our rivers and creeks, crowding out more fragile native species. Jacaranda is listed as a ‘low priority pest species’ in the Brisbane Weed Management Plan 2013-17 and as an ‘invasive naturalised species’ in a paper published by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foresty. The very first jacaranda was brought in deliberately from Brazil and planted in Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens near Parliament House in 1864. It is the very same tree that Godfrey Rivers immortalised in his painting Under the Jacaranda in 1903 that was acquired by the Queensland Art Gallery. I love this painting of the artist and his wife taking tea underneath the shade of the giant purple crown with her bright red parasol shining like an illuminated button. Later destroyed by a storm, this tree is thought to be the mother of all jacarandas in Australia and so lives on in its seedling trees.

Jacarandas dot the Brisbane suburban landscape when it is time to study for end of year exams. Photo: Mick 2014

Jacarandas dot the Brisbane suburban landscape when it is time to study for end of year exams. Photo: Mick 2014

It is easy to see why the jacaranda has become a much-loved – and beautiful – symbol of Brisbane. When I was an overseas student in 1990, one university lecturer said to me that if you haven’t started studying when the jacarandas flower, you are likely to fail your exams. This was good advice for someone who was wondering how you knew spring from summer and autumn from winter in this great southern land.

One of the things I miss about Denmark is the dramatic transition of the seasons. From winter’s sometimes white, but mostly just wet, cold sparse landscape to spring’s affirmation of fresh new life and bright colourful flowers from bulbs awoken by the warmer weather. From the pale green foliage of spring to summer’s dark green crowns teeming with life, insects humming and blackbirds singing for their growing children, when even the dead of the night fails to eradicate the light of the sun entirely. From the holiday sun tan of summer to autumn’s golden fields and heavy fruit trees, ready for harvesting under the blue sky of September, before the cold and rain set in, ready for winter. These seasons are all beautiful in their own way – and the regularity of their passing is so different from the way Australian seasons seem tied more closely to the randomness of drought and wet.

From winter's white over early spring's budding green life to late spring's bright green leaves on a birch tree in my back yard in Aalborg. Photo: Lone 1991.

From winter’s white over early spring’s budding green life to late spring’s bright green leaves on a birch tree in my back yard in Aalborg. Photo: Lone 1991.

Next year in Copenhagen, I will experience the cycle of the northern European seasons again, for the first time since 1989. I look forward to that, though when October comes around, I might just find myself missing the beauty of the jacaranda blue and the mild weather of spring.

Under my skin

The church in Gjellerup, Herning Kommune, Denmark. Photo Ch1ptune at da.wikipedia, 2007.

The church in Gjellerup, Herning Kommune, Denmark. Photo Ch1ptune at da.wikipedia, 2007.

‘One can never leave home’ wrote Maya Angelou in Letter to my Daugther in 2008, because ‘one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.’

I have been thinking a lot about home lately. As a child I had a stable home. We moved around a little at first, never straying far from that centre of my father’s universe that was Lundfod where he grew up. Once I started school we stayed in the same place until after I left home. My childhood was spent in the little village community of Gjellerup, smack in the centre of Jutland peninsula, as far away from the water as it is possible to get in the little island country of Denmark, where people are of the land and have both feet firmly planted on the ground. Once settled here, my parents got on with their business and we kids got on with being kids and growing up.

It was safe and it was summer, and I played with friends on the street until we were called in to go to bed, even if it still seemed like broad day light. Or it was winter with snow piled high outside and candle light on the well-decorated, freshly felled pine tree, cosy inside, and we played board games and card games with our parents. It was safe and we were never in doubt we were loved. It was a good place from which to go and conquer the world. And so I did, but that is another story.

My childhood home from 1972 to 1982

My childhood home from 1972 to 1982

This was home and I belonged to the place. My community was a very ancient village, the one with the oldest church in Denmark, from 1140. This community was tight knit and deeply religious, but growing fast in the secularised, liberated 1970s. Though we were newcomers, we were all able to find our community, our belonging, here in this rapidly expanding village as it merged to become a suburb of the larger town, Herning. I started at the new school as soon as it opened in january 1973, sang in the choir, joined the scouts, roamed the streets playing cowboys and indians, princesses and dragonslayers and racing our bikes down the gently sloping hills. Friends, whom I still hold dear and count among my very best friends, are friends from my childhood home (you know who you are).

No matter how much I go back and walk the streets I used to play in, look at the homes I used to live in or visit the school I went to, in that little village, I know that there is no going home. It is never the same as the memory of home I carry under my skin. Because I am not the person I was and I will never be that person again, never belong in that place as I did. Similarly, the people I associate with my belonging to that place are no longer there and are no longer the people they were. Experimental philosopher Joshua Knobe questions the notion of an essential self – the person you are can never be the person you were or the person you will be: Even physically, 98% of atoms in your body changes every year.

Nevertheless, when I go to Denmark and look at the landscape, the architecture and the people, hear the language and the songs and feel the place, I know that I belong. I am recognised, I fit in. I belong to this country, this people, this language, this history.

And I don’t. Having lived for 23 years in Australia, away from Denmark, my mother tongue is 23 years old and the society I knew then has moved on, through several crises and cultural shifts. Some of these shifts are significant and others more subtle. For any migrant, this is a significant experience and sometimes cause of sorrow. It reminds us perpetually of the flux of all things: ever-newer water flows and one cannot step in the same river twice (Heraculitus).

It may be true you never leave home, as Angelou asserts, but I have found the home under my skin has morphed and changed, as I run through its manifestations inside my head and adjust the shadows, dreams, fears and dragons to fit into the narrative of my life. One may never leave home, but home is never what it was.

And this is exactly why I need to go home to Denmark: so I can adjust the home under my skin, at the corner of my eye and in the gristle of my earlobe. Thanks Angelou, and rest in peace.