The book was bought maybe in 1994, or perhaps in 1993, when the trip was being planned – a guide to Denmark. Moving house in 1996, 1999, 2006, 2007 and 2010, things were packed, unpacked, repacked, left behind, mislaid, lost; only remembered twenty years later. Showing a group of Danes gathered at midsummer’s eve, the book said that the date was marked with sadness by those who knew now the days would grow shorter. By the time we reached Denmark in late August, it was hard to know how they might have felt; a group wearing warm coats stood gathered around a barbecue on an evening thought summery by those of us who were visitors.
If the Danes in the book were real, they will be increasingly morose, the days turn in two days time, the white nights will disappear, the darkness seep into the morning and evening hours, but that is the order of things, the price of white nights is black days. To spend six months of the year worrying about shortening days seems odd, isn’t there enough in each day to make it special?
Watching a gardening programme one evening in November, it seemed strange when the presenter announced that programme was the last in the series and they would be back in the spring. It is not as though nature stops, slows down maybe, but there is always something happening. If one was inclined to be a gardener, the winter time would seem an opportunity for taking on tasks too large for days when there are numerous demands upon the time.
Aside from horticulture, isn’t there something to ponder in each day? The faithfulness of the old dog lying on the rug. The changing colours of the cherry tree outside the window. The grey stones of the medieval walls around the close. The sound of unsynchronised bells striking. Isn’t there something in each moment?
Standing at the hospital bedside of a man who will never walk again, never cross his fields, never herd his cattle, never turn hay, never feel the wind on his face as he stands in his yard on a winter’s day, it seemed churlish to suggest that his hope to one day go back to his farm was foolish. Without hope, what would there be to sustain him as his strength declines? Were someone to offer him six months of shortening days and the strength to return to his land, he would seize the chance.
To be morose in the face of infinite variety and opportunity seems odd indeed.