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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Céline in the Baltic III: Gravity / Skovly (Fall-Winter)



In September, Céline and Lucette moved into Skovly, the two-story mud-and-thatch "house in a clearing" at the far edge of the property. There they would get their first taste of winter in the wilds of the North.

And winter wasn't slow in coming.

There were trees around Skovly, a beech forest that was already losing its leaves when Céline moved in. At first he walked there with Bessy in the afternoons, but as the days grew short, the trees seemed to gather up a stillness of menacing dimensions -- and to unleash it on his wary head whenever he ventured under them. He found himself staying away from the forest, depressed by its brooding silences. Better the wind and noise of the open coast!

Gales blew for days on end, churning the waters of the Grand Belt into a fine mesh of restless whitecaps. Farther out to sea the surface levelled off and moved in large swelling planes that changed with distance from a flat olive drab to an iridescent gray-green -- the color of the trunks of the now nearly leafless beeches behind Skovly.

For ten days in October the sun didn't appear, then late one afternoon, when Céline was out walking with Bessy, it emerged through long bluish clouds above the horizon and blazed forth a cascade of yellow light that lasted only a few minutes before the clouds again closed over.

The brief apparition had its effect on Céline, who was always on the alert for signs. But Bessy seemed uninterested, her attention diverted by gulls and curlews that mewed into the wind, straining to make progress as they headed out to sea to fish.

With the dog waiting obediently at his side, Céline stood looking out toward the spot where the sun had vanished. Every so often he said something, but Bessy paid no attention, and his words were lost in the wind. He didn't bother to make sentences: "the pull... the cut... the drag... the fall!" His black cape and white scarf billowed out around him, signal flags marking his claim to this barren nub of terrain at the end of the world.

File:Creagrus furcatus flight.jpg

A wet, sodden spell at the beginning of November ushered in high winds and low temperatures that bespoke asperities to come. The pump failed at Skovly. To get water Céline had to plod through freezing winds with a wheelbarrow and a ten-litre metal drum (leftover of a German tank crew) to the farmer's house. It was a forty-five minute trip. The gusts knifing off the Baltic snapped the ends of his scarf back against his face with enough force to sting tears into his eyes. He plowed on, his mind drifting back to the days when he'd toted fifty-pound jewelry cases all over Paris as a delivery boy. Forty-five years gone by, and he was still a beast of burden! Life was like that! You tried to pull yourself up, but something was always sucking you back down! Gravity, death, it was all the same: a force that was constantly dragging you back, a kind of undertow... pulling you down...

File:Baltic Sea Wave (Cien Water).jpg

The Exile of Céline: TC, 1986

The first ice covering a small village pond at Beder, Jutland: photo by Sten, 2002
Swallow-tailed gull (Creagrus furcatus) in flight: photo by Putney Mark, 2007

Baltic sea wave: photo by Marek Nowocien, 2006

1 comment:

Curtis Roberts said...

When I posted last night about wondering what it would be like to be Celine, I forgot about this novel, which I'd now like to read. The photograph of the Baltic wave is incredible.