Thursday, December 24, 2009


So here it is at last -- Christmas Eve, or as we say in Norwegian "Julaften." It is a night for children everywhere to anticipate the fulfillment of wishes, and in the United States, all you have to do is leave cookies and a beverage (preferably one laced with strong spirits) for Santa Claus, and you are all set.

For the Norwegian child, more hangs in the balance than just getting a Disney Princess and the Frog "Just One Kiss" Tiana Doll or not. You must leave a bowl of groet, a rye/barley porridge, laced with butter, for the Christmas troll. If he comes to your house and finds no groet, he will kill all your father's cattle. That is one rugged Christmas tradition.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lille Julaften

There is Christmas Eve, and then there is Little Christmas Eve --- Lille Julaften. In Scandinavian tradition, December 23rd is celebrated with as much enthusiasm as (Big) Christmas Eve. In fact, when I was there in the early 1960's, the Christmas season did not start until Lille Julaften. It was then that the stores put up decorations and people thought about shopping. Away from home at sixteen, I had begun to think that Christmas simply would not come to Aalesund, the small city in Norway where I was living.

Ah, but it did, on Lille Julaften. Up went the Christmas tree, spiraled with tiny white lights, long before they were the fashion in the United States. No gaudy glittering glass globes, but instead tufts of white cotton, looking not the least bit like the snow balls they represented. No candy canes, but instead garlands of tiny paper Norwegian flags. The tree was cool, pure, and perfectly beautiful. The final enchantment came when we joined hands, walking around the tree, and singing Christmas songs.

So tonight I wish you a sweet and simple, joyous Little Christmas Eve, wherever you are.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Golden World

Who knew that the lenses we were born with would turn amber over time, giving our view onto the world a warm, golden tint? When these lenses develop cataracts, headlights become searchlights, and road striping disappears in the brilliant aura, making night driving really, really scary for everyone involved.

If one is fortunate, out goes the old lens, like an amber M&M, and in goes a sliver of high-tech synthethic. Trouble is, the new lens is as clear as the day you were born. The world through one eye is icy blue, and through the other eye, it is as golden as October in the woods. Eventually both my eyes will see the same clear world, and I wonder what this will mean to the things I make. Will the work look like it has been devised in a high latitude studio with chill Northern light, instead of a dreamland nearer the middle bulge of the globe? We will see, as they say.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Through My Eyes Today

This morning I experienced cataract surgery for my wonky left eye, a fascinating procedure performed by a skilled and empathetic doctor. You know how you close your eyes when something is being done to you that you don't want to see? Not for this one, thank you very much. The well-doped bad eye was propped open, I think, and the other, inquisitive eye looked out through a piece of foggy plastic, much like the stuff Edward and I tape to the wall as makeshift storm windows.

Determined to watch the whole thing with the vigilance of a patched pirate, I think I dozed off just as the view was getting interesting, all swirly and glowy. A few hours later, I feel slightly glowy myself from the anaesthesia, and looking around is certainly interesting. My right eye is carrying the load, somehow realizing that Lefty is as clear as an old shower curtain. I am constantly entertained by covering one eye and noting how the other reacts.

I am grateful for the skill and technology that makes it possible to receive such precise care. It surely was not too long ago, in terms of human history, when cataracts meant the end of visual life. Today I am looking through my glass brightly.