|Drip, drip, drop.|
I’ve been stateside for a number of weeks now, and will be for a number of weeks more. Two news items to lighten the heart out of E-land … First, an opera, about Krugman and Ilves, with lyrics penned by my dear friend Scott Diel. It’s international news. On a less serious note, Europe’s healthiest economy has its worst drug problem (and highest HIV infection rate).
One week plus was spent on the West Coast, affectionately dubbed by me as the Pot Coast, where the air is thick with green smoke, and everyone is second-hand stoned. All of that goofy sunshine is a bit of a change from Estonia, where the darkness had put a damp chill in my soul, until I could barely communicate with anyone, not unlike so many of my neighbors.
When you go from North to South, cold to bearable, darkness to sunshine, something happens to you. I can only equate it to the prickling feeling one feels in his toes as the blood rushes in after a period of elevated suspension.
At City Lights in San Francisco, I went looking for a kindred book to cozy up with and could find nothing among the current jewels and emeralds of contemporary writers workshops. I went home with Jack London instead, Northland Tales, a literary godfather without an MFA. To my surprise, London encountered this sensation too. Just as he describes, an emotional thaw takes place when exposed to the sun’s rays after light starvation. One becomes human again, more human than he will ever feel.
This was how I was feeling. It is a feeling I would like to nourish and maintain, though slowly it is being pried from my enlightened hands by 24-hour news coverage and village gossip. This was a feeling I met during my first winter in Estonia a decade ago. I touched on it in the first book, where the protagonist confesses his attraction to many other women to his wife-to-be. Diel wasn’t buying it. He wrote to me. How could the main character have been so naive? Of course he knew that his eye would continue to wander, with or without ring.
But that wasn’t the point! Not at all. That was a tale of being emotionally overwhelmed by a change in environment. It’s not that the main character is attracted to other women, it’s that in the context of going from dark to light, these simple biological impulses evolved into phenomenon that could, I suspect, jeopardize one’s sanity. Drinking, carousing, knife-fighting, womanizing, philandering, believing in elves … in Greenland, I am told of how they wait for the ship to arrive with its bounty of booze, then do it with whomever in the snow between the pretty-as-a-chocolate-box houses.
So it goes. I am very grateful though for the sensations, the emotional thaw, the enhancement in perception. I am richer for it, which is why I must say thank you Krugman and Ilves, thank you TIME and thank you Wall Street Journal, thank you Kurt Vonnegut and Aldous Huxley. Where would I be without you? But most of all, thank you Jack London. I finished half of your Northland tales in California. I’ll finish the second half in Estonia.