Not ready to say goodbyePosted on Thursday, December 4th, 2008 at 7:55 am | See all Artists' Blogs, Thea Eck Entries.
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The Yule season in Copenhagen has begun and all around the city are decorations stretched across the streets and shop windows filled with opulent displays for wandering eyes, enticing costumers to enter and spend some time and money. ‘Tivoli’, the grand amusement park, sparkles and teems with families and friends while ‘Kongens Nytorv’ (King’s New Square) throngs with ice skaters going round about its center. The lights struggle to snuff out the damp coastal weather and the winter darkness that begins here around 3 o’clock.
My warm office at the Arctic Institute offers respite from the dreary winter conditions as well as overt commercial reminders of the holiday season. I have come across more than a few Christmas cards in the archive, sent to or from Greenland, wishing happy holidays, inquiring about weather and family, and sending all the love in the world. Most of these cards and letters exude the depth of longing, of bittersweet sadness, and the tragedy of knowledge. Last summer while doing research at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London I read newspapers articles from the mid 1800s informing the public how British sailors in the Arctic celebrated Christmas — hovelled away onboard ship, special portions for each crewmember, treats for the British Royal Navy sailors, more grog than usual for all, and rounds of Yuletide songs. They tried to make it as merry as possible knowing that the Arctic would not lessen its icy grip for Christmas. The tradition still continues. The men on Sirius Patrol, a section of the Danish military patrolling Northeast Greenland on sledges, exchange their daily weather gear for formal attire during Christmas Eve festivities at Daneborg Station. Holiday supply boxes are air dropped for those who are too far away from the station.
As the year comes to an end, so will my project. My exhibition of photographs accompanied by short fiction and nonfiction essays about the Danish Arctic Institute’s archive opens in January at the Institute. Like many endings, I am seized by the realization that I am not ready to say goodbye. The theme of departure and all its ruminations continues to thread its way through human existence. Sometimes one slips away in the night, not turning round to peer at what they have left while others give full wave at daybreak, pitching half over the ship to hold onto that blip on their horizon. Both have the same potential for joy and sadness. People have traveled to and from the Arctic for thousands of years, no matter what season, no matter how harsh, no matter what purpose, no matter what holiday. Though I admit that my sledge has only just left Thule station for the inland ice, I am leaving the historical Arctic, historical Greenland, with a firmer grasp on the ‘whys’ of the current Arctic.