Tuesday, September 14, 2010

laying Jette to rest

The real reason for our trip, of course, was to lay Michael's mom's ashes to rest. I can honestly say that I have never experienced a burial as a "laying to rest" before now; when I have seen coffins go into the ground, I've always felt a sense of panic and claustrophobia that had nothing to do with rest. When we scattered my mom's ashes in the harbor, they bloomed and billowed under water, full of motion; I can't think of them resting, per se, because they're part of something so dynamic and grand. But Jette feels at rest, at home, now.

I have never seen such a beautiful cemetery--it felt more like a garden than a graveyard, so green and lush, each family's plot surrounded by its own little row of hedges. Michael tells me that when he visited Denmark as a child, his mother would always take them to the cemetery to visit the family plot; his great grandfather had been the mayor of Struer and has an impressive headstone (which you can see below). The small hole waiting for Jette's urn was surrounded by coral colored roses and sunflowers; it looked festive and inviting, more welcoming than any grave I've ever seen. While there was a heart-aching finality to the burial, there was also a sense of homecoming, of her being where she wanted to be, where she belonged.
Earlier in the trip, we stopped at the amazing Roskilde Cathedral, which was originally built in the 12th century and has been the main burial site for Danish royalty since the 15th century. One of the more contemporary tombs incorporated three sculptures that so perfectly captured the experience of grief, I was brought to tears (you can see one of them behind Michael and Asher.) I was also brought to tears, for other reasons, in the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, but I'll write about that and more of our trip in another post. If there was a statue above Jette's gravesite, though, it wouldn't look like this. Michael and I have talked about maybe putting a small stone sculpture of a bird on or near her grandfather's stone to represent Jette, something peaceful, something that looks like it's home.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Our journey

We've been home for about a week and a half now, and already our trip feels like a dream--a dream full of vivid sensory detail that sneaks up on me during the day, nipping at the edges of my thoughts.

It was a beautiful trip, as meaningful and enjoyable as I could have hoped (even with the brain-crushing jet lag.) Here are some scattered memories that I'd like to capture before they slip away...

--Asher's baptism the day after our arrival. I never imagined I would baptize one of my babies, Jewish heathen that I am, but it is a tradition in Michael's family, and we thought it would be cool to honor that tradition in the same historic Copenhagen church where Michael and other members of his family had been baptized. We approached it in the spirit of family ritual rather than religious significance; thankfully the priest understood that's what we were doing (and knew that I was Jewish) and he didn't get lecture-y and dogmatic about it at all. I couldn't understand the service (which is probably for the best) but Michael tells me he asked the babies if they wanted to get baptized in water or Fanta, so it's clear the guy had a sense of humor, too. :) Hannah's job was to wipe the holy water from Asher's head after the sprinkling; she said that she liked to think of it as wiping away the baptism. I must say I was relieved to hear that the baptism doesn't "stick" unless the person is later confirmed; otherwise, as my sister joked, Asher would get awfully lonely in heaven some day. ;) It was actually a very sweet experience; the priest asked the whole family to put our right hands on Asher's head to bless him after the ceremony, and it was a lovely moment of honoring our sweet boy (who was a champ of a traveler throughout our trip.)

(here's Asher getting the baptism wiped off) :)

--The Danish tradition of eating bread slathered with a thick schmear of butter and a thin slice of Havarti for breakfast. I find myself craving it now, but the butter here is nothing like the butter in Denmark, which was so incredibly rich and creamy. They say the Danes are the happiest people on earth; I have a feeling their cows are the happiest, too (despite the whole California "Happy Cow" campaign. I've seen the packed, depressing cattle yards here; those cows have nothing on the cows that dot the Danish countryside.)

--As long as we're talking about food...the pastries. My favorite quickly became the Danish Crown with vanilla cream and thin slices of hazelnut. I tried it in several different bakeries, and do you know where the best one was? The 7-11. Shocking, but true. They had the freshest, yummiest pastries there. Now why don't they carry these at the 7-11 down the street?

--And okay, since we're still on the subject of food...the fruit. Sadly, I didn't get to eat as much of it as I would have liked. We passed many amazing looking fruit markets, and I kept telling myself that I wanted to try the spherical little strawberries (I've never seen anything like them) and the tender looking Santa Maria pears, but somehow it was never quite the right time to pick up fruit. Our first meal on the airplane home featured a fruit plate that had one of those little round strawberries, though, and while I'm sure it was not as delicious as the more fresh ones in the market would have been, it was yummy (best airplane food I've had, for sure.) A funny thing about the naming of fruit...in Denmark, oranges are called appelsin, which confused me on menus. Also, pineapples are called ananas--at a buffet (and wow, the Danes create lots of beautiful buffets), there was a pitcher of ananas juice, and I was surprised to learn it was much more acidic than banana juice would have been!

--My favorite meal of the trip had to be the dinner we had at Michael's cousin's restaurant, Blue Bird, in the Danish countryside. Klaus had taken all the tables in the small, lovely space and created one giant table down the center of the room, then covered it with candles and a gorgeous feast he had made for all of us and some of Michael's other relatives. I felt as if I had stepped into a gorgeous foreign film as we passed large bowls around and clinked wine glasses and communed.

Okay, this is getting long, and I'm tired and there's still so much to tell, so this will have to suffice for now. Be on the lookout for a non-food-related (well, at least lesserly-food-related) post about the rest of our trip soon. :)