I’m sat on a spindly-legged chair in a yoga studio turned concert hall for the evening. A Christmas tree is standing in the corner, covered in nothing but soft white fairy lights, there are jars with sprigs of pine on the tables. I have a mug of tea in my hands, bigger than my face and am warming cold December-fingers on Turkish apple and cinnamon.
Christmas concerts are like being invited into someone else’s Christmas; into the music they turn up on the radio during ginger bread house construction, the songs they sing while toasting marshmallows in the kitchen fireplace of their family home.
You can hear the care and the love that people weave into their Christmas shows. No song is a coincidence, the set is list curated with northern stars and candle light. You can feel the Christmas pyjamas and woolen jumpers in the air on more quiet, cosy songs, and the wind against your cheek as you rush down a snowy hill, rolling, tumbling, on songs that embody more fun.
I’m not sure what songs I’d put on the set list of my own Christmas concert. There are too many songs to choose from, unless you want to keep the audience seated from today and right up until Christmas morning.
I wouldn’t know how to show someone else the smell of my parents’ house during Christmas, how to convey the sounds of my family home in celebration, of the quiet excitement, the chatter and the peace of Christmas eve in our house hold. How do you make people feel the weight of that one knitted blanket that accompanies every Christmas film, or the chess square cookies my mum always bakes?
The good thing though, is that most likely, everyone else have got that too. They’ve got their own songs, their own smells, their own tastes which makes Christmas Christmas, and come to think of it, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
So I think for now, I’ll hold onto my mug and sit back on my spindly-legged chair, and stay seated in someone else’s Christmas for just a little longer. I’ll listen to the Christmas the musicians on the stage wants to convey, and even though it’s not my Christmas, it’s a very beautiful celebration, indeed. I’m so excited to go home to my own, to travel towards Christmas and my family which I haven’t seen for a while. To travel to where I know what Christmas sounds and smells like, and where I know exactly how the New Year will be rung in.
I’ll go back to where the feeling is bottled in those jars we bring out every year. I’ll be home for Christmas.
We’re so close to Christmas, it’s practically here!
This is the second to last of these posts I’ll be making this year and how has it almost been a year since I started this project? Now, eleven months into it, I’m really appreciating these snippets of everyday. I’m so excited to, come January, mash all the months together and see the colours of the months, the change of the seasons, and what may practically be the essence of 2019.
But first, let’s contemplate November and what that brought with it!
I gave NaNoWriMo my best shot, and though I didn’t get to 50 000 words I’m really proud of how far I got!
Work work and a bit more work
Walks in the forest behind the student village
Tons of exam reading
A lot of meetings and student politics-work
My parents visiting, and a lovely concert with my mum!
A Christmas market
A very messy student flat as both my flatmate and I are mid-exams
The first snow of the winter!
Many an early morning
The first two exams of the semester (two down, two more to go)
A wonderful early Christmas dinner with Trine and her family
I am attempting NaNoWriMo this November! I’ve got 20 865 words, which is a bit behind schedule, but as I’m doing it at the same time as I’m preparing for my exams and as I’ve got work, I’m quite proud of those almost 21 000 words. I don’t think I’ll reach 50 000 words, but my goal is to at least cross the 30 000 mark. My story is a fantasy, magical realism-esque narrative about Mira – a young girl who is part of a circus that appears at dusk and leaves before sunrise. No one has ever seen the circus travel in closed off carriages across dusty cobblestones, it appears like magic, exactly where it’s needed every night. All the coincidental bystanders can remember of the purple tents and the silver eyes looking at them from the various booths and stalls, and through their own dreams and illusions, is a carnival appearing on the rooftops of the grey and dusty city.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted any sort of prose-form creative writing on this blog, so here’s the first few paragraphs of the draft I’m working on for Nano!
The Cinerous Circus
No one had ever seen the Circus travel, not even the crew that travelled with it. Mid-movement, mid-laugh, and sometimes even mid-sleep, the crew of the Cinerous Circus would feel that little tingle in their fingers, that smoke-like sensation of having themselves dissolved into the powers of the Circus as she decided on a new route, a new destination, a new home for the night.
Stood by the foot of her bed, arm raised towards the book case on the wall, as if she had just been interrupted in putting back a book, Mira came to. Her fingers were still curled around a paper spine, but the book was on the floor. She shook her head for a moment, before letting her hands quickly pat their way down her front. Arms, legs, coat. She had everything she needed. Good.
She reached a hand into the soft, worn lining of her dark grey and purple coat. Her hand came back up clutching a card. The back of the card was adorned by green sprigs of ivy that seemed to be alive, moving, wrapping around themselves, accompanied by a spatter of stars, gathered in unfamiliar constellations.
She looked at the card. A lone figure slinking away from peering eyes, away from crowds with their backs turned on her. Seven of swords. Thief? The feeling of being watched came over her and made the hairs on her arms stand on edge.
“A girl is quickly flitting through an unfamiliar street. She has stolen something which belongs to her. She has stolen something which has been hers all along.”
Mira’s tarot readings always read like stories in her head. She simply opened her mind and let the stories find her, let them linger in that space between her consciousness and her memories, that space she was starting to realize that not that many people could reach for. This reading made no sense. This was a new city, a new rooftop –- why on earth did she see stories of thieves stealing what was already theirs? Why would thieves steal what was already theirs in the first place?
She turned to look over at her mother’s bed. She was there, black and blue hair shining in the light from the bulb hanging on a single string in the ceiling. It was a shy little light source, with a black cast iron frame. It looked heavy, but Mira knew it wasn’t. A lot of her mother’s possessions looked like something they weren’t. A lot of Circus looked like something it wasn’t.
Her mother was just coming to. She was sat on her bed, hands neatly clasped and placed in her lap, like she’d done this a thousand times before. She had done this a thousand times before. So had Mira, to be fair, but the excitement of waking back up without having the faintest idea of what would make itself visible to her outside of their little tent, always made her too excited to be as calm as her mother.
Mira chewed her lip for a moment. The card she had just drawn dampened her excitement a bit, but she was determined not to let it worry her too much. Maybe just a little bit.
She went to the slit in the tent, the make-shift door that could be drawn. It hushed all the sounds from the outside world better than any wooden door ever could, and any fabric door ever should.
Oftentimes, all she could see were chimneys and rooftop ladders and maybe the odd, very tall, tree. Other times she saw birds and clouds passing in quick formations. But sometimes, oh, the very best of times, she could see other houses. She could see windows, or bridges or clock towers with clocks just striking midnight.
“What can you see out there?” her mother asked. Mira put the card to the back of her mind, banished it to thoughts she were to think tomorrow and focused on what she could see. This was their game. Her mother stayed seated on the bed as Mira slowly pulled the tent slit open, just enough to have a peak outside. She looked out at the town.
“I can see a chimney,” Mira told her mother, who closed her eyes and nodded. Mira could see her left-hand raise and start to move in the air in front of her. “And I can see birds, but they’re not awake, they’re lying on their nests.” Her mother nodded again, hand still moving. She was sketching, her parchment was the thin air and she had no ink or quill or anything to set a mark. But her lines still appeared. Curved lines through the air, drawing up small grey birds that came alive under her hands.
“Tell me about the stars,” her mother
said. Mira peered further out through the slit in the tent and looked up.
“There is a great big one right above us,” Mira said, “and it’s surrounded by three others that makes it look like the stars have gathered for tea. They’re flickering, like they’re dancing.” Her mother nodded, her hands never stilling. The buildings and the roof tops and the chimneys, all existing in grey lines, like the outline of a shadow or the seams of a smoke ring. Mira looked back in through the tent door, watching her mother’s hands. She always struggled with looking away when her mother drew up her images. But she knew they weren’t for her, and so she looked back at the town.
“Oh,” Mira exclaimed, “I can see a
tower! A big tower.”
“Does this one have a clock in it
too?” her mother asked. The last town they’d been in had had a tower with a
clock in it, but the hands of that clock had been as asleep as only a clock can
be in a town of mourning. Mira nodded her head. Her mother hadn’t opened her
eyes yet, but she noticed the nod. Maybe she heard it. Mira had always been
sure that her mother never looked with her eyes anyway.
“And is it about to strike twelve?” her
mother lifted her hands in the air, putting them behind the image she’d made,
framing it, protecting it, making it clearer to see against the colour of her
hands, instead of the backdrop of her dress.
Mira nodded and turned back so her head was inside the tent again, and in that second, the big bell rung. Mira’s mother was prepared, and in a swift move, she pushed her hands in front of her. She pushed the smoke line drawing away.
It kept its shape, and it was as if the
grey birds flew past Mira in a little flock, like the bell tower floated past
her on invisible wings. Mira loved this part of arriving at a new place.
She loved to see how her mother always managed to draw up the perfect rendition of any new town, before sending it on its way, grey feathers floating through the air. Mira never knew where she sent it, but she could only hope it drifted on its way before hitting some poor passer-by over the head.
“Nothing’s ever so good you shouldn’t let it go,” her mother said. She always said that, timed like clockwork.
Then her mother walked over and joined her by the tent flap which was partially opened. She put a hand on either side of the curtain, and with a move of her arms that straightened them all the way out, she flung the curtain open wide.
«A new night, little bird,» she said to Mira, as she looked out at the familiar Circus on an unfamiliar rooftop, «a new place.»
Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Or have you done it before? How’s it going?
Okay, I promise I won’t start this post with “how has October come and gone already, this year is flying by so fast!” but I guess, by saying I won’t, I allowed myself to do it anyway. October’s been a strange and busy month, with lots of traveling, a lot of assignments and uni work and thankfully, some wonderful moments with good friends. The weather has also made it perfectly clear that we’re reaching the last months of the year now, as the winter coat has been dusted off and there are no valid reasons to not put on mittens and a hat before leaving the house. Secretly, I’m really here for it.
October has brought along:
Two trips back and forth between home-home and uni-home
My mum’s birthday and thus a lot of cake, lovely food and family time
Some wonderful bonding time with my little nephew
Oliver’s baptism – which was a fairytale in itself
A lovely trip to the place my sister’s husband is from and getting to know his family better
Learning a new craft! (It’s called Hardangersøm, a type of traditional Norwegian embroidery, and I love it!)
A lot of beautiful concert experiences at The Church Music Festival in the Cathedral
A lot of studying, assignment work and exam revision
Some very productive study sessions with Trine, plus a lovely weekend with her lovely family
Halloween spent binging Netflix-shows and eating all the sweets that no children came to collect
I’m in a soft mood today; a mood that calls for soft October sun through the window and old forgotten loves on Spotify. I’m in the mood for hot chocolate breakfasts and hoodies that can hide all the stress of the week in oversized pocket. I’m in the mood for Sunday newspapers, sharpening pencils, and the smell of laundry detergent. A soft mood calls for Trygve Skaug’s beautiful lyrics and playful guitar, and picking old book acquaintances off of the shelves again; those I said hi to a while ago but never remembered to call back. I’m in the mood for handicrafts, for braiding and crocheting.
Uni in Norway starts up in early August, and so we’re about halfway through the semester now. This semester has gotten to me more than semesters prior. I’m one of those people who constantly overfill their calendars; who always tries to borrow golden seconds of nighttime to make the day longer. With multiple assignments every week, sometimes more than one in a day, lectures four days a week, two jobs, one volunteering job and a lot of uni reading I have definitely overfilled my plate. There have been moments these past couple of weeks where I’ve been so tempted to get on the train and go home. Just take off, hide under the duvet in my family home-bedroom and make a cup of tea big enough to last me a lifetime so I won’t ever have to leave the sanctuary of my bed.
But I won’t do that. Because even though these last few months haven’t been particularly great, they’re something I’ve started and they’re something I’m gonna finish, and when you strip off the stress, this degree is something I thoroughly enjoy. And sometimes life’s just like that, right? I’m gonna give it my all, maybe even more “all” than I’m already doing if I can find it in me, and steer myself safely through these last few months of first semester. And when Christmas comes around, I’m gonna go home with my first semester exam marks neatly wrapped in my bag (content no matter how they turned out) and when I melt into my parents’ first “it’s Christmas, welcome home”-hug, I can sink into it, knowing I gave this semester my best.
So yes, I’m in a soft mood today, and I think I’ll cherish that. I’ll get the work I need to get done done in my own time, I’ll make sure to look plenty out the window and if I want to listen to soft Christmas music a little bit too early, I think I’ll let myself do that too. I’ll let that October sun peek in through the windows and I’ll revisit all those old favorites, and maybe even pick up where I left off with a book started but never finished. I’m in a soft mood, soft moods are necessary to get through this semester, cause I’m doing my best, and reveling in this feeling of soft is a way of being kind to myself. I can be productive in the morning.