time to reconvene with fire
It has gained in stature. It is now known around the world. It leaps from island to island… It fills our sky with sparks and light and parrafin lingers in our hearts forever.
Each last Tuesday of January, fire fever sparks off all around town. The dragon’s back around our walls, and with it, hordes of boys and men in starting blocks for merriment. In my night sky, Draco awaits curtain of night to show the way.
On this last day of January, young islanders turn warriors and invest corridors inside their own institution. Everyone gathers to applaud and marvel at shiny helmets. The atmosphere is bon enfant, as staff and pupils play the game until our squad of young Vikings join their elders by the harbour. It is indeed a special day for those young men who represent our school. They too have their own galley to set on fire and walk in footsteps of elders.
Fire fever animates hearts throughout the day. It kicks early and will demand another day to recover from party time! It culminates with the now famous procession. In the meantime, boys and men have to endure a much accepted marathon by visiting schools, hospital, care homes and whoever wants to see them before sunset.
The procession well after dusk shines as highlight. Folk from the world come to marvel at boys & men ready to march and turn their boat into ashes. Impressive prints left in your eyes. As night progresses, the guizing men will engulf halls where women wait to serve and feed with tattie soup (or reestit mutton) and other liquid concoctions until next dawn… For those of you familiar with the opening scene from the movie Beowulf – mind you, minus Grendel and treasures! – the allegory won’t feel too strong. In our depth of winter, Up-Helly Aa feels so welcome as light begins to override night in a much more assertive way.
February born off ashes
This year, Imbolc follows so close to Lerwick’s Up-Helly-Aa.
Imbolc, the Earth’s true beginning of Spring, and with it, the very first and timid steps to renewal.
Our dawns have become precocious – our afternoons linger longer… Sometimes sunsets turn pink and blue in pastel style and this precious nordic light carve smiles in eyes and hearts. It gives us time to wander (“stravaig”) around our shore.
Long-tailed ducks mingle with Eiders & Goldeneyes, common Scoters, kittiwakes and selkies… Little auks have been seen. Ravens re-started their acrobatics, as courtship begins on roadsides at breakfast time. Ravens, once captured by Vikings around the island to be used as scouts & seekers of land beyond seafarers’ horizon… Starlings and sparrows filled this morning’s sky with calls and chirps, so quarrelsome can they become. Even if the land feels desolate, precocious signals are noticed. Our path to the Vernal Equinox looks now lit. And until then, we shall keep our beacons alight, watch out for ice at every dawn and salute Draco in our sky.
The hearth is keeping us warm. Candles bring smiles when all feels dark. And when our sky feels generous, the entire universe fills our eyes. In moonless night, we can enjoy our Northern Lights. Without a doubt, 60N is a magic place!