sunnudagur, mars 09, 2008


The snow building up against the window glass looks like travertine.

I learn that it is lapis tiburtinus, the stone of Tibur, that is Tivoli. For me, Tivoli is a pleasure garden in Copenhagen. Its name is another tiny gesture towards a long-standing Northern fascination with an imagined, exotic, leisured south. Last I was there, there was nonetheless snow, if only the artificial sort sifted over a life-sized diorama of secular Christmas. When in Iceland, a tivoli is a traveling carnival, called, of course, after the garden in Copenhagen. All carnivals in Iceland are traveling, I think. I remember a ferris wheel unfolding quayside in Reykjavík in 1998. I was so struck by the notion of a carnival moving by sea.

I learned the word tivoli late, another new sound offered on the seductive tongue of the North. I learned the word travertine when I was still very young. It was a word for talking about buildings and geology. They were related for me, a small person inquisitive about things my own height: the wainscotting, the chair rail, the doorknob. If the wall were clad in stone, I would want to know which stone it was.

My father worked in a tall building with a lobby entirely clad in travertine. Its whiteness was so different from the dirty gray streets of the urban empire outside. Waiting for the elevator with my mother, waiting to ascend into the world of powerful men, I would poke the stubby edge of my fingernail into the holes and crevices.

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