A boat by night is a wonderful sight. This is the way to start a new life, with a hurricane lamp shining at the top of the mast, and the coastline disappearing behind one as the whole world lies sleeping. Making a journey by night is more wonderful than anything in the world..
The summer came so early that year that it might almost have been called spring – it was a kind of present and everything one did had to be thought out differently. It was cloudy and very calm.
We and our luggage were the same as usual, and so were Old Charlie and Old Charlie’s boat, but the beaches were bare and forbidding and the sea looked stern. And when we had rowed as far as Newness Island the iceberg came floating towards us.
It was green and white and sparkling and it was coming in order to meet me. I had never seen an iceberg before.
Now it all depended on whether anyone said anything. If they said a single word about the iceberg it wouldn’t be mine any longer.
We got closer and closer. Daddy rested on his oars but Old Charlie went on rowing and said: it’s early this year. And Daddy answered: yes. It’s not long since it broke up, and went on rowing.
Mummy didn’t say a thing.
Anyway, you couldn’t count that as actually saying anything about an iceberg and so this iceberg was mine.
We rowed past it but I didn’t turn round to look because then they might have said something. I just thought about it all the way along Batch Island. My iceberg looked like a tattered crown. On one side there was an oval-shaped grotto which was very green and closed in by a grating of ice. Under the water the ice was a different green which went very deep down and was almost black where the dangerous depths began. I knew that the iceberg would follow me and I wasn’t the least bit worried about it.
I sat in the bay all day long and waited. Evening came but still the iceberg hadn’t reached me. I said nothing, and no one asked me anything. They were all busy unpacking.
When I went to bed the wind had got up. I lay under the bedclothes and imagined I was an ice-mermaid listening to the wind rising. It was important not to fall asleep but I did anyway, and when I woke up the house was completely quiet. Then I got up and dressed and took Daddy’s torch and went out onto the steps.
It was a light night, but it was the first time I had been out alone at night and I thought about the iceberg all the time so that I wouldn’t get frightened. I didn’t light the torch. The landscape was just as forbidding as before and looked like an illustration in which for once they had printed the grey shades properly. Out at sea the long-tailed ducks were carrying on like mad, singing wedding songs to one another.
Even before I got to the field by the shore I could see the iceberg. It was waiting for me and was shining just as beautifully but very faintly. It was lying there bumping against the rocks at the end of the point where it was deep, and there was deep black water and just the wrong distance between us. If it had been shorter I should have jumped over, if it had been a little longer I could have thought: what a pity, no one can manage to get over that.
Now I had to make up my mind. And that’s an awful thing to have to do.
The oval grotto with the grating of ice was facing the shore and the grotto was as big as me. It was made for a little girl who pulled up her legs and cuddled them to her. There was room for the torch too.
I lay down flat on the rock, reached out with my hand and broke off one of the icicles in the grating. It was so cold it felt hot. I held on to the grating with both hands and could feel it melting. The iceberg was moving as one does when one breathes – it was trying to come to me.
My hands and my tummy began to feel icy cold and I sat up. The grotto was the same size as me, but I didn’t dare to jump. And if one doesn’t dare to do something immediately then one never does it.
I switched on the torch and threw it into the grotto. It fell on its side and lit up the whole grotto, making it just as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. It became an illuminated aquarium at night, the manger at Bethlehem or the biggest emerald in the world! It was so unbearably beautiful that I had to get away from the whole thing as quickly as possible, send it away, do something! So I sat down firmly and placed both feet on the iceberg and pushed it as hard as I could. It didn’t move.
Go away! I shouted. Clear off!
And then the iceberg glided very slowly away from me and was caught by the off-shore wind. I was so cold that I ached and saw the iceberg carried by the wind towards the sound – it would sail right out to sea with Daddy’s torch on board and the ducks would sing themselves hoarse when they saw an illuminated bridal barge coming towards them.
And so my honour was saved.
When I got to the steps I turned round and looked. My iceberg shone steadily out there like a green beacon and the batteries would last until sunrise because they were always new when one had just moved to the country. Perhaps they would last another night, perhaps the torch would go on shining at the bottom of the sea after the iceberg had melted and turned into water.
I got into bed and pulled the bedclothes over my head and waited for the warmth to come back. It came. Slowly at first, but little by little it reached down to my feet.
But all the same I had been a coward, and all because of two inches. I could feel it in my tummy. Sometimes I think all strong feelings start in the tummy; for me they do at any rate.”
- The Iceberg, a story from The Sculptor’s Daughter by Tove Jansson
He carries stars in his pockets
because he knows
she fears the dark.
Whenever sadness pays her a visit
he paints galaxies
on the back of her hands.
— Alaska Gold
Θα σου πω ποια μοναξιά με τρομάζει περισσότερο, εκείνη που τη νιώθεις μέσα στο πλήθος γιατί κανείς δεν ακούει τα λόγια σου, δε μετρά τους παλμούς της καρδιάς σου, δεν απλώνει το χέρι να πιάσει το δικό σου. Απλά βαδίζει δίπλα σου και πολλές φορές σε σπρώχνει για να περάσει."