Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Circle- Moominland Midwinter, Chasing Away The Darkness (And A scent to go with it)

"There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that's a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don't fit in with others and that nobody really believes in. They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything's quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep — then they appear."

— Too-Ticky in Moominland Midwinter

My original intention was to write about Hanukkah, as it is the part of my heritage that relates to the season and the holiday I and my family celebrate. But since I'm not even remotely religious and my interest in latkes and dreidels is fairly limited (the former is bad for the waistline, the latter doesn't make much sense other than as a lame cat toy), I started thinking in more general terms. The season has been celebrated since the dawn of mankind, long before my people started deep frying stuff and putting candles in the window. If you think of it, both practices have purpose: keeping warm and bringing in the light during the time of the year it's bitterly cold outside and the night seems to never end.

Hanukkah and many of the other seasonal holidays are about chasing the darkness away- both the real darkness and the metaphoric one that might settle in our hearts when we tend to cocoon, be less active (while eating those latkes) and start believing winter is never going to end. One of my favorite books of all time, Moominland Midwinter by Finnish author Tove Jansson, explores this theme beautifully.

Moomintroll wakes up unexpectedly in the middle of winter, while the rest of his family and almost all the other animals he's ever known are hibernating. The world as he knows it has changed. Moominland is suddenly a scary, dark, and lonely place and the sun doesn't shine. Strange creatures have taken residence in the once familiar places. Something grumpy lives under the sink, The Lady Of The Cold passes by endangering everyone's lives, and the Groke takes away every last trace of warmth by sitting on it. At the same time, other creatures are determined to make the best of the situation. Little My has taken up sledging using Moominmamma's tea tray and wearing her floral tea cozy, the Hemulen has gotten into skiing and Too-Ticky fishes under the ice and builds a huge bonfire to welcome back the sun. Everyone else just wants Moominmamma's stores of jam, preferably strawberry.

Moomintroll learns valuable lessons about the circle of life, death, overcoming fear and loneliness by living in the moment, and finally realizes that sometimes it's best "if things aren't so easy". Eventually most of the jam is gone, but the world awakens and Moominland comes back to life.

My scent of choice for curling up with this book, a blanket and a cat or three is Theorema by Fendi. Yes, it was discontinued, which fits in nicely with the theme of life, cycles and letting go. It's also a beautiful, warm and happy perfume that comforts and celebrates all that is good in the season and reminds us that the sun really comes back eventually.

A full list of The Circle's participants, past and future:

Wednesday - December 9th: Olive Bites, Catherine Ivins

Thursday - December 10th: Perfume Smellin' Things, Tom

Friday - December 11th: Lillyella, Nicole

Saturday - December 12th: The Non-Blonde, Gaia

Sunday - December 13th: Portland Examiner, Donna Hathaway

Monday - December 14th: Xenotees, Noelle

Tuesday - December 15th: The Beauty You Love, Lee

Wednesday - December 16th: Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom, Mrs. B

Thursday - December 17th: The Artful Gypsy, Wendy Amdahl

Friday - December 18th: Perfume Shrine, Helg

Saturday - December 19th: Notes on Shoes, Cake & Perfume, Wendy

Sunday - December 20th: Grindstone Girl's Daily, Kathi Roussel

Monday - December 21st WINTER SOLSTICE: Perfume Smellin' Things, Beth

Tuesday - December 22nd: Guest blogger Davis Alexander

Wednesday - December 23rd: Guest blogger Greg Spalenka, Artist as Brand

Thursday - December 24th: Fringe, Dennice Mankarious

Friday - December 25th: Asking Leah, Leah

The Circle image by Roxana Villa
Illustration from Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson


  1. What a fun story Gaia. I've never heard of Moominland, so very sweet and simply right on the mark. Nothing like good story over the holidays!

  2. Lovely story and we used to read about those Scandinavian trolls ourselves when at school (it seemed so antithetical to our sunny little Med hearts). Love the illustration as well! :-)

  3. yes-- i loved your tale of little elusive and night loving winter creatures-- i remember reading a story, "the tomten" to my sons during the winter months-- a sweet little troll who moved about a farm in mysterious and wonderful ways in the deepest darkest hours of the morning, leaving tracks in the snow for the children to find in the snow- and if ice and snow were to be made into a scent-- with some sun added as a top note-- what would the perfume be named and what would it smell like?
    so nice to read your story and thoughts!

  4. And now I need to go find that book (love the illustrations).

  5. We love that book !

    Bless you and DH, in your new home...
    And many thanks for your sweet sharing self .


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