Why Must I Be?

When we were at the dive resort with the Finns, Rachel and I took to calling the taller one the Valkyrie. Along with speaking fake Finnish, we spent some of our time trying to imagine a poem or a novel called The Valkyrie Glows. Larger than mortal, blonde, strong, literally glowing after their sauna and then Christmas Eve.

“You two are glowing — another sauna?”

“No, it was something else.”

I think they meant something like aquavit but it felt like the smaller one must have been servicing the Valkryie with some heavenly elixir.

She was a very practical goddess, this Valkyrie, given to good-natured pronouncements that struck us as hilarious, her English nearly perfect but just the teeniest bit off.

“I went to find out where the karaoke was, and I put my song in the queue but it was too long. It was a pity they did not have more Finnish songs.”

She went to Carleton for a year as an undergrad, and told a story of refusing to use the tunnels for shelter, of forcing herself into a blizzard to write an exam, finding herself crawling on her hands and knees up a snowbank, muttering “Why must I be so stubborn and Finnish?”

Her glowing, deep, inner Finnishness touched off something in me about identify and essence. Why MUST we be so stubborn and Finnish?

The nature of identity is never very far from my preoccupations, the force that we call “oughtness” in the CMM world about the things that we simply feel we “must” do, because that is how “a person like me” behaves.

One of the things that has crossed my mind about photos in 2013 is to take a shot of myself everyday. The notion of posting such shots fills me with horror — I can’t imagine anything more ego-centric than to post 365 photos of myself — but I’ve always been quite fascinated by self-portraits, especially self-portraits in contrast to portraits of other people. So let’s call this an occasional part of the 2013 series, and since today is a travel day, Cate, about to leave England, Jan 2, 2013.

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