Down in the Valley of the Not-So-Jolly Jotuns

Given this morning’s -30 F temperature and the omnipresent mounds of snow, it’s very easy to confuse the Chicago slice of Miðrgarðr for Jotunheim. Whizzing along on the northbound Tri-State, making my morning transition from Cook to Lake County during my drive to work, it was difficult to not find the landscape tinged with thurz-friendly phantasmagoria—look, there’s Fenris loping amidst the snow-laden oaks, sycamores, and aspens in Busse Woods; Skadi loves stomping about with her snowshoes in a childlike spirit of abandon in the gravelly pit of the major construction site at Willow Road.

I was listening to the sweet strains of Loreena McKennit’s liltingly lovely musical interpretation of Tennyson’s masterpiece, “The Lady of Shallot,” when it dawned on me—just as Sunna’s orange and scarlet robes blinded me in the rear-view mirror—that this day is absolutely, wholly, and unequivocally laced with death. The very air, reminiscent of that primal giant from whom the whole world was crafted, is tinged with it. Try inhaling without a scarf or other covering to shield your mouth while, say, walking a dog for 20 minutes and you’ll feel it, death like a form of anti-pneuma seeping into your lungs. A cold caress that makes your flesh and bones revolt to the touch. Continue reading

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