Christian Cueni: Danish Coastline Just After Sunset, 2022 (Unsplash)

From World Literature Today:

It takes a certain build to stay standing on this line. You’ve got to bend, walk sideways. The old houses have buckled at the knees, but still hold firm. They’re digging in to shelter behind the dunes. They shiver on windswept plains behind gust-warped trees. They have hipped roofs and little windows. Everything is about making themselves small, against the pressure of the wind. It produces beautiful houses in concord with the surroundings and themselves. Despite these precautions, many buildings have ended up being blown away, swept over with sand, or taken by the sea.

The people who developed the historical building practices along this line knew they weren’t living on a western coast. They were living on an eastern one: the eastern coast of the North Sea. If you think of the sea as a delineated geographic shape, then from above the North Sea looks a bit like France. It tapers toward the English Channel; it presses up against Scotland, runs around Norway where the country is heaviest, and down along this eastern coast. The North Sea is a nation without a capital, but with its own powerful identity. At the transition between sea and earth, its vast energy has nowhere to go and surges deep into the land. A piece of the slopes, the dunes, dashes into the sea. Then the fjords break through, then the sea builds tongues, and by the time winter is over the dust-green dunes are as white as Alpine peaks with sand. Sandknog, my grandmother called the phenomenon. Sand drifts. She grew up in the early 1900s in the inland dunes of West Jutland, where the wind sweeps in almost every day. It paints the land with sand and salt. Sand drifts could eat a farm, a church, a small community. It insists that accommodations be made, and there are fierce forces at play. Eager for a closer look, I drove north toward Vendsyssel. I wanted to visit Børglum Abbey and the scenery around it.

It was late June, and the abbey perched on a crest was a safe distance inland. It was the dead calm of summer, and I walked up to the old mill on Miller’s Hill to view the landscape and the abbey from a distance. As I stood there, I could—with a little wishful thinking—sense the place where a tiny church had once existed to the north. It had been pulled down before the sea could take it. Now only the bones of the dead occasionally come rattling down the ice-age slope.

“Wandering Houses”, Dorthe Nors, World Literature Today

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