Air with Pär Lagerkvist

2 min. read (or watch the video)

In 2013, a colleague and I were invited to join a PhD workshop on Forest History in northern Sweden. We had a fabulous time, learning from our forest ecologist and archaeologist colleagues over the course of ten days, often in remote woodlands of subarctic Sweden. I am not going to attempt in this post to discuss any of the practical or theoretical insights we gained during this time. I will only mention that the experience set a new trajectory for my own thinking about trees and tree communities — and for humans and other critters in that mix.

What I am sharing here are the delicate words of Swedish poet Pär Lagerkvist, which so closely describe what I feel when flying over this history-saturated wilderness. Lagerkvist’s poem, “It is fairest in the gloaming air,” expresses both the elation and finitude that overcome me when I am flung into the air by the rotor blades of a Bell 206, floating over millennia of human and other experience, captured in the bark, tree rings, and sediments of the forests and lakes below:

It is fairest in the gloaming air

(Det är vackrast när det skymmer)

It is fairest in the gloaming air.
All the love the heavens bare
is collected in a dusky light
above the earth,
above the city light.

All is love, caressed by hands.
The Lord himself will vanish distant strands.
All is near, all is far away.
All is given
man for today.

All is mine, and all shall be taken away from me,
within moments all shall be taken away from me.
The trees, the clouds, the earth I face.
I shall wander—
alone, without a trace.

Original by P. Lagerkvist, published in the collection Kaos, 1919.
English translation by P.O. Kristensson, 2011.

By alexoehler

I am an environmental anthropologist at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.