It's Greek to Me

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
When I was little, my parents read Greek myths to my brother and I as bedtime stories. I suppose it all started because the myth of Persephone and Demeter was in one of the bedtime story anthologies we had as toddlers. Then one Christmas, when I was probably in first or second grade, we got D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths . We read and reread the book, drifting off to sleep with the ancient antics of Zeus, Hera, Athena, Jason and so many others, racing through our heads. In high school I took a mythology course, one thing lead to another, and an English major was born.

Greek myths did more for me than inspire a love of a literature and storytelling. Myths infused our daily lives as children. Our winter night stargazing were directly influenced by Greek mythology.

I've been thinking about Greek myths lately, maybe because it's been really cold lately, or maybe just because it's winter and the nights are long and the stars abundant:

For the record, 0F.L is not a real temperature. That just what the thermometer displays when it goes below -26 F. And it got down to -30F last night. As you can see, the new wood stove keeps thing plenty warm enough inside though.

Could it be all this watching the Mercury that's got my mind thinking about myths? (I realize that Mercury is the Roman messenger god, which deviates slightly from my Greek myth theme here, but nevertheless, it's Mercury who stuck in the thermometer, not Hermes.)

Despite the mild Arctic temps, Andy and I have been bundling up each night and heading out in the moonlight of the waxing moon. (And yet people laugh when I say I want to visit Antarctica . . .   seriously, I could take it.)  In the cold temperatures, the lake ice cracks and booms all night, as well as for a good portion of the day, as it expands. On these still, cold nights, the cabin's bay sometimes produces an echo and as we're out checking on the ice forming at night, our voices often come back to us, making my mind drifts to the myth of Narcissus and Echo. 

But the big show is what's happening up in the sky above us. The winter constellations, Orion, Gemini, Taurus, et al. with all their mythical stories are beginning their seasonal journeys across the night sky. Yesterday also marked the peak in the annual Geminid meteor showers. This annual meteor shower is the most dependable show of the night and the meteors come from the general vicinity of Castor's head in the Gemini constellation which is made up of the twin brothers Castor and Pollux. We caught a few meteors yesterday evening when we were out on the lake, but the bright waxing moon flooded out lots of the stars, shooting or not. Knowing that the meteors were set to peak between midnight and 5 a.m. this morning (and despite a famous childhood story when my father woke me up to look at Comet Hyakutake at 4 in the morning which I looked at  for .2 seconds before dashing back to bed), we set the alarm last night for early morning so we could see the meteor shower at its finest.

The alarm clock went off at 3:30 and we stumbled into the living room to pull on boots, socks, mittens, coats, hats. In -30F weather, we stood on the frozen lake and looked west, to see watch the world traveling through a stream of debris: bright sparks shooting across the winter

This winter living in the woods: cold, dark, stark, and beautiful. And that at least, is not Greek to me.


  1. Oh my, we are suffering here with single digit temps but they are no way near your temps! I loved reading books about colder climates, but I know I could not stand it and neither could my husband. Maybe if I was younger. Sounds like a beautiful but cold night.

  2. I grew up with the myths of Greeks and Romans as well. I have a faible for Fauns ever since. Not only because of Pan but as they are untamed guardian spirits I can connected so much easier. And stargazing must be incredible so far up North. Glad you keep warm and cozy.

  3. I wanted to see the meteors so bad last night, but the skies just weren't clear enough here in northern Michigan. So glad you were able to watch the beautiful starry starry night though.

    On a side note. I've often thought that the t.v. program Survivor should be filmed in a cold climate....THEN we would really know who the "true" survivors are :)

  4. I don't know if anything would get me out of bed at 3:30am in winter. You are braver then I am.
    But Greek myths are beautiful stories aren't they.


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