Monday, January 31, 2011
A Danish Jesusland In The Middle Of The Orange Groves?
It's a wet dream for any Dane.
You're driving down a street in generic Yorba Linda south of Los Angeles. The palm trees are swaying in the Californian wind. It's 71 gorgeous degrees on this Saturday in January; the mountains are glowing in the sun ... and suddenly you see it.
At first you think you're hallucinating. After all, it's not easy being a Dane far away from home missing saltlakrids and Lars von Trier ... but right in front of you, you see something that looks like a Danish sognekirke, a white church. You do a double take. Maybe this isn't Southern California after all; maybe you're in Øster Ulslev without knowing it?
But no, this Danish church is frighteningly real. I step out of the car, and several Danes greet me. They all speak English, probably because they want to be sure I understand them. Then we head for the entrance ... but suddenly I stop dead in my tracks and stare at a huge rock by the door.
No, this can't be true. It's Jellingestenen, one of the most important historical monuments in Denmark. When did these nice people steal it? And more important, how did they get it through customs?
"Very nice," I smile hurrying through the door like a madman, knowing that these Danes aren't well. They must be common criminals. I mean, what am I going to find in the church next? The severed head of The Little Mermaid?
Actually, I'm here to talk about my novel, The Tsar's Dwarf that was translated into English two years ago. Fifty people have shown up for Books & Breakfast. They serve Danish pastry, rye bread, and me. Luckily, these funky Americans and delightful Danes turn out to be a lovely audience. They even forgive me for my sins; something Christ hasn't come around to yet, but I guess He is otherwise engaged.
Most of my book talks aren't for Danes, but I always enjoy visiting Danish cultural centers. Here in Yorba Linda, they even have a red Danish mailbox - what more can you ask for? I'm so grateful I feel like mailing some threatening letters to my accountant, but I decide against it. It's so great meeting all these people who have read my novel in their book club while doing yoga under the tolerant eyes of our Danish God.
When I leave the Lutheran church and it disappears behind palm trees of Orange County, I have tears in my eyes.
Legend has it that the Danish flag fell from the sky in Estonia in 1219. That's not true. Now I know it was in Yorba Linda.