THE STATE OF THE STATE OF ME


TWO LITTLE SCRAGGLY CHRISTMAS CACTUS A FEW MONTHS AGO. NOW THEY BLOOM. A GOOD OMEN FOR 2019 I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE.

2018 has been a year of preparation—for 2019 when I join the ranks of the old-old (although that doesn’t officially happen until I cannot make it up Black Mountain). However it is year’s end and here I am—still unprepared. I’ve tried. I have really tried. Climbing up and down the side of that schooner in heavy gear and walking the 10K in the Duke City Marathon. Allotting the reading of history as much time as the streaming of high drama of the international murder mystery variety. Trying for less caustic crankiness and more kindly objectivity in all things human (but then I remember Sleazy T. is still in the white house and all attempts at calm dignity go out the window). These are a few of my endeavors to maintain some degree of physical and mental health and to present myself in such a way that the grandchildren will think of me as a sweet little old creature worthy of occasional visits to the ‘home.’

2018 is limping to a close: the adverb limping was carefully selected—the country is limping from its Sleazy T. wounds and I’m limping from old bones, old muscles, old everything… but enough with the whining…

On the other hand, 2018 has actually been brilliant in many of its ways.

Our already practically-perfect family has a lively new addition—Ashley, the soon-to-be-bride of grandson Steven. That must make us just a whisper away from absolutely perfect. Actually only the family dogs are perfect but the rest of us keep trying.

We are all healthy—a creak here, a twitch there and that’s about all.

In 2018 I had six weeks of what was possibly the best trip ever—time in my blood ‘homes’ of Norway and Sweden. I traveled the length and breadth of the beautiful sensible comfortable safe Democratic-Socialist country of Norway, from the northernmost city, Longyearbyen— far above the Arctic Circle in Svalbard, to the southern point at Lindesnes. I crossed the Swedish border near Roros to meet cousins on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family for the first time. Last but certainly not least I visited with cousins and friends I’ve come to know and love in Stavanger, Kristiansand, Byglandsfjord, and Oslo. How could it possibly get any better than that?

About 2019. About writing. About family. About travel. About ageing.

Here’s my short note about that first difficult topic—Writing. It’s a short note because 2018 was a deeply darkly unsuccessful writing year. I have my resolutions for 2019 however. Eliminate enough extracurricular activities so Saturdays and Sundays are always dedicated to writing The Book. Yeah, that book—which I haven’t given up on but if I am going to move beyond the quarter or so already written it must happen this year, at least a full first draft. A serious scary, almost impossible to meet, goal. More about The Book at the beginning of January.

More that is if I decide to continue blogging. Which will require some ‘fixing’ time before the end of the year and dedicated evenings during the year.

One should never say too much about New Year’s resolutions—too many word jinx the effort. For the short time remaining of 2018, how about travel as the topic, with lots of family photos over the holidays, and ending the year on the high note of age.

*Heading from the Peace Center in Oslo, Norway

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FEAR

Yet one more comment on the election…as though we need more. I felt compelled…what a fearful time. Maybe the news will be good. Please let the news be good. Please…

IS IT A POISONOUS CHEMICAL SUBSTANCE, MOLTEN GOLD, A MIRAGE, AND WHAT ABOUT THAT AUTUMN-DEAD SPEAR OF GRASS?

“Be afraid, be very afraid,” said a character in the horror film, “The Fly.” Which is how I am feeling these pre-election days, and pretty much how I’ve been feeling since the night of November 8, 2016. It’s not just about the US where the dishonesty and hate is nearly overwhelming; it’s that much of the world seems to be moving in the same direction. Actually if we consider the long sweep of history we could reasonably assume this short time of economic, social and political gains for the masses has been a historical anomaly; ancient Rome and Athens, where the idea of democracy began, didn’t last that long after all.

Since I usually lean toward worst case scenario…? Is it possible this aberration of a few hundred years of a measure of equality, a modicum of citizen participation in the affairs of government—mostly but not entirely in the western world—could be coming to an end?

I’m hiding out this Election Day and night. I could have done more but I’ve voted (democrat of course…along with the ten other members of my immediate family) and contributed a few dollars. My experience with election results is generally not good—the first time I was involved—with all my heart and soul—was November 1972 when one of the few deeply honorable and profoundly wise people to run for president, George McGovern, was soundly defeated by the decidedly dishonest Richard Nixon. The election results told an early story even in those slow news times and we, the weary and disgruntled campaign staff, left the boxes of barbecue and pyramid of six-packs untouched to wend our ways home, one by sad one.

SO I LOOK A LITTLE ODD, BUT KIND OF CUTE TOO…RIGHT?

Since then there have been marches and rallies and election night parties, not so many full of exultation exactly, but happy enough. But through the good and bad times I’ve always had an underlying confidence in the government of the U.S., that our leaders, whether seemingly duplicitous or decent, generally wished the country well whatever their version of that was and however they intended to add to that well-being.

That is not true now. We have a president who is the casebook version of narcissistic—by definition caring for nothing but himself. When I googled Psychology Today’s definition of narcissist this line was included: “That’s enough of me talking about myself; let’s hear you talk about me.”  People like Trump are in power here and there around the world, fanning a giant wave of populism and nationalism. They find the people who fear the other, who fear change, who are angry, people afraid of the future so they must try to recapture their own version of a ‘good past.’ They find them, stoke their fears, and tell them who else to blame, in other words people ‘not like them.’

Well, those people have made me afraid too. Of them. And what they have always wrought.

I’ve always liked Franklin Roosevelt’s pronouncement on fear.

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

So where’s this leadership of which he speaks. Perhaps it will appear Tuesday. In case it doesn’t I won’t know until Wednesday morning because I’m ‘going to ground’ for Tuesday’s 24 hours. Wondering where that expression ‘going to ground’ came from, I went to Urban Dictionary for the answer. Here’s one of their usage examples:  After robbing the 7-11, I plan to go to ground at my bro’s crib. I like it.

Hey, what remains of the sane world out there…wish us well.

 

GILDING THE GREEN

Our world is taking on a bright golden hue…our natural world, not the human or political one unfortunately. Fall is beautiful in temperate zones and we snap and post endless photos of the gold and the red and the glory of it all, and repeat the process year after year. Here is my annual contribution to the too-muchness of autumn photography.

It was quite a week, starting with last Sunday’s marathon, continuing with a dash of personnel drama at work, adding an absolutely smashing Joan Baez concert and winding up nicely with book club, a long walk in the Bosque, and the beginning of turning two of my office walls into a solid mapping of the world. Here are the pictures to prove it.

Book club time and a book lover with her well-worn copy of “Little Woman.”

My first Bosque walk in a long, too-long time. I love it down there in the brush and weeds and trees…every now and then breaking through to the river’s edge.

And last but not least Steven came down to work during my theater-sitting evening and we started the map-mounting process. Many more to go. Cover those walls…

I did it…No, not the 26 mile long real marathon…but close. The 10K walk. Close enough. I’m even a little bit proud of the results. Out of 95 10K walkers I was 62…and only two people were older than me and they both were faster…two old guys…I may have to have them disappeared before next year. Come to think of it, at our age we really don’t need much assistance to ‘disappear.’

It was the Duke City Marathon and it was almost fun. Each year I vow to do the walk at my own pace, not caring at all how long it takes, simply enjoying a beautiful fall day. Then we start off and, while I don’t mind quite a few people passing me, I realize it is important to me that not everyone does. So I forget about taking photos of the gorgeousness of fall in the bosque or peeing or drinking very much and I just plod determinedly ahead. Still, in spite of that usually buried streak of competitiveness showing itself, the walk was right there on the edge of being fun.

I’ll go back for a river walk next week and capture the perfect beauty of the Rio Grande in autumn.

ALL THE WAY HOME

It has been nearly a month since I left Norway. It’s been a difficult adjustment in some ways. Not because I’m on death’s door like returning from India but because I do love Norway and there won’t be so very many more visits to what feels like my ‘homeland.’ And returning to US politics is like falling falling falling into an honest-to-god cesspool. There’s no sign of the swamp Sleazy T. wanted to drain…swamps are lovely places with soft green moss everywhere, speckled with tiny pools rich tiny living things, prettied up with delicate pink and white lady’s slippers, and there’s a kind of healing hush the deeper you go. What we have instead is an authentic Trumpian cesspool…with him at the center making a nasty sucking sound that pulls everything he touches into his shit.

Well, that’s not quite what I meant to say but it is hard not to be angry every waking moment. Stop that Marjorie…. Anyway, I’m home and in many ways it’s good. It was nice to be back in my own comfortable apartment, to re-discipline myself for work and the gym, and to be around family and friends. I missed the worst heat of an Albuquerque summer and now it’s quite lovely, if a little too sunny for my taste.

I’m going to walk the 10K race in the Duke City Marathon tomorrow (I think). Wish me luck. Should give me so so many tree photos to share!

 

 

OSLO THE PERFECT

Of course Oslo, the capital of Norway and its largest city, is not perfect. No place of human habitation could be—humans being the most imperfect of all things alive. Oslo may be as close to perfect, in terms of livability, as an urban conglomerate can come however. I’ve spent a few days here and there around the city over the years and I choose to declare it perfect…with a few exceptions. Oslo has none of the mad energy and excitement of New York City…but then nowhere does; little of the sense of dramatic possibilities of adventure or danger of Johannesburg or Los Angeles. Oslo doesn’t feel like the center of European history like Paris or London or Moscow nor does it represent the future like Singapore or Beijing. I think it’s more like San Francisco before the billionaires from Silicon Valley or the bums at Powell and Market came to represent the economies of Bay Area life. Back when it was the pretty city ‘by the bay’ and hippies and artists and families could afford to live there. But this is now…in Oslo.

Here’s what I love about Oslo, also expensive, but with the cost-of-living kept (slightly) in check by Norway’s smart social policies (and great oil wealth). The best thing is that I have family here and nearby—who are exactly the kind of people to whom one wants to be related. Everything else is also easy to love. The green parks everywhere and blue waterfront spaces, the Grand Hotel where ladies who lunch, very-important-people, politicians and Nobel types hang out, everyday royalty who stroll amongst the folk, giant hot dogs and open-face slices of bread and butter topped with the pinkest and freshest of tiny shrimp, Frogner Park with it’s concrete humans all peacefully entwined, the Nobel Peace Museum and exhibits to think by and, I discovered, a department store (Steen & Strøm) to be treasured like a Nordstrom’s, plus with one of my grandmothers’ last name—oh to be an heir! On this visit I did not get to Frogner Park, the Viking Ship or Munch Museums, or the traditional village where lefse if sold fresh off the stove top—my time cut short by a  Norwegian Air (the one extremely imperfect thing about Norway) snafu. But I flew away, most pleased with myself for being Norwegian. Oslo inspires a sense that all’s right with the world—even if it is decidedly not!

From the Nobel’s Humanly Sublime to the Street’s Commercially Divine.

Finally…just to say…I am an obsessive fan of Nordic Noir (which includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland) in books and streaming. The murders are innovative, the detectives imperfect in ordinary ways, the psychology of it all a major part of the puzzle. But let me note here how much I dislike Jo Nesbo, probably Norway’s most famous contemporary writer next to Karl Ove Knausgaard. Partly because Nesbo is a storyteller of the shoot-‘em-up, bang bang-you’re-dead genre, so beloved of American cop/crime/mystery writers; partly because his books make Oslo sound like a crime-ridden, gun-loving, drug-infested metropolis. Which I can vouch that it’s not—whatever evil lurks in the hearts of the good and bad folks of Oslo, it mostly stays there without leaking out onto the streets.

KEEP GOING…THE BEST (FAMILY AND ART) IS YET TO COME.

I cannot end these meanderings about Oslo without a note about my new hero/heroine? Mette, our guide on the Linden in Svalbard. Walking down the street in Oslo, a voice called Marjorie? and it was, most happily, Mette. In the interim four weeks, Mette has married and taken on a book editing project. More about that later because it’s an important book. I was excited to run into her since she may be the most remarkable human being I’ve met in a very long time—if ever.

I’m home in Albuquerque now, a big town with a set of quirky attributes that sometimes charm and sometimes frustrate—partly because we’re an absolutely multi-cultural metro area, a mix of Hispanic, Native American and Anglo with each sphere of cultural values sometimes complimenting but often confronting the other. Oslo, only a little larger, feels like a small city, somewhat at peace with itself. It’s without the edginess of clashing cultures, although relatively welcoming to increasing diversity. Oslo is safe and pretty and calm. Is that so bad?

 

UNTIL NEXT TIME. LEAVING NESET.

My friend Olav…you know the story…our dad’s played together.

I’ve been back in Albuquerque three weeks. I didn’t sleep enough last night so, before coming to theater-sit this afternoon, a nap seemed in order. As I dozed, trying to sleep, my king-size, ever-so comfortable bed in New Mexico wanted to morph into beds at Neset, on board the Linden and the Finnmarken, in Trondheim, in Stavanger and all those other Norwegian beds—wide and narrow, hard and soft, rolling and still. Sleep wouldn’t come so I decided to focus on one spot—the bed in my pretty cabin at Neset Camping. Which then made the whole of one of my two favorite places on earth come into the hazy view of far-away and I knew it was time to write my farewell posts to Norway. For 2018.

Neset was my home for nearly a week this fall. It was Svein Neset’s home for seven years. Svein was Swan Neset, a lumberjack who lived in Northome, Minnesota when I knew him. Swan was my dad. This was my fifth visit to Neset and I feel more at home, more connected with my history and heritage and culture and family each time I’m there. I feel more me. A slightly silly thing to say I suppose but it somehow feels right.

This stay at Neset was preceded and followed by visits with friends and family, both newly met and previously known. It was and continued to be a perfect time for me until the day I left—and Neset felt like the anchor for everything.

I rather sadly took long last glimpses and last photos before my wonderful friend Olav Neset drove me to the train in Kristiansand. The following bit of history has been included before…here it is again just in case you missed it. Olav’s family and my family both took the name Neset from the outcropping of land/peninsula where the farm, owned by Olav’s family, with some land rented/farmed by my family, was located. My Nesets, besides Torgus (my grandfather), moved nearby to their own land some years before but Torgus, Asborg and their four children stayed on Neset until they left for America in 1910. Olav’s father turned the land called Neset into this beautiful camp site I love so much.

Here’s my almost-last album before Norway fades completely into the background of real life.

 

A NEW YORK MINUTE

A day in New York, tucked between Oslo and Albuquerque. I  haven’t been in the City since joining my friend Cathy for the bus ride to the Women’s March in DC  lo those many years ago. And…god help us…the slimeball against whom we were protesting is still in place—but I digress. It was good to be in this most exciting of cities again however briefly.

To many of us, New York means Manhattan with her hip sister, Brooklyn, increasingly part of the mix as more of the arts scene moves there. This was my first time in Queens however for longer than the ride from the airport. I was actually staying near LaGuardia in the simplest and most inexpensive of airbnbs so a visit to the borough of Manhattan took on a new dimension.

It went like this:

A Bus Ride

A Subway Ride

A Central Park Sighting

A 3.4 Mile Walk down Fifth, Third, and Second Avenues to St. Marks in the East Village.

Dinner with Reggie, artist, friend and raconteur extraordinaire, at Café Mogador

A Pricey Cab back home to Queens.

You are not in Oslo anymore Dorothy…I mean Marjorie.

You are not in Norway anymore, Marjorie. You are home…home where Republicans roam with their guns and their gods at play. But this fall is heard an encouraging word…and the skies are not cloudy all day…. And where tomorrow evening I will be back home on the range...because Albuquerque is out west and on the range and I love that about it. Okay enough with the bad cliches and parodies.

Right this minute, this fine Saturday morning, I’m sitting in the last in a series of ‘homes’ away from home, my humble travel abodes getting humbler by the day. Actually…the reason I know I’m not in Norway anymore is…no fluffy white duvet, no electric kettle, no silence. I am happy to be home though, although the Queens is not quite all the way… This little layover is due to some awkward travel planning on my part…horror stories to follow. But never mind all that, Southwest will get me back into high desert mode by tomorrow evening. Meanwhile l’ll see if Zahir, my last airbnb host, will drag one of my heavy travel bags up the flights of narrow stairs to the third floor where I’m semi-comfortably ensconced in yet another economical attic…this one with not a cruise ship in sight.

And just so you know…no need to go into withdrawal at the prospect of no more Norwegian family, Norwegian butter, Norwegian trees, Norwegian sunset, Norwegian rain…. posts, I do have a few to go. Just need to get back to my very own desk and coffee pot and make sure my bamboo trees are okay first.

ABSOLUTELY NOT IN NORWAY ANYMORE.

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM

A maritime expression having to do with discarded or useless things. Seemed appropriate for a grouping of photos that don’t really fit anywhere but I can’t quite ignore because I … love them. I guess they’re just about being in Norway at a beautiful campsite that is very dear to me. You’ll like them if you’re an aficionado of rabbits and not too tired of scenic lake shots.

The Rabbit Series.

The Lakeview Series: As the Day Goes By