Preparing to publish the book of Time and Place 2013 and 2014. A small explanation is in order to account for the inclusion of the next few posts—all written in 2015. Confusing I know but here’s the reason. Through January and February, 2015 I was still writing mostly about past travels (although not entirely) so it seems logical to go ahead and include them here…then to launch the next volume of these travel books with the actual 2015 travels. Anyway…Read On…the rest of the post is more fun.
1985. MY DAD’S CHILDHOOD FRIEND….WHERE THEY USED TO PLAY.
Norway is on my mind much of the time these days. First of all because I seem to be endlessly obsessively determined to be more Norwegian than American. Since I have only spent 15 to 20 days in Norway and my DNA is only 93% Norwegian (okay, so some of those strands are Swedish—but not most) and my birth certificate and passport leave no doubt as to my nationality, it is obvious, I cannot be a Norwegian.
Why do I pursue this idea so relentlessly? Well, there is my early childhood in what was virtually a Norwegian enclave in the northwoods of Minnesota where we always referred to ourselves as Norwegians (or, my dad would say, Norskies).
There is also the fact that I have always liked not being just American because that’s what everyone around me says they are, or because I’m usually mad at us for not being as good as we pretend to be. Not that the U.S. is not pretty good compared to the rest of the world; it’s just that we are not near the top in most things and haven’t been for a long time so can we stop with the American Exceptionalism nonsense. What about qualitatively wonderful Norway, high on everyone’s list of all good things? I read, and hear from relatives, that all is not perfect there either. There is so much to be admired though, in all of Scandinavia, and certainly in Norway, that I still feel happy to tout my Norwegianness whenever I can.
So for the last year I have been writing about Scandinavia, particularly Norway, in my UCLA writing classes. This writing is intended to form the basis for the first third or so of a book called “Up North.” My long-awaited travel memoir! The writing so far is based almost entirely on my first and second trips there and on my cursory research in a few reputable books about the Vikings and a small on-line look at present-day Norway. Since travel writing is intended to focus on place and time and memoir on the personal I have been working on a blend of the two.
Just to note: I am presently reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle,” determined to read Sigrid Undset’s “Kristin Lavransdatter” and anxiously awaiting the appearance of any new Norwegian (or Swedish Finnish Icelandic Danish) crime thrillers. How to incorporate all of this into the Norwegian-focused section of “Up North” is unknown at this time.
On August 10, 2015, I will fly to Norway. It’s the first phase of a much bigger trip that will ultimately take me to Beijing (by land) but starting in Norway when I am bright-eyed and vigorous and curious and positive, can only be a good thing for bringing “Up North: On the Track of the DNA (which is what I may call the first part of the book) to a conclusion.
I am already imagining my week in the country: visiting cousins—some already known in real life and some only through Facebook; train rides up to Trondheim or to other locations to try to find the original home places of the unknown ancestors on my mom’s and half of my dad’s sides of the family; perhaps a long day or two walking the streets of Oslo by myself. Time at beautifully odd Frogner Park where, on my first visit, I took a long nap on the grass after a lefse-wrapped hot dog for lunch. And the many other historical sites that really do speak to my soul—however silly that sounds.
Then, to put a tasty wrap on the Scandinavian journey ‘home,’ it is off to meet my foodie friend in Stockholm. We will travel together to Riga, St. Petersburg and Moscow and, at least St. Petersburg, can be considered part of tracking the DNA since it was settled by Swedish Vikings. I hope to eat well on this part of my trip because the before and after parts may be a little iffy.
In Norway, food is too expensive to treat casually, so I’ll eat little. On the Siberian Railway I suspect it will be mostly noodles brought to life by the boiling water always kept in the samovar at the end of your car. In Mongolia I intend to stick to the milk vodka because sheep’s’ head can be tricky unless you are lucky enough to get the left ear lobe. Beijing. Who knows? There’s an old saying, “The Chinese eat everything with four legs except tables—and everything that flies except airplanes” (The talkalotoftalk Blog)
I will do guided tours there so maybe I can request saltines and yogurt if that’s what my stomach desires after a month of travel. But then I really really love Peking Duck so maybe no to the crackers.
Now it is Noon. Time to have my scalloped potatoes and sweet pickles (the lingonberries turned out to be too old) with a nice glass of white wine and sparkling water while I try and try and try to finish ModPo (did I mention poetry is HARD?) Then a nap, shower, lights dimmed, snacks at hand…Drum Roll…”DOWNTON ABBEY” RETURNS. LIFE IS GOOD. THE WORLD IS AT PEACE.