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.
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.
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.
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 of 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!
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 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 common 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 is 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!
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, African American and Anglo (and smaller groupings of all of the other lovely variations of humanity, 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?
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.
Time to leave Neset again. MY cabin I say. Olav kindly drives me to Kristiansand where we stop at Solveig’s shop where she creates and sells the traditional costume of the Setesdal Valley region. Then I train it on into Oslo.
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.
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.
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
One or two or three or four ‘letters’ from Norway to go. Let’s see, there’s this one about Lyme disease and walking in the rain. Then one about butter accompanied by animal pictures (and no, the animals in question are not being braised, sautéed or fried in that deliciously golden salty Setesdal Valley butter). And then there’s saying goodbye to Neset, and Olav and Solveig, and a quick look from the window of the train from Kristiansand to Oslo this fine sunny day. Oh yes, and a final sign off from Oslo in a few days.
So about my brief but momentarily scary bout of Lyme Disease. I’m proud of myself for not panicking (not that there’s really anything to panic about if you do some research…) and calling my Albuquerque doctor or going to a clinic here or even feeling overly sorry for myself. I did send my brother a whiny email but he didn’t respond … so much for whining.
The Woodtick: The story goes like this…Norway has woodticks that carry Lyme disease just as we do in the states. Word apparently got out in woodtick world that I find Norway to be perfect…and a particularly grumpy one decided to put a pucker on paradise and attach itself to me. By the time I realized it, the poisoning deed was done. Two days after the discovery I developed an odd assortment of aches and tingles and weaknesses and a horrendous headache—took me part of the day to realize what it was…but here’s the brilliant part. My RA doctor always supplies me with a round of antibiotics before I leave on one of my long trips because I once developed a worrying infection in some far off place where the healthcare system was iffy. Of course this isn’t the case in Norway but who wants to spend time finding a doctor when you’ve much better things to do…voila, my pills were at hand. I’ve only finished the second day of the seven-day regimen and I already feel generally fine, but of course I’ll continue until the end. My tiny dead friend is a revolting-looking specimen, almost like a miniscule cross between a spider and a beetle. I’m bringing him home in case I go truly mad and the doctor needs to examine the source.
Up the Hill and Round the Bend to Byglandsfjord I Go: On one of the glorious days of rain, I donned my Svalbard heavy-duty hiking sneakers and rain jacket and walked the two/three kilometers from Neset Camping to the village of Byglandsfjord. And a lovely walk it was. I tried to absorb enough fresh air and fresh water and fresh plant matter to last a few New Mexico months. There is zero pollution or dust here. Zero. I stopped at the Revsnes Hotel on the edge of town for tea, wandered about the drizzly streets, full of late summer’s fallen green apples and bright gold zinnias, went to the grocery store, and stopped back at the hotel for a wine on the way home.
Pictures. Of course. You need pictures. The walk in the rain.
Saturday was crisp and sunny, the perfect day for a stroll along the periphery of Neset Camping, taking in the everyday landscape of the little boy Svein who would grow up to be my dad. Neset means small peninsula or outcropping in Norwegian and that describes this scenic spot of land sticking out into Byglandsfjord. Olav Neset and his ancestors have owned this land for a long time, building it into one of the most successful campsites in Norway. When my dad, his mom and siblings left for America, there was only Olav’s family home and barn, a couple of small log buildings and the cabin that my family rented at the other end of the property. Both families took their names from the place, the farm and land, which was common in those days. It was a time of great poverty in this country, hard to imagine in the prosperous Norway of today, but the reason for the mass Scandinavian exodus to America, similar to the great Irish emigration.
I always like walking about and listening to the quiet country sounds of waves on the lake and wind through the pines, birds singing, cawing, ducks quacking, a dog barks…it’s nice. This is a kid-friendly place and, while it’s quite empty now, in the summer the sound of children chasing each other and laughing makes me think of dad and his twin sister, Ellen, and little brother Ilif, doing the same all that time ago.
Okay, let’s get on with the Walk Around Neset photo album before I wax too sentimental.