Golden

If you follow me on Instagram, you will recognize some of these photos. Leaving the good stuff only to IG isn't fair to my blog only readers, so here you go!

First up is from earlier this fall, in the neighborhood of our university, at Øysteins gate. I think Øystein was a king. We have a bunch of king names in this neighborhood, like Sigurd and Sverre and Magnus Barfot (Magnus Barefoot; apparently, he wore shorts). 

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Next is from two months later, i.e. last night. Another street named for a king: Olav Kyrre, who was the founder of Bergen, Norway, in 1070. The street now is a main transit hub in town. (Weirdly, our bus station isn't.) I was waiting for my bus after my annual lutefisk dinner. (It was delicious.) I need to go back because the Christmas lights in the city park (Byparken) are new this year.

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And finally, one of those rare moments when everything just comes together. Right place, right time kind of thing. Last week, we were covered in frost, and everything was coated in glittering, white fuzz. A low, warm sun added perfect light to a corner of my local pond, Ortuvann, transforming ordinary into magical.

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You may be thinking the above was taken late in the day, but it's date-stamped with a time of 12:54. Nearly high noon and yet shadows are very long. Such is winter at 60 degrees north.

Lisa's Eleven

A little musing and sharing via eleven questions thought up by Lisa and found via Paula.

1) Socks? Love them or hate them?

— I have cold feet. Socks, please, and they have to cover my ankles. I've chosen to get different patterns and stuff, inspired by a co-worker wearing a pair of bright orange ones. That's when I realized that colorful socks are important. IMPORTANT. Nobody ever sees mine since I wear bootlets at work.

Handknitted socks a co-worker made for Secret Santa. And I won them! They keep my feet toasty in rubber boots

Handknitted socks a co-worker made for Secret Santa. And I won them! They keep my feet toasty in rubber boots

2) Is there a God?

— Paula starts off with "I wonder why peeps are so obsessed with this question." Since I have constantly asked myself this question, I don't find the obsession weird.

The answer is yes, by the way.

The real question is: What is God?

3) Is a pizza a pizza without cheese?

I like Paula's answer (must have cheese!), but since pizza is one of those incredibly flexible dishes, it can also lack cheese. I mean, I still remember how upset I was when Mexican pizza became a thing (blasphemy!!!) but they do taste good so I gave up caring.

4) What’s your favorite book and why?

For the longest time my favorite was "Illusions" by Richard Bach. I've outgrown it now, but I still have two copies. Favorite book does not equal most used, however. In that category I could put my ephemeris because of my astrology interest and Louise Hay's "You Can Heal Your Life" because of the affirmations for everything that ails a body. If I have to bring just one book to a deserted island, it'll be an illustrated, unabridged encyclopedia.

5) Do aliens exist or are we floating around in space all alone?

Both. Maybe we're the Mt. Everest of the universe and only the most daring make it for a visit. That's why it looks empty in this neighborhood.

6) Do you still have the teddy you slept with as a child?

I never had a teddy bear. Don't actually like them. Anything with eyes tended to bother me as a kid and still does. The only stuffed animal I remember having was a yellowish snake I named Oscar. I don't have Oscar any more (moving countries tends to leave stuff behind) but I actually still kind of miss him. I didn't sleep with the snake or any other stuffed toys at all. I had a calico cat who would fall asleep under my chin and move after I'd fallen asleep.

7) Brussel sprouts? Yes or no?

Fresh ones, gently boiled, are actually almost sweet in taste, so yes to that!

8) Christmas? Do you love it or hate it?

I'm not Christmassy in that my home turns into Santa's workshop, but I love the lights because it gets dark early where I live so anything cheering is a plus. It's also the only time of year I turn into a romantic, indulging and overindulging in sappy movies with happy endings and a bit (or a lot) of Santa magic. In Norway, we get a bit of time off so people are pretty chill between Christmas and New Year which is nice after the hectic preparations before Christmas. And the solstice means the days have stopped getting shorter! Whee!

Christmas tree at Håkonshallen with the Norwegian tradition of white lights only

Christmas tree at Håkonshallen with the Norwegian tradition of white lights only

9) What’s sexier – a beaming smile or thigh high boots?

Both are sexy, but I'd only stay for the smile.

10) If you were stuck with one view for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Either the smile from question 9 or nature. I have to have a tree or something that attracts bird. Ideally also a mountain or body of water. Actually, I want to see the sky, to see sunsets.

11) Which do you prefer? Spring or Autumn?

Autumn. The stars come back (because the nights get darker), the air gets crisp, and I get to wear sweaters again! Spring in Norway is just stressful for me: Too many people outside doing things that stink (painting houses, barbecuing).

Autumn also has frosting

Autumn also has frosting

Feel free to take on these questions for yourself!

Expecting

In my ongoing journey to figure myself and life and all that stuff out, I’m now trying to learn about non-attachment. Attachment = expectation. In “The Shack”, they suggest you ditch the noun and go for the verb: Expecting. That is making more and more sense to me. Expectation sets you up for failure; expecting opens you up.

Yes, I just plagiarized my own comment on my previous post. I have noticed lately that unopened messages produce their own kind of stress in me. I have been feeling overwhelmed so am back on 50% sick leave (had tried to reduce to 30%). It just doesn't take much to get me worked up, and it doesn't feel like excitement or anticipation. It feels like dread. So not good.

The thing is, it's just the mind playing tricks. Because every single message or email I opened was harmless. Utterly harmless. Nothing overwhelming or negative or difficult. Just a message.

There are a variety of techniques for dealing with stuff, some physical (like taking deep breaths), some more mental (like saying you're safe as long as you're breathing). I have been trying to meditate, unguided, silent, blank. And of course my mind wants to fill the space. That's what minds do. So I have to gently shove the thoughts aside but the process itself has led to some discoveries.

Like when Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" shows up because I said to myself I want to focus on a blank space. I said to my mind I'd share that later. And that wording gave listening to music a whole new level. It made a two-way street. "I'll listen later" is one-way. All about me, the listener, and the music is just an object. But "I'll share later" seems to acknowledges the original effort of the musicians. They aren't next to me now, but "sharing" creates a more active form of listening; the music becomes a bridge. This could, of course, just be wordplay, but I like it.

Anyway, back to messages. The Universe has been deliberately setting me up, to force me to learn to think differently. 

My 50% sick leave started with 3 days of 100% (that overwhelmed thing). I texted my team leader at work twice on Friday: Once to tell her I was off sick, and later to tell her I would be back at 50% and what schedule would work for her? I got no reply on Friday and the back of my mind was sure I'd pissed her off in some way. 

Sunday I was set meet a friend for coffee, a most reliable friend. If he says he's picking me up at 1 pm, he's picking me up at 1 pm. He usually texts me to let me know he's in the parking lot. But I got no text, and immediately entertained the idea that he had driven off the road and was dead somewhere. After telling myself I'd survive losing him and I was also being utterly ridiculous, I texted "Did we have a date at 1?" and waited for a message back that didn't come.

That's when I noticed that my birdfeeder had … a pair of blue tits! So far it's been mostly sparrows and one timid great tit (a young one so that's why; he hasn't learned yet). Blue tits! Cool!

My phone rang. My friend wondering why I wasn't meeting him in the parking lot. I hadn't got a text, I said, but I'm on my way. That was 1:04 pm.

Later on Sunday, I got my missing texts. The delayed text from my friend let me see the birds. Texts sent Friday from my team leader also showed up. All was well.

I just really need to stop assuming the worst. Or assuming at all.


A tit is what the bird is called in Europe. The North American cousin is called a chickadee. But saying great tit is great fun, ain't it. ;-)

Also, here's a video that explains fractals the way I wanted to explain it in my last post. :-)

At the root: Fractals

"Once physical disease is ruled out, it is time to consider the root cause of most mental depression: a lack of love and connection in life (not a lack of serotonin)."

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Via Paula's blog comes the idea of grabbing some book, going to page 62 and line 6 on that page to use for a blog post. I opened Kindle to the last book I'd been reading (Graves MD, Harrison. Mantra Meditation: An Alternative Treatment For Anxiety And Depression (pp. 62-63). Novus Energia. Kindle Edition) and Kindle being what it is, I chose what it claimed was page 62 and what was the sixth paragraph (or line shift, if you will) because the sixth line was a header. My sixth paragraph is the quote above.

The quote also echos another book I'm reading: The Shack. I saw a quote paraphrased from it on Facebook: "Why am I here?" "Because this is where you got stuck." That resonated with me, so I decided to reread the book.

I'm stuck, you see. Stuck somewhere in the past. Stuck with habits that served me in the past but aren't serving me now. I'm trying to get myself unstuck.

That right there, though, is part of my problem, my challenge: I am trying to get myself unstuck. Me, by myself. Just like the protagonist in "The Shack", I haven't been willing to just trust in the Divine, to devote myself to that trust.

I'm not in a good place right now, so today I called in sick and stayed home and read. So many good lines in this book, but the one that suddenly had me bawling was the description of the protagonist's soul: A messy but beautiful garden, rich in layers and details:

[T]his garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive— a living fractal.

Young, William P.. The Shack (p. 138). Hodder & Stoughton. Kindle Edition.

Fractal. And the tears started. The whole paragraph made me cry, but the word "fractal" was the trigger.

You see, in all my attempts and trying to understand not only myself, but humanity, the planet, the universe, it seems to me that the best model to understand it all is fractals. 

Fractals are a seemingly complex image but it is made out of many smaller images that look exactly like itself. If you keep zooming in on a fractal, you just see—the fractal. It doesn't change and it can go on forever. It's eternal and no matter where you, what viewpoint you have, you are seeing the fractal. 

Where do patterns repeat? All over, in many ways. Some examples:

  • We marry someone who is like that same-gendered parent, and we repeat our parents' marital pattern.

  • Stressors we experience as adults actually go back to our childhoods.

  • The model for an atom looks just like the model for our solar system.

  • Under a microscope, neurons and ganglia look like the roads of a metropolitan area.

  • Anything you need to learn and heal in this lifetime can be found in this lifetime; you don't need a past life regression.

Sure, you could call that macro and micro. For me, the fractal idea is a better visual description. It shows why the macro and the micro have so much in common.

The other thing about fractals, is the repetition. You keep repeating something simple and you end with something complex, like the broccoli pictured above. Also, something about the growth, about it never wavering from its original pattern was what got to me in a good way while reading today. It's another way to have eternity.

Repetition shows up in another way, too: In all the help I have received, in all the friends I have who can relate, in all the messages abounding about how to approach the Divine, how to have a regular, spiritual practice and a regular, spiritual connection. This isn't my first time trying to figure stuff out, but I'm hoping it'll be the last time I'm in this much pain. (I admire those of you who have struggled with depression your whole lives and still keep going.)

Something has been growing, in spite of my efforts to ignore it. Some gardener has been tending to my soul, to that which is good and right with me, underneath the veneer of human life. It is time for me to join in the gardening.

Let me just finish the book first.

Help

The spring of 1969, I traveled across country with my grandma and grandpa. Just before leaving California, I had heard The Beatles song "Help!". The movie had been showing on TV one evening at my mother's. I liked the song and I remember singing it in Maine, where we'd stopped off at Grandma's son's place and I got to meet my cousins. Only days after that visit, we were on our way to Norway.

In trying to understand where my anxiety comes from, I've tried a number of different meditations (I've shopped here a lot lately). In the latest one that I tried, I was to name my anxieties. I had only one: Helplessness.

Moments from my childhood made me feel helpless. I fended for myself on Saturday mornings when my parents slept in. I didn't actually like that. (To this day, waking up to the sounds of voices or activity in the kitchen is hugely pleasing to me.) I would rather a grown-up helped me because I was a clumsy child.

Moments from an imagined old age make me worry about being helpless. Gave one knee a slight twist a good week ago and found myself unable to walk down hill. Well, I'm surrounded by hills! So now what??? And what about 20 years from now? Oh, no!

Speaking of needing help on hills: Cobblestones set at an angle helped horses towing wagons get a foothold up and down steep streets. From Sydneskleiven, Bergen, Norway

Speaking of needing help on hills: Cobblestones set at an angle helped horses towing wagons get a foothold up and down steep streets.
From Sydneskleiven, Bergen, Norway

In the meditation I was guided to see my anxieties differently. First of all, they aren't linked to the here and now. My knee is fine again. And I most definitely am not helpless!

Quite the contrary: Over the years, many good people have stepped up to help me—a random positive comment here, a full package of therapy there and everything in between. And the timing is impeccable. Just as I wonder where to go next, an article shows up in my newsfeed, or a friend calls, or my doctor makes a brilliant suggestion. 

I may have problems, but I have even more blessings. And most importantly: I am able to admit I need help and to ask for it. Just like in "Help!"

26 questions

I stole this from Paula's 2 x 13 questions (which had me thinking about one half of a deck of cards, and the fact that the Norwegian alphabet has 29 letters, but I digress). 

1. Share your profile picture.

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Current profile pic from last year. Heh.

2. Who are you named after?
Nobody. My mom saw "Keera" in an obituary.

3. Do you like your handwriting?
Yes. But sometimes I can't read it.

4. What’s your favorite lunchmeat?
Norwegian brown cheese, Gudbrandsdalsost.

5. Longest relationship?
That would be either my friend Ann in actual years or my friend Torleif in years in a row of regular contact. Or the parental units.

6. Do you still have your tonsils?
Yes. The only thing I've had removed are my wisdom teeth.

7. Would you bungee jump?
If I'm sitting in my own couch with VR goggles, sure. 

8. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
Always. I was taught that to not to would ruin the shoes. Wait, do I even still have shoes that tie? 

9. Favorite ice-cream?
My favorite used to be pistachio but I don't know any more. Everything tastes too sweet now.

10. What’s the first thing you notice about people?
I have no idea. Hair? Is it supposed to be the same thing every time?

11. Football or baseball?
If I have to choose, baseball. Then I won't root for the wrong team because I can't tell what they're doing.

12. What color pants are you wearing?
Dark blue. Actually, denim blue. I'm wearing jeans.

13. Last thing you ate?
Soft tortilla taco.

14. If you were a crayon what color would you be?
Periwinkle!

15. Favorite smell?
Roses.

16. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
Hah! I've actually spoken to someone on the phone this year so I can answer this: Receptionist at the doctor's office. (Text me.)

17. Hair color?
Ash brown with a few strands of silver. See profile picture above.

18. Eye color?
They look blue on the profile picture above so my passport is correct. But up close they are actually dark gray-blue irises shot through with white and with a bit of central heterochromia. 

19. Favorite food to eat?
Having discovered buckwheat pasta, I'm back to a childhood favorite: Spaghetti. 

20. Scary movies or happy endings?
Scary movie with a happy ending. I don't watch movies to think. That's what books are for.

21. Last movie you watched?
"Star Trek III: The Search for Spock". I'm rewatching all the Star Trek movies these days. 

22. Favorite holiday?
I used to love them all. Now I can hardly be bothered. I think maybe Advent/Christmas because the lights come up during the darkest, wettest, grayest part of the year.

23 Beer or wine?
Gin & tonic.

24. Favorite day of the week?
Friday. Happy mood at work, the whole weekend ahead, something good on TV, maybe even something good for dinner.

25. Three (or four) favorite bloggers you want to learn more about?
Uhm… Er… How about you make a suggestion or three (or four)? :-)

26. Added info you didn’t know you wanted.
Q: Pluto: Planet or planetoid?
A: PLANET! It was never demoted in my mind.

Fjord flashback

Here's a blast from the past (September 13 2008). I love the play of shadows and the blue reflecting in the water.

Somewhere-north-of-here fjord

Somewhere-north-of-here fjord

I actually did not recognize where the above was until I looked at some of the other photos from the same day: This was from an overnight trip with my then-department. We went to Flåm and Nærøyfjord. The latter is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The former is the destination for the "Norway in a Nutshell" trip that combines bus, train and bus—not necessarily in that order. The photo above is as we sailed out the Aurlandsfjord from Flåm.

Below the highway headed to Aurland, decoration made out of rocks and plants mimic Viking hieroglyphs. Or maybe it's just modern art deer. 

Or maybe it's cows… Skinny, skinny, cows.

Or maybe it's cows… Skinny, skinny, cows.

Nærøyfjord has tall mountains on either side, and in the winter only the midday sun manages to shed any light there. The rest of the time it is in deep shadow. In September the sun was making its way down one side.

I love how the shadows create a second row of mountain tops here.

I love how the shadows create a second row of mountain tops here.

Entering Nærøyfjord: Such drama. Such contrast.

Entering Nærøyfjord: Such drama. Such contrast.

A more classic view from Nærøyfjord (pronounced NAIR-oy-fiord)

A more classic view from Nærøyfjord (pronounced NAIR-oy-fiord)

Oh, hey, we've got company!

Oh, hey, we've got company!

There's a reason why tourists love this fjord. So do I.

There's a reason why tourists love this fjord. So do I.

Looking behind us in Nærøyfjord

Looking behind us in Nærøyfjord

In the old days (like, when I was a kid and a good while after), ferry service connected Gudvangen with Flåm. Then two longish tunnels gave the two towns a land connection. Tunnels, because it's way harder to build a road on the outside of the mountains. Gudvangen and Flåm both live off tourism.

Main street, Gudvangen

Main street, Gudvangen

Obligatory waterfall picture

Obligatory waterfall picture

A tale about teeth

Norway has been good to me, dentally. My grandpa was also good to me. Orthodontics are subsidized but still cost out of pocket. So the year I had no cavities I started wearing a retainer.

One thing Norwegian children have been through together, is the school dentist. In my part of Norway, the school dentist got the nickname "pinaren", which translates to "the tormenter". An awful lot of kids ended up afraid of the dentist.

Somehow or other, I didn't. I got my first filling at age 8 while I was still living in California. They filled my mouth with all kinds of weird things there; I remember a ring-like device jammed in to keep my mouth open and some sort of small rubber sheet jammed in there, too, in addition to the usual suction device and tampon. In Norway, it's just suction and a tampon.

When I was 12, the school dentist looked me over, then called my grandpa in. Grandpa had been waiting in the hall. Seriously, the dentist told me grandma that I had no cavities. I teared up in joy and relief and knowing I had no cavities but why the serious tone? That's when the dentist suggested is was time to take care of my serious overbite and crooked front teeth. So Grandpa ended up taking me to the orthodontist's.

Back then, there was one place in town and one orthodontist "all" the kids went to. A friendly bearded, guy who made me a retainer, a big pink thing molded on both my lower and upper teeth. I was clueless so I wore it during the day. Didn't realize it was to be worn at night until some graceless adult said it was nice something shut me up. (That's when I realized it was to be worn at night, duh. And that some grown-ups aren't really grown up.) I had nevertheless managed to wear it enough to make a difference. After two years of that, a weak, my receding chin was strong and properly positioned. I got another small, light retainer to wear to straighten out my upper front teeth and close the gap between them.

Kind of weird to think back and realize my look since age 15 wasn't the one nature gave me. But yeah, sometimes when I look in the mirror, I send Grandpa (and the school dentist) a bit of thanks.

Orthodontics for children is subsidized and so is mandatory oral surgery. The one wisdom tooth that had to be removed with a scalpel I ended up paying only half price for; the social security office refunded me the rest.

Today I got my teeth X-rayed, checked and cleaned. In Norway, the dentist does all that. Not like the US, where a dental hygienist does all the advising and cleaning and flossing, and then you see the actual dentist for 5 minutes in case of cavities.

The art in my dentist's waiting room: Monkey? Child? Clown? At least it's not scary

The art in my dentist's waiting room: Monkey? Child? Clown? At least it's not scary

My current dentist has a surprisingly light touch. He pokes and prods and scrapes and I hardly feel it. This time around, he seemed to be even gentler than ever. I wonder if it's because I was saying to myself "Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om" (I'm trying out some things). At any rate, the annual check revealed no issues, no cracks or holes in either teeth or aging fillings, and a price hike from last year.

Dentists in Norway are not subsidized like doctors. My GP works for the city and is part of the universal health care system. I saw him today, too, and paid NOK 155. My dentist, who runs a private practice, as most do, charged me NOK 1150 (includes the pretty pictures of my teeth). It's cheap insurance, really, to keep my choppers chomping (why aren't they called "chompers"?).

I don't remember the clown painting from last year. I also don't remember the drawing of a sleeping cat on the wall opposite the dentist chair, a perfectly round circle with triangular ears poking out of it. The cat, not the chair. But I like that there's a picture of a cat on the wall. I like cats. And sleeping cats have always meant that all is right with the world. Today, at the dentist's, it did feel that way.

/ / marks the spot

I have seen the plans for the light rail station coming to my bit of the 'burbs. I know that the footbridge I have crossed to and from work since 1986 will become history and I'll get a new bridge about 50 meters to the west. 

"My" footbridge as seen on the way home

"My" footbridge as seen on the way home

It may happen sooner rather than later. At some point, the slope this bridge connects me to, where the trees are, is going to be dug into and reshaped. A new path to a new bridge will appear, forever changing my walk to work.

It may happen sooner than I realize. Barely two weeks ago, I noticed neon streaks on the pavement. I'd seen them before and knew the construction crew had left them. Today I saw why:

Aha! A hole!

Aha! A hole!

They're still moving pipes and stuff around underground.

But I see more paint streaks. I wonder how much longer I'll get to enjoy the sight of this tree:

More digging to come!

More digging to come!