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

Lyrical challenge Day 3 of 3

The final day of being lyrically challenged (in more ways than one), thanks to one of my inspirations for blogging, Paula at Light Motifs. If you're feeling inspired, please do your own challenge and let me know about it! And now for the third song with lyrics I not only paid attention to, but also bothered to learn by heart. But that came later, because when this song first played on the radio back in 1979, it made me cry. Every. Single. Time. This is one song that is on the short list as a song you may play at my funeral (the other songs are mostly happy disco tunes so bring dancing shoes). It is "The Rose" by Bette Midler.

Teen years are intense years, and the evening I saw the movie "The Rose" has moments that I will never forget. I had two friends at the time (I always end up in a trio of two girls and a guy; I'm on my third such grouping), Ann and Grant (hi, Ann!), and we went to see "The Rose". I drove us to the movie theater in my little Datsun B210. It wasn't a theater or part of town we had been to before, and we arrived too late for the intended show. So we ended up hanging out in my tiny car because all the stores at the nearby strip mall were closed or uninteresting. Grant told us the worst jokes in the world and I. Still. Remember. Them. Thanks, Grant.

I'm sure we did more than jokes because Ann and Grant could get into some crazy conversations with each other, strictly for entertainment purposes.

And then it was finally time for the next showing to start and we went and saw the movie.

I didn't understand shit, and I certainly didn't get that the movie was loosely based on Janis Joplin's life. I was "Janis who?". But what I did get was the closing song. The Rose. And the radio stations got it too, and sometimes the tears and the ache that song produced in me every time it played was frustrating.

But that's how you know it matters: If it stops you in your tracks, if it freezes the moment, if it moves you to tears.

The song could be called a hymn, and I know of some people who thought it was a hymn. The imagery and variety in the lyrics, how nothing repeats itself ever but says the same thing, are a huge part of why I love this song. But the message felt like a commandment to me, a finger pointing out my responsibility in this life. And that's one reason for the tears. I take my responsibility as a spiritual person seriously. I was trying to do right by the message of "The Rose".

In later years, the lyrics have mellowed for me, and I no longer cry. Instead, the song describes the gift that each individual can contribute to the greater good. The song is no longer a harsh demand, but a gentle reminder that no matter what, the seed may become more.

And now I am crying again. "The Rose"… you still do that to me.


The Rose

Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed

It's the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance It's the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance It's the one who won't be taking, who cannot seem to give And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows Lies the seed, that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose

Songwriters: Gordon Mills The Rose lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

PS: I now know who Janis Joplin was (RIP), I have seen "The Rose" again and I love the movie and its cast.

Lyrical challenge Day 2 of 3

It is Day 2 of the song lyric challenge that Paula at Light Motifs has lobbed at me. With friends like that, et cetera. So I mentioned yesterday that I'm not really aware of what people are singing because not enough enunciation. (By the way, I was double-checking that I had the right word, and discovered it's not spelled "annunciation", which is a totally different thing. Heh.)

There was a time when being proud of America and happily waving the flag and feeling all kinds of good was the norm, rather than either a rarity or something that now makes you throw up in your mouth a little (take your pick). Point is, things have changed since the 1970's. But at the time, even if we got pretty beaten up during that decade, too, with resigning presidents, falling Saigons, soaring gas prices and waiting hostages, we still had reason to like ourselves and the rest of the world sort of usually liked us, too.

And there was always the Muppets to give one a bit of reprieve. The Muppet Show was a favorite in our household, and my mom and I were thrilled when the Muppets made a whole movie! YES!!!

So I remember two things, no three things (well, umpteen but we'll go with three) especially about the evening we went to the movies to see Muppets on a big screen: I got a parking ticket, we honestly thought the film was ruined (see it to see what I mean) so the entire audience gasped in dismay, and the entire audience heaved a deep sigh of warm fuzzy agreement at Fozzie's concluding statement after doing his version of "America the Beautiful". As it turns out, that song is perfect for road trips in the U S of A. At least the first verse is. I didn't even know the song/hymn had other verses until I could claim middle-age so here's a link to the whole song in case you didn't know, either.

I am also partial to that hymn simply because it is has so many wonderful visuals and color combinations and plains that aren't fluted but fruited (told you I don't hear lyrics too good) and a hope and blessing rolled into one. A short verse and short chorus pack a lot of poetic and inspirational punch and I sometimes wish this song was the US national anthem.

And now for the part Fozzie sings:


America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

Lyrical challenge Day 1 of 3

I have been challenged by Paula at Light Motifs to do three days of song lyrics. I thank Paula for making me update my blog (no, really, I needed this) but I have no one else who is actively blogging to pass the challenge on to. That doesn't matter. I don't do anything that reminds me of chain letters, anyway.  :-D

I rarely listen to lyrics because I rarely catch what they're singing, anyway. But some songs had a singer with good enunciation, and even good lyrics, and so I became aware of the words.

One of my favorite bands from the 70's is Little River Band, originally from Australia. I still listen to their 70's stuff (because I don't know if they did 80's or even 00's stuff), and some songs put me right back in California. They had that mellow, west-coast soft-rock sound. And good lyrics. Several of their songs tell good stories, dealing a punch here, a good tug on the heart there. LRB became a part of the tapestry of my life in late 70's California, following me from high school to work, an essential part of what I listened to in my car during commutes. Some songs bring back moments behind the wheel or in my messy teenager's room in front of the stereo.

One of the few ballads I love to listen to any time is LRB's "Cool Change". The song from 1979 is a true child of the 70's focus on getting grounded and centered and mellowing out, and you really do mellow out to it. Sometimes, I become so keenly aware of the words that I notice something I might not have been meant to notice.

If you pay too close attention, you may find your chill bliss interrupted by a bit of ridiculous phrasing, the kind that makes me sometimes utter at that point in the song, "Like you have a choice?" or start giggling while singing along. If you know what line(s) I'm reacting to, tell me in the comments. (Hint: It's not "staring at the full moon like a lover". That is an awesome simile, that.)


Cool Change Little River Band

If there's one thing in my life that's missing It's the time that I spend alone Sailing on the cool and bright clear water It's kind of a special feeling

When you're out on the sea alone Staring at the full moon, like a lover Time for a cool change I know that it's time for a cool change

Now that my life is so prearranged I know that it's time for a cool change Well I was born in the sign of water And it's there that I feel my best

The albatross and the whales they are my brothers There's lots of those friendly people And they're showing me ways to go And I never want to lose their inspiration

Time for a cool change I know that it's time for a cool change Now that my life is so prearranged I know that it's time for a cool change

I've never been romantic And sometimes I don't care I know it may sound selfish But let me breathe the air

Well I was born in the sign of water And it's there that I feel my best The albatross and the whales they are my brothers

It's kind of a special feeling When you're out on the sea alone Staring at the full moon, like a lover

Time for a cool change I know that it's time for a cool change Now that my life is so prearranged I know that it's time for a cool change

Songwriters: Glenn Barrie Shorrock Cool Change lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

17th of May breakfast

The great national holiday in Norway, on May 17th, is a far more involved and formal event than the equivalent celebration in the US, on July 4th. There are also a lot of traditions and traditional food associated with the day. This year, I'm going to partake in a 17th of May breakfast in town.

In some ways, Constitution Day in Norway, is not exactly a Sunday or religious holiday. It's a day off but buses run on Saturday schedules and restaurants are open.

A bunch of us got Norwegian citizenship during 2017 and have decided to go All Norwegian the only way foreigners can. So we've decided to have the 17th of May breakfast buffet, which is a tradition. It includes rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge) and that's all I need to know (although cured meats and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs are also traditional fare).

Constitutional Day ribbons

Constitutional Day ribbons

I've booked a table that should also offer a fantastic view of the parade(s). There are three but we'll miss the early one that starts at 7 am. We'll catch the main one that leaves from Bryggen, and then we'll see the Children's parade that goes in the opposite direction and ends at Bryggen. Maybe we'll also catch the rowing race in the bay, too, before breakfast is over.

What a lot of Norwegians do is show up in their bunad (national costume) and line the streets for the parades. They may stay for a bit after the parades, but then they go home. A meal, maybe just chilling a bit, and then it's back out if you have kids. Schools have their own 17th of May activities that usually start around 3 pm. Parents march in the local parade with their kids. Afterwards, it's games and hot dogs and ice cream at the school. I remember that part from my own childhood here.

I never spent 17th of May in town as a child. We had our local school parade and school activities so no need (or opportunity) to go to town. I therefore didn't realize the day ends with fireworks until I was invited to watch one year. I am looking forward to seeing the fireworks again!

Hipp hipp hurra!

The Daily Prompt: Partake

Exploring "explore"

Explore:1. travel through an (unfamiliar) area in order to learn about it. 2. inquire into or discuss (a subject) in detail.

I tend to "explore" according to definition 2. You'd think I'd be quite the globetrotter, since I live abroad and have always had a passport. However…

I am not a bold or unconventional traveler. I have never backpacked and have never found the idea appealing, either. I "interrailed" once on the coastal steamer that goes up Norway's coast from Bergen to Kirkenes and back, but we had a roof (deck) over our head and access to a shower. We slept in the 3rd class lounge. (I don't think they have 3rd class any more.)

I will use an outhouse (I grew up with one so that doesn't faze me). I will use public restrooms (see previous sentence about outhouses).

But I don't watch travel programs. I don't voraciously read travel magazines or read up on other countries (even though I grew up with somebody who did). I pick my vacation abroad out of a catalogue and let the tour guide tell me about where I am.

I have sometimes felt guilty about my lack of interest in "abroad". Why am I not as excited about foreign lands or foreign people as other people are?

My best theory is that it's because I am already always "abroad". If you alter definition 1 a bit to read "live in a (unfamiliar) country in order to learn about it," you see what I'm actually exploring—living in a foreign country. The local quirks and habits of both people and language. The customs, the foods, the oddities, the niceties. The woven paper hearts on the Christmas tree, the oversharing when drunk, the blank stare when you do something not Norwegian or ask them about something that seems blazingly obvious to them, the adding of ketchup to spaghetti with tomato sauce (they've stopped doing that now), the years spent trying to nail down exactly how to wish someone a happy new year.

This explorer stays busy staying at home.

 

The Daily Prompt: Explore

Water and habits

As a native Californian, I still feel a bit of worry when I let the water run, like I see so many Norwegians do. It's standard: They let it run to get it nice and cold. They well afford to: The one place that never seems to run out of fresh water is Norway. The never-ending supply of that most vital of fluids can lead to some bad habits and disappointments. Norwegians are always faced with culture shock when they leave their country, because the moment you set foot in Denmark, you get recycled water. Norwegians always complain about how tap water tastes elsewhere. They also complain about being told not to waste the water, especially when they want to shower every day just like they do at home.

Norwegians are encouraged to take shorter showers at home, but this has nothing to do with water and everything to do with the price of electricity—used to heat up the water.

During lunch at my first job in California, the discussion turned to personal hygiene. The showers-every-day woman chewed out the showers-every-two-days woman. As the discussion went on, it became clear that showering every two days was the norm around the table. I still have that habit.

Californians don't shower as much as Norwegians (or that one co-worker) do because we, a) have dry heat so we don't sweat much, and b) are always told to save water. Since I don't have a job that makes me sweat and I don't live in a hot climate, there's no reason to shower more often.

Also as a Californian, I have so wished that the record-breaking rains Bergen, Norway, had last year could have been sent to my home state. It has felt almost unfair that there is so much water falling from the sky in a place that doesn't need it, while completely bypassing a place that desperately does.

I'll keep my California habits. They serve me well the moment I go traveling. I will drink recycled tap water in Germany and I will limit my showering in Spain. After all, it is Norway's fresh and clean wetness that is the exception.

Willy-nilly

I've never eaten at McDonald's as much I have in Norway. Ironically. You'd think I'd be a regular when I lived in California, but no. Meanwhile, in Norway, McDonald's has been vote Best Employer for 2016. If Burger King had moved into my local mall some 20 years ago, I'd be eating Whoppers. But it was a McDonald's, and Quarter Pounders. And I am now admitting my guilty pleasure: I do eat McDonald's stuff often—up to once a week.

One reason is that the place itself fascinates me.

There are five cash registers, but rarely are there lines in front of them. Because the registers move at different paces, and people don't remain at them to wait for their food, people don't line up in front of them. Instead, they hang back in a loose group and wait for an employee to call out "Next customer" (actually, they call "Available register"). Whoever was first (as defined by everyone else literally watching each others back) moves to that register. Because the people waiting for their food and the people waiting for a register tend to stand around willy-nilly on the same part of the floor, people often have to ask if you are waiting in line to order or to get your order. There is no "fast food" in the American sense, i.e. all ready and handed to you while you are still at the register.

The employees are friendly and smiling, and very, very often not Norwegian, and mostly young. If I want to know what ethnicity has moved into my neighborhood lately, a trip to my local McDonald's will reveal all. It delights me to see so many different people, some more fluent in Norwegian than others, all getting along and all giving the same good service. And McDonald's has won Best Employer due to its focus on and promotion of diversity in the workplace, under the motto of being a "good neighbor" in their neighborhood. (Their own comment on this in Norwegian.)

So today, the smiling cashier who represents one of the other 79 ethnicities besides Norwegian that McDonald's has hired, served me while wearing a T-shirt proclaiming "Great Place to Work". It's also not a bad place to be a customer.

Daily Prompt: Willy-nilly