Brave enough, after all

Prologue: I am no longer on partial sick leave. I am considered well and am back to work 100%! I have new tasks but am the master of my day, even though my work calendar has never been as full as it is now! 

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Now: I was tasked with teaching some part-time workers about what a beta tester does at work, the temporary position I was in for over 18 months while on partial sick leave. And having not ever done this before, I was easily driving myself crazy. Eventually, after trying to plan the lesson and more or less succeeding, I got to a point where I started to settle down. Where I realized that it was hard to know if I was doing this right because it had never been done before. There is no measure for success for this yet.  

It started with a couple of things: A visit to my doctor's where I realized that "Trust, not doubt" (in Norwegian: "Tillit, ikke tvil") was my new mantra or motto. That was followed by an instruction from an online course that read, "Breathe in the words 'I choose ease'; breathe out 'I release.'" 

I tried. I tried to calm the monkey brain, the atoms of fear that insist on making up my molecules. I ended up bringing the one anti-anxiety "drug" I have to work: A Bach flower remedy (Aspen).  

 At some point, a part of me realized that I had done enough. Still, I had almost too many butterflies leading up to the day I was supposed to have the actual class. Today was the day for the class. 

 A friend on Facebook posted this: 

—Jon Acuff on Twitter

—Jon Acuff on Twitter

 

What a wonderful message on today of all days! 

During a morning team meeting another inspiring and apropos thing happened: We were discussing how to handle changes and new technology, when a co-worker quoted Pippi Longstocking, a character from Astrid Lindgren's children book: "I've never done that before so I'm sure I'll be able to do it." 

What totally different approaches to the new and unknown! Instead of fearing failure, why not either embrace it or just assume it won't even happen? 

This afternoon I found my two students and started our two-hour lesson with "Be brave enough to be bad at something new"—a message they needed, too, since what I was about to teach them was totally unknown to them. It lightened the mood and gave us a good start. 

We ended up having a good session, and I have two co-workers who are eager to try out their new skills.  

Epilogue: As I sum up my day, which ended on a wonderful high note—no failures!—I have to take a moment to be grateful for the guidance I got. Thank you, Universe!  

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Spring magic

This year I seem to be more aware of budding trees. At this point in the season, where nights are still cold, although days are warmer, growth is slow, careful. I woke up to frost this morning, but now, as we approach sunset, my balcony is baking at a whole 26C/78F in the sun!

Won’t be long until leaves are bigger, blooms show better, branches are less naked.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the magic of the slow awakening. (Click to enlarge photos.)

From top left to bottom right:

The rosehip bush is right below my living room window. I’ve watched its progress through the seasons many, many times. One of the sounds of summer is to hear a bumble bee’s buzz amplified by its wings touching the side of the rosehip petals while it hunts for nectar. And of course I love the scent of rosehip roses! I’ve even learned to like rosehip tea. But first we need to get more leaves!

The Japanese cherry tree is at the other end of my building and is purely for decoration. It is lovely, though, and will be at its showiest in May.

The beech tree is next to my balcony. This is the first year I’ve noticed flowers on it. It was planted about 25 years ago and barely reached up to my balcony then. Now it’s reached up to my upstairs neighbor’s balcony. One of things that happens when I blog, is that I end up doing a little research on behalf of my reader(s). The pink flowers mean that this is a copper or purple beech, a native of Europe. I did not know I had a purple beech!

The magnolia is by the main theater in town. I have wandered around in downtown Bergen and by the theater since 1981, and this is the first time I’ve ever noticed this tree. If it weren’t for the flowers, I’d never know there were magnolia trees in amongst the cherry trees lining the park below “Den Nationale Scene”. But this year I caught it blooming on naked branches. I have seen a magnolia tree in person only once before: Tucked in a cozy corner of the botanical gardens by the university. But that was memorable enough to help me identify this other tree, a snow magnolia. This particular species also comes from Japan.

Magic everywhere!


Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have seen these photos before. 😁

The battle for spring

Of all the seasonal transitions, the one between winter and spring seems to be the most violent.

I’ve tried to predict weather using astrology (astrometeorology). The starting point are the seasonal ingress charts, i.e. the charts for the equinoxes and the solstices or the cardinal signs. For the spring equinox the chart is made for 0 degrees of Aries, which is ruled by Mars. For the summer solstice, it’s 0 degrees of Cancer and Moon ruling. For autumn, it’s 0 degrees of Libra and Venus ruling. And for winter solstice, the chart is for 0 degrees of Capricorn and Saturn ruling. These dates are approximately around the 21st of March, June, September and December, respectively.

I live where we have four seasons and am used to how they flow into each other, and how it can vary from year to year exactly when one can say that one season is officially over and we are fully in the next season. Spring glides into summer by budding, one type of bush or tree at a time, and growing the leaves and turning a deeper green by the summer solstice. July and August are rich thick foliage, but during August, ripening of berries breaks up the solid green. Still, the trees can look quite lush well into September. October is the month of changing colors, and November is the first month of naked trees. The first snow or frost may appear where I live at this time but not stay. In fact, a true winter chill doesn’t happen until January, well into the winter season.

But the part that has my attention, is the transition between winter and spring. This seems to be the most obvious conflict of interest. Whereas the other seasons move into each other on a gliding scale, even weatherwise, Winter seems to arm itself and do serious battle with Spring.

The hedge had started to leaf, and then the snow returned

The hedge had started to leaf, and then the snow returned

I mentioned ruling planets above. I think they may be key. In traditional astrology, Saturn and Mars are called malefic. In more modern terms, they are challenging or difficult. These two planets require more self-discipline to use correctly than, say, Venus or Mercury do. In a person, Saturn and Mars in a bad relationship to each other can be volatile; it can mean a bad temper or bad impulse control. I have this myself, but maturity, meditation and some therapy have tempered these two for me.

But weatherwise, we have two planets both known for high energy, high winds and a desire to make bad weather. Saturn is the ultimate low pressure significator, while Mars is just volatile. Venus is a moderating influence on the weather (though she can misbehave if in bad company) and the Moon is about clouds and rain and wind, but the normal stuff, not the extreme that Saturn can be. Mars emphasises whatever is there, and brings on heat and movement, usually.

So in the transition from a Mars season to a Moon season, the force necessary to generate new life gives way easily to the force necessary to grow life (watering the plants). And later that growth force transitions calmly into the final ripening and harvesting energy of a Venus season. Venus then quietly passes the torch on to Saturn who sets about making sure everything acts dead.

And so Life reappears, with the Mars energy of spring (and of course, the increase in hours the Sun is up), and starts to throw its weight around old, cold Saturn who isn’t having any of that. Saturn demands proof that you are viable, that you deserve respect, and so throws whatever it has at the budding life lured by some mild weather. It’s snowing out as I write this, and I’ve already seen fresh dandelion leaves on our lawns.

The other seasons do battle too. It’s just so obvious with Winter and Spring and perhaps more so because we humans need to see life and warmth and growth again. We want Spring to win. We need to know the dead of Winter is not permanent. We’ve all had our rest. It’s time to get moving again.

Ultimately, Life wins. Aided by warmth and ever lengthening days, growth takes hold, and the dead of winter gives way until next time.

Moon landing

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I cannot remember when men first landed on the moon, in 1969. I was alive and old enough to remember something like that. We had a TV. That is to say, my granduncle had a TV—up on the old farm, in a little valley above a fjord. There was nothing on it until 6 pm, when a children’s program would come on, then the news. All in glorious black and white. Everything was in black and white until 1974 when Norway decided to allow the broadcasting of color TV even though protesters thought it would be bad for people.

People have the weirdest reasons for not wanting change.

My folks kept their black and white TV for quite a while. It wasn’t broken and we were used to it. The first thing I saw in color was at a friend’s house, a scene from a British series, “Black Beauty” (yes, the one about the horse). The only thing strikingly different from seeing the same show in B&W was the grass. Incredibly green in color. Black Beauty was still black.

But why can’t I remember the moon landing?

Because I was asleep. It was night time in Norway. I was 8 years old. I couldn’t stay awake even if I wanted to. But I remember my grandma telling me they stayed up to watch it. My grandparents saw astronauts in real time step onto another world. On a TV on the old farm Grandpa was born on in 1901.

Today’s prompt: stripes, lemonade, astronaut



Paved versus cobblestoned

The charm of Bergen is its old streets and equally old houses. The classic tourist photos look something like this:

An old residential street

An old residential street

So I thought I'd show you the less charming, more modern side. The side of the city I usually see. Honestly, I like this part, too. It's just not the most photographed.

Bergen is a constantly growing city. The population has doubled to 250  000 in the last 40 years. As for most cities, at some point you can't expand out; you have to start expanding up. So we've been seeing more and more taller buildings, although not in the city center itself (regulation rules and stuff).

I live in one of the suburbs, Fyllingsdalen, a mere 10-20 minute bus ride into town, depending on time and route. It's a trip I take a lot because I love going to "the city".

Mt Løvstakken, watching over Fyllingsdalen, one morning. In front, the local mall on the left and an apartment building on the right. This is what I see on my walk to work.

Mt Løvstakken, watching over Fyllingsdalen, one morning. In front, the local mall on the left and an apartment building on the right. This is what I see on my walk to work.

Downtown Bergen is the big draw for me: Tradition, cobblestones, bars and restaurants and the easiest place to meet friends from other suburbs. But before you get to that medieval city center, there are the more modern edges. Two of them—a 2 km tunnel (Løvstakktunnelen) and a bridge (Puddefjordsbroen)—are the first ones I constantly encounter going to town.

So on a lovely late autumn afternoon two months ago, I got off the bus right after the tunnel. First thing you see starting up the bridge that goes across the Puddefjord is one our newest apartment buildings, and is (as of this writing) the tallest modern structure made out of wood, named Treet (The Tree or The Wood as in what a tree is made of; wood for burning is "ved"). All I can think is that there's not much privacy on those balconies; you can see everything, including the beginnings of hoarding.

Heading to town; "Treet"

Heading to town; "Treet"

Behind me, the tunnel home

Behind me, the tunnel home

They do have an awesome view of Damsgårdssundet, Damsgård sound. On Treet's side of the sound (south side) is a neighborhood built mostly after WWI in one of the city's earlier suburban sprawls. Across from Treet is a mix of newish and not so new apartment buildings, several built by union members for union members, also from a good 100 years ago. Hence the little neighborhood called Trikkebyen, "Street Car Town" on the north side of Damsgårdsundet. The fjord continues to Solheimsviken, an old industrial area, now all modern office buildings. And of course, off in the distance, our tallest mountain, Ulriken (642 m).

West, Treet

West, Treet

South, Mt. Ulriken

South, Mt. Ulriken

East, Trikkebyen

East, Trikkebyen

"Trikkebyen" is a nickname for a few blocks within a larger and much older neighborhood, Møhlenpris, named after a guy with a mill. When I was studying insurance a couple of autumns ago, I walked through this neighborhood to one of the most modern buildings on Damsgårdsund. Rather charming area and I want to go back and walk the new pedestrian bridge across the sound. Møhlenpris itself was the Jewish neighborhood of Bergen, back when we had Jews. There are memorial stones commemorating the lives lost during WWII. Today's population tends to be ethnically mixed, too, but everyone is proud of their neighborhood and it shows in their creativity:

As you approach Møhlenpris bus stop towards downtown Bergen

As you approach Møhlenpris bus stop towards downtown Bergen

Mural in Møhlenpris, depicting children from different eras

Mural in Møhlenpris, depicting children from different eras

From here, I go up the stairs from the bus stop at Møhlenpris (optionally, up the hill under the cultural history museum). At the top of the stairs is our Human Rights Square, next to the human rights organization the Rafto Foundation. And now we get into what is now considered downtown Bergen, but even this area is a relatively new development, not being part of the original downtown area, but one of the first extensions of the city. We are now near the university, museums and where the rich first built modern (for that era) homes on this side of the city bay. The original botanical gardens are also here, currently in hibernation.

Human Rights Square

Human Rights Square

Fish(less) pond; former fancy homes in background

Fish(less) pond; former fancy homes in background

Our museum of natural history backs onto the gardens

Our museum of natural history backs onto the gardens

From here, the neighborhood consists of a lot of late 1800's buildings. Norway, and Bergen, were experiencing a population explosion, and were also trying to keep the number of city fires down, so larger, stucco buildings became the norm, then. Seen with today's eyes, the neighborhoods are still charming. Here are a few examples as I leave the university area:

Sydneshaugen (South Point Hill)

Sydneshaugen (South Point Hill)

Roadworks and streetcar tracks

Roadworks and streetcar tracks

It isn’t just dogs that use lampposts for messages

It isn’t just dogs that use lampposts for messages

And then we get back down into one of the older parts of town again. The neighborhood between the university and back towards Puddefjorden is called Sydnes (South Point). This is one neighborhood that still has the charming jumble of small wooden houses and cobblestoned streets that Bergen is known for.

Sydnes neighborhood

Sydnes neighborhood

A map of my walk - sort of. Tunnels confuse teh Google. :-)

A map of my walk - sort of. Tunnels confuse teh Google. :-)

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.

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!