Saturday, November 18, 2017

November Obsessions


I have a problem.

And it's name is Stranger Things (1&2).  Specifically Steve Harrington's hair and everything Jim Hopper.  Like EVERYTHING Jim Hopper.  I can't even handle it.  David Harbour is literally perfect in this role.  Everything about him is masculine, a little messy and a little messed up.  He's the kind of guy (take your pick, Hopper OR Harbour) that you want to have build you a cabin and then stay there with you... it's very nearly too much.  I digress, though.  I loved the first season for it being it, and the second season was everything I wanted it to be.  Funny, irreverent,... Sean Astin.  Win all around.  I told Steve the other day that if you could guarantee I'd have a kid like Mike or Dustin, I'd have a kid tomorrow.  (Also, the Jim Hopper link is the dullest I could find.  Do some digging.  Be a detective.)

Because in my heart of hearts I'm not only mostly a twelve year old, I'm also a little bit of a fifteen year old teenaged girlie.... I'm sorry, I have to do it.  This guy.

When It's Cold I'd Like To Die.  The title is only creepy if you dwell on it for too long.  The simplicity of it, the ambiance, it's worth a listen- especially now when the days are getting shorter and the dark is getting darker and the ocean is right outside.  

Look, I'm not high fashion.  In fact, 5 out of the last seven days have seen me in some sort of flannel apparel- and I don't even own 5 different items of flannel clothing- so do the math there.  I do at least two hours of yoga every day so I'm more often than not sporting leggings and functional tops.  Basically I wear pajamas all day every day.  ... What I'm saying is try not to judge me too harshly regarding the next few items...

The other day I was looking on Neiman Marcus' website and ran across a Burberry dress that I immediately began drooling over.  The lines, the simplicity, the elegance.  The most perfect little black dress ever.  Yes please.

These boots.  After having lived in Norway for about two minutes, boots became a thing.  I have a lot of them.  I might have too many of them.  But it's frequently boot weather here: cold; cold and windy; gale force wind and raining; raining and cold; sudden strong hail; the list goes on and on.  Boots are my friends, and these should be yours too.  Specifically ones with sheepskin lining to keep toes warm and spirits up.

Also, these boots.  Because... sparkle.

And this sweater.  Hello winter.  Hello Christmas Wishlist.

(Also hello my old obsession with J. Crew.  I thought I rid myself of that back in my late teens but apparently they have started to cut clothes that I like again- and that fit me the way clothes should fit.)

And now I'm off to make pound cake truffles.  No recipe link here... I'm winging it.

Until next time....

You're welcome. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Mixed Messages.

Lately I have been asking myself if I am leading a good life.  It has been on my mind a lot: whether the life that I lead is one of mindfulness, grace and goodness.  Am I conscientious?  Do I proceed with care?  I ask myself whether I am doing the right things and making the right decisions.  I ask myself if I am helping or hurting, if my horrible bitchiness is a systemic problem or just a periodic one.

But there's no easy answer to any of those questions- they are impossible to even begin to tackle.

Especially in this day and age.  Especially when I'm in term at school and every third lecture focuses on damage done; especially when the news is on; especially when I sit back in conversations and let waves of rich emotion, dense opinion, and escalating voices crash over me.

I ask myself whether I am leading a good life and then I take a deep breath and look around me.

I focus in on myself usually, zero in on the past- two years, ten years ago- I think about how awful I was.  I recall the way I treated the people around me, people who ostensibly loved and cared for me, and I feel shame.  A deep, face-reddening, heart-wrenching shame.  I feel this surreal amount of pain form around me like a cloud.  And it follows me.

There are days when I feel like the grace that was given to me at birth- the grace and goodness that is the right of all children- is gone forever.  I lost it somewhere along the way, maybe in one sweeping moment or maybe little by little- here and there. There are days when this very idea overwhelms me and I can't help but consider how much has changed about me and around me.... and how little time it took.

I wonder how I could lead a good life after having done bad things?

How do I make up for past wrongs, how do I escape their hanging over me like a pall?

And how do I face the future.

How do I get good back?

Friday, November 3, 2017


It rains here.  A lot.

You get used to it after a while- the gnawing frustration of constant damp; the cloud of 'wet dog smell' that envelops you; the nearly overwhelming desire to buy stock in waterproof gear companies.

You adapt, develop, buy your dog a raincoat and keep a hearty stock of air fresheners on hand.

The one thing that you never see coming, though, that you always forget to anticipate, is how the cold damp creates a treacherous version of lethal slip-and-slide.  It's either the slick wet cobblestones; or the algae-bearing docks, walkways; or the piles of soaked leaves.  And every now and then, it's the ice.

And here's the thing: I'm not the steadiest, most graceful person on the planet.  I can pull it together teaching yoga and wow my groups with the ability to hold a tree pose whilst talking and waving my hands around.  But then when I'm on my own, I'll fall out of dancer three times before getting her steady.  I regularly run into doors, door frames, open cabinets (usually left open by me), anything that has a corner- my body is a study in bruises, a well-documented history of falls, scrapes, breaks, tears, and bends.  I trip, I slip, I slide, I plummet.

And I live in the wettest corner of Norway.

And now, as though I have fast-forwarded decades, I have developed a fear of falling.  Like, an almost paralyzing, certainly terrifying, fear of falling.  I think about it in the mornings when I walk my dog over those docks and cobblestones.  I think about it when I get vertigo going up or down our weird see-through-ultra-modern staircase.  It's not an unfounded fear.  A day before my husband left for two weeks in the US, I slipped while walking the dog and shredded my knee.  For an impossibly long moment, I couldn't actually move my leg, my knee cracked, my calf resting the wrong way.  And all I could think was... 'I don't have a phone, I live in a 4th floor walk up, I have a high energy animal, and my husband is leaving for two weeks.'

Then I started to cry.  Then I got a grip, picked myself up and limped home.

But since then, it's only festered in me, this fear of falling.  Fear of falling, basophobia, related-to-but-not-quite-vertigo.  I literally imagine myself falling and breaking an arm or an ankle (again).  I imagine myself hitting the ground with a sickening crack of the skull and bleeding all over wet pavement while my dog runs in circles around me.

Yeah, this is what I think about.  Oh, and I never carry a phone with me when I go out- especially with the pup.  This is going to sound ridiculous, especially since hardly anyone here calls or texts me, but I don't like the thought of being accessible all.the.time.  I like time off from... everything.  So I walk and run with only the dog and an iPod.  Which means I fall and skid with only the dog and an iPod.  With nothing that will allow me to call for help except my incredibly well-trained lungs.  And a sad lack of language skills regarding Norwegian.

I know what you're thinking- 'this is an easy fix, Kate.  Just carry a phone.... How is this even an issue?'  But then you've got to check yourself and consider who this is, who I am.  There's little-to-no change in sight on that front.  Which is when you're allowed to go 'okay then, either get over the falling issue, or deal with it.'

Fine again. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Scaring the Sh*t Out of Myself.

Lately I've become something of a fetishistic consumer of true crime.

Yeah, I used that phrase.

It started with Serial, Season One.  It continued with the Jinx.  I didn't love Making a Murderer the way other people loved Making a Murderer, but I loved The Keepers.

I obsessively listen to true crime- some even tiptoe towards true horror- books when I walk the dog.  I actually had a moment, listening to the Devil in the White City when I thought... oh yeah, that kid's going in the oven.  Which is weird only when taken out of context, right?  I just finished a book about a man on a train, basically an investigation of a lot of hatchet jobs in the early 20th century United States.  Definitely had a moment, listening to that one, when I thought... why use the blunt side of the ax?

The thing is, listening to all this, reading all of this, I am reminded of the fact that I have an incredible imagination.  I've had it all my life- as a little girl I could keep myself entertained for hours even in the absence of television, iPads, Gameboys (or whatever).  I convinced myself at the ripe old age of five that there was a werewolf living in the closet that connected my room to my brother's.  It did not help that the aforementioned brother told me that the also aforementioned werewolf used to crawl into my room at night, turn off my tape player, and watch me sleep.

One night I was awake when the tape ended and the player shut itself off.  I don't think I've ever held my breath for so long...

It's this imagination that gave me a successful run at colonial history during my undergraduate and graduate careers- it's so much easier to write about people you'll never meet or interact with when you can imagine them.

It's this same imagination that has me convinced that, walking up the stairs in the middle of the night, something is following me.  Which inevitably leads to a mad dash up the stairs, a dive into bed, and a severely disrupted puppy.  When Steve is away, it's worse.

So, back to the beginning, I'm listening to a lot of true crime and horror- and I'm scaring the sh*t out of myself.  These days are perfect for it.  It's October, Halloweentime, the days are getting much shorter in Norway and will be mostly in darkness pretty soon.  It's also the middle of fall term for me- so for a break from constant chemistry and geosciences, I indulge in a little Lore, or some of Netflix's Mindhunter.  Which means when I hop in the shower and hear an unfamiliar noise, I immediately imagine something utterly unbelievable and decidedly gruesome is getting ready to happen to me.  Or when I walk the dog and see someone out of the corner of my eye is taking the same path- it's obviously for some nefarious reason.

Needless to say- anything can be made sinister given an appetite for the eerie and an imagination to bring it to life.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Beautiful and Ominous.

Fall has come to Norway and, like everywhere else, this means the light begins to yield.  It does so spectacularly, but it does so nevertheless.

The sun rises later, and at different angles.  It's light is more intense, as though it concentrates on penetrating the impending winter.  If it can slip past the evening clouds, sunsets are as wild as they are blinding.

The light puts up a good fight.

But dark is like a blue-black spreading bruise; it creeps across the landscape and swallows it. It encroaches constantly, the days getting darker and darker.

Autumn has always been a time for introspection- for a heightened degree of self awareness.  It has always been a time to take stock, to gather, to store.

This will be my last Norwegian Fall and will bring me inexorably to my last Norwegian Winter.  It is, indeed, time to take stock- of what I have learned here, of what I love here, of what I long to leave here and of what I want to bring with me.

Now is the time to remember and to plan.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On Homesickness.

The second time I went to New England was after a prolonged time in the deep south.  My tenure at Louisiana State University had come to a close (relatively successfully with the exception of bridges burned and hearts broken) barely the month before.  I was limping back, a hurt, tired, wounded girl with one sliver of hope: that the place I had fallen in love with those two years previous would have the power to heal me.

That's all I wanted- to live quietly in the mountains and heal myself.*

The entire drive up, my mind and stomach churned.  What if I was making the wrong move?  (At that point in my life, I was acutely aware of how wrong my moves could be- and what they could do to me).  What if I didn't love it there the way I once did?  What if I was remembering it wrong?  The whole place?  All of my experiences up there?  What if... What if... What if...?

Then I crossed the state line from Massachusetts into Vermont, began to climb the mountains, and the whole world settled down around me.

I was back.

Sometimes the memory of northern New England is like a an open wound- fresh, gaping, raw.  It's the  memory of green summers, wood-smoke falls, and dark winters.  It is the memory of home.**

It is a memory that comes back to me like a dream sometimes, like a phantom just at the edge of my awareness, teasing and haunting- following.  It's so present at the oddest of times- the occasional Norway morning in August: if it's not humid, or raining, it's cool and crisp and tastes like the fall in New England.  The drive into Bavaria as the mountains, the Alps, begin to take shape around you- especially in this season when the fog rises from them like smoke from a fire.

These moments, these memories, bring me home with such flash-bang intensity that they make me sick for it even in the moment.

So here I sit in Germany... in beautiful Alps country, longing for home.  Longing for a home that isn't truly mine, and a place that sometimes doesn't seem real.  I sit surrounding by such remarkable mountains and they simultaneously make me want to leap for joy that they are here, that I am here, but also go crawling back to the mountains that I love most- the gentle, rolling peaks of ancient chains- relics of the geologic past.

And that's where I am- body one place, heart another, head always in the clouds.

*Little did I know at the time that this would be the summer that started a two-year roller coaster of motion, followed by another two-years of self-discovery, recriminations, disgust.

**Even though I am not a born New Englander, I have spent enough time there- and more than enough time roaming around the rest of the world- to know that is as much a home as I have ever wanted.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Iceland, Redux.

There is still something to utterly indescribable about Iceland.

Something tied to beauty and nature and power- and sparsity.

This is the second time that I've traveled to Iceland; the second time that I've spend many quiet moments staring out windows and absorbing, thinking, feeling- but somehow not really processing.  It is the same exact phenomenon I experienced the first time I was here:

I watched, I witnessed, but I couldn't testify.  I can't testify.

The thing about Iceland is that until you've been, until you've driven through the empty, achingly foreign countryside, or walked on a glacier or under a waterfall, or sat noticing your feeling of diminishment in the face of such wonder... it's just another stop.

A cool one, pardon the pun, but ultimately just another small island in a big world.  And on my word, it is so much more than that.

These words.

Or these.

If you don't trust my current word, trust those words of a vibrant, ancient, wild 28 year old, running through a vibrant, ancient, wild place.  I spent much longer in Iceland when I was last there, but it's no less flooring and absorbing when you only have a weekend.  It is more frenetic, a frantic pace set by frantic people looking to do as much as humanly possible.  But still no less profound.  If anything, the brief visitor feels Iceland with an intensity unknown to the slower, more careful traveler.

What I take away from Iceland, all the time, over time, is the almost unbearable bittersweetness of a land that has is so different, unique unto itself.  The bitter tang of frigid cold mixed with the sweet mythology of history.  It's the landscape of time and magic.

Time and magic.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Minor Super Heroes.

When I first dated my ex, I spent a lot of time with his friends.  This was an interesting collection of personalities.  I tended to gravitate toward his male friends rather than the female ones- for probably obvious reasons.  Girl's are hard work.  Boys are easy.  

Anyway, one day overheard a conversation had by the lot of them.  (Also the boys had more interesting, and slightly more entertaining conversations). The topic of this particular one was: major and minor superpowers.  The basic rule is that 'major superpowers' were the big things- flight, teleportation, controlling the weather; 'minor superpowers', on the other hand, are silly small things- being able to open a refrigerator and get anything you want to eat, etc.  If you could have one of each, what would it be?

That absurd discussion/debate/show of one-up-manship has stayed with me- one of the stranger lasting legacies of that relationship.  

So this past weekend, in Dublin, imagine my surprise when a bartender told me that my innate sense of direction (albeit, terribly challenged for some reason this trip) was basically the 'worst superpower ever.'  (His words, not mine).  I had a giggle about it, went back to chit chatting with my friends, and then proceeded to get us slightly lost later that day.  (Hang on, though... I knew exactly where I was going, I just couldn't find the right alley to get us to the right pub.)

But I kept on considering the bartender's accusation of 'worst superpower' throughout the day.  And I started to consider all the little things that we do that are actually 'minor superpowers.'  Despite my getting lost once or twice (I blame the pints), I do think that my ability to navigate spaces and places relatively foreign to me is something special.  Superpower, I think not, but certainly an asset to my lifestyle.  

For minor superpowers, I have two that make the cut every time.  One might get me killed one day, but with minor power comes minor danger.  The first is my ability to move through crowds.  I do it seamlessly (*brushes shoulder off*), and much to the chagrin of my companions, uniquely.  I can get around, ahead of, and through a mass of people like a... like a... okay well I don't know a good metaphor to complete the image but you get the point.  I move through crowds like a crowd ninja.  Minor Superpower 1. 

My second minor superpower is that I never run a fever.  I'm not kidding.  The last fever I ever ran was when I was 16, in high school, with a delightful simultaneous case of the stomach flu and strep throat.  Since then I've had mono... without a fever.  I've had sinus infections... without fevers.  I've had bronchitis... with a temperature of 93F.  That means I had bronchitis at the same time as being hypothermic.  Now, as above mentioned, this might ultimately lead to my eternal demise in that many of the illnesses who have a hallmark trait of high fever will not present in me... with a high fever.  They might present with a 98.4 degree body temp- which is technically feverish for me- but won't be identifiable specifically by super high fever.  Minor Superpower 2.  (Could also count as freak body trait). 

Here's the point.  Everyone should be having this absurd conversation.  Everyone should discuss how their own odd traits are, actually, minor superpowers.  

Because the more confident we all are in our minor superpowers, the more likely we all are to act on them, to act like minor superheroes.  And god knows we need some superheroes these days.  Minor or major.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The When and Where of It All.

Lately I've been ruminating on being basically an imprint.  Not exactly a lasting effect, but an impression.  I've also been thinking about the past; about what it means to be a ghost.

I've done it before, you see.  I've been a ghost in my own life. I've been forgotten, forgiven, lost.  I've been the one hidden against the wall, the one carefully tucked into herself, the one contrived.  The one who hides behind an armor forged of intellect, sarcasm, and bravado.

Ultimately, I'm the one who pretends.

And it's been hard, here, to not retreat.  I'm struggling.  I have been struggling.

I can't pull the happy out, I can't pretend.  I can't fake it, I can't triumph, I can't make believe that I am at all.  Here, I can't find it in me to be a person I'm not.  Some days, I can barely find it in me to be a person that I am...  I find that I tip-toe around openness and dance around honesty.  I descend into the person that I once was in favor of the person that I could be.

It's like being back in high school... but worse.

Because I'm old enough now, and wise enough, to know that it's all on me.

It is no secret that I've had my fair share of struggles over time.  But time 'is always time and place is always and only place'... it goes on, naturally.  My great fear in life is to not live, to not be engaged in the time and place when and where I am; it is a fear that constantly sneaks up on me, rattles me, jolts me into aggression.  It's circling me now, this fear, this panic that I'm sitting way too many out.  That I'm fading.

And so of course, I retreat to the page, to the letters and language that make the most sense to me.  I retreat to the comfort of a clean white background, and a bristling black cursor.

So much for when and where.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Under Water.

When I was a child, I was ninety-nine percent sure that I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up.  I loved the ocean, I toddled toward it on a mission before I was even a year old.  I loved the waves, the power, the water.

Specifically, and more to a mermaid's point...., I loved being under the water.  Because I love the way the world sounds under water.  The muted noises from above and around you; the muffled sound of water pressing in on you; the eternal silence of sea.  The unbelievable loudness of it.  It's all so mysterious and yet embracing.

And, between swimming in the three or four different pools, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea this summer, I've recalled this sensation that, as a child and a young woman, I loved.

I love the way the world sounds under water.

I learned, at a young age, to slip beneath a breaking wave and let the white, raw, churning head crash over me.  All that primordial power overhead, that sound of history contained in ocean.  There was nothing more exhilarating to me- it was my pied piper.  But still there are so many more sounds- alone in a pool, the way you can hear yourself move through it like you are your own current, like you create your own current.  Or in a busy pool when you can hear someone else's current, their body, move past yours.



Swirls of sound from every direction, all of them like ghosts in the water.

I love that you can, at once, hear everything around you and yet nothing at all.  I love that you lose all sense of time because it has no place in this wild space.

It is endlessly ancient and enthralling.

Also, I may still want to be a mermaid when I grow up.