Friday, January 12, 2018

The Doldrums.

There is an area of the ocean called the Intertropical Convergence Zone.  It sounds complicated and terribly exotic but isn't really.  It is the region roughly between 5N and 5S where the trade winds meet, causing squalls and all manner of foul weather, but also where the hot equatorial air rises and keeps the world still for days, weeks at a time.

That stillness is the doldrums.

Sailors know it as such, poets know it as such.

Stillness, to me, is it's own sort of madness.  It's a quiet, low-scale, gnawing madness that strangles you slowly.  Stillness is my apparent nemesis.  It's why I'm so antsy all the time; why I can't do just one thing at a time but rather must do many things all at once; it's why I fidget and why I am a terrible patient.  It's why my knee bounces when I sit for too long and why long-haul flights feel like torture even as they feel like freedom.

It's why I like sharpness, speed, motion.  I like things to be vibrant and lively.

Stillness is madness.

This January is proving to be a test of my ability to withstand my own madness.  It seems like everything right now is standing impossibly still.  Like my whole life closed in on me and the walls of my cell are shrinking with it.  The wind has died, and my ship is failing.

And all I have to keep me company is the great grey sky.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year, Old Me.

I haven't written much lately.

I've been busy- catching and spreading bronchitis and pneumonia; catching the common head cold after that; flying across oceans; playing cutthroat dominoes; learning to ski (sort of).  I spent time with family and was introduced to Colorado.

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, needless to say.

And then all of a sudden today it hits me that it's New Years Eve.

We all know how I feel about the holiday, so I'm not getting into that again.  But I have been thinking a lot about the passage of time lately.  Especially in the throws of three simultaneous illnesses.  I have been thinking a lot about aging and the slow creep of time into your body and brain.

I had bronchitis a few years back.  Because it's me, and I rarely run fevers, I actually had bronchitis and hypothermia at the same time.  To be fair, I was living in Alaska so it was a little cooler than what I was used to.  But that is wholly besides the point.  I was sick as a dog and still got out and ran, did yoga, shopped, and was generally irresponsible with myself.  And I survived.  Hell, I survived a lot worse than that bronchitis at the same time.  It wasn't exactly the brightest period of my life, but then which were?

Fast forward to these past two weeks.  Granted, I had bronchitis and some other stuff but I hardly think that makes a huge difference (there's my juvenile mindset again).  But I was, am actually, absolutely miserable.  And tired.  Like, weary to my core.  I desperately wanted to run in Colorado but was winded going up and down the stairs- also there was the deep, chesty cough that still plagues me.

Even that small amount of time- those four or five years- I feel throughout my entire body.  The shortness of breath, the weariness, the immense weight of time.  I feel them acutely, these passing years.  Which is so strange because I'm only in my early thirties.

Now it could be that I've done irreparable damage to myself over the years that has fundamentally changed me,  speeding up the slowing down of my body.  It could also be totally normal, I just don't really talk about aging with anyone.

But it's New Years Eve, so what the hell.

I am on the fence about resolutions- some years I make them, others years I don't.  This year I told my husband that I resolved to not be petulant (an incredible sore loser) when he beat me at board or card games.  I have also resolved to stay as young as my brain wants to be, rather than as old as my body is.  I have resolved to be myself.

And until next year...

Saturday, December 16, 2017

I Want to Move to Wisconsin.*

This is sort of an obsession confession.  A few Thanksgivings ago, the family gathered at my Aunt's house in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

And I have been obsessed ever since.

No, I am not kidding.  I am actually utterly serious.  There's something about it, the entire state, it's like the fabled whole package, real deal.  The landscape strikes you first.  The starkness of it: the long, vast stretches of emptiness that are especially noticeable in the early winter.  And Lake Michigan- this mighty internal body of water that looks like the ocean but doesn't feel like it.  The white-winter that absolutely decimates the summer.

Then there's the beer culture and breweries.  The almost absurd 'facts' like there are more bars per capita than there are churches in Milwaukee(?).  It also hosts  the world's largest Irish Fest and North America's largest German Fest... imagine that.  What could those cultures possibly have in common?

Don't get me wrong, northern New England is still my jam.

But Wisconsin has the cheese.

I'll just leave that one there.

I also associate Bon Iver with Wisconsin, which is a total win for the state.  His music makes sense of the coolness and frigidity, makes it lyrical and mystical rather than just cold and northerly.

I think I might be one of the few people in the history of time that's actually been keen to move to Wisconsin, just because.  Just because I like the people (especially my aunt); just because I prefer a mountain of snow to a forest of palm trees; just because my one visit there has stuck with me.

Just because.

*Said no one ever.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

On Break.

There is something utterly refreshing- and terrorizing- about a blank word document.  A desolate, white, clean, void word document (pages for Mac users).  

Don't get me wrong.  I'm old school.  I like journals, I like paper.  I like the feel of a pen in my hand and I love the feel of that pen running across that paper.  I adore how exhilarating it is to watch my thoughts leak out of my hand.  I like the sound of scratching pencil and rubber eraser, and the satisfaction of crossing out, rewriting, editing.  

But there's something about that open, stark word document.  It might be the flashing blinker.  It might be the fonts and colors and all the bold, italic, underline possibilities.  It might be the mockery of the whole thing, the feeling that that document is judging you, judging your work, your intellect, your word choices.  

It might just be the challenge.  The dare of the blank document to make something bold and real; to write something powerful and engaging and interesting; 

to create. 

It's exhilarating, to start typing and witness those abrupt black letters take shape.  It's consuming, to watch that cursor blink, blink, blink.  

And it's a miracle when it all starts. 

I finished my fall term this past week and now I'm hanging out, staring at a fresh, new, evil word document.  It's asking to be developed into something- anything- real.  I have ideas.  I have notions.  I have a little bit of research under my belt.  

And I have a blank page. 

We'll see. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Actually, I Don't Mind the Dark

The nearly constant rain and/or incessant drizzle I don't love.  And the frequent gale force winds are maddening- especially when they accompany the rain and/or drizzle.

But I don't mind the dark.

In fact, after three winters here,  I think I actually prefer the silent, creeping dark to the nonstop sun of the summer.  People ask about it a lot- what the winter's are like, how cold it is, how much does it snow (wet, cold enough, rarely ever).  They ask about the 24 hour sun in the summer (not here, we only get about 20 hours at most) but not as much about the 24 hour dark in the winter (not here, either).

It's a combination of effects, really, that bring the season home for me: I like how the light seems paler in the winter- and the sunrises more profound.  I like how the shadows are always long here, when there is enough light to cast them.  I like how the ferries shut off their running lights and move like sharks through black waters.  I like that the lit balconies and doors and windows seem brighter- like havens.

I like how quiet the dark makes everything seem.  It's the same effect that fresh snow has- blanketing sound and muffling the extraneous noise that constantly beats at me.

I like that candles are lit and comforters come out and we descend into hibernation mode.

I like that the dark is more romantic, more mysterious.

So no, I don't really mind the dark.

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.