Monday, January 26, 2015

The Return Journey

I am always somewhat fearful in the circumstance of returning to a place that I love after an absence, even if it is a short one.  As I begin to draw closer and closer to my destination, I feel this strangely sickening anticipation and have to face what is really eating at me- what if I don't love it as much this time?  What if I should have spared myself potential disappointment and gone somewhere else, somewhere new?

Those two lines of reasoning have dug significant wrinkles in my grey matter.  What happens if I go somewhere that I remember distinctly loving and it's just not the same?  The first time I experienced that particular hiccup from hell was driving to my first National Park Service duty station.  Then I was returning, for the first time in two years, to my beloved New England.  And as I drove north through the mountains of North Carolina, through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, I felt a mounting dread.  The mountains were what I fell in love with to begin with- the gentle, soothing, intuitive mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont.  But I felt nothing nearly as powerful as that, traveling the I-81 corridor north, and north, and north still.

A mounting dread indeed.

And yet when I finally crossed the border into Vermont on I-91, I could breathe a sigh of relief.  This was the place I loved.  Even in the first few yards into the state, I knew that I was not wrong in thinking that I could only grow to love this Northern New England more.

That same worry most recently struck me as I boarded my final flight to Norway.  Exhausted and cranky and stifling the desire to curse every slow-moving human being at Heathrow International as I tried to make that plane, I could feel it.  The pit of my stomach dropped and my heart started to fumble, a too slow-beat here, an erratic one there.  What if I don't love it as much this time?  Once settled into my seat, buckled in and stressed out, my fingers started to tap and dance.  Even they were anxious.

Now, this is not a normal return trip for me.  This trip is about exploration, settlement, and potential- one might say I'm on something of a colonial adventure.  So it's even more intensely stressful to consider not loving it as much.  This is me, the geographical commitment-phobe, looking to commit myself.  How the hell am I not going to be anxious, riotously nerve-wracked every step of the way?

And then the plane banked.


Flying into Stavanger is something of a circus act.  It's… how shall I put this… It often feels as though Stavanger Airport was specifically designed as a challenge to the most extraordinary pilots.  Sure, you can land that tin can in a rain storm without shaking too, but how about a wind storm with gusts up to 100 kilometers?  Beat that, sucker.

But I digress: the plane banked hard and I came face to face with a window full of ocean and crag.  The North Sea crashing against Norwegian rock.  Blue, white, grey-black, beautiful.

Suddenly, miraculously considering the thickness of my panicked skull, my apprehension was unfounded.  Because the moment I witnessed such a show, which almost felt personal, purposeful- as though Norway knew that I would need a 'Welcome Home' gesture- I knew that I was not wrong in hoping that I can only grow to love this place.  It is an extraordinary place.

Oh- to the second point.  The 'Somewhere New' point.  My next blog will likely be written in and sent, with love, from Budapest.

A place I have never been.

Until then, dearests, God Natt.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow Still

Lately I've been asked two questions with exhausting frequency:

'Are you moving to Norway?'


'Why don't you write professionally?'

To the first.. TBD.  I love Norway.  My recent first visit to the county yielded feelings only of passion, stolen breath, and awe-struck wonder… and bitter bitter-sweetness upon leaving it.  I marveled at every bit of every thing that I saw.  I felt like I happened upon a dream I didn't know I was dreaming.  Norway, like something else I once mentioned, is the answer to a prayer I didn't know I prayed. 

The snow.  The white.  The frosted, sparkling, illumination of nature. 

The light that was not light, but rather an impression of lightness. 

The dark that came so soon, so fast, and fell so hard. 

All of it, all of it.. and that was just December.  

Tomorrow I begin my return journey to Norway.  For a little more than a month, I will make her my home.  I will revel in the even colder, even fouler, even more evil weather.  I will rejoice in the simple pleasure of going into my temporary home: coming home to warmth after having been in chill.  I will walk the streets of Stavanger; I will take flights; I will take busses.  I will live in the place that I think I could live.  

In short: I am moving to Norway, sort of.  For a month.  At least. 

To the next question... Why don't I write professionally?

The very long but short answer is that I am not a good enough writer.  Why don't I write professionally?  

Because what professional would take me seriously?  What editor would chose me?  What agent would take me on?  What magazine, online, paper print, or others, would publish my work?  And to whom would I give these words of mine?  But more importantly, who would bother reading them?  

Why don't I write professionally?

Because fear seizes me every single time I consider it.  Normally fear motivates me- in the instance of writing, fear freezes me.  Fear that what I think really is true- that I am not good enough.  That no matter how hard I try or how steadfastly I dedicate myself, I will never be good enough.  I have read writers who are good enough.  I have bathed in literature the was more a baptism than a bath.  I have witnessed words come to life.  

And I cannot do that. 

I am not Mark Danielewski.  I am not Elizabeth Kostova.  I am not Susanna Clarke, S. E. Hinton, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, or Peter Hoeg.  

I am not a great writer.  And until I am, until I can change the life of my reader, I will not be a professional writer.  

As of tomorrow I will be a sort-of resident of Norway and a still-resident of not-good-enough.  

And until the time comes that I am… until then, Dearhearts. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015


*Or to be more accurate… Men For Whom I Would Leave My Non Existent Husband.

Because sometimes you need an utterly irreverent post in the midst of an utterly irreverent blog.

I walked Henry today, scrolling aimlessly through my iPod until I found a familiar name.  I looked at it for a heartbeat longer than usual until hitting the stationary circle in the middle of the scrolling circle which signals 'Select' before signaling 'Play' (I do so love iStuff).  And while 'Only the Young' flooded my too-loud earbuds, while I strolled in the fresh air and bright sun, while I sang to my silly little dog- happy as can be on his bright green leash even though I must have embarrassed him by dancing in the street-, I thought 'I would leave my husband (if I had one) for Brandon Flowers.'

And so here we go…  In absolutely no order:

Brandon Flowers.

Frontman for The Killers and deliciously genuine solo-artist,  Brandon Flowers is my absolute guilty-pleasure home-wrecker.

His voice is clear and radiant and young, youthful.    He sings with his heart literally in his throat, erupting from his voice box.  His lyrics are simultaneously charming and just a little weary and worn.  Every Killers' album takes on a different personality and with that Flowers becomes his own, unique character while maintaining himself as, well, himself.

Not to mention… yeah… he's cute as a button.  I mean that in the least possibly patronizing manner.  He really is a physically beautiful man; dark hair, dark eyes, the skin of someone who has learned to protect himself.

I wouldn't mind him protecting me.

Matt Damon.

Forget about it.  I'm done for.

Matt Damon who acts and then acts for actors.  Matt Damon who is urging first world people, who love our long, languorous showers and cool, filtered drinks, to remember the third world people- who would be happy for clean water.

Matt Damon who has the biggest, brightest smile.

Matt Damon who likes 'dem apples.'

Matt Damon who played Jason Bourne.

For the love of all things holy, if this was a ranked list… Matt Damon.  I don't think he needs many more words.

Sam Beam.

Once upon a Facebook post, I mentioned that if Sam Beam ever came to my doorstep and asked me to pack a bag, I'd do it.   I would pack my bag in a flash 37 seconds, and be out the door (I would then pack Henry's crate in something like 37 minutes, making sure that I had treats and toys galore. And his yellow blanket- AKA, his girlfriend). 
I stand by that post. 

Sam Beam spirits words into lyrics into music.  If you don't believe me, check out any of Iron and Wine's albums.  Any of them.

Justin Vernon. 

The voice behind Bon Iver has frequented my Obsessions Lists.  He has crooned his way into my head, rewiring what had been short-circuited.  Holocene healed me.  The almost too-high pitch of his voice, the sadness, madness, never gladness of his songs is like magic.  It soothes this thing in me that runs wild and often runs wicked.

Vernon is the kind of guy, the kind of artist, who would rather be making music in shady clubs for true followers than having teeny-tweens angling for a signature on their training bras.  I know that all of the people on my leaving-list know heartbreak and heartache.. but Vernon knows them both intimately.  He knows them.  He sings them.  He exposes them. 

There are other men who flit onto and off-of my radar.  But these guys stand the test of time.  I would easily be the Bacall to their Bogies; the Hepburn to their Tracy.

But until that happens, Dearhearts, here's to the doorbell. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Obsessions

Alas, for those of you who are getting sick of the musics on this traveling blog, brace yourselves- this Obsessional Confessional is largely just that.  

The musics. 

The first time I heard Simon and Garfunkel's 'The Boxer', I am relatively certain I fell in love (with it).  The first time I heard this version, I'm relatively certain I fell in love again.  Hard.  Something about the overly pretty lyricism of Marcus Mumford's voice makes this song make sense in a poignant, painful way- a way that I did not fully understand as a wee child belting it out in line with 'Cecilia' and 'Scarborough Fair.'  I've known about this cover for a while but lately it's been kicking around my computer a lot.  

This guy has not yet released his first full-length album... but when he does I do believe I will be picking my jaw up off the floor.  I flipped over and then flipped back to a song of his on the radio the other afternoon.  On a cold, rainy January day, it sort of hit the spot.  

And now for the annoying Pop Music section!  She's made my list before but recently Ellie Goulding is back on the radar.  Same songs, same album, different ears. 

Ella Henderson's Ghost is basically rapid-fire repeating on my Youtube.  

And forget about Sia… 'Oh why can I not conquer love?'  That lyric…Hmmm…. Hello life-theme.  

Okay, I do believe the that I 'fessed up before and admitted to kind of loving 'The Voice.' Go ahead, judge me.  This most recent season gave me Matt McAndrew doing this song.  Super gimmicky, yes.  Even I will admit that.  But the finalists all did original songs in their final round.  Fan-forking-tastic. 

Alright alright, I'll stop with the tune.  

I am fairly certain that I have found my next tattoo.  Given enough time, sketching and ink (and removal of the runic script), I think my tattoo artist will do incredible things with these two:

I have always claimed that I would never get a shoulder tattoo.  But I think these birds, stacked one on top of the other, taking flight from just above my elbow to just below my collarbone would be stellar.  

I just finished The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  Which brings me to an odd set of obsessions- my Aunts Patricia and Nancy.  My father's eldest sister (Pat) is basically my literary guru.  She sent me this book as part of a Christmas package which included a coffee blend from his second eldest sister (Nancy)... who just happens to be my travel and coffee guru.  

Big big shout out to the awesomeness of a good family.  

And until next time Dearhearts, I believe that is all.  

In theory. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Writer's Block

I have these curious moments when on the tip of my tongue- or rather the tips of my fingers- there are a thousand words.  Maybe more.  They are jittery words; urgent words; words that want to be let loose to whip through my world and leave in their wake casualties.

The words, however, are not the curiosity in these curious moments.  The words are always there.  Always.  If I am someday dissected, you will find me composed of those words, letters, language.  Layers upon layers of fluency and frequency: vibrating, humming, flowing words.

The words are not the curiosity at all.

It is that in these moments, I cannot figure out how to let go of them.  I have a thousand words to wake up, a hundred things to say, dozens of bridges to burn- but I cannot seem to make it happen.  I think about all of these points I want to make, all of these gauntlets I want to toss down and they are right there.  But this dam, that wall, these promises I make to myself won't come down.  None of them will break.

In these moments, the bricks or blocks won't budge.

Anyone who writes- which is to say everyone- even if it's only ever in a diary; even if it's simply a signature on a check; any- and every- one who writes has these moments of pause.  Just as the pen hits the paper, just as the fingertips begin to caress the keyboard like the body of a longtime lover, there is a disconnect.  For most it is an instant to collect themselves and their thoughts.  For me it is maddening.  It feels like being cut off from my life-blood.  It feels like the worst sort of stage fright mixed with the oddest out-of-body experience mixed with frustrating, churning pain.  It is like opening my mouth to scream and finding I have no voice.

I have no voice.

I have writer's block.

And then it half becomes a waiting game for the block to break and it half becomes desperation for some inspiration- maybe that cardinal sitting in the tree; maybe that shaft of sun illuminating that one bit of frosted grass before the rest; maybe that accident; maybe that love; maybe witnessing some moment against the backdrop of some time; maybe maybe maybe.  Maybe it will go away on it's own.

Or maybe you have to force it's hand, your hand, my hand.  Which is to say, just start pulling away at whatever

And until next time, My Dearests… that's how you write about not being able to write.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Twenty-Five-Year-Old iPod

Before this last trip to Norway, I spent a solid three minutes or so digging through my desk drawer, looking for who-knows-what.   Not my passport, that is constantly on my radar; maybe an empty journal to use as a travel diary?  Maybe a clean handkerchief?

What I found (much to my surprise), buried toward the back, was my old iPod.  The black, battered, bruised, battle-worn iPod that I sort of… errr... stole from my ex (so I guess 'my' old iPod is a relative term, hey?).  I brought it out of the drawer, handling it like a museum object.  I probably should have been wearing gloves.  And then I took a chance and plugged it into a charger.

Low and behold, it worked.

What I found was the rabbit hole and down it I got a peek at the Ghost of Kate Past: the ghost in the machine of a 25-year-old.

My playlists were perfect for me, then: I scroll through and I remember the one I listened to while lying in the sun, on the beach behind the Ranger house in Manteo, North Carolina.  I remember thinking how very hip it was of me to have Rihanna's Umbrella back to back with Death Cab For Cutie's Transatlanticism.   I remember the playlist that motivated my runs, legs pumping and feet pounding.  It is called 'Root Down, Bitches.'

I remember how much I loved, and still love, Florence + The Machine's first album, Lungs.  I listen to the opening notes of Dog Days are Over and I am back in Chengdu, China, lacing my running shoes and walking out the door.  How brave I thought I was, the too-tall foreigner running through the smog-fog-funk stained city.  I hear this song and remember how when I was much younger, and a different person than I am today, I wanted to dance to it at a wedding- in fact I wanted to dance to it at my own wedding (if it would ever happen [insert snorting laughter]).

I turn the iPod over in my hands and look at the quaint 30GB etched into the back.  That's cute, really.  89GB of music in my iTunes later and it just seems funny to think that the Yule Goose (I really don't remember where that name came from, the one I have now is called Chooks.  So is my computer) was ever up to the challenge of handling it.  

I remember every time I dropped it, and how each time it fell another black line etched itself across it's face- like wrinkles… not from Father Time but from Clumsy Kate.  And how after a while of dropping it, something started rattling, and then that something started rattling a little more and then it stopped holding a charge very well at all.

But it still holds enough of a charge to play these five years later, after having been forgotten in the dark, abysmal back of a writing desk.  It holds enough charge to have accompanied me to Norway on another adventure of (re)discovery.  And to now come with me on walks with Henry.  And to maybe go back to Norway for another round.

Here is this tiny little machine and it's like a time capsule in my hands and my ears: that was me, then.  That was the Kate that happened before the rest of it happened and turned that Kate into this one.  Here is this piece of metal and it holds this part of me, just like I hold it.  I remember her, me.  We were sillier then, and maybe a little more naive.  But then again, maybe we are still that silly and that naive, because we still like those playlists.

And I still really love dancing in the streets when I should be running- regardless of where I am and who is watching.

And until next time…

Gonna kick it Root Down, my Darlings.