Wednesday, October 28, 2015


I just deleted the working title of this blog and the first two sentences.  Largely because none of those had anything to do with courage.  I had started writing a piece of nonsense loosely titled "The Short Answer."  It had every element of one of my silly posts- a puff post, if you will.

And then I got an email from a friend I have known, but not heard from in, a long time.  It started out like this:
Hey Ranger-
You've got a new name. Either you got married or you joined the world's worst witness protection program. Congrats/condolences as appropriate. 
So to begin with, I'll concede- that's what I'm up against.  The man is not a dummy and he's not even a little dull- and in fact has probably given me some of the sagest wisdom of my life (one piece of which involved, in my post-breakup madness, bourbon, a bath, and eating a steak with my bare hands.  Oh hell, hang on. Specifically it involved cooking a steak and eating it with my bare hands while downing a bottle of bourbon in the bath.  That's it.)  But here's the kicker, that's just the opening of the email.  My long-lost part-time, long distance friend then goes on to say:
I was actually reading your blog a few weeks ago. (I'm not a stalker, I happened to be in my inbox here and ran the mouse over your Google+ icon, which made me curious, which led me to your blog, etc.) You're a courageous motherfucker, pouring it all out there like that. 
Well shucks.

And hell.  That had me mulling over a couple of things... at what point, what entry, what period of my life that is written, played, poured out in this blog, did he begin reading?  Because honestly, if you begin at certain entries... you're likely to think that I should have been hospitalized... and/or lobotomized.  I hardly recognize myself- and the word courageous rarely comes to mind when I look back over the span of this thing.

In fact, had it been left up to me, that sentence would have read something like:
You're a desperate motherfucker, pouring it all out there like that. 
Because frequently, that's what drives me to do this.  To write, to unravel, to unleash all of this language and thought and emotion into the world through this particular vehicle.  Not all the time is it a bad desperation.  There are many posts that come out of me from a desperation to acknowledge, to educate, to share, to celebrate the world around me and the places I go and see; the people I know and those I meet along the way.  And that's not at all bad.  Not even a little.

But I suspect the posts he stumbled upon are the bad ones.  The ones driven by a madness and a desperation to get some of the toxic self-loathing from which I frequently suffer out of me and onto the page- because it can't hurt me there, right?  I suspect he found the ones that are less courageous than they are confrontational and maybe a little cowardly.  Because some things don't need to be talked about- or maybe they do need to be talked about, but between the privacy of loved-ones, not here in an open forum.  But even then, I think 'but I made a promise.  A long time ago.  To be honest.  Always.'  And so that desperation to write and reveal is hounded by a need to be as open as I can be.  For myself and for others.

Courage?  I'm not sure about it.  I am honest.  Or I try to be.  I am honest about myself, the state of my being, the state of my brain.  I am honest about the demons that haunt me and ride in the back of my brain like remoras.  It might not be the best policy, but it's the one that keeps me on my toes- and keeps me coming back here.

And until the madness ends or the desperation quiets- and honestly, I hope neither of those things happens- until then.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Vanity... and Potatoes.

This time last week (I'm writing this in Central European Time Zone. It's noonish here- you do the math) I sat in a taxi and watched as Dublin appeared in front of me- slowly materializing from green hills and small industrial holds near the airport, to the somewhat shabby suburban structures littering the outskirts of the city, to the mix of quaint brick buildings and pubs, and magisterial cathedrals, colleges and state houses that make up the center.

My camera was already attached to my face, eyes and fingers ready at the trigger.

Now, I am not normally a vain person- but I am absolutely when it comes to my photographs.  Especially the ones I take traveling.  If I do say so myself, I think I am not such a bad photographer.  To be fair, many places I go turn out to be "point and shoot" places- where the mountains align perfectly, or the sun scatters shadows in the most delicious patterns, or even where the rain obscures the view and creates an elusive photographic masterpiece.  It's not really me, that is, it's the destination.

And the camera.

Except for Dublin.  As we tooled around, me constantly searching for a photo opportunity, I started to question the viewfinder, and then my own eyes.  I just couldn't find The Shot.  I couldn't find the eye-catching, all-consuming, will-interrupt-the-flow-of-pedestrian-or-motorized-traffic-to-get-it SHOT.  You know it, you know the one I'm talking about.

It bothered me for a while.  I mean... the Temple Bar Food Market; Dublin Castle; Christchurch Cathedral; even the Guinness Storehouse wouldn't give up a good shot.  Okay, so it bothered me for more than a while.

Until I sat down at pub and started sipping a wine (Yes.  I drank wine.  In Ireland.  Get over it.) while taking in the scene.  There was a Hen's party at the same pub, along with a huge group of tourists, about three dozen football (European) or Rugby fans, and a host of other characters.  And sitting there, having a drink, letting the crowd and the culture wash over me, it hit me.

While I may be a vain person, Dublin is not a vain city.  There are beautiful parts to it, absolutely.  But it's not a city you go to for beauty or vanity.  It is a city you go to for laughing; for witnessing impromptu serenades, listening to a story, sharing a table or a pint or a perch, stealing a kiss in public.  It is a city with such depth of personality that it doesn't need pretty.  Perfect strangers will share a giggle with you- there are not a whole lot of major cities that can boast that particular quality anymore, not to my estimation anyway.

Once that hit me, once I let go of the need to capture the perfect picture (once I let go of my own ego) and instead focused on the city for what it is, I saw so much more.  So many colors and characters, so many moments in time.

And so, I give you Dublin:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Il Fait du Vent

The wind is still blowing.

Yesterday the wind inspired a blog about the fall- because of the way it feels, the way it sounds, the way it pushes each step to some specific but unknown destination.  The wind is magic- an ancient, secret thing.  Especially here, especially now.

Having largely chosen to live either inland or in the mountains for the past decade or so, I had forgotten the chop and severity of sea wind, the push of it; the relentlessness.  Especially northern sea wind.

I had forgotten that when it blows like it has for the past two days, with ferocity and determination, it utterly transforms the world.  It rearranges every natural and unnatural thing to suit itself, to become itself.  When the wind kicks up here, and remains kicking, everywhere smells like the sea; every noise sounds like a storm; everything feels fateful, fated, inexplicably sinister- as though every aspect is driven by this unyielding force at your back.

I love this wind.

It is inconsiderate at 2:30 in the morning when it cracks at my windows and drives cool air and ear splitting howls into the bedroom.  It is frank, unapologetic, and quixotic.  It is the nature of the sea itself: of course the unbound wind coming off it would reflect it's unchallenged power.

And now it's time to walk in it.

Until next time….

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

October Obsessions

Fall has come to Norway.  Not that this is news- I'm not entirely sure that winter ever left Norway, forget about the fall.  Nevertheless, fall has come which has me considering all the things that I love about the season.

It always amazes and thrills me, how quickly it happens in northern climates- the transition of seasons.  One day is summer, the next is chilled, crisp, and smells of the coming cold.  Then the leaves go, then the wind kicks up, then the- hang on.  I'm wrong.  One day is summer, the next Starbucks brings out pumpkin spice lattes and the drug stores and super retails bring out Halloween candy and costumes; in the days after that, the chilled, crisp moorings smell of the coming cold. Then the leaves go. Then the wind kicks up. Etc. Etc. Etc.  And then it's Fall.

It's all about timing.

Which brings me to my first obsession- one which I've been thinking about a lot here in Norway… mostly because my only hope for it actually is the aforementioned Starbucks- The Pumpkin Spice, errr, anything.  (Really- latte, frozen yogurt, cheesecake, I'll take them all.  Or dare I shout out the laudable and honored proper Pumpkin Pie which contains pumpkin and spice and a delicious crust and the whipped cream that would also appear on the top of the latte?!?!?!?  Wait!  What?  What was that?  The sound of your mind exploding.  You.  Are.  Welcome.)  Okay, but we'll stick with the latte for now.  Because I'm not obsessed with just any pumpkin spice latte, oh no.  I'm talking about the one from the Cumberland Farms in Windsor, Vermont.  I'm talking about the over-sugared, over-processed, under-nutritionally sound pumpkin spice latte that comes out of a gas-station coffee latte maker in three convenient sizes: splurge, regret, and diabetes.  Nothing says fall to me like a stroll down Main Street in Windsor, disposable cup of delicious in hand.

Nothing, that is, until this makes an appearance on my computer or tele.  Very very much looking forward to the annual pre-Halloween screening.

Current slightly evil obsession?  Of course I have one!  Making fun of people, in my head, who are exaggerating the autumn dress code.  Yes, it's the fall- Hell it's October already.  And yes, I am in Norway where, yes, it's cold.  And yes again, even I have a shiver of "holy bananas I'm freezing my tail feathers off!" every few nights when Henry has to go out for his bedtime bathroom break and I draw the short straw.  But honestly.  It's really not parka weather yet.  None of you are Everest Sherpas, and by the way, do you know how many geese gave up down to stuff that jacket of yours?  Let's show a little respect here.

And the giant scarves (you know who you are, ladies who wrap what appear to be blankets around your head just to walk the block to the grocery store) are overkill.

That being said.  I am a hypocrite.  Big time hypocrite.  Not that this comes as a surprise to anyone.  But seriously, these boots- which are, indeed, winter boots- are a godsend.  Waterproof suede, fleece lining, and Henry-approved.  I can stand in up to eight inches of wet in these suckers without feeling it.  Toes still toasty warm.  Yes, I have already started wearing them on our morning and midnight walks.  And I'm not apologizing for it or feeling any shame about it at all…

...but I'm also not wearing a sleeping bag tied around my neck, as well, to keep warm.

Just sayin.'

Quick shout out to Asics.  Just got a pair of their running pants and I have to thank them for pretty consistently remembering that not all size XS/S women are also only 5'4".  Some of us have legs that we would like to cover all the way down to the ankle- if not over it!  And Asics has done the trick.

And once again I'm so far behind pop culture it is borderline criminal.  I have discovered (term used super loosely), on Netflix, Modern Family.  Yeah, I missed the boat by a lot of years on that one.  I'm shaking my head at myself.  Apologies.

And I think that'll do for now, hey?

In the meantime, Happy Fall, Happy Autumn, my Dearests! And until next time...