On My Mind

Shortly after I awoke this morning, I viewed a friend’s Facebook posts. She is cruising the coastline of Norway, absorbing the sights and sounds of a magical Scandinavian adventure. A few photos from her journey triggered a resurgence of my longing to visit places like Bergen and Stavanger and Trondheim and Oslo and Bodø and Lofoten and Geilo.  Though some of the places are only place-names to me, nothing more, they represent exposure to cultural experiences that fill me with excitement. I am not quite sure why I am so intrigued by the Norwegian experience; whatever stokes that interest, though, is quite strong. One of her dreams has been to view the aurora borealis, a dream I share. And I was glad to see she finally saw that spectacular phenomenon. Her cruise is taking her north, far beyond the Arctic Circle. That is a part of the world I think I would like to visit. I suggested to my friend that she pack me in her suitcase for the trip, but she rejected the idea for various reasons, including her legitimate belief I would cause her luggage to exceed weight restrictions. Known as Spitzbergen or Svalbard, that part of Scandinavia is among the world’s northernmost inhabited areas, where rugged tundra is home to Svalbard reindeer, Arctic foxes, and polar bears. The coastal area further south is home to one of my fictional characters, Kolbjørn Landvik, who I have incorporated into a few incomplete short stories. Kolbjørn is a man made of the same cloth as another of my characters, variously named Springer Kneeblood, James Kneeblood, and Calypso Kneeblood. That character may, in fact, be multiple characters who are related to one another by blood. One day, I may complete some of the stories about Kolbjørn that I have begun. When my friend returns from her trip, I hope to lure her to spend time with me and regale me with tales of her experiences so I can fantasize vicariously through her stories. Perhaps her experiences will find their way into my tales about Kolbjørn. Time will tell.


Night before last, we went to a Halloween party organized by and at my church. In preparation for the event, mi novia bought several bags of candy she planned to take to the party. After we entered the building, I asked her if she had brought the candy inside with her. That’s when she realized we had left it at the house. Unprepared to return home in the driving rain to retrieve the candy, we left it where it sat on the kitchen counter. Ever since, we have allowed ourselves to consume far more candy than is healthy. I am not especially fond of sweets, but when sweets are within easy reach, I consume them. So it has been with the Halloween candy. Based on the amount of candy I have eaten since we returned from the party, I suspect I have gained a good five or ten pounds and elevated my levels of blood glucose by a factor of five…or more. As they say, though, you only live once. So, I have thrown caution to the wind and probably will continue to do so until the candy is removed from the house and delivered somewhere else, where it will contribute to others’ sugar highs. Where the hell has my discipline gone?


Yesterday morning, instead of attending church, we spent time with a couple of landscapers we invited to view an area adjacent to the house where we hope to create an outdoor retreat. The idea is to transform the rather rough, uneven area into an oasis of sorts where we can place a fire pit and have seating. I envision an area with large flagstones set in a bed of gravel. Strings of lights would provide lighting and atmosphere suited to casual conversation and laughter. Except for the fact that I have been told to stay away from alcohol because of an episode of acute pancreatitis, I would imagine that I would sit in this outdoor oasis and drink wine. Damn health issues! It’s patently unfair that I cannot enjoy something I so appreciate without risk of spurring bodily outrage and the potential for a painful demise.  I think I’ll insist on doctors evaluating anew the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. I suppose I can get used to the idea of trying non-alcoholic wine. I’ve gone three months without drinking alcohol, without withdrawal or other difficulty, so I suppose I can get used to the idea of abstinence for the rest of my life. Especially if I can consume medical cannibis  to assuage the pain as I sit among the trees. Somehow, though, the investment in creating an outdoor oasis is no longer quite as appealing as it once was. Perhaps I could get used to the idea of using the oasis as a place for my morning coffee; a place to sit outdoors and soak in nature. We shall see, we shall.


Speaking of Scandinavian influences on my life experiences, we continue to watch Trapped, the first two seasons of which represent a prelude to the third season, which was released with a new title, Entrapped. I am absolutely enthralled with the Icelandic thriller. I find it interesting that the Icelandic characters easily shift from speaking Icelandic (pronounced ist.l̥ɛn.ska) to speaking English when non-natives enter their domains. According to Wikipedia, about 314,000 people speak the language, the vast majority of whom live in Iceland, where it is the official national language. But the language is not what I find so enthralling about the series. Much of the appeal of the series, for me, is the engaging storyline, coupled with the easy integration between the very modern Icelandic culture of places like Rekjavik and the semi-rural and rather isolated lifestyle of Siglufjörður, a fishing village in northern Iceland. As brutal as one assumes the weather in Iceland to be, it does not seem to me to be awful. In Rekjavik, for example, the highs year-round range from 36°F to 57°F and the lows range from 28°F to 49°F. The range in Siglufjörður is not much different. The film, though, shows periods when brutal snowstorms with fierce winds drive virtually everyone indoors. I assume the film depicts actual conditions in the village. And, I assume, the brutality of winters in Iceland is not due so much to temperatures as to wind and driven snow. Hmm. Worth exploring further.  Yet the weather is not the main story, either. The main story revolves around crimes, including murders, dismemberment, human trafficking, drugs, and the like…you know, the same sorts of things that make life in Arkansas so much like life in the rest of the United States. 😉


Bad weather always looks worse through a window.

~ Tom Lehrer ~


Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible. We all wish for world peace, but world peace will never be achieved unless we first establish peace within our own minds. We can send so-called ‘peacekeeping forces’ into areas of conflict, but peace cannot be opposed from the outside with guns. Only by creating peace within our own mind and helping others to do the same can we hope to achieve peace in this world.

~ Geshe Kelsang Gyatso ~

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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