Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Norway Is A Nice Accessory

Pictures from my walking-and-stalking

October, and I’m having my seasonal affair with Rilke. It creeps around once a year, usually in the shadow-months. I should be over it by November, when I’m presenting on Rita Dove, though it’ll be hard to incorporate her into a Norwegian atmosphere. I’ll probably throw back to Russel Edson, to lessen the intensity of my poetic dalliances. The lucky bastard.

Norway is preening herself around me, draping fall foliage across my shoulders. My legs are toning on the mountains, and my autumn wardrobe of jaunty jeans and capricious yet cozy scarves has declared itself comfortably. Damn, but this country is fine, and it shares the luxury of sumptuous beauty with its inhabitants. Such a relief after Israel, where all the sem-girls are constantly asking, “does this country make me look fat?” (Yes, yes it does, but then if my teachers were constantly inspecting my outfit for peeping skin and I had to find a husband before my expiration date, I’d eat my feelings too). Here, midnight walks in the rain hang a delicate web of jeweldrops across my hair, and the flush of a mountaintop-climb blushes everyone’s cheeks (it looks particularly good on those blocky golden Scandinavian countenances). Everybody’s stuffing on Wasa crackers instead of real food, and jogging through hailstorms in silky black spandex, and walking their dog-now-walking-their-baby-now-the-dog-again, and I don’t mind autumn at all, not at all.

Romme on home-made biscuits. Yummm!
It’s October, and I still haven’t gotten over people’s reaction to my American-ness. It’s as though the world’s at a party, and America’s the host, so everyone needs to prove they know her (even if they don’t like her). People politely ask each other their nationality, but they do it in English, while listening to American music, and wearing clothes splashed with the names of American cities. When I say, “American,” they gasp with excitement. I’m the great connector—one person’s been to Florida, another has a cousin in Philly, and my US citizenship gives them a bridge to talk over. They ask me my opinion about US politics while I struggle to remember if Mexico’s under a dictatorship and whether it’s polite to ask a Sudanese if he’s seen genocide, enforcing my vision of the US as the great big center of humanity. The problem is, it is: The Bergen Tidende shares American news, and my students all have opinions on Occupy Wall Street, and somehow everyone does care about what happens in America, so that even though I’m a stranger in this country, I feel more clued in on the actually relevant nation than anyone else. When that feeling takes me, I wipe the dirty imperialist feeling out of my mouth and wander in the Norwegian countryside for a bit, which doesn’t care one whit where I’m from.

Tomorrow I fly to Stockholm, which my Norwegian neighbor described as “Oslo’s big brother.” Even the Oslo residents gushed about Stockholm to me, so I suppose I’m safe in loading my camera battery and preparing to be astounded.

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

In fifty years, I want to be the one on the right


  1. Klage

    O wie ist alles fern
    und lange vergangen.
    Ich glaube, der Stern,
    von welchem ich Glanz empfange,
    ist seit Jahrtausenden tot.
    Ich glaube, im Boot,
    das vorüberfuhr,
    hörte ich etwas Banges sagen.
    Im Hause hat eine Uhr
    In welchem Haus?…
    Ich möchte aus meinem Herzen hinaus
    unter den großen Himmel treten.
    Ich möchte beten.
    Und einer von allen Sternen
    müßte wirklich noch sein.
    Ich glaube, ich wüßte,
    welcher allein
    gedauert hat, -
    welcher wie eine weiße Stadt
    am Ende des Strahls in den Himmeln steht…

  2. Enjoy Stockholm and Chag Sameach!