They retire when they’re twenty, with a house on the fjord…

That’s a line from a Dan Reeder song, and he’s referring to the great good fortune Norwegians enjoy living in such a beautiful and wealthy country.  Dan’s an American guy, married and pursuing the artist’s dream in Germany.  He built his own instruments and mixing board himself from junk, plays all instruments and multi-tracks all vocals on songs that he wrote for his self-produced albums…and oh yeah, all the cover art is by him too, since his day job is as a painter of the arty variety.  He says he “plays music because there are some things you can’t paint”.  You ask, “but what about the songs”?  Clever, catchy, smart, funny…I can’t think of an unflattering adjective that applies.  The singer John Prine was given a tape of some of his songs, and enjoyed it so much that he signed him to the Oh Boy label and has released three of his CDs so far.  So much talent in one guy ought to be unfair!  I shot the image below while hiking with friends from the Sogne fjord to the Aurland lookout, with Reeder’s witty take on Norway running through my head.  I’d suggest checking out both Norway and Dan’s music, preferably at the same time.  (18 August, 2011  Aurland, Norway)

B-double E-double Are You In?

Back where I come from, a beer run is something that gets done some ways through the party when you’ve run out of fuel but not out of the desire for it.  Garth Brooks and George Jones cut a song called Beer Run that got a lot of airplay, but there’s another version you probably haven’t heard by the great Todd Snider.  If you’re a fan of Americana, irreverence, and great wit, I think you may enjoy Todd’s version, and it’s a great introduction to his large and creative catalog.  If you like Garth’s music, you’re probably not going to want to bother with Todd.  The image below was shot on an island in the Oslofjord after a day of hiking, communing with nature, and discovering sunbathers au naturel…but that’s another story.  (22 August, 2010  Langøyene, Oslo, Norway)

I’ll be sittin’ when the evening comes…

While Otis Redding left behind a lot of music, most folks know him for Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay.  It’s rare that I don’t think of that song if I’m near the water at sunrise or sunset…the combination of a space in time, slapping waves, and that low angle of the sun just cries for contemplation with backing blues.  Otis wrote the song with the great guitarist, songwriter and producer Steve Cropper (Booker T & the MGs) and recorded it three days before a plane crash took him in Lake Monona, near Madison, Wisconsin.  It was his first and only Number One single, and it was never supposed to be released because it wasn’t a finished cut.  When Otis whistles the last verse at the end of the song, he did so because the last verse wasn’t written yet…his whistle was just a placeholder until they could come back and “do it right”.  Thanks Otis, I think what you left us works just fine.  Oh, and if you don’t know Otis very well, could I suggest Try A Little Tenderness and I’ve Been Loving You Too Long…you might have heard of those too.  The image below was shot at the old Brygge on a lovely evening with friends in Bergen, Norway.  (16 August, 2011  Bergen, Norway)

Beauty and silence both run deep…

If you need a little downtime to unwind your mind and rethread your head, I recommend the beach.  I know, it ain’t the latest thing, but cliches like the “quiet walk on the beach” get to be cliches for a reason.  Any place with simple and pleasing visual distractions, combined with the space to let your mind go where it will, can be a tonic when you’re troubled.  We put so much time and energy in “going”, and not enough in contemplation of “where to”, and I think that incoherence between what and why is a great source of stress.  An added bonus is the cool stuff that washes up on the beach, like this skeleton of a sea urchin!  What little I know about sea urchins is confined to a strong desire not to locate the creatures by stepping on them.  In life, they are loaded with sharp, pointy spines that cause instant regret when introduced to tender flesh…a highly useful adaptation if like the urchin your motor skills are lacking.  (29 March, 2011 Robe, South Australia)

There’s a bathroom on the right…

It’s funny how you can go through life being absolutely sure of something, only to find you’ve been dead-wrong all along.  Song lyrics are a classic example, as with CCR’s “bad moon on the rise”.  Great song, nothing to do with bathrooms!  Photographs can be prime material for correcting some of those “false memories” too…several times I have revisited photos from some past event, only to find I was quite mistaken about who had been there or even where “there” was!  Thank God for photography.  The image is of the Cathedral in Florence, more properly known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, shot with a great moon and a steady tripod.  (7 September, 2006  Florence, Italy)

Angel flying too close to the ground…

The Ponte Sant’Angelo, also called the Angel Bridge, spans the Tiber River in Rome.  It was originally constructed by the Emperor Hadrian in 134 AD to connect the city center with his new and enormous tomb on the far bank.  Recycling being a time-honored Roman tradition, a succession of popes converted Hadrian’s resting place into a castle.  And as we learned from Dan Brown the forward-thinking Pope Nicholas III built a covered passage linking St. Peter’s to Hadrian’s tomb, for those times when a pope might need to beat a hasty retreat.  It was Bernini’s vision (though not all statues are by his hand) that five angels holding symbols of The Passion would flank each side of the bridge leading from secular Rome to sacred Vatican ground.  The threatening clouds and calm reflections on the water this day called for a classic black & white treatment.  (18 September, 2006  Tiber River, Rome, Italy)

These boots are made for walkin’…

Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock, is to be found in western Norway, but not without some effort.  Perched some 600 meters above the Lysefjord, it is a massive outcropping of rock with a nearly flat top hanging out over the water like a diving platform…no railings, no fences, nothing to keep the inattentive from tidying up the gene pool.  The hike up from the nearest parking area is only 2.4 miles, but you had better strap on your fortitude along with a stout pair of boots before setting out because it is steep, boulder-strewn, and in places not for the faint of heart.  At the top you may see people sitting casually on the edge of the precipice, dangling their legs and smiling for the camera, unaware or perhaps uncaring that some day that chunk of rock will slide down into the cold waters so far below.  If it happens at the right time of day, there could be dozens riding that particular wave on in to the next dimension.  With that cheery thought and the phrase “Darwin Awards” repeating in my mind like a skipped record, I scuttled on all fours towards the edge of eternity.  Turns out I lived after all, and I must admit the view from there is outstanding.  (12 June, 2011  Preikestolen, Rogaland, Norway)

There’s a fungus among us…

Natural beauty is everywhere in Oslo, and the citizenry puts their money where their mouth is in terms of spending to support the peoples’ ability to enjoy and interact with nature.  There are miles and miles of bike paths, cross-country ski paths, hiking paths, all provided to get people out into the natural environment…and they take advantage of it.  They tend to view the climate as just another aspect of nature, and they simply do not allow the weather interfere with their love of the outdoors.  As the old saying goes here, “no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”.  I saw this enormous fungus growing on a tree along the coastal bike path leading from Oslo west toward Slemmestad.  (30 May, 2011 Sandvika, Norway)

Jelly, jelly…

With no disrespect intended, I think God listens to the Allman Brothers when He’s looking to unwind.  You can find Jelly Jelly, along with six other southern rock/blues gems, on Brothers And Sisters.  Dicky Betts really picked it up after Duane’s untimely passing, and he is just cookin’ on this album releasing in 1973.  If you’re not familiar with this music, it’s worth your time.  The photo below is of some beautiful and no-doubt exceedingly venomous jellyfish at the National Aquarium, in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  (17 July, 2011 Baltimore, MD)

Purple haze all around…

The University Botanical Garden in Oslo, Norway is an outstanding place to be in the early spring…free, too!  I’ll flaunt my ignorance here and admit that I don’t know what these plants are called, except “gorgeous” in my book.  I wonder if Jimi ever got around to visiting Oslo back in the day…  (8 June, 2011  Oslo, Norway)