I’ll see my mother again I know…

“I see her everywhere I go.  Sometimes I see my father too, pourin’ over blueprints that he drew.  He made his way with sweat and brains, so I could ride this first class train.  Well, he didn’t even know where to, only knew it wouldn’t be long…always moving on.”  Those are the opening lines to another great song by John Hiatt called Moving On.  The song speaks to me about how life’s all about change, about the process of “moving on” to the next thing or maybe the next phase of life.  I think about this often, living here in Oslo.  The panoramic image of Oslo you see below is something I created a few months ago for a fellow blogger at The Oslo Eye: he writes a very useful and entertaining series of articles about local commerce from the expat’s perspective.  Being the capital city and home to the royal family, Oslo is the largest and arguably the most cosmopolitan city in Norway.  I’ve mentioned before that Norway is a very wealthy country, and you can really see it in the architecture of the modern buildings that are scattered around the waterfront and other sections of town.  You see it also in the many cranes that rise above construction sites and the city skyline, testifying to some deep Norwegian pockets and confident visions for the future…we don’t see a lot of that in a world that is hunkered down trying to ride out a grinding economic downturn.  The good news is that while change is unsettling, it also always signals opportunity for those who can see it and are willing to embrace it.  So good luck, keep calm and carry on, and wear glasses if you need ’em.  (1 September, 2011  Oslo, Norway).

Sunrise, Sunset, swiftly flow the days…

Sometimes you just need to shut up and let the photos speak for themselves…(5 October, 2011  Oslo, Norway)

(14 October, 2011  Oslo, Norway)

(18 October, 2005  Maui, Hawaii)

(29 May, 2006  Chicago, Illinois)

(17 September, 2011  Firenze, Italy)

(18 October, 2005  Maui, Hawaii)

(24 December, 2007  Lebanon, Tennessee)

(16 September, 2011  Firenze, Italy)

(15 September, 2011  Manarola, Italy)

(5 October, 2011  Oslo, Norway)

(2 November, 2003 Smoky Mountains, Waynesville, North Carolina)

(9 October, 2011 Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

(25 October, 2011  Baltimore, Maryland)

(27 April, 2005 Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois)

(18 October, 2005  Maui, Hawaii)

(13 September, 2005  Manarola, Italy)

(29 May, 2006  Chicago, Illinois)

Bring the bacon baby, I’ve got the wintertime blues…

The title comes from a hilarious and spot-on song by John Hiatt, an anthem to the plague of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SADD.  Like many maladies once thought to be the exclusive purview of old wives, SADD is now a commonly accepted mental disorder thought to affect up to ten percent of the population in some northern regions.  As the days get longer here, tempers get shorter, you tend to overeat and oversleep…if you’re not careful you emerge like Punxsutawney Phil in the spring fat, crabby, and in serious need of orthodontia.  Treatments include light therapy, melatonin supplements, and even couch time with Dr. Feelgood, but what seems to work best for me is exercise and being out and about as much as possible.  That seems to be the regime that Norwegians have worked out over time…they embrace the outdoors in the winter like a religion, regardless of weather or temperature they are hiking or skiing or even just sitting outside the cafes on sheepskins soaking it up.  Like I always say, when in Rome…eat all the gelato you can find, that stuff is awesome!  (5 October, 2011  Oslo, Norway)

Oh Death, Oh Death, won’t you spare me over ’till another year…

The title comes from a traditional Appalachian dirge made famous by Dr. Ralph Stanley.  We had lived in Oslo for more than a year, and I had walked this same path almost daily.  Today a truck was parked squarely in my usual path, and the detour to the other side of the road helped me notice the tiny brass plaques for the first time.  I don’t read Norwegian, but the word “Auschwitz” resonates in any language.  On 26 November, 1942, the local police rounded up the Jewish women and children (the men being already in custody) and transported them, some in taxis, to the waiting D/S Donau at Oslo’s pier for the trip to Stettin and onward to Auschwitz.  On December 1, shortly after arrival at the camp, the women in this group were gassed…it seems the men were gassed/beaten/starved/worked to death at later dates.  After the war, taxi operators sued the Norwegian government for back-wages owed them for transporting the Jews to their points of deportation.  I haven’t been able to determine whether the cabbies prevailed in court, but I hope not.  There were roughly 2,100 Jews in Norway during occupation.  Around 900 made it over the border to Sweden, usually with the help of Norwegians.  775 of them were arrested/detained/deported.  Ten lived through the experience.  Noticing those plaques, all that is left of what was probably an extended immigrant family who lived about a block away from me in the wrong place at the wrong time, makes me wonder what else I’m walking by every day and failing to recognize.  (23 September, 2011  Oslo, Norway)

And forget about game, I’ma spit the truth! I won’t stop ’till I get ’em in they birthday suit…

Glad I finally got a chance to name-check Luda!  The image in question is one of a series of sculptures by the great Norwegian artist Skule Waksvik, appropriately called “Lady at the Wharf” as it is installed at Oslo’s harbor, the Aker Brygge.  Norwegians value public art as I have mentioned before, and many of Waksvik’s sculptures are installed around the city and the country.  Although some may consider the frank nudity of his voluptuous models a trifle off-putting, I enjoy his work as sincere expressions of appreciation for the female form.  If you’d like to learn a bit more about Waksvik, and indeed about Norway in general, check out the great blog by RennyBA here (don’t worry, he writes in English for the benefit of his broader audience).  (31 August, 2011  Aker Brygge, Oslo, Norway)

Lean on me…

These girls come to mind when I think of Vigeland Park and the work of Norway’s most famous sculptor.  They look fierce and fearless, a young posse ready and eager to conquer their world together.  The grouping is a part of the largest sculpture park in the world created by a single artist, including over two hundred works in bronze, granite, and iron.  In 1924, the city of Oslo made a deal with Gustav Vigeland: they had taken the property where his old studio stood, and in return they gave him a huge central park for his studio and support for life.  From then until his death in 1943, he and his assistants worked to realize his interpretation of the Human Condition using sculpture, a fountain, gardens, and the layout of the park itself.  The resulting park is a triumph of creative vision, and one of the most popular attractions in Norway’s capital city.  It can’t go on my bucket list since I live here, but you might consider it for yours.  (20 August, 2011  Vigeland Park, Oslo, 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)

Out flew the web, and floated wide…

When the Industrial Revolution rolled into Oslo, back before they got cable, textile mills were set up along the Akers River to harness the power of the water and that of the women who would work there.  The bronze Fabrikkjentene (The Factory Girls) by Ellen Jacobsen was set up on the Breier bridge to honor the ladies’ labors in 1986.  The city fathers of Oslo believe in the value of public art, or at least someone does, because you see it everywhere here, not just plonked down on granite pedestals where the bigwigs hang out.  On lonely street corners, in the courtyards of apartments and daycare centers, even dangling in trees overhanging the river…wherever people congregate in Oslo, public art is likely to be their companion.   They keep the sculptors and poets and painters busy here, which tells you something about their priorities.  (6 August, 2011  Oslo, 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)

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)