It is early afternoon, pleasantly warm, and I am lying on my blanket in the grass at Frognerparken, the largest city park in Oslo. My pale legs and arms are bare to the sun. It warms me. I can feel it pouring brightly over the crown of my hair, especially hot at the part. I have spent the last hour flat on my stomach, turning the pages of my book, lost in the rhythmless warble of children on the nearby playground, the buzz of bicycle tires, the click of tourist cameras, and the chirping of birds. Having been in Oslo a full month I can now say fairly that this is one of my favorite spots in the city.
The park is vast and green, criss-crossed by walking paths. Playgrounds and public pools dot the perimeter. Tour buses park in the nearest lot, just outside the main gate, their occupants, eager to see the statues, have long since scattered across the lawns and up the steps.
Within Frognerparken is Vigeland Sculpture Park, including 80 acres of grassy space and more than 200 bronze and granite sculptures, all by Gustav Vigeland. The Norwegian sculptor donated these statues to the city and park in return for receiving a free studio space in Oslo. Upon entering the broad iron main gate at the southeast end of the park, visitors can walk straight down the main path across a 100 meter bridge lined with the statues, all nudes. They are gray and polished to a shine at every curve. The figures dance, embrace, wrestle, make love, and die, all along the bridge, all around a grand fountain, all leading to the main attraction: The Monolith Plateau. The monolith rises more than 14 meters into the air, appearing as a totem that includes 121 human figures entwined and clambering toward heaven.
Tourists cross the bridge with their cameras extended, gaping at the methodically spaced figures. The nudes are bulky, voluptuous, arching their backs and whipping their hair. They sit with their backs to one another or toss their children in the air or throw women over their shoulders and stalk back to their caves.
A man in a red ball cap waves his long-lensed camera at his two preteen children, exhorting them to mimic the comic drama of two grappling statues. The son obliges, giving his sister's hair a tug. She responds by putting him in a chokehold just before the camera flashes. Though the position isn't exactly accurate, they've captured the essence, Vigeland's playfully wry view of the Human Condition.
Image via Wikipedia
If I'm not careful, I'll catch myself writing. I will be swept by the spotlights of my conscious mind, and the hazards of the terrain will be magnified. Second-guessed words, phrases twisted rather than turned. Clichés will loom before me, like serpents in my garden, begging to be used and promising it won't cost me the integrity of my piece. Oh, if only last night hadn't been both dark and stormy.
But this is where I surrender. Five sentences. It's all I can manage these days.
If I'm not careful, I'll catch myself writing. If I allow my grasp on my pen to falter, or if I stop to correct my initial misspelling of the word falter, or, after that, the word misspelling, I will slow to a crawl, knee deep in the quicksand of my consciousness. Another word I loath to spell in ink, another landmine. And is land mine supposed to be one word or two?
Questions like that will get me caught for sure. And I can't afford to lose time or ground now. I'm getting out of this lockup today. Better to lighten my load, drop pesky weights like attention to grammar or spell check, and keep to the hopeful trail I've only this moment uncovered.
It's a sliver of space between angry trees and bushes sprouting man-eating flowers, the kind with melon-pink blooms as big as VW Bugs. The flowers smell like rotted meat, perhaps the decomposing remains of other would-be writers who slowed long enough to reconsider using such a violent metaphor, or else turned back to improve it, thinking the phrases "rotted meat" and "decomposing remains" didn't go far enough. As much as I want to scribble "gangrenous" in the margin just a few lines back, I know it will cost me my life, and today it's not worth it. Today I keep running, and the tongues of the big, vicious blooms loll on the jungle floor and lap at the flicker of my running ankles.
A single word hurtles through the branches, perforating the enormous green leaves, and slams into my temple. Flicker. And I'm down on my knees again, blood pounding in my veins. I feel heavy. Flicker. Of all the words I overuse in my writing (and there are many) the one that pops up most often is Flicker. Flicker and Flutter. Overused words, evidence of my dwindling vocabulary. I could have thought up a better word, I think as my palms slip in the mud and my hair swings into my face. But I doubt myself even now, for I've stopped, you see, and I'm going over that moment again and again, trying to find that better word so I can move on, but it isn't coming to me, and I'm sitting dumbfounded on the trail just waiting for the hounds to find my lily white throat.
What would a real writer do? Succumb to the inflicted self-torment of listing her own shortcomings? Become distracted by the snort and snuffle of a fellow café patron blowing his nose? Close her book and reach for the cinnamon roll?