My place is currently cluttered with camping and climbing gear. Coiled ropes, tents, sleeping bags, camp stove. A full backpack's worth of dirty clothes takes up most of the floor in my bathroom. This is the aftermath of a five-day camping trip in the Jotenheim region of Norway, about 5 hours north of Oslo. We rolled back into town on Sunday evening, and I was too exhausted to do much about it right away. Funny how the mess doesn't clean itself up. Funnier how I always wish it would.
I spent the morning organizing things, but only seemed to displace the chaos. To give myself a break, I decided to walk downtown and grab lunch. Just a date with me. The girl who stopped counting her most recent mosquito bites at fifteen; the girl with the massive blister on the back of her heel after hiking across a glacier to the top of Galdhøpiggen, Norway's highest mountain. Not pretty or fun or flirty... but in desperate need of a slow walk in the sunshine, you know, to begin the healing.
It worked. Summer may have gotten off to a slow start in Oslo this year (so much rain!), but as we close out the last week of August, I have to say, we're getting some pretty perfect weather. Oslo is beautiful city anyway, but in the sunshine it takes my breath away.
I ate lunch (Max Burger) on a bench near the statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Akershus Fortress. Aker Brygge, the main harbor, bustled below me. Cruise ships came and went. People stood in line for tickets. The number 12 tram clattered around the corner, packed with tourists. An accordionist collected coins in an upturned cap on the cobbled stone. I used all my napkins to wipe the burger's special sauce off my chin. Slowly, but very slowly, my city-girl-ness returned to me.
Partly it was listening to the myriad languages spoken around me as I walked back toward National Theater to catch my tram home. Partly it was the way the sunlight warmed the crown of my head and spread down to my shoulders, forcing me to pull up my long sleeves and expose my pale wrists to the sky. Partly it was the bird calls and the ship horns. But mostly it was the music.
In the summertime, the changing of the palace guard in Oslo includes a march from Akershus, down Karl Johans gate, and all the way up the hill to the palace grounds. Three policemen on horseback lead the mini-parade; then comes the band. I love the way the red stripes on their pant legs catch the sunlight as they stride out from the cover of shadows.
A while later, the band took their places in the small pavilion near the National Theater and played a short concert. I reluctantly ran for my tram as they finished a brassy rendition of Hello, Dolly! So, bridge that gap, fellas. Find me an empty lap, fellas!
Home again, I surveyed the gear and laundry and dishes with rejuvenated eyes.
Somewhere a hurricane is thrashing the levees of a gun-shy city. Somewhere delegates loyal to Ron Paul are calling out the so-called tyranny of the Republican party. Somewhere my nephew is playing a game with the man who will likely become his stepfather. Somewhere a woman of God is losing her religion. Somewhere a book is burning. Somewhere a hiker with a broken leg waits trembling in the blue-white crevasse of a glacier. And here at home there is a Kindle with a half-read Ann Patchett novel to be finished, and a tall, icy can of apple cider to be drunk. And music is playing behind it all.
A marriage is among the most private of landscapes. It is also the most demanding if both partners are to maintain their individuality and equipoise. How do you contain within a domestic arrangement a howling respect for the wild in each other?Rilke provided us with a map: "Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other." I need my solitude. Brooke needs his freedom. When we come together, we meet whole.But sometimes the distances become to great, and words don't help in the articulation of our souls when we want to share where we've been and who we have become.I have never been as lonely as I have been in my marriage. I have also never been more seen or more protected. Love has little to do with it. Marriage is more sandstone than granite, similar to the terrain of southern Utah: the geography of mountains, canyons, and plateaus. The weathering creates the redrock windows and bridges. Beauty is transformed over time, and not without destruction.Landscape is dynamic. So is marriage. Brooke and I have changed, and changed each other. What has been washed and eroded away is as important as what remains.What remains for Brooke and me is conversation, our shared love of ideas. We have never stopped loving all things wild and unruly including each other. We raised each other, grew up together. And as a couple, we have given birth to each other, both as lovers and refugees in a culture foreign to our true nature. The feral fury of our twenties is such a different fire in our fifties. Deeper, fuller, the fire fanned now is just as intense and surprising because of the spaces we honor between us that hold a history. Brooke remains a mystery.
- 8 years
- 50,759 digital photos
- 2 cats
- 2,922 nights (First on a beat-up, blue futon, then on the softest European Sleepworks' mattress in the world.)
- 2 rental houses and 1 rooftop flat
- 17 countries on 3 continents
- 1 enormous, black, leather couch
- 10 weeks of Norwegian language lessons
- 1 nephew
- 7 full bookcases
- 398 blog posts
- 3 cars, then 0 cars
- 4 climbing harnesses
- countless kisses
- countless fights
- countless boxes of Kraft mac-n-cheese
- 1 (full) storage unit in Livermore, California