Do you ever feel nostalgic about the present? On Friday, this not-as-of-yet nostalgia overwhelmed me. It was a clear day; the chilly wind smacked my cheeks red and wrang tears from my eyes. The tears weren't attached to anything, unstemmed, like the dry leaves that skittered on the sidewalks around me. But if I paused and thought, there were a million things I could give the tears over to. Distance from my family, the troubles of a friend, the fading of youth, buried griefs, the painful quickness of time.

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Audrey and Jonathan enjoying the fall colors at Akershus, 30 October 2011.

Such feelings are the terrain of the season. The trees and bushes which have, for so many months, flourished with health around us, now exhale brightly for the last time this year. The colors of fall spark something in me, memories and regrets. Last year, when Oslo was new to us, I walked Jonathan home from work, more than four miles, many times. (Sometimes I took the train with him in the mornings and walked or jogged home on my own.) But this year I've neglected the practice. For no reason. After only a year, I began taking it all for granted.

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In the middle of the night, I wake with it twisted around my throat like a noose, or tucked into my mouth, or caught in my earrings. By day it whips into crazy tangles unless I braid it, knot it, or bun it. Throughout the winter it snaps with static and makes wearing hoods impossible. Socks fresh out of the dryer have long strands twisted nightmarishly through the fibers between the toes. My hair is everywhere, and it's annoying. I don't think I was cut out for these long locks. Pretty soon I'll be in a place where I can have an affordable haircut, and I'm afraid this mane of mine will just have to go. If I have the guts to get it chopped once I'm in the salon chair, that is. To this end, I thought I'd take a trip down hair-memory lane. 

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God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to cut my hair when I have the chance!

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From nearly every window in our flat, you can see a tall, copper steeple. Uranienborgkirke (Uranienborg Church) is one of my favorite fixtures in the city, and it's surrounded by a lovely park which goes dazzlingly yellow every autumn.

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I thought I'd have a LOT more time to run out and take photos of the gorgeous fall colors in Oslo. Last year, the weather was deceptively warm and dry. Snow didn't show up until after Christmas. Jonathan and I wandered around our new hometown wearing sweaters and gloves into November. Norway was suckering me in. This year, I've got a hunch, will be very different. Much more "the norm." But then yesterday, a snow flurry came blowing in out of a literally clear blue sky. As I don't want to feel that I missed fall entirely, I thought I'd put up some of the most beautiful pictures we took last year at this time (30 Oct 2011).

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"Each man's life touches so many other lives," says Clarence, the angel.

A shell-shocked George Bailey, standing in a graveyard, turns slowly and stares into the middle distance. He is here because he almost took his own life out of desperation. Clarence's last, ditch effort to make George see his personal value, has brought them smack into the middle of an alternate universe, one without any record of George. He is horrified at what he almost threw away. He is grateful for his wife, his children, his crumbling old house, his crazy uncle, his deaf ear, his quiet, quaint hometown. George runs back to all of it, begging, "Please God, let me live again."

The snow begins to fall, collecting on George's coat; his lip begins to bleed, the petals appear in his pocket.

My church put on a production of It's a Wonderful Life some years ago. Though I'm a born Mary (good, plainer than pretty, funny, unwaveringly loyal), I was cast as Violet, the town tart, a role originally made famous by blonde vixen Gloria Grahame. (Okay, who am I kidding? I've got a little of that in me, too.) I had a couple of the best lines in the play. When George asked where I got my dress, I said, "This old thing? Why, I only wear it when I don't care how I look." Wink. The cast had a ball, and the community loved it, too.

But a few months later, our church family was shaken by a suicide. The man, ironically, had been a member of the Wonderful Life cast. I didn't know him well, but he'd seemed like a happy guy. Tall, slender, with a handsome, crooked smile. He'd been our Ernie the Cab Driver, George's good friend. That this man took his own life was irreconcilable to me. How could anyone be that close to the moral of this particular story, and not carry it with him, protected from doubts about his own value for life?

But I forget that not everyone has the movie memorized the way I do. I know it by heart, from the very beginning, those opening voice-over prayers from George's mother, daughter, wife, and friends. Burt the cop says, "He never thinks about himself, God. That's why he's in trouble." Ernie says, "George is a good guy. Give him a break, God."

Each man's life touches so many other lives.

Today, as I perused a website dedicated to news from my hometown of Livermore, California, I happened across the obituary of a man named Ken Limtiaco. He died unexpectedly this summer, at the age of 50. 

I never met Ken, but his tire shop was down the street from the first home I shared with my husband. Because Jonathan knew Ken, we took our cars to his shop exclusively. Every time Jonathan (or his dad, who referred us to Ken in the first place) spoke about Ken, I heard only the best things. I've recommended Ken's Tire Service to friends and family for years based simply on the knowledge that my husband and father-in-law, who are both fine men and good judges of character, considered Ken to be honest, helpful, and expert.

Stumbling upon news of Ken's passing was tough. I let Jonathan know right away. He said, sadly, "It was nice to read through so many of the comments on that article."

I went back to Ken's obituary. Indeed, running below it were dozens and dozens of comments left by people who all had something to share about their long relationships with Ken. He gave sound advice. He offered coffee. He reached out to people who were down on their luck. He treated people with respect. He was a straight-shooter. He embodied integrity.

This man who sold tires for a living, this mechanic, had touched these people. Hundreds more showed up at his memorial service to pay their respects and support his family.

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Oslo's National Gallery may not be the Louvre, but I enjoy visiting it for many reasons. That's just one of them. The gallery is on Universitetsgata, just a couple of blocks from the palace grounds, and holds the country's largest public collection of paintings and sculptures.

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While the museum does diplay works by masters like Picasso, Cezanne, and Manet, there is a special emphasis on Norwegian artists like Edvard Munch. One version of Munch's most famous work, 'The Scream' is on display. Translated as 'Skrik' (pronounced shriek) in Norwegian, the painting was stolen from the museum in 1994 and recovered after several months. (The version of 'Scream' at the Munch Museum in Oslo was stolen in 2004, along with the artist's 'Madonna,' and both were recovered two years later.)

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Among my favorite fall movies is The Male Animal (1942). It stars Henry Fonda as English professor Tommy Turner, a man whose quiet, ordinary, academic life is turned upside down in a single, whirlwind weekend. First, it's the weekend of the Big Game, and Tommy's wife, Ellen (Olivia de Havilland) is a little too thrilled to see her old college flame, football star "Whirling Joe" Ferguson (Jack Carson) at the homecoming rally. Then there's the tense political climate felt by all the Midwestern University faculty; three of their own have been recently fired for their alleged Communist sympathies. And finally, Tommy's favorite student, Michael Barnes, a nerdy reactionary, has written an editorial in the school paper announcing that Professor Turner is the one man willing to stand up to the bullying tactics of the board of trustees; he'll do it, Barnes writes, by reading a letter to his class penned by convicted anarchist Bartolomeo Vanzetti. "The hounds of bigotry and reaction," in the form of the university's trustees, come down hard.

Every year I queue up this film because of the nostalgia I feel for a midwest autumn. I love the piles of burning leaves in the street. I love the excitement surrounding college football. I love the sweaters and tweedy skirts and saddle shoes worn by the coeds. I love Tommy Turner (my first crush on an English professor). And every year, I am reminded as I watch of what an important movie it is for a thousand deeper reasons.

I recently penned a guest post for The Zesty Digest about Tommy Turner's turmoil in what turns out to be a debate about the freedom of speech, and why it is timeless and necessary even today. But I thought I'd go ahead and post this video clip here, along with the text of Tommy's monologue at the end of the film. He can speak for himself.

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Det Kongelige Slott -- Oslo's Royal Palace

Oslo, Norway. My home these days, and a great place to visit! Jonathan and I vacationed here about a year before we moved over, and were dazzled by everything the country had to offer in the summertime. Since then, I've lived through (and enjoyed!) a Norwegian winter, too. I'm even looking forward to my second. 

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Bærums Verk, Norrway around Chistmastime

When Cheapflights.ca approached me about writing a travel guide to Oslo, I jumped at the chance. My city has so much fun stuff to offer all year round. Visit the Cheapflights website to read my travel guide. It includes:

  • 5 Great Restaurants in Oslo
  • 5 Bars and Taverns in Oslo
  • 5 Fun Winter Activities in Oslo
  • 5 Must-See Monuments, Museums or Galleries in Oslo
  • 5 Day-Trips Outside of Oslo

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The Freia sign on Karl Johans gate in Downtown Oslo

Cheap Flights to Oslo from Canada

Cheapflights - United Airlines Destinations and Fares from Canada

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Holmenkollen Ski Jump -- Oslo, Norway

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Looking for something spooky this Halloween season? Windowshopping after dark in Oslo might just suffice.

Near the corner of Uranienborgveien and Parkveien, across the street from Nomaden, the travel bookstore, is a storefront marked Kunst Handel, Norwegian for art dealer. In the daytime, it would be easy to walk past without taking so much as a sidelong glance at the windows there. You might see the bright corners of gilded-gold picture frames or sculptures high on pedestals. In a blink you're past it. But if you stop to look again, if after night falls the lights inside catch your eye and hold it, you'll find yourself swept into a strange world. Try, if you dare, to imagine the feverish brain which conceived of this bizarre collection.

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King Gander was shot dead cleanly through the eye by a hunter at the lake who had no idea the geese were organized enough to have a king. The jewels in his crown dazzled the hunter through her scope. What a prize, thought she. What a trophy! The gunshot startled the flock and sent them scooting, panic-stricken across the top of the lake and then up into the sky. Behind them floated the body of their leader. The hunter's retreiver, Princess, splashed into the water, paddled out a few meters, and hauled the plump goose by the neck to the shore. The hunter knelt on the rocks and realized King Gander's crown was gone; it had probably tumbled from his head when the bullet tore through his eye and sunk into the dark lake water. No matter, thought the hunter, giving Princess's ears a scratch. When I stuff him, I will have his eye replaced, and I will replace his crown, as well. 

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