On Saturday we venture to Geilo. It is a city I know little of, save that it is one stop along a famed railway line between Oslo and Bergen, and that it holds an annual Ice Music Festival each February. Our trip will coincide with this festival, a happy coincidence. The temperatures in Geilo are predicted to be lower than anything I've felt yet in my lifetime: -20 to -30 Celsius. I imagine it will be the kind of cold that will make my eyes ache.
If we can summon the spirit, we will head outdoors to ski. At any rate we will lug our equipment along. It is to be a true vacation, so neither of us will mind if we end up in our room most of the time.
We also plan to attend the Ice Music Festival and listen to a concert played forth on instruments of ice. It is something I never would have thought up on my own. After nine months in Norway (a full year for Jonathan) some things are still entirely alien to us.
I need this vacation. Though I no longer spend forty hours a week in an office, I have finally hit a rhythm which fills my days with all kinds of work. At the moment I keep three blogs, two Facebook accounts, three Twitter accounts, and two websites. Coming up with and writing new material can take hours. It's good work for the writing mind, though. Meeting deadlines is so much like running timed miles or serving 100 volleyballs in a row. Repetitive, ingraining an important motion into the muscle. It's the best kind of practice.
Skiing cross-country requires me to exercise all new muscle groups, but it also forces me to relax my mind. When I crest a hill and slide into the downhill portion of a trail, my skis are deep in the tracks. Momentum takes over, gravity pulls me forward and down. I can crouch into a more stable position and lean with the turns, but whether I want to or not, those turns will take me. It is not my choice to ski down fast or slow. I can only choose the means by which I arrive at the bottom: standing on my skis or broken and prostrate and covered with snow.
If my mind is keen and I keep my wits about me, I remember to relax into the speed. I might be thinking, Don't die, don't die, don't die, don't die , as the icy wind slaps my cheeks red and chills my teeth to ice cubes in my mouth. But if I tuck my poles up under my arms and keep my weight forward and down, and if I don't try to fight the fact of gravity or the tracks cut by so many expert Norwegian skiers before me, I'll likely glide to the base of the hill and plateau and live to ski another day.
That's the way I feel with my writing, too, recently. Especially when a fiction bug grabs my attention. Twice in the last two weeks I've become so engrossed in a story of my making that I don't notice the afternoon disintegrate into evening. I don't even look up from my monitor until I hear Jonathan's key in the door. All lights still out; no dinner on the stove. Just me sitting cross-legged at my desk, mesmerized by the blue-white light of my laptop monitor and the characters I have set trekking across my screen.
If I relax into it, I can continue. If I try to control it, I snap out of the trance. I break and fall.
So, after a few weeks of this, I'm exhausted and ready for a vacation. Oslo's winter has been unseasonably warm until now. Snow is here to stay in the city, but it's deep, ugly, and gray at the corners. Dogs spot the sidewalk snow with yellow. Winter in the city, as it turns out, is only romantic and beautiful for so long.
Tomorrow morning we set out for our country vacation in a town called Geilo. If we don't freeze to death, it should be the perfect way to reset ourselves for the remainder of this Nordic winter.