“Now I wear the woods”

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Thinking of the woods, I think of so many things. From Sleater-Kinney‘s album, The Woods, which carried me aimlessly on foot through all of Reykjavik in the sad spring of 2008, to the present surroundings, wooden entanglements in wooded environs I’ve been rooted in and uprooted from, the things that I’ve shaken off like so many pine needles but which still stick like sap…

It took me a really long time to read Louise Erdrich. Apart from the handful of poems I’d read just after high school, I’d had an aversion to Erdrich, seemingly only because a girl with whom I’d almost silently feuded/had a misplaced dislike toward, was a huge fan. The girl cited Erdrich constantly as a source of inspiration (the girl referred to herself with replete and self-satisfied airy tones as a “writer”). As I read somewhere the other day, you either are or are not a writer. Talking about it doesn’t do anything. (I, too, am a writer, but it’s a bit like Catherine Keener‘s abrasive character in the now-20-year-old (!) Your Friends and Neighbors, when asked if she had written anything another character would have read, “Not unless you read the instructions on your tampon box.”)

I got over the Erdrich thing, and my misdirected dislike for the girl, but still never got around to reading Erdrich’s wealth of fiction. Now I’ve read most of her body of work (recommend some, like The Master Butchers Singing Club, and not so much others)…

The Woods
Louise Erdrich

At one time your touches were clothing enough.
Within these trees now I am different.
Now I wear the woods.

I lower a headdress of bent sticks and secure it.
I strap to myself a breastplate of clawed, roped bark.
I fit the broad leaves of sugar maples
to my hands, like mittens of blood.

Now when I say ‘come,’
and you enter the woods,
hunting some creature like the woman I was,
I surround you.

Light bleeds from the clearing. Roots rise.
Fluted molds burn blue in the falling light,
and you also know
the loneliness that you taught me with your body.

When you lie down in the grave of a slashed tree,
I cover you, as I always did.
Only this time you do not leave.

 

Striking midnight: Just your ghost passing through

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I have been forcing myself to get into bed by midnight every night. I might not fall asleep immediately, but I am there, mostly tucked in and ready for the cuddle that isn’t coming. Haha.

Tonight I am listening – for the first time in ages – Tori Amos‘s Boys for Pele. I had a bunch of Shiseido stuff sitting on my kitchen table for some reason, and I can’t hear or see the word “Shiseido” without thinking of the lyrics from “Muhammad My Friend“:

And on that fateful day, when she was crucified, she wore Shiseido red, and we drank tea by her side…

This is, incidentally, the only reason I am listening to this album, even if there are other bits of it that resonate with me still. Tori Amos is a very 1999-2000 thing for me. A transitional cache of music that carried me through the end of a relationship (that seemed unequivocally adult at the time, but reflecting, I see I was little more than a child in many ways – as he’d said, “You are two years old – maximum!”) and saw my decisionmaking take twists and turns that seemed illogical at the time but have slowly led me to where I am now.

I was never one of the rabid fans, didn’t jump on board right away during the heyday that followed Tori’s first two albums. It was later, looking for CDs (you know, when CDs were a thing) in a Borders (you know, when Borders was a thing) bookstore (erm, yeah, uh, you know when bookstores were a thing!) in Kahului, Hawaii, to serve as the soundtrack of our driving around Maui for a week. I found only Tori CDs and decided, despite having lukewarm feelings about her music, these would have to do. They struck a nerve for me, forever tied to that summer of intertwined endings and beginnings. The Maui sun, the tying up loose ends on the master’s thesis, the summer-long departure for a dreadful European bus trip (it was even worse than that sounds, despite all the things I saw and experiences I had). The culmination of it all in Iceland – the first time in my life that I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. Driving from Akureyri back to Reykjavik with Anna in the middle of the night at the end of Verslunarmannahelgi weekend through the thickest fog I have ever seen – trying not to hit an errant sheep and stay awake while blasting Tori’s Under the Pink.

Tori Amos was the soundtrack of these transitions – but by 2005 I did not care any longer, and The Beekeeper is the last album I am conscious of seeking out. By then, it was all just treading old ground, and if you know me, you know I don’t like doing that.

Australia – the Burning Urge to Migrate

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The temptation to pack up and move to Australia has never been stronger. I can’t explain why – I have never really been one of those people who fantasizes about or even wanted to go to Australia, let alone live in Australia or work there. The heat, the poisonous insects and snakes, etc.

New Zealand, on the other hand, is a completely different story. I went through the entire skilled migrant process with New Zealand at one point and then just decided against it – mostly because of the most basic reason possible: distance.

When you tell people (especially Americans) that you live in Iceland, they imagine someplace remote, difficult to get to, distant. Yet, despite the fact that the lands down under are more than twice as far, people imagine some kind of nearness or kinship – perhaps because these countries are English speaking, are more in the headlines, seem friendlier and less forbidding? It’s hard to say why (other than the dismal state of the average American’s knowledge of geography). It seemed far more reasonable to them when I was plotting out a move to Christchurch than to Reykjavik.

I’d say I’ve exhibited a fair amount of perspicacity when it comes to making decisions based on the so-called “writing on the wall”. I am fairly observant and think – and act – on things that appear to be in the offing. For example, when things start to shift significantly in the workplace, I sense it and start evaluating options – I don’t want to be blindsided.

But there is very little deeply intellectual understanding informing this growing urge to move to Australia. I have halfheartedly thought about it in years past, but suddenly in the last six months, the pull is very strong.

The biggest hurdle, which is something I have never wanted to face again in my life, is the immigration part. The bureaucracy and paperwork and endless steps in the process – all perfectly surmountable, if expensive. Easier if one had a job offer and sponsorship/employer nomination, but as a communications and marketing manager, writer or even as a technical marketing and user documentation writer/manager, I am not really a prime candidate for employer sponsorship. I am not a tech worker; I am not a healthcare worker – even if I have worked in these fields, I have never been a programmer or a nurse. And I don’t work directly in any of the in-demand fields for which Australia has a shortage.

In any case, the desire is there with strange dreams of Melbourne.

Good Good of Random Gum – Year-End Soundtrack 2013

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The Good Goo of Year-End – Queen Bee in the Hornet’s Nest
Random Gum / Year-End 2013

Complete playlist on Spotify.

1. SONIC CONTROL – “Broken Television on a Neukölln Street”
“I’m a broken television on a Neukölln street/that dog over there just pissed on me/my screen is cracked, my transformers are gone/I was state of the art until it all went wrong…” The dogs of corporate life. Thanks, ML and MS

2. Ladytron – “Mirage” …You don’t listen,/You do not exist…
“Happy not to notice/The room retracts the focus/Where you cannot see/Reflections from within”

3. Elton John – “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” …live for each second, without hesitation…
Song is a sad reminder of childhood & early years of music videos. “I simply love you more than I love life itself”

4. John Grant – “Leopard and Lamb” …Like learning how to crawl across a floor that’s covered with glass/Like learning how to look away and never to look back…
“Watch The Simpsons to remember how you’d laugh…”. For Ph. Friendship ending always hurts more than love

5. Ulali – “Mahk Jchi”
This is like being back in college again. Upon reflection, the most awkward, misguided time of my whole life

6. Royal Headache – “Distant and Vague”
One for wandering central Göteborg. And the title/theme… what/who isn’t “distant and vague”?

7. TV-Resistori – “Koputan puuta”
FUNland! ”But Ginsberg, my balls hurt!” Finnish music that sounds almost Japanese. Music for throwing away perfectly good shoes. For Naomi and ML.

8. Pepe Deluxé – “Lucky the Blind vs. Vacuum Cleaning Monster”
Thinking about Lóa, who loves vacuum cleaners.

9. Les Sans Culottes – “Tout va bien
All the French – Aurélien, Bruno, Tristan, Thierry, Valérie – and so on. All the cool people.

10. Cepia – “Ithaca”
Anything Ithaca, as much horror as it might give her, is for Jill.

11. John Grant – “I Hate This Town”
But then again you always made it clear/That you do not care either way/Which begs the question/How can I still claim to love you/You told me time and time again/That you don’t lose you always win/And that to make an effort would just be beneath you”. John Grant – hands down, one of my favorites

12. Throwing Muses – “Mexican Women” …love becomes a foreign substance…
For Martina and her reflections on Mexican women making piñatas that will just be destroyed – the fleeting nature of beauty. “Up yours, Bruno!” Also, I might as well be a man – I open doors for and bring flowers to women friends. What woman wouldn’t want to marry me? Hahaha. Pachanga! Free fika cake!

13. Yo La Tengo – “Nowhere Near” …everyone is here/but you’re nowhere near…
I have always loved this song, but love resurged when it appeared in the final episode of the US version of The Bridge this year.

14. Marianne Faithfull – “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” …at the age of 37, she realized she’d never ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair…
For a variety of reasons, I really dislike the name Lucy (cue up whiny, snotty British accent for starters). I am sure I had heard this song before (Lee Hazlewood version?) and even think I knew it was written by Shel Silverstein, but it appeared in the Dusan Makavejev film Montenegro, which I only saw recently despite its being made in 1980. I had no idea it was set in Stockholm (you’d never guess from the film’s title!), the dubious heroine a resident of posh island “suburb”, Lidingö. In the early 2000s I went to a film festival in Reykjavik at which Makavejev was the guest – they screened two of his weirder films (they’re all weird)… oh memories. For Leifur.

15. The National – “About Today” …you just walked away/and I just watched you…
What more can really be said about The National? “How close am I to losing you?”

16. The Rolling Stones – “Sympathy for the Devil”
Horrifying memories of hordes of Australians on bus trip; a memory of coming home from kindergarten. My dad was playing this, and it is the only time I remember him choosing willingly to play a record on his own. I was a bit scared/very intrigued by this song because of the title and the drum beat.

17. Martha Wainwright – “Matapedia” …I could not slow down/I was not afraid…
Martha doing one of her mother, Kate McGarrigle’s (RIP) songs – really lovely.

18. Kishi Bashi – “I Am the Antichrist to You” …I was always quick to admit defeat…
“And my heart it shook with fear/I’m a coward behind a shield and spear”

19. The Bee-Gees – “Stayin Alive”
A few years ago when Robin Gibb died, I could not bring myself to include a Bee-Gees song on my mix and instead chose “It Was Disco but Now It’s Over…”. Thanks to TV’s Sherlock and its use of “Stayin Alive”, its worming its way into my brain and all the back and forth with people about disco, Tony Manero (the Saturday Night Fever character and title character of eponymous Chilean film) AND learning that the song provides the right tempo for performing CPR, I could hardly not include it. For Elisa S, Krista H, Adrian K

20. Animotion – “Obsession”
Oh, the 80s. Makes me feel old but brings to mind obsessive statements à la “Nobody has driven me crazy like this for such a long time. Never.” For JKL

21. Run DMC/Aerosmith – “Walk This Way”
Thanks to Jill for the reminder of this song, which I like much better now than in the old days. Late-night, loud rain dance praying with love for Annette.

22. Lia Ices – “Little Marriage”
This song was included on another mix but it’s too beautiful not to use again. It inspires such emotion, bringing an emptiness that longs to be filled to the surface. With love for Jane as always.

23. Jean-Louis Murat – “Colin-Maillard” …Tu traverses le miroir/Ton désir ne veut plus patienter…
Another previous inclusion… the sound and the voice fills me with a kind of melancholy.

24. My Bloody Valentine – “Feed Me with Your Kiss”
MBV released their first album in 20+ years but I select a song from an old album. Nostalgia?

25. The Smiths – “A Rush and a Push”
“Let’s talk about poetry.” The seductive power of knowing a poem or two… stealing things from others’ imaginations.

26. OutKast – “Hey Ya!” …don’t try to fight the feeling/cause the thought alone is killing me right now…
To the joy of knowing Jill: “My baby don’t mess around”

27. Lay Low – “Last Time Around”
Something nice from Iceland, thinking of all my friends there (Alfa, Jane, Lóa, and so on…)

28. Iron & Wine – “Jesus the Mexican Boy”
One of the songs in a playlist I made chronicling dogs, dog and pony shows and Mexicans. For Martina.

29. Belle & Sebastian – “Legal Man” …L-O-V-E – it’s coming back, it’s coming back…
One to lose one’s mind dancing to. “Get out of the city/and into the sunshine/get out of the office/and into the springtime…”

30. Serge Gainsbourg – “Les Sucettes” …Elle est au paradis…
For Jean, who taught me so much, and for JKL, who makes plans he will never keep

31. New Order – “Love Vigilantes”
The confusion of mixing up conversations that started about rotten chuck roast and what I thought was “dal” (as in Indian food) but was actually “dal” as in “valley” (Norwegian). I was wondering, “Since when does dal have chuck roast in it?” But the conversation was really referring to Malala from that “dal” (Swat Valley). J Love my vigilante friend, Annette. And, for Naomi – “O blessed be – my favorite dal of all the dals!”

32. The Bee-Gees – “Night Fever”
Taken aback by the rampant popularity of Daft Punk’s latest offer – it’s good, but in light of the backlash against the Bee-Gees and their sound in the late 70s – it is interesting to hear these sounds make a resurgence.

33. Human League – “Don’t You Want Me?”
Neverending back & forth with ML, who never knows what he wants – just knows it’s whatever he doesn’t have

34. Don Dixon – “Praying Mantis”
For Naomi and the happiness of driving around in a different car.

35. Darker My Love – “Talking Words”
Sitting in the autumn-dark parking lot observing OCD-afflicted people check their doors five or six times

36. Lush – “For Love”
Another song that transports me to an exact time, feeling – making me want to run back to the present

37. Camera Obscura – “Anti-Western” …you’re too good looking, I’m always gonna put up a fight…
Anthem to those stunning but ultimately false moments when you believe (stupidly!) that interest is actually real. How eager even the cynic is to believe sometimes. Thanks to Jill as always.

38. Erasure – “Oh L’Amour”
This will always remind me of the late 80s, very late-night phone calls with JBB – alternate realities that allowed for the most complete and unfiltered feeling I can ever remember feeling

39. Cinerama – “Heels” …you crushed him with your heels/and I know exactly how he feels…
For Mathieu. “I don’t really care that you found another lover/cause I know he’ll be gone the moment that you get bored…”

40. Secret Machines – “Atomic Heels” …uncover your eyes/they’re bloodied in love/who’s staring back at yours, honey what have you missed?…

41. Ladytron – “Seventeen” …they only want you when you’re 17, when you’re 21, you’re no fun…
How to feel old…

42. Lana Del Ray – “Blue Jeans (RAC Mix)” …I will love you til the end of time…
Dislike Lana Del Ray but for some reason like this mix – here’s to new cars and departed Greek dentists.

43. Glen Campbell – “Wichita Lineman” …I need you more than want you
For Naomi – another sort of stalker song.

44. The Bee-Gees – “To Love Somebody”
I put the Roberta Flack version of this on the other part of this mix and knew it had sounded familiar but did not put two and two together until I reheard this version in the film 50/50. The Bee-Gees’ music (as done by other artists) is everywhere. It’s got a sad sort of feel – we’ve all been there, but the “you don’t know what it’s like” also sounds like the condescending sorts who rub your being alone in your face, “You just don’t know what it’s like to be in love…”

45. Blondie – “Faces”
I listened to this – and the whole Autoamerican album – over and over when I was five. No wonder I am so fucked. 🙂 “Rapture” does at least reference Subaru! Memories of Thanksgiving with Lóa (2013)

46. Lou Reed – “Satellite of Love”
Rest in peace and bon voyage.

**             **             **             **             **             **             **             **             **             **             **             **

What does it take to be fearless and loving? Loving people requires a certain risk-taking fearlessness that I have never really embraced. When I say never, I mean never. But kindness – that can substitute.

I take a lot of risks and make a lot of changes but am still fearful of a lot of things. Perhaps I need to focus on these things before running off on another adventure undertaken for the sake of “change”.

Sudden, unexpected loss everywhere this year – there is no time like the present to do what one needs to do to feel healthy and happy. Happiest new year wishes, as arbitrary as that really is.

Do what makes you happy – RIP Arik Einstein & RIP investigative skills

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A clear, sun-filled, beautiful day at home in the woods. Being here turns my mood around 180 degrees.

Some places I have lived have always filled me with some sense of satisfaction. Many people will claim that happiness has nothing to do with “place” – but I have always felt otherwise. It is a big contributing factor. I was never happy living in the US for some reason, and while I had bounced around to different places looking for the right place (a place to feel at home, grounded), I landed in Iceland. To this day, although I don’t live there anymore, just being in Iceland and seeing the panorama across Faxaflói Bay or being back in the “subdivision” of Reykjavik in which I used to live (Seltjarnarnes), makes me feel at home (or rather, homesick). I don’t imagine ever moving back – but being there and the place/surroundings – affected how I felt.

Now that I split my time between my home in the Swedish woods and Gothenburg, and have been doing so for a year, I have no bad feelings toward Gothenburg – but I know that being at home is where I want and need to be. I don’t want to move to or be in the city even though a year ago that sounded like a good idea. Truth be told, I needed a change, but a move to the city was not the change I needed. Sometimes, though, you have to try something to see that it is not right for you.

Thinking back to the time in Seltjarnarnes, which I wrote briefly about the other day, reminiscing about baking there – it is hard to believe that I was only living in that apartment for two years. It was such a defining time, but such a short span of time.

For whatever reason, I watched quite a bit of television when I lived in Seltjarnarnes (2001-03) – my friend had given me a tv, and I often turned it on just for noise (this was before there were really great internet connections). For some reason MTV was the Israeli version, so I saw a lot of TV commercials in Hebrew – and every commercial break was this same one advertising (I suppose) a kind of “greatest hits of…” album for some unidentified Israeli musician. Since I cannot understand or read Hebrew, I had no idea who he was – nothing about the commercial could give me a clue as to his identity, but because of the ad’s ubiquity, I became obsessed with trying to find out who he was. It was not until 2009, when I was in Oslo, that I found out that this iconic singer is Arik Einstein. I am not even sure how I found out his identity – I think that I may have Googled “Israeli singer” and something like “Fiddler on the Roof” because one of the clips in the commercial I had seen looked like it could be some kind of musical, like “Fiddler on the Roof” – I know, it sounds like a crazy and stereotypical long shot. BUT… it actually led me to the name of some other Israeli musician, which in turn led me to a lot of information about other Israeli singers, which finally (FINALLY!) led me to a picture of the man I had seen in the commercial so many years earlier.

Arik Einstein!

After that, I actually listened quite a bit to his music, much of which I really enjoyed. Quite by chance, yesterday I was looking for information about the musician Keren Ann, and she wrote on her Facebook page on 26 November that Arik Einstein had died. I would never have found out otherwise, so it was an interesting path of… chance. Like so much information discovery these days. I am thus remembering these old stories of how I first discovered this Israeli mystery man, found out who he was, and really came to appreciate the music. (My god the world is so much smaller, and information so much easier to find than in the “old days”. My mom and I used to go on pre-internet wild goose chases to find different music we would hear in tv commercials and shows. That was always a challenge. It is so much easier to find everything now, but then, our investigative and questioning skills are certainly suffering for it.)

RIP Arik Einstein!

RIP research and investigative skills (or at least the kind that are not online)! (And this is for the average person. Plenty of academic and scientists still do plenty of hands-on research and investigation and more traditional, well-trained journalists will follow leads and actually talk to people, track down other forms of information – as they should!)

Cookies someday soon… Happy Anzac-less Australia Day

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Since taking on several new activities and (for the moment) spending a bit more time in the office, I have not been at home with my dear oven and beloved KitchenAid mixer in order to get some serious baking underway. As a result, Australians throughout the office will be devastated to learn that I have not been able to supply much-loved Anzac biscuits for today’s Australia Day event. (But follow the link! You still have time to make them for yourself!) Likewise, my intention to bake caramel cream cookies remains just that, an intention.

Rest assured, I have an overwhelming amount of serious writing to do for work, which means I will spend a week or so holed up in my house behind the keyboard. This always means that the oven will be going at full throttle as well.

Cookies, dear addicts, will return soon. I would like to say “…return to an office near you…” but recognize that this is misleading. Chances are, they will only turn up at the Opera HQ in Oslo. 🙂

This year, in a reversal of fortune, I am so happy not to be in Iceland for the winter! The main road between Reykjavik and Keflavik, which is NEVER closed, was closed due to snow. This means the weather has reached an insane level of inhospitability. Icelanders are hardy, tough folks for whom a normal blizzard is just “a few flakes of snow”… so I cannot even imagine what is going on over there right now.

Last night, in mildly snowy Oslo, I went to see Reggie Watts‘s live musicomedy act at Parkteatret. Hilarious in that uniquely Reggie way. A long time ago, when I lived in Iceland, I used to know Reggie (briefly). This was before his comedy had taken off, and he was mostly known for fronting the band Maktub. We both had Seattle connections and had a lot of phone conversations. I eventually messed the friendship up by being more than a bit flaky (those were difficult times).

Last night when I saw the show, it suddenly dawned on me how much time had passed since then. In many ways it felt like yesterday, but when I really reflected, I realized how much has happened in my life since we were acquainted — so I can only imagine how much had happened and changed for him. (No wonder he seemed to have very little recollection of me. Not that I am particularly memorable.) The temptation to run to Stockholm to see Reggie’s show tonight is palpable. I will be wise, though, and stick with my working and baking plans (it’s the responsible, and incidentally, selfless, plan).

Happy Australia Day, my Aussie friends!