Our last flights

I know there’s a shadow in this photo. But can you see how we’re still flying? Covered in dust and sweat and sun, grinning our heads off. Can you see, in our eyes, the weightlessness, the balance, the joy of stepping into air and staying there? I had just had two long flights along the ridge, in heavy traffic, all on my own. I’d lent back in my harness, and relaxed, and looked ahead for other paragliders, and stayed out of their way, and flown back and forth on the ridge, and stayed up for hours. The wind blows up the ridge, see, and keeps you afloat. Paragliding makes me laugh, sometimes – seeing everyone lugging about their huge backpacks, and unpacking them, and folding out the gliders – just for fun, just to zoom around, like kids on a slide or a merry-go-round. Just to feel air beneath your feet and wind in your face, and the gentle pressure of the brake lines in your hands, and the way you surge upwards, and turn and sink and hover. Just for pure joy.

Yet more paragliding

The wind was quite strong today, so I took photos and stroked little lizards while the lovie zoomed around.

In the evening, they all came out. It was so pretty.

When it calmed down a bit, I had a lovely peaceful, perfect flight, just after the sun set. Perfect, I say – the launch, the turns, the landing. And I did it all on my own – no radio contact, no instructors watching. I’m still smiling.

Other Essenital Items

Back to school: Invest in your child’s safety by purchasing a bullet-proof book-bag.

Off to the mission field: Stock up on comfy grey suits at the Missionary Megastore (they sell everything you need apart from missionary wives).

Car bumper sticker: God answers knee-mail.

Only in America


According to the US customs visa waiver program (Form I-94W), you’re not allowed into America if you’ve committed serious crimes, terrorist activities – or any ‘acts of moral turpitude’. We had to look this up: ‘Turpitude: (TUR-puh-tood; -tyood\, noun) Inherent baseness or vileness of principle, words, or actions; depravity.’ But we got through anyway.

Pity our paragliders didn’t. We had to transfer planes in Paris in less than an hour, and our luggage didn’t make it. We hope they turn up today or tomorrow. Today looks too windy for paragliding anyway, so maybe we haven’t missed anything yet.

In other news… I love America. It’s larger than life. It’s a bit hard to take it seriously sometimes. The lovie indeed finds this impossible, and has been loudly imitating American accents in supermarkets and other places: ‘hey buddie, wanna cookie? Oooh, this sure looks good! That’s beautiful.’ It’s a bit embarrassing. We think Americans must be highly trained in voice projection and enunciation. I had been quite excited about being in an English speaking country again. One gets tired of explaining to Norwegians that we don’t speak Norwegian. But we’re not in an English speaking country. The Americans don’t understand us when we talk to them. We have to repeat everything three times.

me: I’ll have the Thai curry soup. With tofu.
waiter: so, the Thai soup. Is that with beef or pork?
me: no, tofu.

Maybe it would help if we seriously started using mock-American accents…

On the plane there was an incredible catalogue detailing all sorts of weird and wonderful and apparently quite essential things to buy. Remote-controlled floating snack-carriers, exercise machines that give you a two hour work-out in four minutes, kitty litters disguised as pot-plants, miniature steps so small doggies can climb onto your bed. My favourite commodity was a life-size white garden statue of St Francis of Assisi:

This incredible garden focal point will leave your guests in awe! Though he’s seated, St. Francis still rises over three feet high on his generous, four-foot-long bench. With eyes ever heavenward, this Italian patron saint of nature reaches toward the gentle animals at his feet, show-casing amazing detail, from the folds of his garment to his benevolent expression. Cast in in 156 pounds of quality designer resin and finishing it in faux stone as an heirloom for decades to come. $450.00 (plus $49 shipping)

Also available: Basho the sumo wrestler, Tian Shan the panda, Mademoiselle Haute Couture floor-lamp sculpture, regal lion sentinels of Grisham Manor, and the Beast of Burden glass-top coffee table.

Paragliders, kitchens and the Green Man

Well, we’re packing up and heading off to the States tomorrow! Much excitement here. And much mess too. The important pieces of luggage are the paragliders (and the helmets and the walking boots) – the (minimal) clothes get to squeeze in along the sides of the backpacks. Salt Lake City should provide some pretty cool paragliding opportunities, including lots of ridge soaring. I’ll try to take some pictures this time.

I’ve had such a nice week. I do so love being here. When we arrived back from Germany I felt for about five minutes such a flood of relief and happiness. It really feels like home here – it’s all ours, just for us. The kitchen, the loungeroom, the bedroom, the study. Just ours. We chose all the furniture. Lots of lovely circles and pale wood. And all the kitchen utensils. We’ve got everything we need, just the way we like it. And, best of all, each other. Student share accommodation is okay, but after a while it begins to wear a bit thin. Anyway, I savoured the lovely feeling for five minutes before the nausea flooded back in and didn’t go away till last Sunday. But since then I’ve been loving it.

I’ve also been having lots of exciting though rather complicated ideas for my next chapter. It’s on Randolph Stow, and I’ve been posting some of my thoughts on his novels in The Little Book Room. What’s really fun is that his use of the Middle Ages is so completely different to Murray’s. Murray uses them as an idealised image of a creative, agrarian, spiritual world, which he believes has been replanted in Australia. So, for Murray, the Middle Ages participate in an affirmation of belonging. Stow is more concerned with terror and alienation. In Girl Green as Elderflower, the Middle Ages do participate in a reconstruction of self, and a regained sense of belonging, but the overwhelming mood is that of strangeness and exile. I think Stow used the Middle Ages as a mirror for the strangeness of the modern. Many of his novels are concerned with madness, alienation and death. He writes about intense spiritual experiences in the Australian landscape, madness, suicide and cargo cults in the Trobriant Islands, murder mysteries in Suffolk, and displaced green children from 12th century legends. The Middle Ages he turns to in his last two novels are a realm of monsters and mysteries, epitomized by the inscrutable Green Man:

In his room of icy light, its open windows (for he had grown unused to white men’s houses) commanding a leafless landscape, he tried to recreate the face which had appeared to him: a face made of summer leaves, not sinister but pitilessly amused. When he had woken, it had been with the Green Man’s voice in his ears, actually within the bones of the ear, supernaturally loud. Though he could not recapture the voice, he felt again his vague affright, for it was internal as sound never was. And it had spoken to him, he thought he now remembered, in that language in which he so often dreamed, and would not hear spoken again. But the sense of the speech eluded him. Only the tone reverberated, amused beyond the reach of pity.

. . .

Fire, the ancestral god. And as the kindling spat at him and he stirred, he seemed to glimpse once more the god’s face, the smile unchanging, whether sketched by leaves or by flame.

My ideas for my chapter have something to do with the curious temporalities Stow constructs in his novels. He writes about Australia, but it is an Australia of myths and legends and half-sketched maps. Time is somewhat fluid in his work. The present is always bordered with another world, which is not evil, but not good either, much like the Green Man. And it can be dangerous. I think the Middle Ages is one way in which Stow imagines this other world. But it’s not really another world at all, just a different way of looking at this one. His interest in Taoism comes in here too, and that’s when it starts to get complicated. But exciting too, because all the Taoist speech and silence stuff fits in rather nicely with my thesis topic of ‘medievalism and the language of belonging’. So there’s a few of my half-baked ideas, anyway. I can’t wait to tease them out properly. I’ve come up with a rather nice chapter title, too: ‘Grievous Music: Randolph Stow’s Antipodean Middle Ages’. I’m quite pleased with that – antipodean, upside down, opposite.

Thinking Blogger Award

Last week the very lovely penni awarded me a ‘thinking blogger award’, which really made my day. I find penni’s blog eglantine’s cake fascinating, as she talks about writing and motherhood and young adult fiction – all things I wouldn’t mind getting into at some point… (Also I was super-pleased because she liked my post about paragliding, always a good thing.) Anyway, it’s sort of a meme, and you’re supposed to nominate five more blogs. The rules are here, and here are five blogs that I love!

1. Stephanie Trigg’s Humanities Researcher. This is the first blog I ever read, and it’s what sold me on the blogging idea. Stephanie is a medievalist at the University of Melbourne, and she started the blog to track the (long and tortuous) progress of applying for an Australian research grant. Shortly after that, however, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, so, in her words, the blog ‘mutated to include more reflections on the interplay of the personal and the professional’. Which it does. Her writing is beautiful and touching and clever and funny, and it gives academia a human face.

2. Strange Fruit. Fifi’s poetic posts and beautiful images, as well as the calm, peaceful way in which they are always laid out, provide the perfect balm for any day. A mix of art, poetry, the Australian landscape, birds and fishes, and longings to fly.

3. firstperson thirdcat. An Adelaide blogger, and therefore close to my heart. Thirdcat’s writing is witty, quirky, wry, and always a pleasure.

4. Poppalina. Ooooh, this one’s lovely. Shula follows a pattern: Mosaic Monday, Flashback Friday, and Breakfast Sunday, and I don’t know which one I like best. Well, at the moment it’s Breakfast Sunday, as I’m currently obsessed with food and her breakfasts are to die for. There’s always lots of pictures, and lots of colour. This is a profoundly hopeful blog, with generous helpings of yoga and craft on top of the ingredients mentioned above, although it touches at times on the darkest sides of life.

5. Old English in New York, by Mary Kate Hurley. Another medievalist blog (there’s thousands of them). Mary Kate is a graduate student living in New York, and what I really like about this blog is the thought and care she puts into her ideas and the lovely, succinct way she expresses them. She’s just as likely to be talking about Neil Gaiman’s new adaptation of Beowulf or the space centre at Disney World as about Augustine’s Confessions, and she has a passion for Doctor Who. This, in my opinion, is a very good thing.

So there you go. Blogs give such interesting windows into lives completely different from your own, or which sometimes seem refractions on your own – where you could have been or might be one day, or would have been if something had been different… I like them. Thanks guys.

Now, I’m off to eat some brown cheese.

Wellness is…

Eating bread and honey, drinking raspberry tea, feeling the goodness ooze out to the ends of my limbs. Grinning my head off.

Lying awake at night, not minding, feeling the nutrients zinging through my veins. Zinging, I tell you.

Awake again at five, too excited to sleep. It’s better than Christmas.

Just when I thought all hope was lost…

After two weeks of misery, and 7kg thinner, I’m getting better.

Today I ate 3/4 of a banana, a spoonful of yoghurt, 8 smilies, a small bowl of peas, and a piece of bread with honey. Proper Norwegian bread, not their weird toast. This is serious progress. It’s all stayed down. And I haven’t even eaten dinner yet. I have plans for dinner: mushroom omelette, bread, salad. Hurrah.

This morning I went for a short walk to the harbour, along the river, and nearly died. Going up the footbridge was almost too much for me. The only other people around were my grandparents’ age. I knew how they felt. This week the lovie has kindly informed me that I’ve been looking like his grandma one month before she died. He even acted it out for me.

But this afternoon, after the smilies, I climbed to the festning, where the heather is in bloom. And I was okay. Things are looking up.

Dragonfruit and other delicacies

Yep, you can eat dragonfruit in Norway. You can even buy it in the supermarket.

Can’t get a non-blurred picture, so you’ll have to believe me.

I’m getting rather fed up with the bland white diet I’m subjecting myself to in order to overcome (soon, I hope) this lingering stomach-lurgy. Toast, crackers, the odd banana. Someone suggested yoghurt but that did not help, rather the opposite. Spaghetti floating in instant vegetable stock seems to go down nicely, but not three nights in a row, so last night I boiled a potato instead. I’ve been hallucinating food: fresh whiting with salad and new potatoes, turkey wraps with cranberry and avocado, grandma’s roast dinners, blueberries and icecream. See, even meat, which I don’t eat anymore. What’s happening to me? Actually eating anything is a different matter altogether – it’s a huge effort. Must keep it up, don’t want to disappear entirely.

Anyway, this mono-coloured diet reminds me of a client I had when I worked as a home care worker (the lovie says I have to stop telling these stories in social settings, they’re too depressing, so maybe this blog will become a final and happy home for them). This woman would only eat orange food. Orange and brown. She loved smoked mackerel, or whatever that bright orange fish is called. And sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were to be either sliced and roasted, or boiled with a couple of plain potatoes, and mashed up into a nice orange mash. Carrots and pumpkins were also popular. She’d eat cabbage too, but only if it was boiled to near disintegration. She ate oranges and kiwifruit (brown on the outside), and drank ginger tea. While I brewed her large jugs of ginger tea, I would make up canned salmon and mayonnaise sandwiches for the next day. It was an hour long shift, which was nowhere near long enough to cook dinner and make sandwiches and ginger tea and wash up and take the washing in and take her to the toilet and get her changed and rub vics vaporub and other concoctions on her various ailments. I got better at it, but she’d do anything she could to make you stay longer. She often started to cry, and asked if I had any nice men in my family who might be interested in her. No, I said, I don’t think so. But at least she had her orange fish.

Toast

Remember that joke from the playground:

Q: What do you put in a toaster?
A: Bread.

You were supposed to say toast and feel silly. Not that much of a joke, really. Anyway, in Norway (and Germany too, I hasted to add), you really do put toast in toasters. They normally don’t bother with the stuff, their bread is so good. See?

What about these guys?

While I sit here feeling miserable, needing a nap after going downstairs to get something out of the car, wondering when my bowels will be in working order again, some people are doing it tough. And I don’t just mean the lovie, who’s a good contender: not only is he doing all the housework at the moment, but he went on two 30k bike rides this weekend, and has just left to race up to the festning for the third time. I’ve just huddled on the couch and still managed to lose 5kg. But no matter. Look what these guys have been up to!

The X-Alps is an 850km race through Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France, ending in Monaco, walking and paragliding. 850km is a conservative estimate of its length, too, because that’s as the bird flies. And paragliders don’t – quite – fly like that. Oh dear, my endurance is flagging just thinking about how to describe it. It takes about two weeks, and some of the pilots walk most of the way, carrying their 20kg equipment… I’m impressed. Many contenders have to drop out due to exhaustion or injury. A couple of years ago a woman entered and had to have all her toenails removed half way through. The winners will finish tomorrow, it’s very exciting. Maybe next summer…

Maeh!

I’m sick. I haven’t had a stomach bug this bad ever. I’ll spare you the details, suffice to say I’m sleeping on the couch day and night for easy access to the bathroom (approx every 45 min). And the cramps are nasty.

I was going to write a thrilling account of the snuggle-car’s one day trek through four countries to get us back to Norway – but I’ll give you an abridged version. We left Kassel at 8 in the morning, and encountered a ridiculous two and a half hour traffic jam in Denmark. The lovie pushed the poor snuggle-car upwards of 130km (not its preferred speed), and we made it to the ferry with about one minute to spare, stressing about the inadequate road signs. I started to feel sick on the ferry and the rest is history. The lovie heroically drove most of the way, and after crawling back 3 hours through Sweden, we arrived about 2:30 am, exhausted. Now I have to recover (surely, 2 days of this is already enough), then it’s on with my chapter.

Maeh!