Monthly Archives: December, 2015

Roving in Review: 2015

Roving in Review: 2015

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The 2015 segment of my Roving Scholar experience is in the books. I have written plenty of words about my time teaching in Norway thus far, so here are some numbers.

In 2015, this Roving Scholar:
-presented at 1 academic conference
-traveled to 13 of the 19 regions of Norway
-visited 25 different Norwegian high schools to present workshops for students and teachers
-spent 51 days teaching at Norwegian high schools
-conducted 104 workshops
-reached 2732 people

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Implicit in my title is travel, and boy did I ever. For a certifiable “homebody” in Iowa this has been a sea-change for me. According to my trusty spreadsheet my travels have totaled:
-5,542 kilometers in the air
-2,243 kilometers by local and regional bus
-2008 kilometers on trains
-976 kilometers by foot
-471 kilometers with city-rail
-and 5 hours on ferries

I do not have a car in Norway. All my transportation is done on Mass Transit. I have become quite fond of Mass Transit, in Norway it actually works.

The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 52: The Past and Future of Wild Things

The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 52:

IMG_5087Goodbye 2015, may the promises of the Paris Climate Accords (COP21) offer a new year of hope us and our planet in 2016. This blue marble is our only home, there is no Plan B.

New birds:

Sivhøne (Gallinua chloropus)

 

 

The Past and Future of Wild Things

Only pale blue sky hung over the pond. The water had direct access to the heavens and freedom, such a stark contrast from the ubiquitous iron fencing and netting of Zoo Berlin. The varied ducks coursing the water looked content. I abandoned my family to examine the assemblage. They could look at the lions or whatever in cages, I wanted to see some wild ducks.

Wednesday was our last day in Berlin, and the zoo was the day’s only goal. With every back sporting a rucksack, we checked out of the Berlin Fjord Hotel and walked to the subway station about a kilometer away. The “U2” line would take us right to zoo, disappointingly it had no related music pumped in.

IMG_5139The destination is older than most of America. Since 1844, the zoo has showed attendees the wonders of the wild world. In 1844, there were 26 United States. The entrance gate was imposing and inviting; the magic of sculptured masonry and wrought iron. A low sun was in the offing and mild temperatures confused me given that Christmas was at hand.

 

IMG_5065Who doesn’t love a zoo, especially in the company of children with a sense of wonder? A reason adults like zoos is a chance to realize childhood, to take back in those sights and sounds, and most evocating, the smells of happys days and youthful innocence. Perhaps my Norwegian friends would say that’s called, “stemning.”

Zoo Berlin claims the most species of any zoo in the world, that alone is a cause for visiting. There is an oak that survived World War Two; predating the Columbian Exchange it has its own sign. But with a historic premises the zoo itself is an attraction, animals aside. Buildings from a more decorative age draw eyes to animal enclosures and add to the ambiance. But The Sunday Nature Call isn’t about buildings.

As a historic zoo, the Berlin complex reveals its vintage not just in masonry but also design. The enclosures seemed small and uninteresting for the animals. IMG_5117Clearly the style dates from a time in which maximum exposure was the driving interest, not wellness for the captives.

Old zoos also make me sad. I look at wild animals dulled by captivity and feel a sense of loss. Yes, there is a Reticulated Giraffe but he should be alarmed at my presence. His muscles should be rippling under his hairy coat – ready to flee at any moment – but he loafs and his majesty is reduced to the depth of a simple painting. He walks so slowly in the enclosure it’s as if he’s purposely trying to take as long as he can to reach the next morsel as a way to make time pass.

For millions of Berliners, this zoo has been a windowpane into a wider wild world. Yet, the metaphor also implies a barrier. Glass allows you to see but not to touch, to hear-but not fully, to smell only the overpowering odors-not subtle fragrances, and to taste only what is on your “civilized” side of the pane. Maybe windows don’t let us really sense much at all, illusions like the world that we think emanates from our TV and intimate computer screens?

I have been so fortunate to experience wildlife in their natural habitats. Through hiking, fishing, hunting, and paddling I have experienced in full all my five senses with wild things. Zoos can compliment these experiences, they can be inspirations to engage the natural world.

This trip to Zoo Berlin reminded me of all the happy times I was taken to zoos. I was also reminded that zoos are not natural. Zoos need to be as naturalistic as possible even though they can never be natural. Patrons need to be taught in multiple modalities that these animals are captives, shells of their wild selves. They are no more creatures in full than you would be if locked up in Leavenworth.

IMG_5100Angling around the pond I got a photo of a Netta rufina, to my delight swimming among the horde of Anas platyrhynchos. Then to my surprise I spotted a magnificently plumed Aix sponsa. Finally, to my disappointment I realized these birds were not wild at all, they too were captives. There were species here not possible in the wild, surely all their wings were clipped. The sky above was as inaccessible to them as it they were under a net. Another illusion.

Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.

That was it?

That was it?

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The predictions of gloom from my countrymen about the diminished daylight at this high latitude were greatly exaggerated. The winter solstice has came and went, and I feel none the worse. In fact, I’m probably in some of the best shape I’ve been in years.

On the solstice, there were 5:53 of daylight in Oslo, latitude 60º. I actually welcomed the day of little sun in Berlin. Berlin rests at 53º North; we enjoyed a full 7:39 of daylight. For reference, my Iowa home at 42º had 9:07 of sunlight.

Did the days seem shorter in Oslo than in Iowa? Yes, of course they did, what a silly question. But short days felt more like an exaggeration of my normal winter world. What was the noticeably strange element was the altitude of the sun.

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29 November 2015, 2:56 PM, Bygdøy

Solar altitude is just a fancy way of saying how high the sun gets in the sky. During summer the sun seems to hang up high in the sky, broiling everything in Iowa: high altitude. In the winter, even short buildings can blot out the sun: low altitude.

The greater the latitude the more extreme the altitude of the sun. That was the change I most noticed. My Norwegian neighbors had to search for a  sun that struggled to climb 7º above the horizon. I saw an altitude of double that in Berlin. The solstice low for Iowa was a towering 25º.

The good news is that at such a low angle, the sun baths all that it touches with a rich light. The trees, rocks, and even some people, just look so much better in that low light. In southern Norway, this has meant my waking daylight hours have been especially beautiful when the sky has been clear, and not just the golden hours at dawn and dusk.

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26 December 2015, 1:27 PM, Oslo

The bad news is that the sun is so weak that it cannot melt ice. The walkways, the roads, seemingly everything gets a coat of frost for the season. Pedestrian beware. Today we “basked” in the sunlight at a local ice rink. It was a lovely scene. Yet facing the sun to take in its effect only got me temporary blindness, no warmth for my checks. I did feel our black duffle bag and noticed a touch of absorbed warmth, but it could not get hot.

Since 3 August, my Oslo daylight has diminished by 10:49. I refuse to say “lost” because the days are still just as long, there is just less light. The days still need to be lived; think of yourself more as a wolf than a bear.

I didn’t predict having a problem with minimal daylight, and I’m glad I was right. What I am worried about is the coming disappearance of darkness. The perpetual daylight of the Norwegian summer is something I think I will find very unsettling.

My newspaper story on the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony

My newspaper story on the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, the companion to my blog posting of photos. Published in the “Insight” section of the Cedar Rapids paper, The Gazette, 20 December 2015

The Gazette

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The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 51: We Go Up, We Go Down, Very Nice!

Off the schneid! Leave it to Lister to give me another surprise. I came to the Lister area to teach. But I also got to see a couple of new birds. The Lister area is one of the top birding areas in Norway – lucky me. However it’s off season, Lister has it magic during migration season. Perhaps I’ll find a reason to return.


New birds: 2*

Melanitta fusca

Scolopax rusticola

*Sothøne, seen 20 October in Stavanger, finally got around to reviewing the picture

 

We Go Up, We Go Down, Very Nice!

“Jesus!” my mind screamed and I felt like I lept five feet into the air. What was that? That sound, it tore the peace of the misty forest apart. “There, ghosts!” my eyes gathered in all the intell. No, wooly sheep. “Oh,” and my focus returned to the soggy trail and my guide, stay with my guide because I am somewhere in Norway but exactly where?

 

I was running in the Lister area, Farsund was my base for the week; consult the map and then return to this blog. Good.

Norway has two envious paradigms. One, a person is able to walk-hike-run just about anywhere the heart desires, Allemannsrett (“Everyman’s Right” in english). Two, personal health is a national imperative, that is, eat well, exercise, and don’t become a burden.

Following my Tuesday lesson at Lister VgS – Eilert Sundt, there was the important time to socialize with the other teachers in the Personal Room (teachers’ lounge…in Norway they really know how to do the teachers’ lounge. Note, must be part of the social connections at school, it is just expected. Plus Norwegian teachers don’t have their own classrooms so the lounge really is an important home base).

IMG_4495 (1)I was introduced to Vidar (psydonemn) while having a cup of coffee, from their custom dinner service #pride. My host for the day told him that I liked to run on my travel. She told me that Vidar was a local running guide. At first glance you may not think that he was a gonzo athlete but you’d be wrong, very wrong. He reminded me of a favorite teacher from days of high school past.

“Can you be ready by 12:20?” he asked. “Yes,” was my immediate response, I didn’t want to even bother to consider having a conflict. Now I just had to get to my hotel ASAP and change.

I was late but he was forgiving. I’ve alway appreciated the kindness of strangers. With a hairy black dog in the back of the van we had a quick drive to the coast. I planned on running the length of the beach and back – my tactic to avoid getting lost – he was going to run with the dog to the top of a local promontory.

I have right to traverse the beach, throw shells back into the sea, watch for birds, and to dream. This community has some of the better beaches in Norway. They will create a trail, most with handicap accessibility, some 40 kilometers long up the coast. Room for anyone to wander, a destination for the wellness of body and soul, a place not for sale.

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Any thoughts I had about running in a steady manner ground to a halt as soon as I got the beach: the gentle lap of waves, the force of the wind, and the vision out into the abyss stopped me. Pictures, an attempt to do a Periscope (live-streaming app) and a quick video for my family turned the run into an intermittent stroll.

It was late December but the Gulf Stream gives this coast a gift of warmth, it was about 5 degrees centigrade. Overcast skies were a leaden dome but they couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. After enough pics I needed to get running or I’d would run out of daylight. The sunset was at 3:42.

And just when I got a good pace, my run was stopped again; birds on the water. Several dark and large duck-like birds, and a couple of petite and light grey feathered swimmers. The low light, my eyeballs, and little iPhone thwarted any definitive observations. Okay, keep running.

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Another good pace, an even rhythm on the firm sand, righteous running. The shoreline here has lovely stones and rocky outcroppings like most of Norway, but also sandy dunes with swaying grasses. The roots fight with the waves for the sand, they have for 10,000 years.

 

Here comes Vidar and the dog. He said the path was hard to follow because of all of the rain so he came back to guide me, stout fellow! Farewell shoreline safety, good. Vidar and the dog alternated being the leader, I followed.

IMG_4533We passed through a gate to control the sheep. A long dark bird was on water like before, but this one was close. Vidar said something was amiss, it didn’t try to flee. I got a good picture and then spotted a corpse of a recently deceased of the species. Maybe they were companions?

 

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Now we’re through the dunes and marshes. Just off the beach the wind disappeared and all sorts of new sounds invaded. During the occupation, the Germans fortified this part of the Norwegian coast with an intensity. We ran past numerous ruins of bunkers, pillboxes, and fortifications. I was reminded of my visit to Normandy. Sheep grazed a distant hill, they are used as natural vegetation management. The dog pulled, Vidar pulled back, victory to the biped.

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Across a road we scrambled up Skjolnesveten. This was adventure IMG_4541running: novel, a little risky, imperfect weather, camaraderie, and a goal. A bird exploded away to our left. I asked if it was a grouse, Vidar said it was a Rugde, he made a motion with his fingers about his nose to explain that it had a long thin bill. At 15:18 we reached the summit. The view was thoroughly modern: reclaimed natural areas, the timeless sea, and a massive Aloca smelting plant. And down we went.

The route down was the hard part, caution being the better part of valor. Returning via a different route we spooked a Roe deer, and got our feet good and wet. At the car they drove off, I opted to run back to the hotel. It was a chance to extend the run and to see more of the industrial harbor where two ships were docked.

A couple of weeks ago a Norwegian friend related a story about some hill climbers. They were friends of his who were on holiday. The country in question had certain hills that were off limits or required a local guide, a concept not well accepted by the travels. The pair had bagged the peak and were on their way down when they were confronted by an officer demanding their papers and interrogating them about their poached climb. The duo played dumb and just kept repeating in a pigeon english, “We go up, we go down, very nice!” with toothy grins for added effect. The officer finally gave up and they all went on their way.

What rights do you have to enjoy God’s earth by your own power? In Iowa you are limited. On a few rivers you have the right to float but the shoreline is private. Wisconsinites are free to course any body of water, even if it’s only seasonal. Ola and Kari Nordmann enjoy almost total access to rivers, the exceptions are exceptional. Because of Allemannsrett they can walk the fields and forests, camp most anywhere they please, and not stress about fencerows or property lines. I am jealous.

IMG_4582 (1)Thursday was my second date with Vidar. He had shown me on Wednesday an internet map of the destination. “This is a special place,” he pointed to a part of the route. I have heard that a lot in Norway. Seems in every locale there is a hill, rivulet, or forested grove that is special. But the labels have been always pronounced with sincerity, bordering on reverence.

The fog and mist that greeted the sunrise Thursday decided to make a day IMG_4595of it. We ran anyways. Like Tuesday, it was a melange of modernity. We parked next to a new auto tunnel that ran 3 kilometers under the mountain, we ran next to the century old canal that linked the sea to Framvaren and then up the ancient Fossekleiven to the saturated meadows and forests of Raufjellt.

“Over there a German airplane crashed,” pointed Vidar. He said some people died. “Germans,” he added as almost an afterthought for clarity. It was a detail that only added to the contemplativeness of the place.

We were near the point of beginning our descent. We went down through a surprisingly all deciduous forest by way of a switchback trail. I got a lesson from Vidar about how the oak and good wood here was taken by the Danes, and then English to built their fleets. The Dutch built Amsterdam on oak pilings.

The surf, forests, and mountains are for play and pleasure but also history lessons. These sweeps of nature, in all their steep glory, are here to impart health and happiness. They are open to you and me to explore, enjoy, and embrace. And if you are really lucky, you can get an education and a new friend.

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Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh

author’s note: landscape photos filtered “mono”, running photos filtered “chrome”

The Wheels on the Bus

The Wheels on the Bus

9:38 “Now that’s a lovely sculpture for such a remote village,” I thought as my bus rounded yet another bend. “How many bends is that?” I lost track because I never bothered to start counting. Look there, another sculpture, big and grey…and a lot like that first one I saw. Pattern.
No, these were not isolated oddities of sculpture but part of a larger display. Now I wish I had taken a picture of the first one. Alas, an iPhone picture though the window of a moving bus is such a disappointing artifact. It’s much better to just watch and enjoy. Maybe on the return trip I can be better prepared.
Destination Farsund, about as far south in Norway as you can get. And it’s not too easy a trip for the carless. Monday afternoon was a 151 kilometer train ride from Drammen to the airport. A 280 kilometer flight to Kristiansand and then a 45 minute indirect route bus ride to the hotel. The route was my error, don’t diss the bus! Tuesday morning was #900 bus from Kristiansand to Farsund to teach at Lister Vigergaenda Skole – Eilert Sundt. Got all that?
image7:56 I am out the door of the Thon Hotel Kristiansand. The air was crisp, the Christmas season lighting was ablaze, and a gaze of ice coated the walks and the streets. My destination was the transportation hub, just a couple of blocks. But new territory in the dark is a recipe for unplanned detours.
7:57 An old man is in a parking lot to my left. He has a cane and is testing the patch of ice he has found himself on. I wonder if he’s stuck. I walk and watch. He shuffles a little here and a little there. It’s not locomotion but he’s not static either. I’m getting to the point of losing sight and then he makes it to the handrail. I’m relieved. Do old men on the ice ever believe they were young?
7:58 The Color Line cruise ship is leaving port. As an inlander from America, the sight of large ocean-going vessels at all, let alone so close to shore is captivating. They light my imagination.
8:00 The depot. I didn’t walk the most direct route here but I made it and it wasn’t raining: victory. The depot is old and worn. It is not old and interesting, not historically old. Just old and run down. A city as beautiful as Kristiansand deserves better. An unpleasant companion in the depot is the sound of the floor sticking and then giving way to the soles of my shoes. I don’t want to sit and I can’t stand still. So I noisily pace.
The fellow inhabitants seem to be emotionally mediated by the depot, such a quiet and sullen group. The most disheveled among us intermittently sleeps on a bench. Others take turns going outside for a smoke.image
I spend my time walking amongst the self-promotional posters for the bus service and anxiously awaiting the 900 bus. It leaves from station #1. Nothing yet, I walk back into the depot.
Ah, there it is. I see it approach the other side of depot so I gather my things and head out into the chill. Nothing. It doesn’t come. Pangs of panic begin; I go back into the depot.
The bus is parked. The driver is taking a break before his scheduled time to arrive.
8:24 The driver exits the restroom and heads to the bus. I hear it rumble to life, on my way to station #1.
8:25 My debit card is good. 186 crowns and I take my seat, port side and amidships.
8:30 Without fanfare or really even a warning, we are off.
8:32 First stop, “Bellevue.”
8:37 We are eight passengers and the driver. Highway E39 winds through the west of Kristiansand. The road lies between sharp cuts in the rock. It is really like most any divided, two-lane highway in the Midwest. The bus stops that line the road are the difference.
8:39 The guy behind me moved to the back. Good. I can’t understand why he’d sit RIGHT BEHIND me in the first place.
8:40 Entering Songdalen Kommune. In America when you enter a new town you get a sign with letters. In Norway you get the letters plus a large picture of community’s symbol. It is more inviting and memorable. You can look up Songdalen’s symbol on the internet, I’m not going to tell.
8:45 Three middle school-aged kids get off. The local bus also serves as the school bus, seems like a pretty efficient system.

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8:50 Pockets of flat land parallel the highway here and there. Reclaimed from road building, now repurposed as hay and grain fields. The bounty lies wrapped in white.
8:57 A saltwater inlet, deep into the forest. Cottages and boathouses are speckled about the shores. It is the quiet season, the boats wait. People have lived here for a hundreds of years. Are they ready for the sea level to rise?
8:59 Mandal Kommune, another sign, another pretty picture. The speed limit is 70 km/h. The road is a serpentine ribbon. I bet in America you could drive faster. To date, there have been no, none, ZERO child fatalities in automobiles. I’m not sure what’s more amazing: zero in Norway, or that we accept that “x” children in America will die in cars.
9:04 A raft of ducks on the small lake to the left. They are dark blobs on the water. The grey skies deny me identification. A Goldeneye duck is alone in the water near the road. A brace of swans flies overhead.
9:06 Pop radio is ubiquitous. The driver is in his 60s, does he like it or does he use it for noise? Something is playing that sounds like a bad copy of Rhiana. Maybe its just actually her without the autotuning.
9:13 A city, Mandal. We pass a car dealership, it looks like any such place in the States. The rectangular building, glass walls, agents at desks under very bright lights trying to look busy.

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9:15 We are actually stopped in Mandal, I guess this is evidence of the city’s status. We are parked outside the knitting shop, “nille.”
9:18 Rolling, farewell to the bundles of yarn arrayed on the walls. So many colors, so many possibilities. I don’t have a real Norwegian sweater, but I don’t want to buy one of the commercially-made ones. I need to find a little old lady.
It should be sunrise by now. It is light enough now that you can see pretty clearly. But there is a heavy overcast. It is dim and there are no shadows.
9:29 Tiny farms, homes and cottages here and there, the work of a surveyor must be steady employment.
9:34 We pass “Tredal” factory, a manufacturer of trailer for cars. Here they are called hangers.
9:36 Hokkah Minnesota? Was that the Root River? And all these statues, clearly there’s a theme. Eureka! I spy a name on a building, Vigeland. Ah, one-in-the-same no doubt. But that’s it and we are through the town, back on E39.
9:44 A hint of blue in the sky. The overcast is thinning in spots.

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9:50 A slow climb up a steep hill. More signs warning of moose, still no sign of moose.
9:53 Picked up an older lady, now we are four and the driver. We all sit in the front half. Our location is just east of Rom, along a little branch of the Lygna River.
9:56 We added a father and a young daughter at the stop in Rom. She might be four; she wants to sit ALONE!
9:58 Check, a young boy with ginger hair.
10:03 “Yeah,” yells the boy when the bus stops, they exit. Lyngdal, a big stop and exchange. We are 10 now and I’m the oldest person on the bus. The driver is new too, clearly younger than me. We pass a sculpture, a grey concrete-like rectangle, open with silhouettes for sides. What is it? I first saw this sculpture in Stavanger, then other places, now here. Do you have an answer? The road crosses an expanse of flats, atypical. An ancient flood plain?
10:09 I now imagine I’m on the road from Centerville to Arcadia Wisconsin, Highway 93.
10:10 A tunnel, 940 meters.
10:12 Tunnel number three, this one is short. Signs for Farsund camping and Farsund resorts dot the road, not long now.
10:15 Farsund, I leave the bus. The buildings are mostly white, the clouds have reclaimed the sky. Now I drag my luggage to the school. I’ll try this street.

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The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 50: Who Blinked?

The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 50: Who Blinked?

A week of ice and expectations. The ice was everywhere, the walking paths, entrances to buildings, roads and bridges. But, it’s Norway so you, read Y-O-U, need to deal with it. Wear cleats, buy running shoes with spikes, take your time…but don’t expect a load of salt to melt your path. That would be a luxury the taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to bear. I don’t mind, in fact it seems logical in application. Now if I could just give myself permission to buy some of those cool spiked winter running shoes.

New birds: 0

There was a new bird but I couldn’t identify it, story of my life. It was a dominant gray bird, looked like a duck, in the Gloma River at Elverum. Someone please remind me to pack my binoculars.

Who Blinked?

The 1991 Environmental Almanac has been a fixture on my bookself at school. I have been able to use and reuse its content. One nugget from the book is the discussion about manmade greenhouse gases and the predictability of global warming and catastrophic climate change. 1991!

Imagine if we had really taken seriously the scientifically-based and empirically validated finds in 1991 and acted. Even if we had acted slowly, dilberatlely, a plan to take 25 years to fully enact, imagine.

Twenty five years later we are wringing our hands and smiling with a bitten lip about the accomplishments of the Paris Climate Talks. Now, we are going to act, slowly and deliberately. I am thankful that the world has done something but the details of the agreement are still too much for me to digest: Who wins, who loses, at whose expense?

Global warming isn’t about middle-class midwesterners anxious about losing their tradition of cross-country skiing. Global warming is not a liberal conspiracy to reign in powerful corporations. Global warming is not a cause célèbre to be succeeded by new interests and passions.

Global warming is about ruining the lives of innocent people. The people of Bangladesh, for example, have committed no crimes other than living. With global warming, caused by you and me and our high-carbon lifestyles, has potentially doomed them to ruin. Global warming means sealevel rise, means Bangladesh floods, means 50 million + people loose their homes, just Bangladesh. What did they do to deserve it?

What did Florida do to deserve it? What did Denmark do to deserve it? What did Singapore do to deserve it? Shall I go on?

I do believe a united world community can stop and even reverse the trend of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I aslo believe that the hydrocarbon industries, the most profitable and powerful business concerns on the planet, will not give away their futures (see Dodge v. Ford Motor Company, 1919).

Discussing the topic with a new friend I hit upon the analogy of slavery in America. I didn’t want to because I don’t like to link or compare America’s original sin with anything; it needs to stand alone and be exposed fully. But in this case I did insomuch as oil is such a dominant and seemingly immutable part of the American economy and identity that it can’t be challenged. Yet it can, but the costs to reset the social order are  horrendous.

If, when, Bangladesh floods with saltwater to the point of inhabitability, then imagine the upheavel for the world? 50 million people trying to resettle. Such an event would destablize South East Asia and India. Which would destablize Pakistan and China. Which would…America.

We can bear those costs a little over time or be overwhelmed in an instance? I prefer the conservative and cautious approach.

I leave you with a quote from of one of my heros, Professor Howard Zinn. It is long but you deserve it in full. “TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh

Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony

Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony

A small poem and a some photos from my time at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony at City Hall, Oslo, 12 December 2015. The longer write-up is done but on hold.

 

In the Name of Peace

Alfred’s birthday had a strong breeze

From Norskies én camera, no need to please

Dissidents, heros, mothers and more

2015, from Tunisia these four

To love thy neighbor is not too much to ask, please

 

 

Early, no crowd yet.

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A little entrance music from the Army Staff Band

 

 

Reception

 

 

The Central Hall

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Four chairs recently occupied by the Royal Family

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US Diplomatic car, outside a coffee shop after the ceremony. NOBODY drives big black suburbans here expect you-know-who.

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Koselig; Or, Lost in Translation

Koselig; Or, Lost in Translation

 

So simple, so warm is a hytte.

Å livet må én til et sted i skogen? Jo, da!

 

Too kind, too kind but we must accept.

Så snill, så snill om tid som er mørket.

 

Snow, yes, but it’s only a bonus.

Å gå på ski, ikke alene, men med oss.

 

Dough and fingers and giggles flow.

Vår hjerter, med varmlighet, skulle vi aldri gå?

 

There is no time, yet the clock trudges on.

Vennskap, mat, til meg sier du, “Heisann.”

 

Is it true, no english word exists? Possibly.

Koselig.

 

 

 

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So simple, so warm is a hytte.

Å livet må én til et sted i skogen? Jo, da!

 

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Too kind, too kind but we must accept.

Så snill, så snill om tid som er mørket.

 

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Snow, yes, but it’s only a bonus.

Å gå på ski, ikke alene, men med oss.

 

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Dough and fingers and giggles flow.

Vår hjerter, med varmlighet, må vi aldri gå?

 

 

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There is no time, yet the clock trudges on.

Vennskap, mat, til meg sier du, “Heisann.”

 

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Is it true, no english word exists? Possibly.

Koselig.

The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 49: Four Seasons in Stavanger

The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 49: Four Seasons in Stavanger

It’s been a dynamic of week of weather and terrain, including Oslo, Stavanger, and the ski trails east of Lillehammer.

New birds: 0

I did get to see a Bucephala clangula up close at Mosvatnet in Stavanger, not a new bird but nice. Alas, too dark to take a photo with the iPhone.

Four Seasons in Stavanger

imageThat old and conspicuous truck is what awoke my mind to look around and be alert. No, I wasn’t in any danger of getting hit. I was sporting my new hi-viz gaiters on my running shoes in addition to my full refleks kit. But I wasn’t paying attention; I had been to Stavanger before.

Running in new places has been one of my private joys in Norway. A beckoning pedestrian path, an undiscovered forest, twisting and narrow city streets, and new bridges are stimulants for my appetite to run. I have gone on several runs of two hours that felt like joyrides – all the newness makes the kilometers melt away.

In contrast, I now find my section of Oslo staid and uninspiring for a run. In Røa, running has become work. I hope it snows soon so I can ski for a change.

On Monday,  I touched down in Stavanger from my 9:00 flight from Oslo. At Gardermoen the grounds were covered in frost and ice. Some snow survived in shaded patches. Ice was not in the cards for Stavanger, it rarely is.

The moderating effect of the Gulf Stream still surprises me. The daylight and my mind say the weather should be bitterly cold. My skin falsifies those claims. It won’t get warm in Stavanger, but it also won’t get cold.

Walking past the ancient cathedral I was caught in a shower of sleet. Frozen BBs cascaded, like a hose had just been turned on full blast. Crunch-crunch went my feet. Bracketed by rain, the ice pellets wouldn’t last long. It was like vernal sleet in Iowa: quick, dispiriting, but temporary. Sleet, a sign of spring.

Within the hour I was off for a run. My legs were sore from an excessive session of squats on Saturday but I hoped some movement would help (it didn’t). From the hotel I started my run along a familar route at the harbor but got stopped by an unexpected sight: billowing clouds.

imageThe far mountains of my prairie home are the summer Stratocumulus clouds that blow up in the afternoon heat. They form temporary formations as impressive as any in the Sangre De Cristo. And when the low light of evening reflects off their battlements and peaks, it is easy to pause and just stare. They invite wonderment.

The clouds in Norway have been different because I haven’t noticed thunderhead growing towards the heavens. Today was different. Warm weather clouds were working their advective magic over the harbor. The light is low at this latitude and the sight took me home for moment. Cumulous clouds, a sign of summer.

After that old pickup truck snapped me back from my runner’s hypnosis, I was reminded of how amazing Stavanger was. Tomorrow was the beginning of atmospheric winter and I was at 58 degrees North. Yet the temperature was moderate and I had no fear of frostbite. From my path I could see across the harbor, across the Stavanger City Bridge and see the distant mountains. The bands of snow falling on their peaks alternately revealed and concealed their white collections. Snow, a sign of winter.

imageI headed northwest along the harbor only to get stopped by construction. My double-back into the neighbors got me a little turned around. I found myself running up to a school of some sort. It was a school, but nothing like I’ve seen in America. The Stavanger offshore tekniske skole was a training center for work on and around the oil platforms of the North Sea.

imageAt the school’s campus I got stopped again, they were on a dead end. The next stop would be over the cliff and into the harbor. Switching course I got stopped again, this time by a warming vision, a rose. A red rose in bloom, up against one of the campus buildings. The rose called and I answered. The fragrance was weak as were the blooms but they were lovely.

Actually, here was a row of rose bushes. Surprising charms of red on dark green foliage. They softened the footings of the institutional building. Roses, no longer budding due to the weak sunlight. Foliage all around, turning dark, littering the ground with brown corpses of the halcyon days of summer. Fading flowers and falling leaves, a sign of autumn.

Usually when I want to experience several seasons I need to watch a movie or exploit the appliances of modernity in my home. In Stavanger, I just had to go outside.

Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh