Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lofty Goals

I've never been one to set a lot of specific goals to get things done. Usually, I keep a list of things in my head until the list gets long and then I have to write things down, but rarely have I prioritized tasks. Nowadays people of the older generation, of which I am becoming one of depending on your perspective, make "bucket lists". These are things to do before they kick the bucket, or as we call it more directly, die.

When I turned sixty a lot of shit started to happen to remind me of my mortality (i.e. I really can be killed!). I got prostate cancer, had my knees replaced, and I got skin cancer, all within five years time. Until age sixty I had not spent the night in a hospital since I was six years old.

I have done a lot of fun things in my life, but some things call me back and I want to get a chance to do them while I have a break in my varied infirmities.

My brother and I are planning a trip back to Norway around next May and I have decided after looking at it for years that I would like to take the hike up to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock).

It sits about 2000 feet (604 meters) above Lysefjord. It is a ferry and bus trip from Stavanger to the trail base which is already at about 250 meters (820 feet) so it isn't too bad of a climb and is a well-used trail in fact. Base jumpers like it because of the shear drop off. It is less than 4 miles round trip and takes about 4 hours, so they say. I can hope for a sunny day for the photo ops.

Twenty years ago I would not have had to think twice about a spur of the moment hike like that, but ten years ago would have taken a little preparation. Now it is a different set of rules. Getting in shape takes longer now. I have been walking a mile at a fast pace most evenings after work because that is when I can squeeze it in (and I am no longer winded, only sweaty). The terrain is fairly flat. It is the same walk I took with Smokey the dog. I am not supposed to run with these new knees, but walking, biking, and cross country skiing are all okay to do. The walk from the lake to just above the farm is about a 700 foot rise over about 2-1/4 miles, so that should be a good training walk to do regularly. Keeping in shape through the winter is tougher, but there are ways and I will find them.

I was as fat as I ever have been last summer at about 224 pounds, but am closing in tight on 200 now. Should be under it by next weekend. My Buddha belly is on the wane and I will be very comfortable in about 15 more pounds. I am officially at 5' 10-3/4" according to my physical last month and while I didn't regain all my previous height when I got my new knees this is an okay place to be. Like I have a choice.

Maybe I'll get a shot like this.

I remember back to doing a spur of the moment day hike about 25 0r 30 years ago on Mt Rainier in Washington. I went from the parking lot to Camp Muir on afternoon on a whim. It started at about 5000 feet and went to 10000 feet and was five miles each way. It was a nice afternoon hike, but my running shoes were pretty well shredded from the rocks when I got done. And I felt about 6 inches shorter because of the compression on my knees, but I was just fine. Glad I did it back then.

If I am able to pull this off I will have some nice pictures to show off the following month at my 45th college reunion.

In the meantime I'll enjoy my walks and watch the changes in the plants and animals. It keeps me grounded to be aware of the cycles of life and to accept the inevitable. But the beauty in all of that still makes me smile.

Here is my walk this week.

 Lupines on top, thimbleberry flowers (solstice flowers), orange hawkweed, lupine leaves. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Life After Dog Sitting

I am trying to continue the good things Smokey the dog taught me while we cohabited. I watch the world around me and go for walks, but I don't nap as much as she does. She is nearly 15 years old which is about105 in people years so I hope I don't need to nap so much yet.

Lots of birds are back and hanging around.
This ruby-throated hummingbird kept turning his back on me, but the siskins, goldfinches, and rose-breasted grosbeaks weren't as aloof.
The purple finches were more personable.

I had to make a very quick trip to the Twin Cities to pick up a guitar that had had some maintenance done and before I headed back I found a park with free admission to go hike around. It seems Smokey got me to the point of needing to walk regularly otherwise I feel like a toad or slug or some other chubby, semi-dormant animal and get easily disgusted with myself. I get over the self loathing if I walk regularly. I feel better, too.

Basically I was walking on cross country ski trails that look like fun to ski during the cooler part of the year. Being well out of the city it was also cooler than the concrete heat sink of urban world. There are, however, some trade offs between city and country living. Here is a sign that mentions one of those things.
Most of the trails are between one and four miles in length and are relatively easy walks. My time was limited and I wasn't sure how I would hold up in the heat (it was in the low 80s) as I am not used to it.

There were lots of mighty oak trees (we don't have those this far north) and they are quite prolific judging by the quantity.

There was a bit of wildlife in the park, too, although it stayed hidden for the most part. Being the keen observer that I am (I can actually see the forest for the trees!) I spotted a few interesting denizens. A lovely garter snake showed herself and didn't crawl away from me right away. I asked if she minded if I took her picture and she said, "no" in the way garter snakes convey those things.
There was a small contingent of Canada geese. If you look closely you may be able to see the little maple leaf insignia on their wings, but you have to know just where to look.
There were nice places to sit and observe the surroundings and the bugs weren't too annoying had I chose to sit, but Smokey taught me not to do it for too long. Otherwise I might stiffen up and lose my motivation to keep pushing forward.
There was also evidence of the cycle of life that is the essence of nature. Sometimes unpleasant for we humans, but a fact of life nonetheless. This is a spot where a bird of prey caught another unsuspecting bird and ate it. It is quick and efficient and there is very little suffering involved.
Smokey's wisdom about the aging process keeps me grounded and accepting of the things I can't change. Always be happy to be among friends, get used to physical discomfort and remember all the wonders you have seen and experienced. It all makes it a bit easier to go forward with this thing called life. Smokey is a very wise dog. I still see her Monday through Friday at work and we always take our moments together as something special where we block out the rest of the world. It is just us and we touch each other and smile knowingly.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Temporary Dog

I have had a dog since the 8th of this month, but now her mother is coming home and will want her back. Her name is Smokey and she is a mixed cattle dog of 14 years. Getting kind of old for a dog, but she sleeps a lot.

We have been practicing our naps together with me on the sofa and her on the floor next to me. We are often joined by several cats who are usually on the sofa, but sometimes on the floor with her.

She goes to work with me as that is what she does with her owner who has been on vacation in Ireland and Scotland for the past weeks. She is the only one excited about going to work on a Monday morning (or Tuesday this week) because she gets to see all her friends. There are our regular customers as well as the delivery guys who often bring her treats. She has been sleeping under my desk mostly, but we go out for a nice walk at lunch time and any other time she tells me she needs to go out.

Most of the cats are indifferent to her, but some like her and a couple don't want anything to do with her. She doesn't care much one way or the other as long as they stay out of her food while she is eating. One of the cats shoved her face in the dog dish when Smokey was eating and that is the only time I heard her growl.

The highlight of our daily routine is going for our after work walk which we only missed once due to really cold rainy weather. We took that walk early today since it is a holiday here in the States, Memorial Day. Here are some pics of our daily walk.

 Marsh marigolds by the creek
A service berry bush in bloom.
Overlooking one of the ponds
Wild strawberries blooming
A stand of young Aspen trees
An old snag
 Tiny puffballs
Lupines way before the flowers come out
 Bent and broken Birch
A fungus among us
Smokey on the road again.

I have been dogless for about a year and am trying to slowly reduce the number of animals in this zoo, but I am still a softie. It is a difficult task. I get to see Smokey at work unless her owner, Judi, takes a day off, but I was honored to take care of her these past few weeks. I expect she will go right back to her old routines, but maybe she'll come and lay under my desk once in a while for old time's sake.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Norwegian language camp

I had so much fun last year that I had to go back and see if it was really as good as I remember.
It was.

I arrived at camp after they had received about 3 or 4 inches of fresh snow. Here in Minnesota we call that Spring. It started to melt the next day and by Saturday it looked like this when I walked to the main hall (Gimli) from my cabin (Bodø).
For breakfast we had koldtbord which looks like this.
We started out each day raising the Norwegian flag and singing the national anthem.

We had a morning class and afternoon class of about two hours each. This year my teacher was Arna who lived in Norway for fifteen years and is quite a good singer and artist. Here she is (foreground) singing with Kari, the program director, and Christine, who is also a wonderful teacher and singer.
We had evening programs that were either presentations about places, or poets, or family stories, and other themes of Norwegian culture. For the Saturday night banquet we had a wonderful meal of torsk (cod), potatoes, vegetables, breads, and dessert  which included some delicious homemade krumkake brought in by Ole just for the occasion.

Here are Sven and Ole (or Craig and George) with Ole standing on the fireplace hearth in order to be at the same height.
Here they are dancing with Lisa and Becky.
Dinner was delicious. My Carlsberg is the green beer bottle in the front of the picture.
songs and readings were given after dinner.

Our group of 10 sang a silly song in the Trondelag dialect. The first three verses are known, but we decided to make up a fourth verse which contained a bit of adult content. People were just about falling out of their chairs with laughter. When we finished and the audience recovered Kari went back to the front with an appalled look that she was able to hold onto for at least a minute. I hope someone recorded it as I would like to see how we did appear.

We had a few breaks and I would either take a nap or go for a walk. The walks were nice as it was delightful to hear the loons calling and feel the warmth of the spring sun. Ian, our token Floridian, found a patch of snow and threw more snowballs than I did all winter. I'm sure he needed a story to tell when he got home. Here is Ian on the right with the Paul Bunyan beard and hat.
Here are some photos from my walk.

It was a sad thing to have to leave on Sunday and I plan on going back again next year. Listening to the language, the stories, and hearing the laughter does wonders for the human soul. I feel so fortunate to be able to take a few days and go do this immersion that I understand why some of my fellow campers have been coming for more than twenty years. It is wonderful to see old friends and make new ones.