Sognefjord: A Father’s Day Passes

I dunno. Life always turns in ways you don’t expect. You set out on a journey expecting one thing, and life gives you something else.

I’m very tired today. This is the first day I’ve grieved. I have been at a low level of mourning since I found out two days ago, and I must admit to dozing on and off through my trip to Balestrand. However, there is a stave church here not far from where I’m staying, and one of the hoteliers, thinking it would give me comfort, advised me to go to this morning’s church service.

Well, it did give me comfort. I had words with the minister after the service. That’s when I lost it. I cried and cried and cried. As a result, today I’ve been very gentle with myself. Catrina and I met up for lunch and coffee. She’s out sketching and taking pictures. I’ve been out watching films about Balestrand in the winter and taking my own pictures, and resting in the room.


The view? Look, I could talk to you about the view. Catrina took pictures of the amazing trip we took through the mountains.

Yesterday our train was stopped at Al, because a fire in the mountains collapsed one of the tunnels, so we couldn’t take the trip via train. We were upset initially. We’d had quite a morning of unfriendliness trying to get to Oslo station, and this was a second straw. It could have had the domino affect of getting us late to one destination, and then later to the town where we had to connect up with the ferry to get to our village.

Instead it turned out to be a boon. We took a bus through the mountains and into the Sognefjord. Every twist and turn was another postcard moment. You will see pictures when Catrina gets them loaded. And believe me, you’ll look at all those pictures and you’ll nod, and go, “Isn’t that pretty?” I would have done the same.

I’ll probably never do that again when I look at a nature picture. Because now that I am here, I’ll realize that what I’m seeing is only an imitation of what is real. That words like “awe” and “majestic” do have real meaning and your soul can be transported solely by something beautiful that you see.

But if you see those photos later, and you close your eyes, and you think about how tiny you are against a giant stone troll, slumbering under the ground, the trees layered on top of him, his face visible in the twists of rock on the side, and if you look into the ever changing sky and light of your imagination, and never, ever see the same view twice, if you can do that in your mind’s eye, you will begin to have a sense of what this is like. It’s not anything you can hold in your hand and flip through. We try though. We can’t always be some place like here.

If God created heaven and earth in his image, and you take this as an imitation of what heaven would look like, just as photos are an imitation of where I am, I have faith that Neal is experiencing awe like this on his new voyage. That gives me some comfort, that we could be feeling the same thing at the same time.

And if you prefer that there is no afterlife, then maybe we are both sharing this here, in my imagination and my memory. And that will be sufficient unto the moment.

Neal’s obituary


Bryon writes to say that his dad is dying peacefully. He’s in a hospice room, they’re giving him morphine, and he hasn’t been conscious since Tuesday. His bodily functions have stopped except for breathing. His lungs are filling up, and they think it will be any time. I’ve had my opportunity to say goodbye before the trip. When you know someone is terminal, you wisely take those last moments about every chance you get.

Bryon doesn’t think I could be of much use right now. And he’s probably right. When you love your spouse, you try to do the best you can by them. Thanks to the Internet and Catrina’s phone, he has my words and my love. He’ll have my presence soon enough. This is hard on both of us now. It will be over soon. I will be home soon.

I will do what I can with the rest of my time here. It’s taken some of the zip out of my vacation, obviously, However, this is what being an adult is. Life is full of these sorts of things, whether they are minor or they are game changers. We do the best we can with the circumstances we’re given every day, and we try to answer them with measured, intelligent responses. This time Bryon and I have decided that the emotional comfort gained by my return would not offset the further fiscal outlay for the trip.

That seems cold to me. When I was young, I would have struggled to embrace the drama of my situation, money be damned. But yes, my presence changes essentially nothing about this situation, and I will be there for the important business of helping Bryon and his mother grieve when I get home. Being grown up and practical sure does sting.

I’m sure there’s a story in this some where that might be cathartic. Which could be all right. A little cathart, that is.

Just so you know, I am doing the things I came to do. Catrina and I spent part of yesterday at the Norwegian Folk Museum. The trip has been great just for catching the aspects of what it means to be part of this culture. We will visit the National Gallery and Akershus Castle tomorrow.

I think all of the natural beauty of the next two days at the fjords will really help me with the heart of the next troll book, as well as the condition of my heart right now.

It goes without saying that the troll book rewrite and its sequel will be devoted to Neal and Phyllis now. I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything to anyone but me, but it is enough that it means it to me.

See you all stateside soon.


Twists and Turns

Last night, I received an email or two about Bryon’s father. I don’t know if I will be cutting this last part of the trip short or not. Neal is unresponsive, in the hospital, and the family is there. Except for me, because I chose an unfortunate time to schedule my vacation. I know with a terminal disease it would be morbid to stay at home and be on death watch, but I wish this had happened when I was in Minnesota, say, or Madison later this summer.

At any rate, I am certainly appreciative of my good travel friend. Catrina has been very supportive and I think it would be a lot harder without her here. After her Iceland antics early in the week, she invested in an international phone, so at least I can call later tonight, and see how Bryon, his mom, and the rest of the family are doing.


At the same time, while I was out here in the field, I have an acceptance on a short story I just wrote, The Turtle of the World. Pending a rewrite of the last super explicit sex scene, which tends to overshadow the subtle sexuality of the rest of the story, it will appear in Cucurbital 2 from Paper Golem Press. I know easily how to rewrite it so it’s not quite so explicit. Just waiting on word from the editor about any other edit notes he might have.


And I’ve had a big breakthrough with the Klarion books. One of those waking dreams which kept me from sleeping the other night. I took notes, so I will sit down to write and recapture that at first opportunity. Which isn’t today. Today is all about folk research for the rewrite and sequel to the troll book. At least I will have that much for sure out of the trip.


See you guys later. I have a bus to catch. And things to think about.


More Helsinki

Catrina finally made it last night, late. Today we went to the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki so she could get her Gallen-Kallela fix without going all the way to Espoo. After that, we explored the city, shopped, and had a little cafe conversation about a variety of life things.

Right now she’s in the sauna, which I did yesterday. I have stayed back in the room to work on a little writing stuff and relax. The jet lag is catching up with me!

Here are some other things I’m noticing about Helsinki.

–Food is really salty here. Like, everyone seems to want me to buy a beer or something.

— Except the cupcakes which have jam in them. Which are excellent, by the way.

–People really like dogs. We’ve seen a lot of dogs out walking with their owners, enjoying the weather.

–i said it in Edinburgh and I’ll say it again in Helsinki. Cobblestones lose their charms when YOU’RE the tourist.


Anyway, tomorrow, we’re off to Castle Town Turku for a couple of days there before a mad dash back to Helsinki to fly to Oslo.

I haven’t seen any trolls yet. I didn’t expect to, so that’s fair. And I’ve been keeping my eyes open for witch shot.

Helsinki Report

This part of the trip, I’m on vacation, while Catrina does her research. Which isn’t exactly working out for her, because she is still stuck in Iceland. This means she’ll essentially have missed two days of Helsinki when she gets here. If she gets here. This is pretty bad luck. I feel sorry for her. Needless to say, tomorrow will be kind of all about what she wants to do.

So, what have I been doing while I’ve been here? Atmosphere, mostly. I figured I’d spend the day waiting around for Catrina with a couple of small trips. I checked out the train station, some of the street areas, visited the tourism office to make plans to go to Suomenlinna (if that’s what she wants to do now) and go to Turku. I’ve also been collecting a few mental snapshots, as well as snapping up some street scenes.

So far–

Went down to the marketplace to see the boats and the food stalls. Will probably head that way for dinner tonight.

Sleeping and not sleeping. I just woke up from an hour and a half nap, which was great, and I expect another pocket of no sleep tonight.

Discovered the 30-centimeter sub at Subway, which seems familiar somehow. Did not eat it, but found it amusing.

Found out that sunscreen in Finland can be pricetastic, so don’t forget yours when you come.

Am not seeing a lot of little cars. Usually, when I come abroad, I get to see tiny cars that are as cute as a button. Helsinki seems to be a city of right-sided drivers who like medium-sized cars. Take that, my American stereotypes.

Found the public toilet in Finland interesting. VERY clean, and has hand washing designed in, but not the easiest to use. Also, since I have traveled in Japan, I always have tissue with me. Which turns out to be a good thing.

Like free European breakfast. They do that very well.

Could tire of rye bread while I’m here. It could happen.

It’s pretty warm here. I may have packed the wrong clothes. My summer dresses may get a lot of play.


Tonight I will use the hotel’s sauna. I’m off to grab a little something to eat and drink. I will spend some time writing tonight because hey, it’s here, I’m here, and tomorrow will be all about the tourism.

I hope you are all well.



I’m leaving for my big Scandinavian adventure tomorrow. I wanted to leave a marker here for myself. I hope to be writing about the experience as I go, but I wanted to remind myself that I owed you two movie reviews ( Kung Fu Panda 2 and X-Men: First Class) at some point.

I also want to thank all the nice people out the reading the Exploding Watermelon story. Today I’ll get that in the best shape I can, based on the feed back that comes in, and ship it out tomorrow morning before I go.


When I get back, I’ll have about two days to sleep, and it’ll be all about The Clarion Write-a-thon. Remember: to see the Klarion/Clarion log, you need to donate $10. To be entered into the critique drawing, you need to donate $25. More money is acceptable. It’s for a good cause.


And no, I haven’t forgotten about that make-up post either.

I will wave at you all from exotic ports of call, if I can.