Dec 31, 2007

Loud 'n' clear

It's New Year's Eve, December 31st, and all afternoon, some kids have been lighting firecrackers and simpler fireworks. It's not legal; they need to be over 18, but not a single adult, not even me, has said a word to the 10 or so boys who have been happily lighting stuff, and diving for cover as sparks and smoke fly out of control and whistles while banging, whistling and crackling.

I could lean out my window and yell at them. However, in today's world, the boys would very likely yell back, and carry on with the fireworks. I have instead chosen to be amused by them, to wish them safe and noisy fun, and to actually enjoy some of the action through my window. I do have one of the best seats in the house, for what may be one of the last new year's eves with regular folks allowed to send off their own fireworks. Because it tends to injure people, that sort of thing. (Ya think?) But as the Norwegians say, luck works better than brains (lykken er bedre enn forstanden).

I'm home alone, typing a new year's letter to myself, planning what I want to focus on in 2008, all while drinking a huge pot of tea and with a pumpkin pie waiting for me.It has occurred to me that the racket from the rockets hasn't bothered me at all, but has actually kept me on track. It's New Year's! Focus on that! Yes'm.

I have greeted 2006 and 2007 with friends, away from home. This year I can indulge in a personal ritual I have for New Year's Eve, one that has made being alone on this evening not at all lonely, but one filled with meditation, personal peace and a connection to the world as it happily and noisily marks time:

I have a book of spiritual poems for every month of the year and their holidays. From that book I take a poem for the end of the year and one for the beginning. I also write a letter of gratitude for things in the year past, and wishes for the year to come (written as affirmations). A little before midnight, I light a candle and read the end-of-year poem, then my letter. At midnight, I watch my neighbors try (and fail) to set everything on fire, then, when the fireworks have died down a bit, I read my new-year poem and re-read my letter.

There is one thing I wish were different on New Year's Day: That Grandma was still here to watch the New Year's concert from Vienna with me. The music and ballet are just not the same without her and her delighted commentary. But I will watch without her. I (too) love Viennese waltzes!

Culture collision from the past

I went a little nuts this December and bought me a bunch of DVDs. Among my purchases were a few in glorious black and white, including "12 Angry Men", which I watched last night.

I knew the plot, I knew the outcome, but what got my attention this time around, was the reaction of the men to the one juror's racist tirade. One by one, the men get up and quietly move to a position where the racist speaker can see only their backs. There is no pre-arranged agreement to do that that I could see. Each man got up and found a spot where he wouldn't face the racist, and eventually the racist shut up.

And for the first time, watching an old movie, I felt a complete disconnect from the past. I did not recognize this behavior in the men, that is, I don't see people nowadays acting this way. Where did this calm but effective way of showing dissent go to? I know it was used at the time, in the form of sit-ins and boycotts, by the civil rights movement, and initially used by Mahatma Gandhi's followers during their struggle to liberate India. But as a method for making a point, it seems to have completely disappeared in my lifetime and seems not to even be an option.

People nowadays don't react calmly, quietly, and clearly to ideas or truths they don't like. They get into yelling matches, verbal or written, and they use slurs and insults, and accuse others of doing the same. Everyone wants their say, and no one wants to listen. The most extreme expression of this are acts of terrorism. (I'm guilty of not wanting to listen, too, I'm sorry to say. After all, it's always the other guy who's wrong, right?) In the movie, when there was one-on-one disagreement between the individual men, things got heated and rude, but quickly defused. But as a group, they moved as one, in one direction, and without a word of insult, without a note of aggression, they made their point clear: "We aren't listening to this. It's not the truth. We won't support it."

And it made me sad to note that one of the coolest ways to protest injustices, has become purely historical.

PS: "12 Angry Men" is still good to watch. It still feels contemporary, except for that one scene this blog post is about.

Dec 30, 2007

I feel like a kick in the head

The Recipe For Keera
3 parts Sass 2 parts Slyness 1 part Passion Splash of Instinct Limit yourself to one serving. This cocktail is strong!

Funny thing is, this actually fits. Cheers!

(Found at Paula's, where else.)

PS: Upon rereading my blog post title, I was reminded of the conversation in Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", chapter 6:
"[Y]ou'd better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace. It's unpleasantly like being drunk."
"What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"
"You ask a glass of water."

Dec 29, 2007

Me and the monarchs

I'm watching a show about Mexico on Discovery Channel and they describe how the migratory monarch butterfly seems to sit in lifeless clumps for three months, until the February sun penetrates the trees and strikes the butterflies.

Because of buildings in front of my 2nd story apartment, I don't get any sunshine in my apartment from about mid-November to the very end of January. And the day I see (should I be so lucky weather-wise) a ray of sun briefly lighting up my wallpaper is a true solar return for me. And I stop being a lifeless clump just like the butterflies do.

I blame the media

I tripped over a Norwegian trivia and puzzle site (finally, I may win money with my sudoku addiction), and discovered that I know more about pop stars than I do Sweden. Twice I got the question "Who is Sweden's prime minister?" and twice I gave the wrong answer. So why don't I know his (or is it her?) name? I know which Mel is a member of Spice Girls, I'm pretty clear on Harry Potter games, and I know which private detective Tom Selleck played. So why don't I know who the current Swedish prime minister is?

I blame the media. No, really. A steady diet of online Norwegian newspapers over the years has left me, against my will, with more knowledge about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears than whoever runs Sweden. When Norwegian newspapers write about Sweden, it's usually about Norwegians shopping there, Swedish prices being a tad lower than Norwegian and Norwegians always loving the illusion of getting something cheap (even if the price of gas getting there eats any profits). Sweden's right next door to Norway and yet I know more about who's in charge (in a manner of speaking) in Pakistan.

So I know Norwegians drink more than ever, the newest charter island destination is Corsica, and Brad Pitt would rather help rebuild New Orleans than make a movie, while Sweden has been thrown into complete anarchy, with no one running the country.

I sure hope somebody's kept Wikipedia up to date, because the only way I'm going to find out who it is.

Huh. I've never heard of or seen the guy, and he's been in office a whole year! He needs a girlfriend who is a model. I'm sure that's why French president Sarkozy's recent holiday trip made so many headlines.

Dec 28, 2007

Painted black

It's been stormy for the last couple of days. Tear-trees-up-and-close-roads-with-them stormy. I haven't stuck my nose outside (as the Norwegians say) since I was with friends on Christmas Day, which was the one day we had some lovely weather. The temperature dipped to freezing, the skies cleared and a wane sun actually managed to make a few weak shadows. We walked off some of all the good food we'd been filling ourselves with for two days, and delighted in seeing a few not-so-common birds and beautiful blue skies.

So I spent two days being "housebound" (every time I thought I should go out, the wind would kick up and howl around the house corners, or a hail storm would pummel my windows). I finally got out of the house to go shopping today because today the storm abated and that's when I realized another reason why getting out at all had been so difficult: It was black out.

The cloud cover has been so thick, hardly any light penetrates it. No sunshine in the day, no moonlight at night, just consistent gloom. And it's dark after 4 pm, so walking to the store at 5 pm was an exercise in black: Black asphalt, black clothes, black skies, black ground. There are streetlights but they simply cannot penetrate such darkness; they are absorbed by all the black.

The traditional Christmas lights are still up, draped on people's balconies, lighting up their windows, and it struck me that the normally cheering sight of them in the dead of winter, in our darkest season, wasn't able to penetrate the darkness enough. It was like the world stopped 5 stories up and above that a black nothing. The only thing to see were the buildings and their lights.

When I got home, I did the only thing that made sense in all this darkness: I lit a shitload of candles.

(With a nod to the Rolling Stones and "Paint It Black".)

Dec 27, 2007

A New Year's resolution of sorts

I have joined something called Blog 365, thanks to Paula. The idea is, for 2008, to blog every day. If the computer is not available, write something and post it later. (Leap Day is a day of rest.) Also, if you have more than one blog, then posting to one if not the other counts. And that should motivate me to write more both here and over on my other blog. I hope.

Now to go find me a purty badge to stick on this here blog.

Dec 26, 2007

Atheist vs. theist: Let the baffle begin

I have a friend who is an atheist. She's an atheist because she sees no evidence to the contrary, though she has tried. I have another friend who's an atheist, but he has figured out the "where do we go when we die" thing: We live on forever, not as who we are but as the stuff we are made of, coming from the stars, going back into them, and so on. Recycling, as it were, rather than reincarnation. So I may not be me, but I won't be no longer existing, either, and I like that idea. When the more mystical ones seem a little too theoretical, I like the recycling idea.

I have a third friend who is not an atheist, but she's having trouble with being a theist because none of the definitions of God[1] feel quite right. She wants to believe, but she doesn't know what to believe. I have suggested to her earlier that perhaps her deity is nature itself - as it is for many people. Just drinking in the world in all its mundane glory, rather than focusing on the unseen hand that made it.

You don't have to have a god to be spiritual. The experience of the spiritual side of things does not require religion.

But why do some of us believe in the big invisible hand, and some of us can't even imagine it? I read an article in some psychology magazine a number of years ago that suggested that faith may be genetic. Some of us seem hardwired for believing, and some of us aren't. A few biologists in recent years have explored religion from an evolutionary point of view: Why did humans evolve with what looks like a superstition? What good does it serve? I'll admit I haven't read their conclusions because I was put off by their supposition that faith is one of those wasteful things that has survived because it doesn't harm - like the appendix or homosexuality. Faith hasn't been a waste for me. Without it, I might be seeing a psychiatrist.

Yes, I am one of those theists. My atheist friends cannot understand why anyone believes in an unseen force that is labeled the boss of everything. I cannot understand how anyone can go through life without something bigger than themselves to be awed and inspired by. Prayer works for me. Feeling a connection to the divine works for me. I've tried to go without and I felt so lost it hurt. Atheism baffles me as much as theism baffles atheists.

These discussions are as helpful - and as fair - as arguing about vanilla vs. chocolate, football vs. baseball, Coke vs. Pepsi. We are drawn to certain things because of genetics, upbringing and personality. Because of our own personal likes and dislikes - and needs. It doesn't go deeper than that. No one has the whole truth about anything; we all see pieces of it, and we are all pieces of it. Each one an equally valuable piece. You can add a god to it or not; it's still about being human and connecting with other humans, doing your best, and being happy while you're at it.

Sometimes the discussion of atheist vs. theist is about where we go after we die. Or about morals and how you can't have any unless God smote you with His. I was raised by a theist and an atheist. They were married. They had the same values, were equally fond of and tolerant towards people, they were pacifists, and they both had a lot of humor about life, neither taking themselves seriously. Both loved me completely and wonderfully. The theist joked about haunting me after she died. Both she and her atheist husband did visit me after they died. Apparently, having a spirit doesn't depend on having a religion. Life is far bigger than that.

So I don't understand why someone doesn't believe in God[2], but that's because I personally cannot go without. It has never occurred to me that atheists must be lacking and/or are destined to go to hell. And contrary to what some atheists claim, all theists are not superstitious morons. The truth is, most people are good and most people try to do good, with or without a god. Love matters to all of us.

I think that is where atheists and theists can find common ground: Love and goodness are what matters. That is what makes humanity shine.

[1]I understand her search; I didn't find a religious home until I found Science of Mind. I couldn't and can't relate to the Christian God.

[2]Sometimes people become atheists as a reaction to the one not-so-nice God they were force-fed growing up. Unless they go exploring, they may never discover that each religion is a blind man trying to describe an elephant so pick your definition. The more fanatical theists need to realize this, too.

Dec 25, 2007

A Christmas post

Every other blogger has something to say about the holiday, so I decided to, too, instead of feeling left out.

First off let me say this: I wasn't traumatized by Christmas growing up and I knew extremely early that Santa doesn't exist. I love Christmas movies, because I love the combination of magic and inevitably happy ending with a touch of moral-to-the-story. And yes, "It's a Wonderful Life" is a favorite.

So what does Christmas mean to me? Nothing. That's right, I said nothing. I'm not Christian, I'm not hung up on tradition and haven't made any of my own, and I don't have to have certain things or things a certain way at Christmas so as not to feel left out or lonely or un-Christmassy. (Except maybe my own blogpost about it.)

I enjoy the lights, the atmosphere, the constant greeting other people with "god jul"/"Merry Christmas", the reminders to be generous, the spirit of the season, but I don't decorate or go overboard with the food, though I'll dress up. Sometimes I'll play Christmas carols. I like buying presents for people, but I don't like crowds. That last is a year-round thing, though.

The most important thing about Christmas for me is what I just did: Spend lots of time with people I love.

Dec 20, 2007

How to predict the season's weather

I just bought a book, Astronomy, Weather, and Calendars in the Ancient World, partly because of the introductory chapter. There, a method for "borrowing days" to predict the weather was mentioned:

The weather on the day before the winter solstice forecasts the weather for the first month of winter, the weather on the day of the winter solstice itself forecasts the weather for the second month of winter, and the day after the winter solstice forecasts the weather for the third month of winter. This method applies to the summer solstice and equinoxes, too.

Today we have gorgeous sunshine here in Bergen, and I'm hoping that'll keep be the case all weekend, too. Winter solstice (0 degrees of Capricorn for you astrologers) is on Dec. 22 where I live.

Dec 16, 2007

Getting lost and finding a signpost

I think that those of us who search for meaning in our lives, do so because we need some sense in our chaos, some hope in our darkness. We have pasts that have left us with scars and we want to know how to move forward. The fact that we even think like this, is a huge strength, because it keeps us searching for improvement, for betterment.

Sometimes, there are set-backs. Sometimes the past comes back for a visit and dredges up old hurts.

That happened to me this summer and it's taken me the rest of the year to finally get that particular thorn out of my side. That was not necessarily a waste of time. It made me rethink a number of things, including where I want to go for the rest of my life, and giving oneself time to think is never a bad thing.

However, one of the effects during this latter part of 2007 was a feeling of being separate from God. I have never read more literature that states God is not some mean man with a beard, but a life-supporting joy that permeates everything and has no concept of good or bad, just life and light, while at the same time feeling that this God and I were moving apart.

I found myself feeling my connection to the divine as something outside of me. God wasn't inside, expressing as me, but out there somewhere, withdrawn from me. I knew this was wrong, but I was struggling to make it right. The sense of separation, the lack of feeling one with everything, of seeing the good in all, kept increasing.

On impulse I grabbed the book "Living the Science of Mind" by Ernest Holmes and just let it fall open. If fell open to page 201, which says, in part:

But the Bible states, as other sacred writings do, that man reproduces this Creative Order on a miniature scale. [...] What could this mean other than that we as individuals are not separate from the Original Creative Cause?

[...]The whole Divine nature is reproduced in us, but we are ignorant of the fact. Our thought is creative, but in our ignorance we use it destructively.

Theology has called this the problem of evil. We call it a misuse of that which is Good. We as individuals are centers of consciousness in a Power infinitely greater than we are, but which is placed at our command by the very nature of things. From the consequence of our use of this Power we cannot hope to escape, because It is the very Law of Life Itself.


I liked reading that. That I cannot escape the oneness, I cannot escape my source, my belonging to God, my birthright to be alive and enjoy it. I like the last paragraph on page 201, too, which clarifies this inability to ever be truly lost, which affirms that this is where I find freedom:

Let us restate our proposition: We are thinking centers in a Cosmic Mind. Our lives reproduce the Original Life. Everything that happens to us must start with the movement of Intelligence within us, which is a movement of our word or contemplation or meditation within ourselves. So let us say of ourselves or to any individual: "You are a center of Intelligence; you did not make it this way, you cannot change it. This is the way it is. You must accept it. You are using a creative Law from which you cannot and do not wish to escape, because It contains the possibility of all freedom when you learn how to use It. To learn to think in the right manner is to learn to create that which is Good, and which gives complete expression to the self without ever containing anything destructive or negative."


This fall I attended a lecture given by a Danish Buddhist lama, Ole Nydahl. An amazingly fit and energetic 60-something, he spoke on the differences between Western religions and Eastern philosophies. Western religion tends to define behavior within the concept of good versus evil. Buddhists define it as stupid versus intelligent. As Ernest Holmes suggested above, it is when we understand how our minds work, its creative power, and take control of that power that we are set free.

Neither Holmes nor Nydahl were talking about CAT scans and frontal lobe activity, but rather how our own thoughts - based on memories, experiences, beliefs and habits - can trick us and have us believing a reality set in stone. When we become aware that our thoughts determine our experience, not the other way around (think self-fulfilling prophecy), then we start to wake up; we start to take back our God-given power and delusions and illusions leave us. We all grow up thinking a certain way because our parents and culture taught us certain things, a certain way of seeing the world. This leads us to believing that what we see and know is fact. But listen to a political discussion and you will immediately notice that the same reality can be described in very different and opposite ways. So there is no one reality; there are, instead, as many realities as there are people. The "sin" or stupidity is not letting ourselves explore other realities and maybe even change our minds.

There really is no conflict between Western and Eastern definition about the order of things: Both acknowledge that we humans are more than our immediate experiences and our bodies, and that our beliefs play a large part, if not the pivotal part, in determining how we feel about ourselves and what life we each have.

And there is no escaping this inevitable path to freedom, to our guaranteed release from suffering. I find that very comforting; it has helped me find my way back to my belief that life is inherently good. Sharing it with you cements it further for me.

Thank you for reading.

Dec 10, 2007

Balance

My friend Max took the test and got such a wicked cool picture to illustrate his results ((sorry, no linky) so I took the test, too. If you score highly on all four elements, you get Harmony. If you score equally low on all four elements, you get Balance. As I did:

Your Score: Balance
~ 44% Water ~ 55% Wind ~ 55% Earth ~ 48% Fire ~

And I know and I believe
There's a way out to the sea of happiness

It seems your personality is in perfect harmony; your impulses are tempered with thoughtfulness, and your emotions are balanced with a healthy amount of reason.

In order to maintain that harmony, try wearing a Jade, a Chrysoprase or an Agate; all three enhance balance and stability, as does the Snowflake Obsidian that will help remain balanced during times of change.

In detail: You are more balanced than most people. Your Ground Chakra, (associated with the element of fire and representing our basic desires and driving force), your Creative Chakra, (associated with the element of earth and representing our need to preserve and grow), your Heart Chakra, (associated with the element of water and representing our sense of love and compassion), and your Throat Chakra, (associated with the element of wind and represents our desire to learn and communicate), appear to be on an equal footing with each others.

These are the results you will get if you score highly on...

None of the four elements: Balance Wind: Gust Fire: Blaze Water: River Earth: Valley Wind & Fire: Thunder Wind & Water: Clouds Wind & Earth: Canyon Fire & Earth: Lava Fire & Water: Tornado Water & Earth: Trees Wind, Fire & Earth: Storm Wind, Fire & Water: Stars Wind, Water & Earth: Forest Fire, Water & Earth: Avalanche All four elements: Harmony

Not bad for a low score.

Dec 9, 2007

Random seven

Inspired by the normalcy of Badaunt's list of seven random things (in other words, I tagged myself), here is my attempt:

  1. I have such good peripheral vision, I can see 180 degrees.
  2. I treat Norwegian "brunost" (goat's cheese) like candy. (It's kind of sweet, anyway.)
  3. I can type the ten-key pad by touch. I once provided a boss with many minutes of entertainment by doing a long list of addition without ever looking at my right hand.
  4. I use clothes pins to close bags of things, like potato chips: Quicker than rubber bands, easier than twisty-ties, cheaper than the specialized "bag closers" they sell.
  5. I tend to get hooked on one song and play it over and over and over again. After about a week, I get hooked on another song. This is why I listen to my stereo with headphones on, even though I live alone. I don't want my neighbor to think I'm crazy. Uhm, crazier.
  6. I'm proud of my breasts. Always have been. Even though one started budding 6 months before the other and I think my nipples are - nipply.
  7. My favorite color is a sort of lavender blue. Like this. Periwinkle is a paler version that I also like.

Darn, done already? I was just getting started!

Dec 8, 2007

Amazing and phobia-inducing

The first time I saw the finale to this, I actually started to panic, wondering about how the cat would get back out. It became a little too much for my latent claustrophobia. But it was a pretty darn good kitty trick!

(Via Cute Overload, who were more taken with the cheesy laughtrack.)

2868

I am so looking forward to the solstice this year! I can't wait for these gloomy days to get more daylight. We've have more overcast weather than not this year, and as of yesterday, 2868 millimeters of precipitation so far in 2007. Sure, it's in itsy-bitsy metric, but it's still a large number even when you convert it.

2868 mm is 112.91 inches. It's 9.4 feet. It's almost 3 meters and over 3 yards. You can touch it with a ten-foot pole - barely. And still it makes 2007 only the 5th wettest year on record so far.

They are promising us drier weather this coming week. I am also hoping for clear, blue skies.

Dec 5, 2007

Downtown Train

I wasn't tagged. I just went and stole this from Paula, partly because it looked like fun, and partly because some of the resulting answers actually held meaning (so do mine). So let's fire up iTunes and see what happens. The rules are:

  1. Put your music player on Shuffle
  2. For each question, press the Next button to get your answer
  3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER WHAT (this is in capital letters, so it is very serious).

BEGIN

  1. IF SOMEONE SAYS "IS THIS OKAY" YOU SAY?
    "She's Out of My Life" (Michael Jackson)

  2. WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
    "Movement 1 From Mythodea" (Vangelis)

  3. WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
    "Hey Hey Guy" (Ken Lazslo)

  4. HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
    "Don't Worry Be Happy" (Bobby McFerrin)

  5. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE?
    "I Hear Talk / You And Your Heart So Blue" (Bucks Fizz)

  6. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
    "Better Than This" (Hazen)

  7. WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
    "All Because Of You" (Puff Johnson)

  8. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR PARENTS?
    "You're The One That I Want" (Debbie Gibson & Craig McLachlan)

  9. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
    "Experiment IV" (Kate Bush)

  10. WHAT IS 2+2?
    "Every Now And Then" (Macy Gray)

  11. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
    "Kayleigh (7" Version)" (Marillion)

  12. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
    "Non Stop Dance" (Gibson Brothers)

  13. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
    "Kiss Lonely Good-Bye" (Stevie Wonder)

  14. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
    "Rock The Boat" (Aayilah)

  15. WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
    "Don't Come Around Here" (Rod Stewart (with Helicopter Girl)) (ouch)

  16. WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
    "Baroque-A-Nova" (Mason Williams)

  17. WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
    "We Belong To The Sea" (Aqua)

  18. WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
    "Come To Me" (Ester Brohus)

  19. WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
    "You're The Best There Is" (Chuck Mangione)

  20. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
    "Here Am I" (Mason Williams)

  21. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
    "Girl You Know It's True" (Milli Vanilli)

  22. WHAT SHOULD YOU POST THIS AS?
    "Downtown Train" (Rod Stewart)

Dec 2, 2007

Not your run-of-the-mill Sunday

The last thought I had before letting myself out of my apartment, was to bring my cell phone because maybe somebody would need me to call the police or something. Yeah, right. Like that ever happens.

As promised by the weather bureau, today was an absolutely beautiful day. The sun actually came out. From my kitchen window late this morning, I could see long shadows from trees and buildings weakly striping the lawn out back. Seeing those shadows and an increasing amount of blue in the sky cheered me.

I finished baking the pumpkin pie I am bringing to the gang at work tomorrow (cuz that's the tradition in Bergen: the birthday person treats the others to cake), and checked the weather through my living room windows (which give a more reliable report than the kitchen window does, seeing as how weather comes out of the west) as well as the outdoor thermometer on my balcony door. I put on warmer clothes, and grabbed keys and cell phone.

As I passed by the building that once housed our local grocery store, I noticed smoke coming from a parked car. Two young men ahead of me were at the car, bending down to see if they could see the source of the smoke. It smelled acrid. The men half-jokingly suggested that that car was going to blow spectacularly once that fire got going. I had never seen or smelled anything like it so I asked if we shouldn't call someone. Trying to find the owner meant trying to find out which of the 402 apartments in our co-op the car owner lived in.

One passerby thought we should call, and his wife added that she would but didn't bring her cell. But I had. And I even remembered the emergency number to the fire department. (In Norway, there are three different emergency numbers, depending on which service you need: 110 is fire, 112 is police, 113 is ambulance.)

I have never called the fire department before in my life. I explained the situation, a bit embarrassed because the smoke was now subsiding. But the very authoritative-sounding man who took my call wanted to know what address the car was parked at, its make, color, license plate number, what the smoke smelled like and then my name and phone number. I told him all this (though I couldn't tell if the car was a dull black or a very dark gray; the dew on it was tricking my eyes), and volunteered my home address. He said they'd try to find the owner and send someone to check.

Well, what do you know: I did need my cell phone!

I then continued on to the local pond to walk around it in what turned out to be a virtual crowd of people. I never saw so many out walking all at once, which tells you what a lovely day it really was. The locals have the sense to take advantage of a rare reprieve from the otherwise gloomy weather we've been having. I, as usual, walked counter-clockwise around the path, while the majority always walk clockwise. This means that I meet the same people two or even three times as I walk around the pond. One older gentlemen, on encountering me a third time, made me laugh as he quipped, "What, again?"

We all walked in shade. The low sun was behind most of the nearby buildings and colored only the tops of the trees around the pond. The pond itself had lots of water and lots of birds and was absolutely smooth.

This isn't an ordinary Sunday also because it is the first Sunday in Advent, the start of the church year for western Christian churches. Norwegians put electrical lights in their windows for Advent. The lights are not colored like in the US, but are usually a modest star or the favorite seven "candle" triangle. But more and more do hang American-style Christmas lights as well. Seeing all the little lights in everyone's window adds cheer and warmth to the winter darkness. My own lights, hung up last night, are twinkling crazily in my living room window as I type this (last year I got some new-fangled thing that you can program, natch).

As I headed for home, I passed by where the smoking car was parked. It wasn't there any more.

Not bad for my last day as a 46-year-old.