2013 Grateful 13

I ran into an old friend last week. We haven’t been in touch in years. And although we were definitely in the same place at the same time doing pretty much the same things all those years ago, it’s amazing how our recollections of the same events differ. Our memories are weighted by relativity and perhaps coloured by the lives we’ve lived in the intervening years. What each of us chooses to file in our memory bank is subjective. Just as witness statements given by those present at the same event seldom match perfectly, recollections of times past also differ. History is constantly being rewritten and reinterpreted through a prism of individual hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

parallel livesIt’s not an age thing: I’ve always had trouble remembering events involving people. When de wimmen came to visit me in Alaska, they met my Alaskan friends who eagerly recounted some of the stories I’d told them, asking whether or not they were true. De wimmen contradicted me on details – and with regard to one particular event (that I can’t remember) told me point blank that I hadn’t even been there!

Now if you were to refer to GATT as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade on page 2 and again on page 2222 as the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, I’d spot that. Or if you told me once that you were 16 when you left school and later upped it to 17, I could call you on it. Or if the chronology of some story contradicted known facts, I’d be asking questions. But when it comes to life events, I have a difficult time distinguishing truth from fiction. Perhaps it’s a self-preservation mechanism . Perhaps it’s laziness. Perhaps it doesn’t matter at all. I’ve learned not to blush in embarrassment and just to fess up to the fact that I simply don’t remember. It’s safer than pretending I do. And while I might not be able to share in a collective memory, there’s enough remnants floating in my netherworld to allow me appreciate reliving it. I get to enjoy the experience all over again.

I didn’t don my inquisitor’s hat and ask the usual list of 20 questions, fired in rapid succession and guaranteed to ensure that it would be another eon before we met again. It was as if it had been months, not years;  the conversation didn’t require explicit questions as answers came without them being asked. What has taken me aback though, is not the ease with which old friendships can be resumed, but rather that in the intervening years this old friend has been living my life, or rather the life that I’ve been imagining for me.

IMG_4447 (800x600)I’ve mentioned many times that I want to live by the sea. I want to smell sea air and go to sleep each night with the sound of waves pounding against the shore. I want to wake up to the sound of seagulls and be able to walk deserted beaches in wintry weather. I want to experience that sense of fragility afforded by calm waters and the fierceness offered by angry seas.

I have writtIMG_3372 (800x592)en, too, about my lifelong dream of owning a racehorse or three. I want to feel that sense of accomplishment that only comes when you see someone (in this case, the horse) grow into their own and achieve great things, even if for them, that great thing is finishing fourth. I want to have a vested interest in their progress and feel that sense of pride when they cross the winning line. And I want to enjoy the excitement of being part of it all.

Remember that opening scene from the movie the Commitments? Where Jimmy Rabbitte is in the bath pretending he’s being interviewed by Terry Wogan? Well, I’ve had similar (albeit non-bathtub) experiences when I imagine myself being interviewed about my latest bestseller. But for that to happen, I’d have to start writing it. Such is life.

Lest you think otherwise, I’m not sitting here overwhelmed by envy or riddled with jealousy that they’ve gotten to do/are doing the top three things on my bucket list. On the contrary. At the end of what has been an interesting week on many fronts, I’m grateful for the regular reminders I receive that life is there for living. It is short, fragile, and all too often wasted on what ifs. I’m especially grateful for the wake-up call reflected in this chance encounter and silently wonder about Nos 4, 5, and 6 on my list.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52




2013 Grateful 22

I have always wanted to live on the water, by the sea, near the coast. My dream is to live on a small island with its own private beach. An oasis of cool in the summer and a wild, raging cacophony of sound in the winter, as waves crash against the shore and gale-force winds serve as sharp reminders of the fragility of life. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Yes, I know… it leaves one big question hanging out there … why did I ever move to Budapest?

IMG_6742 (800x590) (800x590)While Oslofjord technically isn’t a fjord in the geological sense, its accessibility and proximity to the city makes it a little bit of heaven on earth. If you’ve seen Edvard Munch’s The Scream or Girls on the pier, then you’ve had a taste of what it looks like. Boats travel regularly to the islands from a city where using a boat is as common as using the bus or the tram or the metro and all are covered by the one travel pass. It’s usual practice to pack a swimsuit, food, and a disposable BBQ and head out after work – it doesn’t get dark until about 10 so there’s three good hours to replenish the spirit and replace the calm desiccated by corporate living.

IMG_6718 (800x595)IMG_6653 (800x600)The islands in this inlet, those that I can remember, each have their own claim to fame.  Hovedøya has its monastery ruins and during WWII was home to an internment camp for female Nazi collaborators. Gressholmen apparently has its rabbits. Mind you, we spent an evening at Gressholmen and didn’t see one rabbit so I can’t vouch for its claim to fame. The islands of Nakholmen, Bleikøya, and Lindøya have their cabins while Langøyene has the best beach and camping facilities.

IMG_6683 (800x600)IMG_6694 (800x600)The boat ride might have taken all of 20 minutes, if that. And then it took another 15 to walk across the island to a secluded spot on the water’s edge. Those who arrived with us didn’t stay as long so we had the place to ourselves for most of the time. The water was glorious. Cold and clear. A tad rocky but beautiful. I was in my element.

While the salmon skewers sizzled on the BBQ and the Aperol spritz worked its decompressive magic, the only thing breaking the silence was the sound of the seagulls. We watched as they dove for fish, stole sausages, and argued amongst themselves about who had the best whatever. I love the sound they make and have often wondered whether I could get a soundtrack with nothing other than the sound of waves and gulls and if by playing it each evening I could bring the sea closer to home.

IMG_6666 (800x600)In a world where technology increasingly raises the bar when it comes to entertainment, where our attention spans grow shorter by the upgrade, where our ability to sit still and do nothing is challenged by lengthening to-do lists and an increasing sense of time running out, it was simply glorious to sit in silence and just be.

This week, as I near the end of another birth year, I am grateful for the opportunity to recalibrate, to regain my sense of perspective, to feast on fresh salmon and shrimp in good company and spectacular scenery.  I am particularly grateful for those people who seem to randomly drop into my life just when I need them the most.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52