Living in a book

Netflix is my Star Trek channel. I watch Star Trek when there is nothing else to watch, which is pretty much all the time. I have watched all the series multiple times, but I still think the original one is the best. I watched the episode A Piece of the Action last night, which is great comedy in my opinion.

A Federation ship had visited this planet a century before Enterprise, and left behind a book. The world Kirk, Spock, and McCoy came to looked like Chicago in the 1920’s with a full blown mafiawar. The reason was a book left behind 100 years earlier, Chicago Mobs of the Twenties. The Enterprise crew tried to straighten this out, and it was hilarious hearing Spock and Kirk trying to speak old gangster slang.

It made me think, what books would I want to live in? Quite a few. I read a lot of dystopia, but dystopia is pretty much current affairs these days, so I’m not dreaming of more of that. The Queen would have been screaming “off with his head” constantly, but Alice in Wonderland would have been a fascinating experience. One of my favourite girls from childhood was definitely Anne of Green Gables, not to forget the March sisters in Little Women.

When Goodreads ask this question, many answer their favourite book. Series like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, and The Hunger Games are often high up on the list. Some answer Pride & Prejudice, which makes more sense, but in the real world none of the women in Jane Austen’s novels would have had good lives. I suppose the idea is to dream of something better than what we have, and in that context I wouldn’t mind owning Pemberley. Being a servant in those days of course wouldn’t have been the same. Now that I think about it, maybe it does make sense to want to live in a dystopic novel. After all, the cheracters in the book changed their world, while many today feel powerless.

It’s a ridiculus series and character, but I’ve always been fascinated by Wonko the Sane from the Douglas Adams book So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. Nothing makes sense anyway, so why not live in that totally bonkers world? Apart from that I really like some of the worlds and characters Ursula Le Guin, Sheri Tepper, Cynthia Voigt, Diana Wynne Jones, C. J. Cherryh, Joan Vinge, Andre Norton/Mercedes Lackey, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and many others have created. I’m not one of those you find on Twitter who constantly claim that the only interesting people are those who do nothing but read, but I do agree with them that life would be a lot less interesting without books. Life outside isn’t always that great, and I’d find it dystopic to be forced to cope without those other worlds. .

Finally, a comment regarding the photos. I grew up in a town with a lot of history, but there didn’t seem to be an interest in preserving anything. There are some very nice residential areas with houses from around 1900-1930, but nothing much older than that. The sound between my town and the island Karmøy was also at the centre of the development during Viking age that led to Norway becoming one kingdom. In fact, the name Norway comes from that sound, but there’s been no excavations, and nothing has been found. My point is that, although it was a very dystopic time, I find the past fascinating. I think back on the time my mother grew up in. She was born in 1940, and I’m about to create a character that was born 10-15 years earlier.

The bedroom at the museum, and the remnant of an old street, are probably from that time period. I can see myself living there a generation before I was born. It would have been nice to change history, also on a small scale.

I travel between worlds

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. J. K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I sometimes miss the magic of childhood. I still appreciate a good story, and I still have moments when it feels like I’m in that other universe, but it’s never like it was. The grown up world, frequently shaded by an excess of seriousness and gloom, is stronger than the fantasy.

The best I can hope for is an illusion, a false perception for a short period. It’s a sort of controlled or disciplined muse. I can allow it for a brief moment, but never give myself completely over to the dream. I suppose that’s the only way to live, not completely in the world of fantasy and not completely outside it. It was something I found hard to accept growing up. I eventually realised it didn’t matter what I thought. Time moved forward no matter what I wanted, so I had to succeed, or not.

The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe book cover. I know Aslan is supposed to be God, but I sometimes wish I had the relationship with him Lucy had.
I know Aslan is supposed to be God, but I sometimes wish I had the relationship with him Lucy had.

I have been pretty successful, but it hasn’t stopped me from wishing there was a Narnia, a Shire/Rivendell/Harlindon, or a wizarding world (Harry Potter). I also recall fond childhood memories of times spent in the Hundred Acre Forest, Wonderland (Alice), the England described in The Wind in the Willows, Swallows and Amazons, and later when it almost felt like I was living in St. Mary’s Mead, Whitehaven Mansions (Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot), Meryton (Pride & Prejudice), or rural Oxfordshire (Lark Rise to Candleford).

Some of these are pure fiction, while others are the author’s description of a real place. They don’t exist any more, if they ever existed in the form we read in these stories. I’ve heard that J. R. R. Tolkien based the Shire on the places he lived in Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, and some have argued that what he really wanted to save was his England. I don’t know how much of that is true and how much is speculation, but I find it very sad. It’s a sentiment I can totally relate to, because I’m not at all comfortable with change.

That’s one of the sad things about the Covid-19 outbreak, because there are some saying this is the end of the world as we know it. What they mean by that is that things will change. It may not be extreme changes, but there will probably be things we have to stop doing or do in a different way. No matter what happens, there is a chance there’ll be a long-lasting sense of loss. That leads to grief, and how you deal with it is important.

I have always been a fighter and that won’t change. I live mostly in the real world, but I sometimes take excursions to another world. These voyages make me feel better, but as strange as it may sound, I even find joy in grief. After grief at least. Some stories leave me feeling sehnsucht, a German word C. S. Lewis used a lot. It’s a longing for something we may not be able to define, and it could be a painful feeling. This is a quote from his book Mere Christianity:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

I’ve always found it hard to fit in, and I may be one of those individuals who is sort of misplaced. I sometimes feel I was meant for a different time period, a parallel universe, or some other kind of different life. Being aware of this sometimes pains me, but it also helps me. I find joy in the world I live in, and when I don’t, my mission is seeking that joy. I still have a strong distaste for change, but once I’m done feeling miserable, I appreciate the things I couldn’t see before. I don’t have a Mary Poppins to magically make things right again, and I can’t spend my life by the river together with Mole, Rat, and the other delightful characters. I’ll never have tea with Miss Marple or see the England some of my favourite authors have painted with their words.

What I have is a family, and books, and a creativity I’m slowly developing into books myself. I’m living much like a chess game, where the strategy is to slowly improve my position. It’s hard for the best players in the world to win against each other, and it’s not uncommon to see ties after the computer gave one of them up to 80 percent chance of winning. It’s hard to take advantage of that strength, because what the computer sees as a path to victory, might require 30 accurate moves. It’s hard to see that far ahead, so the solution is to attempt being in a better position after you’ve made your move. That sometimes is enough, and sometines not.

It works for me. I don’t feel great every day. In fact, there are days when I feel lousy, but I’m still better off than I was in the past. That’s comforting, even if we all live in a story where there is a battle between good and evil. Things can change quickly, but I am the narrator of my own story. I can’t control everything, but I find that there’s a lot I can influence.

My doomsday library

A Facebook friend shared an article this morning with the headline “New Zealand government bans books as non-essential.” This friend’s understandable reaction was that this was cruel. Books are, to many of us, essential in staying sane during a lockdown.

Maybe I’m playing with semantics, but technically they didn’t ban fiction. You could still order any book you wanted, but only the titles the government classified as essential would be delivered during the limited lockdown period. I thought the article was unnecessary, as it was published after the government announced the lockdown would end on April 28.

The world was remarkably unprepared for Covid-19, and most countries are desperately trying to catch up now. My government is currently waiting for a response from the Norwegian pharmaceutical industry about whether or not they’re willing to produce vital medicine in Norway. We rely heavily on food import too (50 percent), and it’s not because we don’t have a choice. It’s a financial decision, but people are asking themselves whether this was such a good idea. Shutting down our own industry seems sensible as long as it works, but sooner or later things will happen.

New Zealand authorities could have handled it differently, but this virus also shows how vulnerable we are in a crisis, because no one seems to have imagined a world that didn’t work the way we are used to. Customers in New Zealand could get books on self-help delivered from their online shops, while delivery on fiction was delayed. I guess they wanted people to learn quickly how to manage on their own, but I believe fiction is essential. Still, it can be debated how much is the government’s responsibility and how much is ours. The truth is that we are all a part of the goverment’s response. That’s what a community is, and we can’t always wait for someone else to make decisions. Besides, in order for the government to help those in need, the rest of us need to be our own help.

It's sad when books are not wanted. The library sold these four.
I find it sad when great stories are not read. I bought these from different libraries.

I’ve got used to buying books from Amazon, which is very convenient, and as I can also buy used books there, I usually can get hold of titles that are no longer available from the publisher. They are not shipping to Norway at the moment, which may have more to do with a strike than Covid-19, but it’s another reminder of our vulnerability. There is a government website offering advice on self-preparedness for emergencies, and they give a list of what everyone should have at home at all times, along with different scenarios that could lead to an emergency. Books are not seen as essential, so they are not mentioned. Maybe it’s so obvious they didn’t see the need to include books, but I also don’t think they were realistic about the time frame. The idea is that we have to manage on our own for three days before we can expect any public help, but I think we should be prepared for a longer period alone.

I call this negative thinking. It’s not about being C-3PO from Star Wars (we’re doomed!), but about being prepared for what could happen. Positive thinking usually doesn’t allow for you think of alternatives. I’m oldfashioned and like reading printed books, but I have enjoyed re-reading some old books the past few weeks, as well as listening to audio books. I don’t see myself as a prepper, but in terms of books I think it’s a good thing to have alternatives. This wasn’t a crisis without internet and electricity, but imagine if we were to experience a six month period without access to TV and audio books. Would you be prepared for that?

That’s what negative thinking is. You know that bad things sometimes happen, and you try your best to limit the damage that would cause. I started much too late, but I am slowly ordering printed copies of the books I already have as audiobooks. Buying them as audio first isn’t a bad idea, because then I can decide whether or not it’s worth owning them. There are some books that, although I enjoyed reading them, I don’t really want to read again. Then there are some books I enjoy reading over and over again, and I want those in my library.

The photo is a little sad. They are a small selection of books I’ve bought from libraries. I assume they were withdrawn because no one checked them out any more. They are such great stories, and no matter what happens in the future, they’ll be available for me to re-read.

The accidental writer

My last remainng Harry Potter book.
My last remainng Harry Potter book

I’m starting with my last remaining Harry Potter book. I used to have all of them, along with a lot of other books, but I’m afraid I had to abandon them. My last employer paid for all our belongings to be sent 1 300 km from Telemark to Nordland county, but when I left I had to pay the $ 4000 myself. I couldn’t possibly afford that, so we sadly had to leave most of our belongings behind. That was six years ago, and we still haven’t been able to replace the books.

I’m calling myself an accidental writer of purposeful stories on Twitter. I more or less stumbled across writing, because unlike many of the authors I know about, it wasn’t obvious to anyone around me. I go through periods when I listen to podcasts, such as So you want to be a writer with Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo. Quite a few of their guests talk about how they read and wrote stories from early childhood. That wasn’t me at all, but the dream was there from the beginning. I had the imagination for it, but I always doubted whether I was the right one to tell the stories.

I worked in a very demanding job as a teacher, and I had to give my stories up for a while. I found I couldn’t do everything, so I had to focus on school and university for many years. My job as a teacher took absolutely everything I had, but as devastated as I was when I had to leave my career, it enabled me to start exploring some of my old stories. It didn’t happen over night, but the magic slowly developed, and it feels like I’m getting somewhere now.

I want to write an entertaining story, but I hope there’ll be something more. I wouldn’t go as far as a couple of schools I’ve heard about in Ireland and England. They banned specific childrens’ books for “being too simplistic, brutal, and banal.” Maybe I’m being too judgmental, but when I browse some of the most popular TV shows and music, I don’t find a lot of interesting stories. Still, it starts with entertainment. I had problems with writing and reading for a long time in my childhood, and it wasn’t morally elevated literature that motivated me.

Some would probably label two of my favourite authors, J. K. Rowling and Rick Riordan, as too simplistic, but there are so many good messages in their books. Percy Jackson for example grew up with a working mother, and his father was never in the picture (not that it would have been easy for him). This is real to many kids. Percy Jackson couldn’t stand seeing kids being bullied, and he didn’t just ignore it. Many of these YA books teach the value of friendship, courage, loyalty, and the fact that people aren’t always what they appear to be. Professor Snape was one of my favourite characters from Harry Potter, because he was so complicated.

It’s tricky writing an entertaining story with a certain morality in it. Tolkien may have written the ultimate purposeful book, because he saw The Lord of the Rings as a catholic book, while most people see something completely different. Jane Austen may have succeeded in writing the ultimate books on the other end of the spectrum. I’m a big fan of her books, but although you could read social criticism into her stories, I see them mostly as pure entertainment with missed opportunities. Sir Thomas in Mansfield Park for instance owned a plantation in Antigua, but as I recall, Austen didn’t really debate morality. There are also many examples of a double standard where men could clearly do whatever they wanted.

There was a lot of abuse in those days, abuse people knew about and condoned. We should perhaps ask ourselves whether feeling good is the correct response after reading some of the books from the Regency Era, or any other era, when we know it wasn’t like that at all in real life. Life was pretty horrific to most people. At least it should leave us with conflicting emotions sometimes. Yet, no one is talking about moving these books out of the library. Perhaps there are worse things we can expose children to than stories about children changing their lives?

My magical world

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest. C. S. Lewis

I thought for a long time there was something wrong with me, that I had a deficiency. I’m talking about my reading skills, both speed and comprehension. I eventually had to accept that all books aren’t necessarily meant for everyone.

I started studying theology in 1994, and although I sometimes regret giving it up after three semesters, I think it was probably a wise decision. I found it too challenging without any kind of help. I switched to the teacher training course when I failed in theology, but just barely made it through, and I was probably the hardest working student on campus.

Reading has always been a problem, which I have discovered has something to do with attention. It’s hard to focus on a good day, but I also have long periods when I find it almost impossible. I have to make myself read, and although I don’t always have the motivation, I appreciate the result. It never comes easy, but I still enjoy it. My mind wanders a lot, which is why I’m reading four books at the moment. I don’t know how many times I was accused of being lazy when I was growing up. I tried telling people I wasn’t, but couldn’t convince them. They were so sure they had me figured out.

It puzzles me how I can enjoy reading, and why I didn’t give it up when it gave me so much frustration at a young age. In some ways it saved my life, and it made my adult life a lot better. I can still remember sitting alone in my bedsit in 1984. I had moved away to go to upper secondary school, and was friendless in a strange place. It was a pretty scary situation to find myself in at 16, but I suppose I demonstrated a will to have a life by moving away from my family. I went to the library and discovered The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. That was a revelation, and I had some of the same feeling when I many years later discovered Harry Potter. I was in many ways the man who lived, because I had books.

The important thing is to enjoy the books, and I always have. It took me a while to get to the last page in those days, and it still does, but I have always loved the adventures I’ve taken with Frodo, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Percy, Meg Murry, Coraline, Sophie Hatter, and many others. Not that I needed an alibi, because I think there is some great children’s literature that everyone should read, but now that I’m writing children’s fantasy myself, I’m reading more YA-literature than ever before. I still read books that are written for an adult audience, but there’s something special about the books I can enjoy together with my daughter.

This is a difficult time and I suspect some are starting to feel the isolation coroding their spirit. I’m not in high spirits every day, but I feel a lot better when I can read. I haven’t been able to every day, because there are days when I just can’t concentrate, but I have read most days the last three weeks. It has almost given me the feeling I had as a child when I didn’t read stories; I lived them. That came back to me when J. K. Rowling publihed Harry Potter. I was there, together with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and I haven’t left that magial world yet.

She’s been unsually active on Twitter during these troubled times, and I especially like a post she published four days ago:

I’ve always felt that reading a book is worth the time and effort, and to some of us every word requires a lot of work. It makes me more grateful for my own accomplishments, for the work the authors have done, and for being invited into their world. I watched an animation with my daughter the other night, a Japanese version of Howl’s Moving Castle. It wasn’t a bad film, but it also reminded me of what a superior experience reading is. I like watching films, but the characters don’t need a film studio to come alive. They are already living inside the head of the readers

The brave hedgehog

Archer's Goon withdrawn from the library. I guess no one wanted to read this classic.
I guess no one wanted to read this classic

I couldn’t find the book I was looking for, so I chose one of Diana Wynne Jones’ books to read next. It starts with the saddest addition imaginable, withdrawn from a library in Illinois. I bought it through Amazon a couple of years ago, and now it’s happily situated in my home in Norway. 

My life has been somewhat disrupted now that we have to stay at home as much as possible, but I probably feel the effect to a lesser degree than many other people. I’m used to spending a lot of time at home, so I don’t feel that I have been forced to isolate. Less people is generally a good thing to me. I’m going to read Archer’s Goon this weekend. I am fully aware of the danger and the seriousness of the situation, so I know this isn’t a holiday, but it seems to be to some.

My people are major cottage dwellers. I’m not sure when it started, but there’s been a culture for as long as I have lived at least. These cottages used to be rather rustic, but they are getting more and more ridiclulous now. A part of the charm was to live a simpler life during weekends and holidays, and I remember spending a lot of weekends and summer holidays in my grandparents’ off the grid-cottage. We had a small natural gas stove, a fireplace, candles and oil lamps, and the sea was only 50 metres away. The most terrifying part was walking to the outhouse in complete darkness, knowing there was a wasp’s nest above me. I never saw anything, so I’m pretty sure it was abandoned, but it made a trip to the John in the woods a petrifying experience. Many modern “cottages” have all the luxury we are used to at home (some even more), so it doesn’t feel like you left home.

The government has daily meetings with the press, and one of the things they frequently have to deal with is “the cottage/boat people.” Next week is Easter, which is a major thing in Norway. It’s a religious holiday, and to Christians it is (or should be) more important than Christmas. To most people it’s just some time off, but as it is a religious holiday, all stores are closed the 9th, 10th, and 13th of April. This is what worries many people these days, will they get a normal Easter? The cottage, staying at a ski resort in the mountains, or starting the boating season is important to many. I’m pretty sure it won’t be same procedure as every year, not when distance is still a requirement. It could be a mess, because when someone says “it is allowed, but…”, most people don’t hear the second part. 

I read in the paper yesterday that sales of chocolate, candy, and crisps had gone up, in some chains by as much as 50 percent the last two weeks. This could partly be about comfort, but it’s not a good long-term plan. I’m not going to spread doom and gloom, but knowing that viruses are remarkably adaptable and never really go away, I don’t think we’re running a sprint. This is more likely to be a marathon. In other words, we need to find solutions we can keep doing for a long time, and we need to boost our immune systems as much as possible. Shutting down businesses and public tax income is clearly not a long-term viable plan either, so perhaps we’re looking at a massive change in how we live and communicate, unless this resolves itself sooner than many fear?

I happen to be one of those that don’t find staying at home with my family difficult. That doesn’t mean I’m not worried. There are people I love, people who may not have an immune system strong enough to fight this virus. I’m also worried about the long-term consequences of a desperate, scared population. Things are looking good so far, but we’re not very far into this yet.

Still, I’m taking a break from reality this weekend. It’s finally perfectly acceptable to be brave as a hedgehog.

I’m exploring the world

Luna has always captivated, here together with another girl, Venus, hiding behind the tree.
Luna has always captivated me, here together with another girl, Venus. Sadly, my phone isn’t smart enough to show her the way I see her.

I’m touching briefly on the book The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I don’t get into details, but some may feel that there is a spoiler in here.

One of the TV-stations has tried to deviate a little from their plan of pushing terror and psychiatric disorders (neverending Corona coverage). I don’t bother watching TV these days, but I read a few headlines from their website. One of their first non-Corona stories was on some bizarre TV show about a guy with a fascination for exotic animals, such as tigers. He also had a guitar and sang a few songs during these episodes, but now people are angry, if we are to believe this article. Everything is fabricated or narrated these days, so I don’t know if I do. It turns out it wasn’t him singing and playing, so people feel cheated now. I was thinking to myself, is this really your biggest concern at the moment?

Strangely enough there isn’t a whole lot of reality in reality shows. The opposite of reality is fantasy, and I prefer the real deal. I’m just about to experience a major book hangover, as I’m nearing the end of The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I have loved every page of this wonderful story, and I’ll be sad when I have to leave this world. But there’ll be others, and I’ll definitely re-visit this one.

The book has one of those wonderful words English has adopted from another language. In this case it’s the word wanderlust, which is a strong desire to wander and explore the world. I wrote about another German word a while back, sehnsucht, which means a yearning or craving, and it’s often used for the pain we feel when there are things we didn’t get to finish or things we missed out on. It can be a lifelong pain.

I like books that can touch some of my sore spots, and The Girl Who Drank the Moon is one of those. The author, Kelly Barnhill, answered a question on Goodreads, saying she wrote the book with a fifth grader in mind, but it works for a geezer as well. I think sehnsucht is just as relevant as wanderlust this time. I think many of us feel a certain amount of pain thinking back. There is a moment when we may have realised that something was over, and we knew we had to leave behind the life we had. So perhaps we spend the rest of our lives wishing we could go back.

That could be a good thing, but if you feel that you want to go back to fix something that went wrong, something that didn’t develop the way you wanted, your memories could become your torturer. I have a few of those. I have started down several paths that I really enjoyed, but they ended involuntarily. Things beyond my control blocked the path, and I had to try another one. That leads to sorrow, which is the dystopic part of Barnhill’s story. Sister Ignatius in the story is a Sorrow Eater. She is sort of Voldemort, the Death Eaters, and Dementors all in one. Pretty disturbing stuff, but as always in these stories there is hope when people show courage.

I love coming of age stories. I think back on my own childhood and adolescence, and I root for the character I hope will succeed. These books are important to children, as their lives can be quite confusing, halfway between the early years of nothing to worry about, and the adulthood where everything suddenly gets super-serious. It’s useful to see how others, although they are fictional, have navigated this strange world. I like them as an aging man too. I’m not sure why. Maybe there is a certain nostalgia involved, and maybe I really am trying to go back and fix the things that went wrong. That can’t be done of course, but I still think there are things these young heroes can teach me.

There is also a lot of wanderlust in my reading. I love travelling through the world of fantasy, and by that I don’t mean just the genre fantasy, because all fiction is fantasy. I’m reading children’s literature at the moment, as that’s what I’m writing myself as well. I think my next book will be Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt. I’ve only read one of her other books before, On Fortune,’s Wheel, and that one was great. I didn’t realise I could appreciate a love story, but I did. There’s a lot of love in The Girl Who Drank the Moon too. I keep hearing Filmore in my head saying: “There’s a lot of love there, man”.

There is, but I guess some types of fantasies are more real or relevant to me than reality.

Surviving the aftermath

Some of the books that will help me.
Some of the books that will help me.

I have written several posts over the years about isolation/insulation. In my language we use the same word for both, and the context (or the added word material) makes it clear whether you meant separation or protection. I like that double meaning, and whereas isolation could be about removing yourself from an environment, insulation could mean staying put. You just add something that enables you to stay where you are, no matter how damaging the surroundings might be. Building insulation is about protecting yourself from high/low temperatures, vibrations, or sound, but there could be other dangers to consider as well. Insulation is about what sustains life.

Many watch more TV during the Covid-19 crisis, but I have actually watched less. I have periods when I like watching TV, but this happens to be a time when it’s not really the film that appeals to me, but the fact that I watch it with my family. I love reading, but struggle with it, and that seems to happen in periods as well. I’m a slow reader at my best, but the difference is that when I have the motivation, I can push myself for hours. I’m in a good place at the moment, and I have a reading mode I haven’t experienced for a while.

Some have been puzzled by the popularity of dystopian literature the last couple of decades, but this isn’t a new genre, and it’s not about doom and gloom. It’s about the solution. These stories are widely read because they are good, and because there is usually hope in them. The stories I like have ordinary people fighting back against oppressive regimes. They also tell us how this society got to where it was in the book. They make us think about what’s going on in our own reality, and show us how we can prevent it from ever happening.

Dystopia is, in that sense, not much different from utopia. They both hope to create a better world, but having read science fiction and fantasy since childhood, I’m not easily surprised. I see possibilities many don’t. I’m not saying it will happen, but there are some disturbing possibilities in the present crisis. We haven’t had a similar situation since WW II, and this state of emergency has allowed municipalities to pass their own laws. My hometown passed one that described necessary limitations, such as keeping a one metre distance on public transporation and in stores, and no handshaking or hugging. Violation of these measures could result in a fine or a two year prison sentence, and if your actions resulted in someone dying, you could get a four year sentence.

I raised some concerns about this in social media, but got mostly negative response. I don’t worry about this particular law as the Justice Minister has already said the Police won’t enforce these many local, state of emergency laws, but I get the feeling many in the present situation would help the police load you into the cattle cars. I don’t think it’ll happen now, but I can see a scenario where this leads to people turning each other in. Imagine if an anonymous report from any citizen, with no requirements for evicence, was enough to get you into trouble. People could report you just because they didn’t like you, or because they were afraid. Most people would support this until the police came for them. I have seen some terrified people in recent days, and I believe they are capable of giving false reports.

I just finished one of my own books, and I started one of my daughter’s books today. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill started with a sacrifice. The people in this  community leave a baby in the forest every year to appease the witch threatening to destroy the village. I just started what looks to be a fascinating read, but this made me think of Norwegians snitching on each other during WW II, or perhaps the people who’d like to do it today.

Fear is a threat to any society. We can handle disease, but what scared people do to each other could be a lot worse. I’m just a few pages into the book, but I can already sense an important message.

The worlds that offer words of comfort

King Domino is a simple game that makes the atmosphere and conversation positive.
King Domino is a simple game that makes the atmosphere and conversation positive.

I don’t believe in burying my head in the sand, or pacing the floor, wringing  my hands. I guess that is inevitable at times, but I like doing something, which I am in the present situation (Covid-19). The only thing I can do is to try and limit the risk of infection, and to continue boosting my immune system. Another thing I can do is not watching news all day, as swimming in misery isn’t going to to do any good. The state broadcaster in Norway has three TV channels, and their flag ship usually has a wide variety of documentaries and re-runs of old drama shows during day time hours. There’s been a neverending corona coverage all day and every day for more than a week now, with one headline more dramatic than the next. That is only likely to increase your anxiety level.

I see the value in being informed about the world around me, but there is a limit to how much we need to know, and if you keep watching this neverending coverage, you’re going to feel pretty pessimistic. Maybe what people need to hear is that we can handle this, that we are capable of solidarity and of offering a hand to those that need it, that this isn’t the end of our civilization. I spend some time away from this world, in worlds where things do work out. I need some hope.

That’s the magic of books. They can lift you out of this world and transport you to another one. I’m about to finish one of the books in C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner universe, and I think I’ll raid my daughter’s bookshelf next. I have been curious about Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon for a while, and after that I want to re-read some of Diana Wynne Jones’ books. I also want to take an old favourite down from the bookshelf, as my daughter’s first week of distance learning included A Wrinkle in Time. It didn’t specifically include this book by Madeleine L’Engle, but she had to read a book of her choice for English, and answer some questions. It was a good choice and the female character, Meg Murry, is an inspiration these days. This is not a bad time for a hero who can show us what we are capable of. Speaking of heroes, I can see a re-read of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter coming up.

Sometimes there is hope in tragic events in real life as well. My local newspaper had an article a few days ago about the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918. It killed 70 people in my hometown, and the newspaper articles and letters to the editor at the times show us some of the the confusion and fear people felt. They had good reasons, because no one knew what to do. There was no cure, no treatment. When I think about it, it could have ended differently for my family. My great grandfather was one of the few doctors in the region doing his best to help. He must have seen some bad conditions, but he never brought it home. My grandfather was 14 years old at the time of the outbreak, and my mother was born 22 years later. I find it inspiring that life continued.

I like spending time with my family, and if this situation lasts for a long time, that becomes especially important. We have film nights together and we play a lot of games. Last night wouldn’t have been a bad Saturday under any circumstances. I built a kingdom (domino), had coffee and a home made bounty bar, nice conversation, and a break from all the things I can’t do anything about.

Now it’s back to day time drama, and I think I’ll open my book again. The weather is beautiful at the moment. Spring is officially here and I’m going to spend a fair amount of this Sunday in the sun reading.

Sunshine inside the bunker

No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again and bring the dawn. Maya Angelou

Wild flowers in the garden. We may prefer a subdued garden, one that has been formed by our will, but nature is pretty striking without our help.
We may prefer a subdued garden, one that has been formed by our will, but nature is pretty striking without our help.

Watching the news these days, every day and all day, is likely to drive you crazy, or at the very least leave you feeling pretty miserable. We need some updates from time to time, but I spend most of the day doing something else. I’m not one of those that have suddenly made the 2011 film Contagion Warner Brothers’ top film after Harry Potter.

I’m not saying there’s nothing to worry about. I can’t imagine how it was in China, and how it is in Italy right now. It’s bad enough when the country shuts down, and in addition to worrying about your family getting sick, uncontrollable fear could make things worse. Some may have a fear of what will happen in the future. Will it be as bad as in Italy? Are we going to run out of medicine?

Norwegians haven’t been in this situation before. Not since WW II. I believe they’ll slowly learn to deal with an uncertainty they haven’t experienced. Maybe it’s not surprising that solidarity and help has been offered from Americans (in Norway) first. I know about a few cases where someone with the same medicine and dosage have offered to share. Some have also offered to share books, but I don’t know if that it’s a good idea, as that could spread the virus. Perhaps the best thing these days is to give away an audiobook streaming service to someone you want to help?

I’ve seen news stories and social media messages about choices people have to make. A friend of a friend from Arkansas said it best. After having seen many express the difficulty in making decisions between paying bills and feeding the family, she said:

Welcome to the mentality of poverty.

There’s always options, but if you’re poor, none of them are good. Financial uncertainty is the norm to a lot of people, especially to disabled, or parents to disabled children. The rest of you may try to think about that when we go back to normal. You may say this wasn’t your fault, that you didn’t cause the difficulty you find yourself in now. Neither did we, and we didn’t force you to discriminate us.

In all the terror and instability we have faced lately life has been put on hold for many people. Employees have been laid off, and if this lasts for a long time, companies will go out of business. When you don’t have money to pay your bills, it’s hard to stop thinking about money. It’s always an issue, but I want to live. I want to soak in nature. Spring isn’t something we need to worry about, but it should be on our minds. It is definitely upon us. The poet Mary Oliver died early last year, but someone is still managing her facebook page.

Mary Oliver has written a beautiful poem called Spring. If you are on Facebook you can read it here. So how do we cope with the present situation? There are all sorts of opiniated experts in media, and one of them predicted an avalanche of divorces as a side effect of cabin fever. That could be the result of actually spending time with your family, if you haven’t done that for a while.

We happen to like each others company in my family, and we are used to spending time together and time alone. We watch some films and play card/board games together, and we read during our alone time. It worked before Corona, and it works now. We’re not exactly in a bunker or a small 18th century one-room house, but I have a feeling I could deal with that as well.

I realise we may have a long time ahead of us, but the first week hasn’t been so bad. The online system where my daughter gets her school assignments and where she posts work has functioned perfectly. We have kept our routines of getting up early enough to finish the morning wash and breakfast before the regular school hour. We have taken some walks, as staying healthy and getting some sunlight is important (any virus hates sun).

The poem by Maya Angelou is frequently used to illustrate the beauty of nature, or to encourage us to appreciate the gifts around us, as Mary Oliver’s poem did. The Maya Angelou quote is taken from the poem His Day is done, and is a tribute to Nelson Mandela. The idea is that he started something that can’t be stopped. There will be a new day. The sun will rise every morning, and it’s up to us to make sure we use the new day for something good. We have the necessary ingredientses.

I’m going to read tonight, and when I’m finished with the C. J. Cherryh book I’m reading now, I’ll try one of my daugther’s books. I’ve been curious about The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill for a while. Reading, as well as positive interaction with my family, isn’t a bad way to deal with these difficult times. Yes, there’s more than toilet paper in my bunker.

Spring is here and I want to feel it. That’s the power nature and books have. They sustain life.

Listen to Maya Angelou read her own poem on You tube.