Sunday, December 16, 2012

When a Child is Born

Click on the picture to listen to the song

One week left to Christmas. I share one of  my favorite songs of the holiday:
When a Child is Born
with Johnny Mathis.
A ray of hope flickers in the sky
A tiny star lights up way up high
All across the land dawns a brand new morn
This comes to pass when a child is born

A silent wish sails the seven seas
The winds of change whisper in the trees
And the walls of doubt crumble tossed and torn
This comes to pass, when a child is born

A rosy hue settles all around
You got the feel, you're on solid ground
For a spell or two no one seems forlorn
This comes to pass, when a child is born

And all of this happens, because the world is waiting.
Waiting for one child; Black-white-yellow, no one knows...
But a child that will grow up and turn tears to laughter,
Hate to love, war to peace and everyone to everyone's neighbor,
And misery and suffering will be words to be forgotten forever.

It's all a dream and illusion now,
It must come true sometime soon somehow,
All across the land dawns a brand new morn,
This comes to pass when a child is born.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Annunciation by Leonardo

I've shared this painting once before, but I thought it wouldn't harm to show it once more. This masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci, painted between 1472 and 1475, is one of my very favorites, residing in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
It's Advent now, and I think it's a beautiful illustration of what the Christian world is celebrating: The birth of Christ. Here, many months earlier, the young virgin Mary is greeted by an angel, who tells her that she is going to have a child, and that this child will be the world's savior.
She looks mildly surprised, doesn't she, and who wouldn't be... It's incomprehensible. A mystery.
A wonderful, powerful, holy mystery, and that's what we are about to celebrate.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Intouchables

If you haven't yet seen this movie, go and see it now.  The Intouchables is one of the best cinematic experiences I've had in a long time. Based on a true story, we meet a paralyzed man and his assistant, and the whole thing is filled with different life situations, grief, laughter, seriousness and comic. It's definitively a feel-good-movie, but in addition to this, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache dare to dig a little deeper, show real people and the whole scale of human feelings.
This French movie holds a great cast, with François Cluzet and Omar Sy in the leading roles, beautiful and interesting photography, what is it more to say, other than - go and see it!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I have so many thoughts in my head...

My youngest son is 5 years old today. It's of course just another day, just another number of years, but for him it's a major milestone, as it is for me. My baby has grown so much, but he is still very young, with this long road ahead of him. So many possibilities to seize, so many choices to make. What will those years  bring and who will he be? I hope he'll remain the person he is today, that sweet boy who cares about people around him, who laughs a whole lot,  and who keeps asking questions like these:
  • "Can smoke become clouds?"
  • "Can we walk on clouds?"
  • "How is it possible to live in Heaven?"
  • "Do we get a new life when we die?" 
  • "Can a hippopotamus eat a whole pizza?"
And saying things like this: "I have so many thoughts in my head which I don't remember."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sleeping with the cat. (part II)

I posted this other picture, about my son who fell asleep while reading "The Cat in the Hat."
Here he is again, a couple a weeks ago. He wasn't tired at all, or so he said, lying down on the couch, and falling asleep almost at once. The cat joined in as soon as she realized he was going to stay there for a while. :-)

Sunday, November 25, 2012


It is that time of year again. The anniversary of my dad's passing away. And today, like every single day for the past 6 years, I can't believe he's gone. It's so unfair, and such a terrible waste. It was too soon. I still had so many questions, so much to learn from him, and I still needed him and his recognition, his praise.

I still do. And in many ways I feel fundamentally, existentially lonely,

I recently re-read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (HP III) reading it to  my 8-year-old daughter this time. (Well, reading parts of it, actually, as she reads some of the chapters by herself) One of the conversations between Harry and Dumbledore stuck with me. It is towards the end of the book, when Harry realize that he didn't just see his dead father, like he thought he did. Instead it was himself he saw on the far side of the lake, protecting him from the dementors.
He tells Dumbledore about it, and the headmaster says these words, which might be of comfort to all of you who have lost a loved one:

"You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him."

An then, once again I let Josh Groban sing this song which says the same: "Maybe you're still here". 

To all of you who feel like you are left behind and don't see the road ahead:

"To Where You Are"
by Richard Marx and Linda Thompson

Who can say for certain
Maybe you're still here
I feel you all around me
Your memory, so clear

Deep in the stillness
I can hear you speak
You're still an inspiration
Can it be (?)
That you are mine
Forever love
And you are watching over me from up above

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you're there
A breath away not far
To where you are

Are you gently sleeping
Here inside my dream
And isn't faith believing
All power can't be seen

As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me everyday
'Cause you are my
Forever love
Watching me from up above

And I believe
That angels breathe
And that love will live on and never leave

Fly me up
To where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile
To know you're there
A breath away not far
To where you are

I know you're there
A breath away not far
To where you are

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Abrahams Barn / The Children of Abraham

Last Sunday I went to see the show Abrahams Barn  (Children of Abraham) created by Svein Tindberg and directed by Kjetil Bang-Hansen. The only person on stage is Svein Tindberg. It's basically a 2 hour-long monologue, and it's amazing. Through stories, anectdotes, facts and humor, he  tells us about the origins of the three religions Juadism, Christianism and Islam, and how all three religions claim Abraham as their founding father. What Tindberg does during these hours on stage, is painting a picture where we get to see that there are so many common references, so many stories and legends which are the same, just told in different ways. He asks questions, wonders why the need to fight and to kill, when we really all are... the children of Abraham. 

Svein Tindberg builds bridges with this play. Bridges across the abysses of ignorance, fear and prejudice. I learned a lot, and had lots of "lightbulb moments". 

The show has been played for months in Oslo (Det Norske Teatret), and now it has started touring Norway with Riksteatret. Everybody should see this. And everybody should talk about it, tell people about it, especially their children. The world needs this kind of input.  The world needs people like Svein Tindberg.
Thank you!

All photos: Dag Jenssen

Photo: Street Scene.

I took this picture in Rome, two months ago, while waiting for my pasta. Just ordinary people. A piece of life.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

All I can do is sit and wait...

Earlier I wrote about having kicked my baby bird out of the nest, and how scary that felt, how worried I was that it wouldn't be able to fly by itself.
Well, now it has been 5 weeks and 1 day, and I still have no clue. I'm still standing there in the nest, peeking over the side, watching to see if the baby bird flies or falls to the ground.
And, just to make that clear. My "baby bird" is a manuscript.
I'm still waiting. And, what else can I do, than sit and wait for a good result? Well, life goes on, of course. I've been guiding and teaching a group in Florence, Italy, I've been taking pictures in my studio, and I keep writing, both new stuff, and constantly editing what's already there. But, still, I'm waiting, because a rather large chunk of my brain is constantly working the question: What will happen to that baby bird?
Then, while writing this, a song comes to mind: "Sit and Wait" with Sydney Youngblood, from 1989.  There is even a line about being ready to fly...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bivrfrost by Frikar / Dance Show

Yesterday I went to see a dance show, Bivfrost, with my 13-year-old son.  Frikar, a Norwegian dance company has created a fairytale about how to deal with racism and the fear of the unknown. Traditional Norwegian folk dance, lausdans, is combined with elements from break dance and Asian martial arts, and the result is both extremely impressing and very beautiful to watch, sometimes even funny.
"Bivrfrost" was, in the ancient Norse religion, a bridge that went from Åsgard (where the gods lived) to "Midgard" (where the humans lived). It was impossible for humans to enter the bridge, since the placement of it was constantly and magically changed.

This show is inspired by this.  The king promises the princess and one half of the kingdom to the one who can build a bridge between the two rivalizing cultures, make them unite.
This fairytale of a dance performance is made and directed by Frikar founder Halgrim Hansegård, and it is a co-production with Teater Innlandet, a regional theater company. For those who are in Norway, it is still possible to see it for a few more days, for instance in Hamar.

A little video presentation of the show:

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Lady from the Sea / Fruen fra Havet

A couple of weeks ago I saw this play in our local theater: The Lady from the Sea (Fruen fra Havet) by Henrik Ibsen. This is one of Ibsen's lesser-known plays, and not so much shown as A Doll's House (Et Dukkehjem) or Ghost (Gengangere). 

We are in a little town deep within a fjord on (probably) the north-west coast of Norway.  There, in this narrow valley,  between steep mountains that only let you see a little piece of the sky, we meet Ellida, her husband: Doctor Wangel, and his grown daughters from a previous marriage Bolette and Hilde. 
Ellida is not happy.  She is constantly longing for the openness of the seashore, and she has never felt fully included in this family. She also carries with her the memory of another man, to whom she promised to be faithful many years ago. One day this man arrives at her doorstep, and she will have to make a choice: Leave her husband, or stay...

The play is all about love, and it is about having a purpose to your existence. It is also about choosing, trying to do what's right, about choices made out of fear and dreams of a different life...

It's really amazing that this play was written in 1888. Ibsen surely was ahead of his contemporary Norway, and today we can appreciate the everlasting relevance of his work.

Photo: Erik Berg

Photo: Erik Berg

Photo: Erik Berg

This performance was by Riksteatret, which is a state owned theater company who tours Norway. They have a handful of plays every season, and they travel to many small towns (like my own) and even to the countryside, where there is no institutional theater.  The plays are set up in movie theaters or community halls.  Every year there is a new cast of professional Norwegian actors joining the company.
The Lady of the Sea is directed by Anne-Karen Hytten, and the lead actors are Marianne Nielsen and Lasse Kolsrud. See here for full cast and information.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sleeping with the cat.

This picture was taken months ago, with my mobile phone. The photo isn't perfect,  but it is a real snapshot, a true glimpse of my four-year-old son's life at the time.
He was having his "quiet-time" after lunch, reading in my bed. I asked if he wanted to take a nap, but he assured me that he wasn't tired at all. I peeked in to see how he was doing, and there he was, asleep, on the last page of "The Cat in the Hat".

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Angel of the Spear

This photograph was made in Rome, about a month ago. It is one of the beautiful angel statues on the Ponte Sant'Angelo (Bridge of the angels). This pedestrian bridge is a meditative walk, flanked by angel statues, each one carrying a symbol of the Passion of Christ. (His suffering and death.)

This one, The Angel of the Spear, is made by Domenico Guidi, from his teacher's (Bernini) design, towards the end of the 17th century.  It has the inscription "Vulnerasti cor meum" which means: "You have ravished my heart" (The Song of Solomon 4:9)

Autumn Scene

I took these pictures a couple of days ago, with my mobile phone. It's in our small town's public parc, in front of the old mansion which is today a museum. The little horse statue is a favorite of most kids around here, and the parc has fun play structures, both manmade and natural!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Reading Challenge - some changes

I joined a reading challenge this year: The Mount TBR (to be read) = Books I have sitting on my shelf and never got around to read.
My goal is to reach 25 books before the end of the year.  My problem is that I keep reading books which are NOT on this list and can't be, because they are either new acquisitions or borrowed at the library or from friends. 
So far I have read the ones in red. There are some changes to the list, and that's ok, as long as all books were in my possession before January 1st 2012. 

My Reading List:

  1. Anita Shreve: A Change in Altitude
  2. Gregory David Roberts: Shantaram
  3. Peter Hain and Desmond Tutu: Mandela
  4. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: En Glad Gutt
  5. Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters to a young poet
  6. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tender is the night
  7. Nicholas Sparks: Safe Haven
  8. Anita Shreve: Fortune's Rocks
  9. Lorànt Deutsch: Metronome
  10. Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Brødrene Karamazov
  11. Dan Brown: The Lost Symbol
  12. Mark Lévy: Les Enfants de la liberté
  13. Knut Hamsun: Victoria
  14. Ketil Bjørnstad: Liv Ullmann - Livslinjer
  15. Sophie Kinsella: Mini Shopaholic
  16. Karine Reysset: Les yeux au ciel
  17. Stephenie Meyer: The Host
  18. S. Mitra Kalita: My Two Indias
  19. Marc Lévy: Mes Amis Mes Amours
  20. Solveig Tufte Johansen: Bare Natten har verdensrom
  21. Nicholas Sparks: A Walk to Remember
  22. Anita Diamant: Good Harbor
  23. Anita Shreve: The last time they met
  24. Bergliot Hobæk Haff: Den Evige Jøde
  25. Sarah Rayner: One moment one morning

Good Harbor (Book Review)

I bought this one because I had read "The Red Tent" and absoutely loved it. This novel, Anita Diamant's second, is very different. It is a contemporary story, set on  the coast of Massachusetts, USA, where we meet two women and their families.  They are different, a generation separates them, but they become good friends, during long walks and conversations on Good Harbor beach.  A story about friendship, love, marriage, religion, overcoming illness and believing in life itself. I love Diamant's language, her way of painting images in my mind. The novel was published in 2001. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Baby Bird kicked out of Nest

It happened yesterday. I kicked my baby bird out of the nest. Not literally, of course, but I think it's a perfect image of what I did: My writing project, a 324-page-long manuscript for a novel, was mailed off to a publisher. Standing there in the post office, I was dizzy and completely giddy, didn't know if I was going to laugh or cry, and I kept dropping my car keys, or my pen, or the extra envelope I was carrying, and in the end a box of paper clips, which scattered all over the floor, so that I had to crawl around and pick them up while people were staring, before I finally got to seal the heavy package, make sure the stamps stayed on, and push it through the opening in the wall. 

In Norway aspiring authors send their manuscripts directly to a publisher, and there will be  an answer after 3-8 weeks.  The odds of getting published are extremely slim, and I'm very well aware of the fact that I've just started the nerve wracking  journey on the roller coaster of hope and disappointment.

But I have to believe in this. Believe it may happen. A wise woman, herself an artist and writer, told me this today: "Faith is and patience and persistence..."

So I choose to cross my fingers and believe that my baby bird has the strength to fly. We'll see....

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird - Book Review

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 

I recently read this book: "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. The novel, published in 1960 stands as a classic of modern American literature, and it was one of these books I just had to read.
It is a story about growing up in the 1930's in a Southern small town.  The childhood universe of play, fears, questions and learning and the adult universe of racial prejudice, single parenthood and courage to stand up for what you believe is right. The main characters are  Jean Louise, called Scout and her elder brother Jem, their father Atticus, which is a lawyer,  and their housekeeper Calpurnia. Then there are all the different neighbors, and the little town with has its secrets and its dos and don'ts. 
An important book and a good read!

Monday, October 1, 2012


Visiting the Colosseum was one of the highlights of our trip. Surreal that this enormous structure has been standing there for almost 2000 years, and it was very special to walk around within those stone walls, thinking about the atrocities that happened, and about the thousands of people, emperors and ordinary people, who have been just there, watching the combats and the killings of men and amimals... We could almost hear the screams and the roar of the crowds...

Sunday, September 30, 2012


My son turned 13 this summer, and last week the two of us went to Rome on a 4-day trip, which was his birthday gift from me. I once decided that I want to take each of my kids on a "discovery trip" when they enter the teenage years. Three years ago I went to Paris with my daughter, and for my son I chose the Eternal City.
We had wonderful days in Rome, walking, talking, enjoying art, meals, icecream... 
There is tremendous value in traveling alone with your child. You get to talk, listen, learn to know each other better, and you make memories.
The picture is taken at the Piazza del Risorgimento, just outside the walls of the Vatican City.

The Art of Parenting (Chr. Krohg: "Braiding her Hair")

I saw this painting today, in Oslo's National Museum of Art  I've seen it many times before, both reproduced, and IRL, like today.
I like to visit the museum when I'm in the neighborhood,  and  even if I only have about half an hour, I drop by, just to see a few of my favorites.
"Braiding her hair" ("Håret Flettes") is painted by Christian Krohg, a famous Norwegian painter and writer.
This painting was made in 1882, and it's really a snapshot of a very common scene in the life of a family.
(Just like "Sleeping mother with child", painted a year later, it is part of his Skagen Series.)
I think it's beautiful, in a simple, unpretentious way, and it makes me emotional, just because I know that one day I won't be braiding a daughter's hair anymore...
These simple, ordinary tasks I do as a parent, they will remain as memories, as pictures in my mind, and even if I'm still braiding hair now and then, this painting brought tears to my eyes today. Just like the song "Slipping through my fingers" does. (Click on the link to listen to it.)
So, my message is this:
Seize the day and  the moment. Hold on to the small, seemingly insignificant details of your life as a parent. They are life, pure and simple.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lonely / Ensom

I got this picture accepted to an art exhibition in my town.
I've called it "Ensom", which means "lonely" in Norwegian.

Dette bildet kom med på Gjøvik Kunstforenings Høstutstilling på Gjøvik gård. 
Jeg har kalt bildet "Ensom." 
Utstillingen åpnet i dag. Den står til 14. oktober  og kan sees onsdag til søndag fra 12-16.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Inspiration and Work

Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working. 
(Pablo Picasso)

So true, and so hard sometimes. If you are into writing, you have probably experienced the brick wall, the writer's block or simply the unwillingness to sit down and write.  You hope for inspiration to appear, to help you soar, give you the words. Well, it doesn't usually happen that way. You have to sit down, glue yourself to that chair, and work. If you keep on working, then you might experience  inspiration, and you're ready for it.
I'm for the first time very close to finishing the first draft of a story, and I have indeed learned that Picasso's quote is true.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Late Summer Saturday

Hanging out in the front yard after our walk downtown on this beautiful September Saturday.
Lots of fun things were going on in the pedestrian street because of the annual Volunteering Day, and there were free balloons and candy for the kids and  coffee for me. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Full Moon over Ponte Vecchio

This picture is taken last week. I had just arrived in Florence, and while walking over Ponte Santa Trinita towards Oltrarno, this magical view caught my eye.
What a nice welcome for a lone traveler! 

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I'm back in Florence.  All myself. My agenda is this: Prepare the group tour this october by visiting some more places and "walk up" my itineraries. Then comes research for my writing project. (Which is very much about Florence) and, of course, write. 
I also get to work on my Italian, by listening, talking to people, and trying to learn and improve all the time.
Then it is this other, more hard to describe, aspect, which for me go with all traveling: Just going, and just being there. 
To travel - go somewhere -  and then be there, in another place. Just being there. 
Realizing and enjoying the fact that our senses get sharpened whenever we are removed from our own,  familiar zone.
I need it once in a while. I think we all do. I need it for many reasons, and it fuels me for my everyday life.

The Norwegian poet Helge Torvund has written it beautifully in this poem: (Translation further down)

Igjen dreg eg ut for å finna attende
Igjen reiser eg for å koma bort
frå alt kvardagen kan klare
like godt utan meg
Eg vaskar meg i nye landskap
Skyler pupillane i fontenar
i andre hovudstadar
og kjenner augene klarna
Eg sym i folkemassar
og kjenner folk venda attende til meg
med ny kraft, kroppsleg tilstades
Eg dreg ut og kjem attende
til tidlegare dagar
Då eg sat godt aleine
på eit framandt torg
og forstod så mykje
med bare augene
utan å vite
at eg var lykkeleg

Then, an English translation by me.  I feel it's very close to Torvund's Norwegian words, and hope he will agree:

Once again I leave, so I can find my way back
Once again I leave, so that I can get away
from everything that everyday life can manage
without me
I wash myself in new sceneries
Rince my pupils in fountains
in other capitals
and feel my eyes clear up
I swim in crowds of people
and feel people coming back to me
with new power, bodily present

I leave and I come back
to earlier days
When I sat well alone
on a foreign city square
and understood so much
with only my eyes
without knowing
that I was happy