Unplug

This week is going to suck.

At least by any objective standard, this will likely be the most miserable week of my life. Food will be scarce, everything I have will be perpetually wet, I will have no access to any modern amenities, and my only form of shelter will be a thin sheet of fabric that doesn’t even keep out a draft. At least the constant drizzle will mean that collecting clean water will be as easy as leaving out a bowl.

Yet, I am so excited for this next adventure that it’s hard to believe this day has finally arrived. This afternoon, I will board a train from Oslo to Bergen on the west coast. I’m not yet sure if I’ll have a host for this evening, but either tonight or tomorrow, I will wander out into Bergens fjellstrekninger, a national park on the north side of the city, where I’ll pitch my tiny one-man tent (I’m trusting that “night” in Bergen this close to the summer solstice is still moderately light). In the middle of the week, I’ll reemerge to meet up with a friend of a friend to do some structured hiking, but otherwise, I have no plans. I just need to be back to the train station by noon next Saturday to catch my train back to Oslo.

I will have my phone, but other than navigating my way out of the city and for emergency navigation/communication, it will remain off. That, of course, means that I will not be able to post for the next few days. I’ll still be writing. I have my travel journal and a few pens in my bag. I’ll transcribe anything of note when I get back.

But I don’t think I’ll be writing too much. This is an excellent opportunity to do uninterrupted thinking for which having a pen and paper can definitely help keep the thoughts on track, but it’s also an opportunity not to think. These days, my mind is too full of random thoughts and ideas bouncing around in a jumbled and confused mess. Some of these thoughts ought to be organized and made sense of, but most of them ought to be simply let go. What a perfect opportunity to clear the mind. I’m not trying to push Alan Watts as some particularly enlightened sage, but he said a lot of things that are real thinkers. Ironically, one of those was that we think too much. We can never fully turn off our brain, and concentrated thought is a necessary part of life, but why does our conscious mind need to be filled incessantly with the words of our contrived language? Are not words merely a representation of the reality around us? Or even of an imagined reality? Can we not just experience the reality as it is without the endless chatter trying to catalog every moment before we can even enjoy it? It’s a bit like going to a concert, but watching the entire show through the screen of a smartphone as one records every minute. I fully encourage people to utilize our new technology to take a clip of a good show (I’ll soon share a clip from Oslo’s Musikkfest), but this should be only a short repose from simply enjoying the rhythm and melody of a good jam. Life is exactly the same. These writings are a way to share a bit of the universe’s experience from my point in space and time, but they capture the smallest bit of it.

A few days of silence ought to give me the chance to unplug, not only from the technologically interconnected world, but from my own inner monolog. It’ll be my own personal meditation retreat. I’ll almost certainly need to tap that power if I’m going to manage the wet and cold for five days without going mad.

Speak to you next weekend, readers. I’m sure I’ll have lots to share.

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Departing

I promise that I wrote this yesterday. But I haven’t slept, so it still feels like the same day to me. Actually the sun never properly went down, so it’s not just a lack of sleep. Anyway, this is my post for June second. That means I still owe 500 words for June third. I’ll make it.

The question seemed rather morose, but her bubbly demeanor softened the tone. Her thick South African accent and air of unspoiled innocence elicited a feeling of condescending pity for her ignorant misconception.

She had asked, “So, when are you leaving Visby for good? Like, forever?” Her bright smile clashed with the falling tones of depressive sentimentality.

“Bright and early tomorrow morning,” I responded with confident excitement and a smile to match hers.

But my attempt to act cordially and match our expressions quickly backfired when her smile melted into a knitted brow and hanging mouth that actually did align with her words: “Oh, that’s sad.” The heavily accented final syllable dragged on as if begging my cheery expression to come along into the sudden pit of despair.

Instead, I found myself stumbling in confusion. That was not at all the response I had expected. “What? No, it’s not,” I quickly retorted. “It’s exciting,” I pleaded, subduing the argumentative tone.

 

———-

 

In about 14 hours, I will step onto a ferry that will take me from Visby for what may be the last time. I feel no sadness about that. I spent seven wonderful months in this lovely little city, and I thoroughly enjoyed every beautiful morning that I walked to class as I looked out over the Medieval red rooves that glowed in the early morning light (or of that of the ubiquitous ornate streetlights in the depths of winter).

However, it’s time to move on. I hadn’t spent more than seven months with a continuous address since I graduated from the Academy just over four years ago. These potentially permanent goodbyes have become a natural part of my life. In that time, I have cultivated some of the strongest relationships I have ever had and recognized their value, but I have also grown out of that sense of loss in saying goodbye. Perhaps it is a more concentrated focus on the present moment and a feeling of gratefulness for having had these people in my life even for as long as I did. Compared to any other of the paths my life could have taken, that I took the one that brought me in contact with the people I have met here in Visby carried an infinitesimally small probability and could in no way be predicted. The fact that I know this joyful and talkative young South African woman is a coincidence of the most startlingly low likelihood, so whatever the prospects of our ever meeting again, there is always the positive turn on the situation that we should be grateful that we have met at all.

However, I think there is a more salient reason for my excitement of leaving this island. I know that the result of this next relocation will be even more fulfilling and meaningful connections with new people, places, and moments.

Though it may be cliche, it is true: every ending is just another beginning. This week, a stage of my life comes to an end. I defended my thesis this morning, and once I submit some final corrections later this month, I will close the chapter of my life that contained my time as a master’s student at Uppsala University, and I will begin a new one that contains a new story with new characters. Indeed, all the characters will be new. Even the protagonist in this epic, though quite similar to this last, will inevitably be someone new.