Anxiety Before Traveling

This time next week I’ll be in Houston for the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat. We’ll have a few days on land and then we’ll be on a cruise ship for the remainder of the event. I’ve gone on these trips annually for the past four years, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity. They aren’t trips we ever would have been able to afford on our own, so we work hard as staff to make the event amazing and thus pay for our tickets with our efforts.

It does mean that I end up spending the week of the trip in something of a liminal space. I’m staff and therefore not able to blend in with the attendees. However I’m not one of the Writing Excuses podcast hosts or an invited guest instructor. I assist with the family programming for non-writers, helping them connect with each other and learn things about supporting their writers. I fit in that role since I am the life partner and enabler of a person with a creative career. However I’m also a writer myself, so I bounce into those spaces as well. Being not exactly one thing or another provides fertile ground for anxieties to grow. So this week I’m spending significant amounts of mental energy weeding anxieties out as soon as they pop up. The minute I realize I’m worried that I’ve disappointed attendees I remind myself that it isn’t possible for people to be disappointed by me when they barely know I exist or haven’t met me yet. When I have thoughts about how I probably shouldn’t speak up in conversations about writing, I remind myself that I have as much right to speak about my writing struggles as anyone else. Anxiety sprouts, I pull it out like a weed. Repeat.

This year I’m going on the trip with a specific writing project and goal. I’m eschewing shore excursions so that I have longer stretches to sit and write. I’m trying to refocus myself as a writer and remember that projects only get complete if I actually put in the time. I’m anxious about all of this as well. Writing is surrounded by a whole garden of anxiety weeds which have barbs like thistles They are thoughts that sting and hurt whenever I bump into them.
What is the point, it’ll never be published anyway.
What do you have to say that hasn’t already been said.
You don’t have the skill to do this.
Who do you think you’re fooling, if you were a real writer you’d… [fill in the blank]

And dozens more related thoughts. I already know the words to counteract these thoughts. I speak them regularly to students and friends. I teach them in classes. I believe them when I say them to others, yet somehow it is harder to accept that they also apply to me. Anxiety is like that. It is a lying liar who lies.
I write the counter argument here to remind myself: creation is always worthwhile even if the only one who is changed by it is the person who creates. I’m very good at nurturing the personal growth of others, and I need to turn some of that effort inward.

Along with the writer anxieties, I’m also dealing with anxieties about the things and people I need to leave behind while I travel. Also dealing with the inherent anxieties around the ways that travel can go wrong. Thus far the all the anxieties (travel, writerly, etc), while abundant, have been low level. More like background noise than something obtrusive. But the volume will increase the closer I get to departure. Writing this post is one of my ways to stare anxiety down and say “I see you. You don’t win.” It may be silly, but it works.

This week I’m at my house looking at damaged flooring, clutter, and bathrooms that need to be cleaned. Next week I’ll have vistas of caribbean water and white sand beaches. Yet I’ll be the same me in both spaces. I’ll carry anxieties with me on the trip and then back again, unless I can figure out how to shed them before I go. And if I want to feel calm, serene, happy I need to not wait until I’m surrounded by loveliness to cultivate those emotions, otherwise when I leave the lovely location I’ll also leave the emotions behind. Travel definitely provides an impetus for me to examine my internal landscape, but it is at home that the real work gets done.

At the End of the Trip

When I got to the hotel room, after the long winding lines to debark the ship, after the last hugs to friends, after the week of beautiful sights and new thoughts to think, after all that, I crawled into the hotel bed for a nap. While adjusting the covers, they flipped over my head and I realized how comforting it was to be completely enclosed in a soft, dark cave. So I slept. Cocooning to recover from massive over stimulation of cruise/conference week.

I keep cocooning every time I lay down. I’ll lay there and flashes of memory come and go. Sometimes they are linked to a task I should probably do in the days to come: a person I should reach out to, a request to fulfill, a thought for improving next year. Other times the flash comes with a stab of adrenaline as for a moment I remember a moment that suddenly feels like I made a grievous error in something I said or did. I do my best to let those anxieties pass through me and not dwell on them. Most of them are my brain lying to me. The thoughts and memories are fleeting, they vanish unless I work to retain them. Even when I do work, my odds are poor unless I immediately write them down.

It does not help that I discovered that I had somehow scheduled my ride to the airport for tomorrow’s flight so that they planned to pick me up in July of 2019. Now I’m triple checking everything to make sure I actually get to go home tomorrow.

Yet. My head is full of images that are beautiful, faces whose existence makes me happy. I remember sitting to the side of the R Bar on board the ship and watching as 30-40 writers mixed and mingled, laughing and talking together. That was the best part, with our efforts to build the conference we worked to build a space where community could form but it depended on others to fill up that space and connect with each other. And the attendees did. They flowed into the space, they reached out to each other. They solved each other’s problems. They made friends. They formed sub groups. They took a raw framework of schedule and classes, then turned it into something beautiful and lasting.

The travel day, filled with brief periods of activity and long periods of waiting for either departure or arrival. Once at home, the beginning of an orientation process.

Tweet: I have succeeded at task: make suitcase empty. Now contents are strewn across every flat surface in house and I’m out of brain for remembering where things belong. It is possible I didn’t fully think this plan through.

Tweet: I’m trying to remember how to Normal Schedule, but I keep accidentally napping instead. #wxr18 #recoveryday

First day I feel like I’m close to my regular capacity for thought, decision making and planning. I finally catch up on shipping, accounting, and email.

Morning, the teens are off to school with instructions to acquire and make up the work that they let slide while I was gone for two weeks. I stood over my fifteen year old and talked to him about the work he’s been avoiding, saying the words “remember how unpleasant this scolding is, so the next time you want to avoid school work, avoid being scolded instead.” I’m trying to teach him to herd and harness his natural-born avoidance as an important life skill.

The house is quiet. I have a task list, and a general sense of urgency for getting things done. We need to enter the next release cycle. It is time to launch another Kickstarter with all the work that entails. Working for ourselves, we can theoretically set our own deadlines, but the fact of the matter is that accounting dictates the deadlines. We have to launch a release before we run out of money to pay bills. It is time for a release, particularly when our two vehicles have both needed repairs in excess of a thousand dollars this past month.

I close my eyes and I can still visualize the view of ocean from my balcony. I remember the hot humid air. The further I get from the cruise, the harder it will be to recall these things. Day by day I move further from the experiences I had, until some point next year when I stop measuring departure and start measuring approach to the next one. That next one is already scheduled. People on the ship were able to re-book on site. Registration will be open sometime in the next few weeks. I get to have, not this trip, but another one like it.

Until then, I seek to catch elements of purpose and incorporate them into my daily patterns. I use the internet to thread connections, social media to create contact, attempting to maintain a virtual proximity to the new acquaintances and the familiar ones.

I want to linger, to stay with the memories, write up all the thoughts, but already they begin to slip away from me. In their place, I think of home schooling assignments, finalization of book files, and a myriad of home maintenance tasks. I have to let go and move forward. I have to fully immerse myself in the portions of my life that make up the vast majority of my year. And I need to put in the work to make sure that this “vast majority” is as joyful, peaceful, and productive as I can make it be.

Travel Begins

Today was the beginning of two weeks of travel which will include a tour of NASA and the fourth Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat which takes place on a cruise ship. The trip began early this morning with transit via shuttle, plane, and car. Now we’ve settled into the Houston hotel where we’ll stay until we board the ship on Sunday. I will have significant hosting and conference work to do, but the spaces in between, I’ll get to write. I’ll get to unfold my creative brain and let it consider long slow thoughts instead of using it up on the logistics tasks required to run house, family, and business.

I’ve never been to Houston before. It feels like a cross between Florida, California, and the deep south. I haven’t been here long enough to think of it except in reference to pieces of other places that I have been. However one thing I do notice is the flatness of the horizon. I’ve lived for the last 25 years in a place where the landscape goes vertical only a few miles from my house. I’ve been to other states with flat horizons, but either I was surrounded by tall buildings, or other obstructions. Here I can see the tall buildings of downtown from fifty miles away. My brain keeps trying to parse the flat horizon as ocean. I guess that is the only flat horizon referent that my brain has stored.

Tonight is for unwinding and travel recovery. Tomorrow we have work to do.

Retreat Progress Report 1

Go for a walk in the woods
Take some photographs
Maybe write up a post or two about thoughts related to the walk and photographs

Pull out my files of picture book ideas and refresh my thoughts on them
There are two that feel like I should push them forward right now: Herding Wild Horses about Amy’s Mommy, and an unnamed book about a little boy with anxiety.
Write some words on one of those picture books
Herding Wild Horses is 50% drafted now. Much revision will happen after the first draft.

Look at the fragments of blog posts and essays that I never completed
Found notes for three blog posts in my paper journal.
Pick one thing to write up as a full essay
Got one about Haiku and life structure. Will put it on the list for tomorrow.
Generate ideas for a short story or two
Done. They are fragments, but more than I had before.
Read a book
Several short stories from The Sum of Us, a speculative fiction anthology focusing on caregivers.
Help my son with an essay over speaker phone because that is the one last home thing that I do need to allow to encroach into this retreat.
I tried, but not much to do if no one on that end answers the phone. Since I got communication from several sources that everyone at home is alive and well, I know this is a simple case of no one picking up the phone when it rings because they were all too involved in their own things. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Additional things done:
A nap
Wrote emails to a couple of friends
Did some work setting up store items in our new store software
Read some online things
Conversations with friends who are also present at the retreat

Goals for tomorrow:
Finish draft of Herding Wild Horses
Write 1000 words of short story draft
Write the haiku post
Walk outdoors
Take some pictures
Post some pictures

Welcomed Back

I had a moment of quiet delight when I opened my laptop to enter the Wifi password and I discovered that my computer (Calcifer) had already connected. Calcifer remembers this place. So do I. This is my third visit to Woodthrush Woods. Even on my first visit the house felt welcoming and familiar, as if I’d been here before and only forgotten. The exact quote from a blog post I wrote at the time was:

I used to dream about my grandma’s tiny house. In the dreams I went upstairs and through a door to discover that her house had extra rooms and floors. Stepping into Woodthrush Woods was like stepping into one of those dreams, my grandma’s house–only different and bigger.

This visit there is actual familiarity along with that welcoming feeling. My first visit to this house is chronicled in a series of posts starting here. And my second visit starting here. That first visit was five years ago, time slipped past while I was not measuring. The switch over to cruises for the Writing Excuses retreats was the right choice for everyone concerned, but it did mean there were fewer events to draw me to visit this house.

Reading back over the posts I wrote five years ago, during that first retreat, I can see how far I have come. Back then I barely even had the word Anxiety to describe what I was wrestling with. It is so obvious now that anxiety was the issue, but in 2012 I didn’t know that. That trip was six months before the kids began hitting mental health crises. It was before all the diagnoses, tears, grief, and depression. It was back when my whole life was shaped by my anxieties and I couldn’t even see it. That trip dragged it out into the light and demonstrated why it was a problem. Since that trip I’ve traveled a long and winding emotional road. Coming back into this place shows me how far I have come. I am stronger and more fully myself that I was five years ago. My family has a nuanced lexicon of ways to self-assess and manage the now-acknowledged mental health issues that each of us deals with daily.

Pausing to acknowledge the road I’ve traveled these past five years is apparently the first work of this writer’s retreat morning. Time for the next thing.

At the Onset of a Writing Retreat

I am here at the house of my friend, far away from the house that is my home. I’ve come for a writer’s retreat in the company of multiple people that I don’t get to see nearly often enough. I’ll be here for five days and for every single one of them I am outside the context of my regular life. And that is the point. I am here to be outside my usual patterns and responsibilities. I am here to rest the organizational, task-responsible portion of myself while allowing a different portion of myself room to expand.

I’ve done retreats before. Anxiety always gets loud while I am at them. Less so as I’ve repeated going on them, because I have demonstrable proof that me “abandoning” my home responsibilities does not inevitably end in disaster. My first retreat was about seeing the extent of my anxiety and not allowing it to send me home early. Just staying was a triumph that I didn’t fully recognize until months later. Follow on retreats were about learning the shapes of that anxiety and seeing the ways that my home life made me tired so that I had the chance to go home and alter my at-home patterns.
This time I’m in a place I’ve been before with people who I’ve known for years both online and in person. I am outside my comfort zone, but I’ve come to a place that is also comfortable. I’m curious to see whether this retreat will finally focus on writing rather than anxiety and emotional processing.

I spent the weeks prior to this trip scrambling to get things done before going. The one thing I did not do was figure out what creative project I plan to focus on during this trip. What will I write? I have several possible answers. There are creative projects in my brain that are waiting patiently for me to pick them up again.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe how differently I view projects-in-waiting than I used to do. There were large portions of my creative life where I was frustrated and grieving over the time that I spent on things that were not me creating fiction in my own worlds. I don’t feel that way any more. The work I put into setting up our new online store is largely tedious data entry, but every minute I spend there improves our ability to sell items, which supplies income, which means I can pay bills, which means I have a house/heat/electricity, so that I can write words. Administrivia is in direct support of any creative work that I do. From January until May of this year is going to be administrivia heavy because I’m doing some foundational work (store infrastructure changes) that will create more breathing room for creative work than I’ve had. The admin and organizational work is important and it is satisfying in a way that is different from writing. I’m not certain I would be fully happy as a creative person if I had endless time for writing. I think I need to organize and administer as much as I need to write.

But these next five days are a small space that I’ve deliberately created to allow myself to explore those on hold projects. I’m always reluctant to state goals out loud. I’m not sure why. I always have them, but I self motivate rather than using friendly help from peers. However this is a retreat for stepping outside my usual habits. So, tomorrow I will:
Go for a walk in the woods
Take some photographs
Maybe write up a post or two about thoughts related to the walk and photographs
Pull out my files of picture book ideas and refresh my thoughts on them
Write some words on one of those picture books
Look at the fragments of blog posts and essays that I never completed
Pick one thing to write up as a full essay
Generate ideas for a short story or two
Read a book
Help my son with an essay over speaker phone because that is the one last home thing that I do need to allow to encroach into this retreat.

That is a list of ten things. If I do six of them, I get a reward in the evening.

Ice Castles

In Midway Utah there is an ice castle. They build it every winter and it melts away in the spring. On years like this one, when it is warm and dry, they have a harder time maintaining it and keeping it open. But this was the year when I decided to buy tickets for our entire family to go see it. This was also the year when 50% of my family foiled my plan by catching the flu during the week we were scheduled to go. So I left the sick bookend kids (oldest and youngest) home with Howard while I took the middles with me to see a castle.

It wasn’t quite what my kids were expecting. I think they expected carved blocks of ice built into a classic castle shape instead of the icicles and mounded shapes. I know they weren’t expecting the lights inside the ice which lit the structures.

They rode the slides and explored the nooks and crannies. They delighted in finding narrow passages and following them.

Also hidden in the walls were speakers playing music. It turns out that when one is wearing a cape-like poncho, and the music is from How to Train Your Dragon, that dancing is a must.

It was a lovely outing.

Scattered Scenes from Arrival Day at the Writing Retreat

It turns out that packing several thick books next to blocks of chocolate will result in airport security wanting to hand search my bag. Then they will wipe down the chocolate to see if they are as advertised rather than being blocks of something explosive instead. The guy doing the search was pleasant. He took one look at my Planet Mercenary book and asked if there was a gaming convention happening. Apparently cases full of minis have been going through security today.

The pass through security was made extra interesting by the fact that my anxious 16yo started texting me just as I was dismantling my kit to pass through the scanning machines. She was worried about her math test and because of her anxiety, if I don’t answer promptly, she tends to ratchet up in intensity. So while my phone was going through the x-ray, I could hear it chiming. Then I had to decide if texting on my phone while waiting for my bag to be hand searched would make me look suspicious. I texted anyway and the staff didn’t react at all. Being middle-aged, white, blonde, female, and non-threatening almost certainly contributed to their unconcern.

The security check and reassurance of teenager both wrapped at about the same time. I told her she had my permission to completely bomb her math test. She answered:
“THANK YOU. I didn’t know I needed permission to get answers wrong until you said that. I’m still gonna do my best, but now I have permission to fail. Wow, I’m weird.”
I answered that I’m the same kind of weird, so we can hang out together in solidarity. It was a fun exchange.

I checked back an hour later. She didn’t bomb the test.


The location for this retreat is lovely. I’ve not been to Phoenix before, so it was fascinating to see saguaro cacti growing along side the freeways like trees. We even have one here in the garden of the house where we are staying. The whole place feels familiar and welcoming to me. The architecture is south-west spanish influenced, just like my home town in California. The plants are similar to my home town as well (except for the saguaro). But the air is dry the way that Utah air is dry. I like all of it. I’ve even found what I think will be my preferred writing nook.

We’ll see if it is as lovely in the heat of the day as it was at sunset. In my room I discovered that my hosts went above and beyond to make me feel welcome.

They quested to locate and purchase some Rose Lemonade, which can’t have been easy and was a true kindness considering they must have had dozens of other preparatory tasks to do.


Here at the retreat meals are social times. We gather to eat and talk. I’ve begun to learn names. I suppose I should have prepared for the “what are you working on” questions. It is so hard to not frame my answers as apologies. Apologizing for not working on a novel like so many of the others. Instead I practiced my professional skills and spoke positively about the writing work I’ve been doing on Planet Mercenary. After the fact I realized that I can also speak about the writing I do on Kickstarter updates and customer support emails. These are genres of writing that take every bit as much forethought and effort as any other form of writing that I’ve done.

I’m quite tired this evening, so I’ll likely turn in early. Tomorrow I’ll venture forth and write more words.


This post is me finishing up stories from my trip to Europe even though I’ve been back for weeks now.

When I was pre-planning my excursions months in advance, Tallinn was the place where I didn’t expect to go ashore. I hadn’t heard much about it except that it was small and there wasn’t all that much to do. So I didn’t schedule an excursion. It turned out to be the most magical of my trips off the ship. It was this building that lured me into walking ashore.

I could see the spire from the ship and it looked like a walkable distance. So my friend Kenna and I decided to go see if we could find it. The first part of the journey wasn’t particularly scenic. It was just a ship dock and some normal looking streets with street lights. Then we turned a corner to see this:

It even had a slot for a portcullis to be raised and lowered. Beyond it were narrow cobblestone streets and an area that we learned was called Old Town. We wandered along looking through archways into courtyards. I took a picture of the cobblestones, because apparently I can’t be near cobblestone paths without photographing them.

All along the church spire was high above us so we wended our way toward it. The doors to the church were open, and a sign said we were welcome to enter, so we did.

The thing I loved most about this church was that it is clearly still in regular use. Electric lighting and speakers had been installed so that people could see and hear clearly even in the back. I could feel the reverence and the peace of the place. People came here to commune with God, and that spiritual effort lingers in the places where it happens.

Throughout the church was beautiful carved wood. I took many pictures of it, but this door stood out. I don’t know what it says, but the words are obviously meaningful to the people who took so much effort to put them there.

We left the church and wandered onward through the streets. Very soon we found this, which was when we realized that the whole town had once been a fortified place protected inside walls.

I looked up at the wall towering above me and wondered about the people who built it so long ago. I pictured them patrolling those wooden walkways to keep their people safe. Then I wondered how living in the literal shadow of the past would shape a society and the individuals who lived in it. These people went to services each Sunday inside a building that is older than my entire country. That has to shape their perspectives about time and permanence. To me this wall was a rarity, something amazing and magical. For them, it was a thing that had always been there. Even after it’s usefulness as a fortification ended, the walls became parts of homes, or entire apartments. Houses were built right up against it.

And some of the windows in the wall that I could see were obviously the windows of private residences. We passed through the arch of the wall and found ourselves in a garden space. There were several art/garden installations as part of a festival. I was particularly taken with this one that featured a dismantled car.

It was somewhat comforting how many of the flowers I recognized. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me. Most American gardens are heavily influenced by European gardening traditions. But it was still nice to see these petunia columns

Wandering further gave us a good view of the exterior of the wall.

Then Kenna noticed this sign and suggested we go see the ceramics.

It was one of the best decisions of the day, and if you ever get the chance to visit the Tootoad Ceramics Gallery in Tallinn, you should do so.

I was expecting a tourist shop, some place where people sold little ceramic things to visitors. Instead we walked into a functioning artist’s workspace.

The woman there told us that she was one of a collective of five artists who worked in the space and combined forces to pay the rent and support each other’s work. Their space was inside one of the wall turrets. Then she told us that for one Euro we could climb all the way up the turret to the very top where they had an art installation. Kenna and I happily handed over one Euro each and climbed up the metal spiral staircase to the second floor.

This floor was another work space with large table and kiln. I loved the combination of ancient stone walls, ceramics in progress, and modern touches like the computer in the corner. Another wrought iron spiral stair took us to the third floor.

This is where they set out ceramics to dry and where they photographed work for sale and exhibition.

To this point one of the woman had accompanied us and explained how the studio worked, but then she took us through a door to some stone steps and turned us loose to explore the rest on our own.

The fourth floor was some sort of an exhibit space or performance space.

It was set up with chairs in a row along one side of the room, and exhibition lighting that reminded me of medieval chandeliers like I’ve seen in movies.

Our next path upward was a steep wooden staircase in the corner.

At the top of the stairs we stepped through a stone door way to see these steep stone steps.

The passageway for them was narrow and dark. The steps were tall, about one and a half times taller than usual for stairs. And the whole stairway curved along the shape of the outer wall. I couldn’t walk up them without thinking about ancient archers climbing to their stations.

The fifth floor only contained a bulletin board explaining the art installation and a wooden bed suspended from ropes.

We were puzzled, not at all sure what meaning was intended by the hanging bed. But the space was fascinating with it’s windows and thick stone walls. Our next path upward was more like a wooden ladder than like stairs.

Kenna climbed up first and then shrieked because she’d been startled by a pigeon. I followed. I’m not sure I can adequately convey how different and disorienting the space was. We’d been surrounded by stone with clean wooden floors. Suddenly I was surrounded by wood frame of the turret cap and the floor seemed to be dirt. We could see out the slats and gaps in the wood and shingles. Sounds of the street outside were suddenly present in a way they hadn’t been elsewhere in the turret. And then hanging in the middle of the space was this giant construction of wire and canvas.

It swung freely, like a pendulum suspended from the rafters above.

The sounds and the motion of the pendulum combined with sea legs to make the whole room feel uncertain. Both Kenna and I felt far more grounded when we sat down instead of standing. Yet being disoriented somehow seemed like the point. Maybe it isn’t what the artists meant, but it was profoundly effective to us. We simply sat there for a while, feeling the things that the space offered to us.

Then we descended one level, where the hanging bed seemed to make more sense. It was there for us to lay on and sway after experiencing the disorienting installation above.

Laying on the bed was profoundly peaceful. We stayed there in silence for quite some time. Then we both spent some time writing, Kenna on her phone and me in my journal. Then we descended back through the spaces and stairways, stopping to look at things as we went. A View from one of the windows:

Some of the ceramic art on display was fascinating. I found this one compelling because of the way it stared at me.

And these ones seemed in motion even while they were made of rigid ceramic.

With our feet back on the ground, we bid farewell to the ceramics studio.

Our next goal was to find some food. The ceramicists had given us directions and we followed them to this open air market.

The whole area around it was modern with cars, buses, and asphalt streets. I realized that we’d entered the regular part of town instead of the preserved Old Town. This market was simply a place where people did their weekly grocery shopping. I loved that most of the stands sold cut flowers. Americans don’t value or spend money on cut flowers except as gifts for special occasions.

But even in this modern place there were touches that were particularly Estonian.

Kenna and I found a stand that sold take away Indian food. We both came away with rice and curry in little containers. We walked back to the park to find a bench. Our original plan had been to climb up to an overlook spot that we’d been told about, but one glance told us that there were more stairs than we felt like climbing. There was a bench with lawn instead, so we sat down. This fellow was already near by when we wandered over.

As soon as we were seated, he wandered closer. And closer. He started making the same sorts of body motions that my cat makes when she’s considering jumping into my lap.

Him jumping into our lap seemed like a very real possibility. He tracked each fork full as it went from container to mouth, standing only a foot or two away.

Kenna gave in before I did, but we both fed him some before we left.

He was thorough about cleaning up every grain of rice that we dropped.

Food eaten, we wandered back toward the ship. We stopped in a little souvenir shop where Kenna and I each purchased something. We also paused long enough to admire this pipe, which apparently has its very own hashtag.

It was a beautiful day. I heard from others who went to a restaurant where they had a full medieval feast. Others found a house rumored to be haunted. All of the stories cemented Tallinn as a place I would like to visit again. I would like to wander and see more details. I loved the feel of Old Town. I would love to stay in one of the historic hotels, and eat Estonian food. The day had been wonderful, peaceful, fun, and amazing.


I’d had a sea day to recover from the tour in Copenhagen, but I discovered that I still wanted a quieter day than a tour was likely to provide. (It turns out that my choice was wise. Reports from the tour I would have been on were that the tour guide was …not good.) Howard opted to meet an online, Stockholm-resident, friend for lunch. I thought I might stay on the ship. But when Mary expressed an interest in walking to a restaurant that was once a royal estate, I went along.

One of the things I had been observing throughout my trip is a difference in European and American culture. European culture expects individuals to be responsible for themselves, read signs, and follow instructions. American culture assumes that individuals need to be herded and directed then walled off from anything that might hurt them or they shouldn’t touch. Intellectually I prefer the European mode in this, but it did lead to moments of confusion or embarrassment when I went to places or touched things that I ought not because I’m culturally programmed to expect large instructions and barriers instead of small discreet signs.

As we exited the ship, Mary pointed out how different it was to disembark in Europe than the Caribbean. In the Caribbean all the ports are filled with people wanting to sell stuff to tourists. The economy there is dependent on such influxes. The port at Stockholm was empty.

At the end of the terminal was a small sign (discreet of course) that essentially said “follow the blue line to the center of town.” There was in fact a blue line painted on the ground. The meaning was clear and stated aloud by Mary: “Welcome to Stockholm, we’re glad you’re here, but we’ve got other things to do. Have some paint.”

We veered away from the painted line fairly early in our walk, as we were following directions on Mary’s phone instead. We entered a large open park.

The park was obviously in use by locals who were walking their dogs, sun bathing, or generally enjoying the lovely day. This tower was the tallest structure around. We tried to guess what it might be for, but never did figure it out.

Along side our path there were some well behaved horses who were only contained by some ribbons.

American horses I know would have had their heads outside that “fence” to graze on the longer grass by the path. Then they would have discovered that ribbons were no barrier at all and would have been off into the fields. But the horses were pretty and we wondered aloud if perhaps they were some specific Swedish breed.

Our path led us through a small forested area, which was lovely.

One thing we noticed was the quiet. We’re used to noisier cities and places, more machine sounds, louder voices.

We passed by this gate sitting in the middle of a field with no fence attached. It put me in mind of the magical gates that sometimes show up in stories about fae. This impression was increased by the overgrown path leading up to it. We decided not to walk closer on that path because as Mary said “I know how that story goes.”

We found our destination and had a lovely lunch.

The staff spoke excellent English so we had no trouble placing our orders. The waiter even helped us to call a cab to get back to the ship. It was a lovely day. And I may need to find a local source for this rose lemonade.