I was fortunate to spend five weeks this summer in Europe, two in Lithuania, two in Denmark, and one in Norway. I was in Vilnius as part of Summer Literary Seminars and this provided an opening to a part of the world I knew little about. Vilnius was a major center of Jewish life before the war and after the Holocaust, only traces of this remain. The history hangs heavy, and Lithuania, which has only been a country since 1990, is struggling to come to terms with what happened before, during, and after the war and what it means to be Lithuanian. I was surprised how deeply this place spoke to me and the enormous contrasts between darkness and light provided a constant churning. It's also a country where basketball is hugely popular and people wanted to talk hoops. I had time and space in Vilnius to write and look forward to going back.
Back home, we marked the one-year anniversary of my mother's death on August 30 and I'm still sorting through that and working things out with my siblings. The travel this summer provided a separation and an opportunity to reflect on my new situation and what I want to do.
Fiona received an invitation to speak in Norway the first week in September and I could not pass up the chance to go with her. We spent a few days in Trondheim, pictured above, which is the farthest north I've been in the world. We saw few tourists there and remarked on how many similarities were apparent between Norwegians and Minnesotans. In Oslo we met with writers, editors, and publishers, and I was amazed to find out some of the differences. In Norway, college tuition is free, writers are eligible for government stipends, and when a children's book is published, the government buys 1,500 copies for Norwegian schools and libraries. Considering the population differential that would be like 75,000 copies being bought in the States for libraries for each book. I'd be fine with 1,500.
In between trips, we had two weddings, a week-long visit from our nephew, and an abundant garden year. I value the transition time of September and am glad to reconnect with my fellow Spuds.