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Beyond the Lone Islands

Friday, 27 February 2009


Yesterday, suddenly I could not access my blog at all through Internet Explorer. I kept getting an error message saying the address could not be found, and the search process was aborted. Every now and then, though, I could still see the page behind the error message, so it was obviously not gone... And my other blog was still accessible. Switching to Firefox, I could also enter this blog that IE stubbornly maintained did not exist. Big mystery...

I was kind of hoping the problem would mend itself during the night, but it did not. Reading some help messages at Blogger Help Group this morning revealed that other people "out there" were having similar problems, and some blamed the changes recently made to the Followers function.

So I removed the Followers gadget in my margin and now I seem to be rid of the problem. I will wait a while before I try to reinstall it. If many users are having the same trouble, I'm guessing it's a bug that Blogger/Google will have to find a way to fix.

The computer is a wonderful invention, but not always a time saver. I wonder how many times I have said "I'll just take a quick glance at..." - and ended up spending hours trying (more or less successfully) to fix some kind of error...!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Royal Engagement


The day our annual book sale started this year, 24th February (see previous post), was also the day that Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria, after years of rumours, finally got officially engaged to her Man of the People, Daniel Westling - a personal trainer and gym owner. The royal wedding will take place next summer. As Victoria's husband, Daniel's title will be Prince Daniel, Duke of Västergötland.

Since it reminds of a fairy tale, I thought the piece of news fitting for this blog...

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Annual Book Sale

The last week in February means start of the annual nation-wide Book Sale in Sweden, as far back as I can remember. It is not quite what it used to be - the last chance to get cheap left-over copies of books that were going out of print. These days, cheap editions of some books are even printed especially for the sale. But it's still an Event for all booklovers. And a Temptation...

However, I'm not all that fond of crowds and queueing (I wonder if there's any chance I got the spelling of that word right...), and that sometimes keeps me from venturing into the bookshop on the first day of the sale. Besides, my bookcases are all full...

Nevertheless, I found myself joining the crowd (and queueing) again this year, even though I wasn't really looking for any particular book. And now I have to make room in my bookcases for three more books on mythology, and one about dreams. As if I didn't have any of those before...

But who can resist titles like these? (Not I, obviously...!)
(All books in Swedish, the titles translated into English by me.)

  • World Religions (seems to contain readable summaries of the Big Ones... and pictures)
  • Gods and Goddesses in Classical Mythology (very neat, with charts and pictures...)
  • Classical Symbols, an Encyclopedia (lots of useful trivia, and again, pictures...)
  • Dragons and Demons of our Dreams (fascinating/scary cover picture, and the book was really, really cheap...)

Monday, 23 February 2009

Quotation of the Week 9/09

I'm still reading Wuthering Heights. Here is another quotation from it that caught my eye (with the recent dream discussion in mind).

I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, Ch. 9
(the first Catherine speaking)

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Nature's Magic Mirror


I brought my camera with me on a walk the other day.
I love the way the trees are reflected in the water.
In the photo below it is almost hard to tell
which branches belong to which world...

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Libraries and secret passages

Borrowing another writing prompt from the One-Minute-Writer:

Write about a childhood memory related to reading.
I used to borrow lots of books from the library. Enid Blyton was among my favourites (for a period). I still love libraries, and almost any story that has a secret passage in it... (the Blyton kids always seemed to find one of those).

Monday, 16 February 2009

Cathedral of the Sea

I have finally finished Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones, which I have been reading "by ear" - a box of 19 CD's (in Swedish), borrowed from the library. It took me six weeks to get through them. I found the book historically informative: it is an epic novel set in 14th century Barcelona and includes topics like the building of a cathedral, slavery, serfdom, anti-Semitism, the Spanish Inquisition, prostitution, the growth of sea trade and insurance companies, and more. But somehow I found it hard to really connect to the characters. It is a "heavy" story, not the most easily digested kind. The main character is Arnau Estanyol, son of a fugitive serf, seeking freedom in Barcelona. How to define freedom is a recurrent theme.

Quotation of the Week 8/09

A few days ago, I started rereading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I bought my copy in 1983, not sure if I've reread it since then. Last night, n.b. after I had written yesterday's post with the "magic mirror" haiku poem here, I came to the following passage in chapter 7. It's the servant Nelly speaking to the young boy Heathcliff, in front of a mirror:

Oh, Heathcliff, you are showing a poor spirit! Come to the glass, and I'll let you see what you should wish. Do you mark those two lines between your eyes, and those thick brows, that instead of rising arched, sink in the middle, and that couple of black fiends, so deeply buried, who never open their windows boldly, but lurk glinting under them, like devil's spies? Wish and learn to smooth away the surly wrinkles, to raise your lids frankly, and change the fiends to confident, innocent angels, suspecting and doubting nothing, and always seeing friends where they are not sure of foes --

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Magic Mirror

Today's writing prompt from The One-Minute Writer:

"Imagine you have a magic mirror.
What does it reveal about anyone who looks in it?"

My suggestion:

Magic mirror shows
not your faults and failures but

(Remember it next time you look in the bathroom mirror!)

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Valentine's Day

It's really not fair to let Valentine's Day fall on a Saturday, when no post is delivered! Here's a special Valentine's quote for anyone else who didn't get a card today:

(Picture from Harry Potter Wiki)

'Happy Valentine's Day!' Lockhart shouted. 'And may I thank the forty-six people who have so far sent me cards! Yes, I have taken the liberty of arranging this little surprise for you all - and it doesn't end here!'

Lockhart clapped his hands and through the doors to the Entrance Hall marched a dozen surly-looking dwarfs. Not just any dwarfs, however. Lockhart had them all wearing golden wings and carrying harps.

'My friendly, card-carrying cupids!' beamed Lockhart.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, ch 13.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Dream come true...?

Two of my very first readers here have both commented on "the island of dreams". (See initial post, and interview.) In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, the island where dreams (not daydreams, but the nightly kind) come true is called the Dark Island; it is surrounded by darkness, and the man who managed to escape from it calls it a horrible place.

As I have already hinted, I find dreams and dream analysis interesting. Just recently, I had a very odd experience of déjà vu connected to a dream I dreamt many, many years ago.

Not so long ago, I moved to a new neighbourhood. Not completely new to me, and not very far from where I lived before. But new enough to make a change. One day, while walking along a road that I have walked along quite often before, I was suddenly hit by this déjà vu feeling connecting back to a dream which I hadn't thought about for quite a long time. But I did work with that dream quite a lot around the time I dreamt it, and I also used it as inspiration for a poem. What I never did before, however, was to connect the scenery in the dream to a real place. Now, suddenly, out of the blue (or maybe the grey), it struck me that I was walking along the road from my dream.

Here is a translation of my poem based on the dream (originally written in Swedish):

rain is streaming down
someone offers me a lift
no thanks, or yes please
if it's not out of your way
why can't I make up my mind

let me off here, please
not far from the town centre
I know the way now
I have seen this place before
I know where I am going

but took a wrong turn
lost again, not the first time
made the same mistake
before, in another dream
but I can correct myself

stone wall on the right
encloses the old churchyard
half an avenue
with trees on only one side
empty field on the other

darkness is falling
but now I'm on the right track
right here in between
the things buried in the past
and the future awaiting

The thing is - the place where I live now is right across "the empty field" of the dream...

Coincidence? Or did my subconscious remember the dream when I chose my new home?

Just for fun, I looked up "churchyard" in The Wordsworth Dictionary of Dreams. ("Gustavus Hindman Miller's Dictionary of Dreams first appeared in 1909, ten years after Sigmund Freuds pioneering work The Interpretation of Dreams", they note on the back of the cover.) I don't really put much trust in standard interpretations - I believe each person carries their own keys to their own dreams - but this definition did actually connect rather well to my own thoughts:

To dream of walking in a churchyard, if in winter, denotes that you are to have a long and bitter struggle with poverty, and you will reside far from the home of your childhood, and friends will be separated from you; but if you see the signs of springtime, you will walk up in into pleasant places and enjoy the society of friends.

I don't really recall the time of year in my dream, only that it was raining. Also, in my dream I was not walking in the churchyard, but alongside of it. But the dream/poem does sort of contain both winter and spring, in the sense that it contains both a sense of separation, and at the same time ends in hope.

Take a Minute (or maybe five)

Blogsurfing the other day through the Archives of Blogs of Note, I found my way to The One-Minute Writer, where daily writing promts are served. Playing by the rules (one minute), I only got half way through one sentence, though. Conclusion: I highly suspect some of the contributors must be cheating, or else they are incredibly fast thinkers and writers, or I am incredibly slow...! Still, a very good place to find a writing prompt when you find your own mind blank. I think I prefer setting my timer on at least 5 minutes, though...

Monday, 9 February 2009

Quotation of the Week 7/09

I seem to have C.S. Lewis on every other page in my Quotation notebook... Here is another one, not from his works of fiction this time, but from Mere Christianity:

(The devil) always sends errors into the world in pairs - pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Interview from one island to another

As promised in an earlier post, I have continued to randomly explore the Sea of Blogs. One of the places I enjoyed coming across (jumping from one blog to another) was another brand new island - Pan's Island - started the very same day as mine. What's the odds of that, I wonder?

So when on that blog I found a challenge to be interviewed, I accepted, and here is the result. Question's by Pan's Island, answers by me:

1) If you could take a one night trip to the island of dreams and nightmares in C.S. Lewis's Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and be guaranteed that you would only be there for one night - would you go and why? if not, why?
For just one night at a time, we all go there, every night - don't we?!

During one period of my life, I actually grew quite friendly with my dreams, nightmares included. The trick is bringing them out from under the bed at dawn before they disappear, and then getting them to repeat the message in broad daylight.

Write down what you remember, save the notes, and go back and compare them when you've gathered a few. If you have a literary mind, use the same kind of analysis as you do with poetry, and you will probably be amazed at your own mind's skills in coming up with images and parallells and wordgames.

Dream interpretation does involve quite a lot of active work, though, so often it seems easier when you wake up to just let the dreams slither away…

2) What is your favourite childhood memory?Some people seem to have their childhood all sorted out in a series of stories. For me it's more like scattered snapshot images and I think they often involve something that seemed a bit unusual or new to me at the time. Quite a few early images are connected with visits to other people's houses.

The surroundings where my maternal grandparents lived changed dramatically while I was growing up. When I was little, their house was one of just two in an otherwise rural surrounding, with a view overlooking fields with cows and haystacks. As I grew older, the town kept coming closer and closer - blocks of flats towering up in the late 60's and early 70's, shopping centres and villas added, until the house my grandfather built back in the 30's was just one among many other houses in a suburban street.

Other people own that house now since many years back. But whenever I am in that neighbourhood, a series of memory snapshots from the late 50's or very early 60's pop up in my head. Me walking with my grandfather over the fields on a sunny summer day, with an old-fashioned metal milk can, to fetch milk directly from a farm in the neighbourhood - "straight from the cows". (This was unusual to me, because in town, the milk in those days came in brown glass bottles with soft metal caps on top.) Opening wooden gates and shutting them. Stopping to pick wild strawberries. On the farm, two huge carthorses inside the stable (I see them from behind, standing in their boxes, towering up high above me - it's dark inside the stable with just some light coming in through the open door). My grandmother (who died when I was six) in their big kitchen, skimming the cream off the milk in a bowl on the workbench by the window overlooking the front garden. Tasting the luke warm milk - I didn't much like it. Grandma making small pancakes in a special iron on the stove - no one else I knew made those. (My parents are not in the picture, I guess they had gone on a short summer holiday on their own and left me with Grandma and Grandpa.)

3) If you found the one ring would you take up the quest yourself or wait to find someone better suited and aid them? And why?
I'm not sure it is always just a matter of choice. Often it seems (in the stories) that it is the ring that finds the bearer, as much as the other way round. Another point of a heroic tale is usually that the true hero does not think of himself as one, at least not from the start. Even Moses reacted with a "Who? You can't seriously mean me!" attitude when God spoke to him out of the burning bush. ("Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? Who shall I say sent me? I've never been a man of words! Please send someone else!") King Arthur, Frodo, Harry Potter - the sword, the ring, the wand... The essence of the story is the same: They were chosen; in a way you could question whether they even had a choice; and yet their personal choice was of utmost importance…

Myself I'm not the kind of person who goes around looking for rings of power and I don't see myself as a hero(ine). Judging from the stories, that seems to be a very dangerous position! I think I'll just go into my wardrobe and hide - oh, wait - perhaps that's not the safest place either...

4) If you found a portal into another world what would you do? Would you take the risk and go through by yourself? Would you ask someone to go through with you? Would you tell the world or keep it a secret?
I actually didn't have to think very long about this one because it hit me that I'd already "been there, done that"…! I went through by myself, and told people afterwards, and my experience was much like Lucy's after coming back out of the wardrobe: Those who hadn't seen the other world for themselves were very reluctant to believe! I was 16, and my "portal" a simple prayer, no other people present at the time. Neither was I thinking of Narnia back then, because I never read those books until years later. Still, a door was opened to new thoughts, new adventures and new friends.

With Celtic-inspired fantasy now in mind, I'd still say that the thing about otherworldly portals is that if you happen to find one, you can never be quite sure how long it will remain open, or if anyone else will be able to see it. So if you hesitate and go ask someone else first, you might miss the opportunity.

5) If you had a choice between being alone for all of time or never being alone for all of time, which would you choose and why?
Even God started talking to himself after a while and decided he wanted company! ("Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..." Genesis 1:26)

I can often spend quite a lot of time by myself without getting too bored, but total independence of the rest of humanity is always an illusion. Even Defoe's Robinson Crusoe on his island only survived because of things made by other people that he salvaged from the wreck. Books, pens and ink among them…! ;-)
Thanks to Pan's Island for the questions, I quite enjoyed answering them!
If anyone who reads this would like to be interviewed by me in turn, let me know in a comment where to send the questions.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Groundhog Day

I just added a Today in History gadget in the margin and noticed that today is Groundhog Day in certain parts of the world... We don't celebrate it here, but if we did, the ground hog would (supposedly) have blinked at the sun and returned into his burrow. So I guess we're stuck with winter for six more weeks...

By the way I like the film with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell (from 1993)... Sometimes one does wonder, this time of the year especially, if one is not just repeating yesterday!

Fourth Annual Bloggers Silent Poetry Reading

From The Stair Landing I learn that today is the Fourth Annual Bloggers Silent Poetry Reading.
Post your poem, (your own or another's) today.

Here is one by Emily Dickinson:

The sky is low, the clouds are mean,

A traveling flake of snow

Across a barn or through a rut

Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day

How someone treated him;

Nature, like us, is sometimes caught

Without her diadem.

Quotation of the Week (6/09)

My Quotation of the Week comes
from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
(Ch. 42; referring to Elizabeth Bennet)

Upon the whole, therefore, she found, what has been sometimes found before, that an event to which she had looked forward with impatient desire, did not in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself. It was consequently necessary to name some other period for the commencement of actual felicity; to have some other point on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and by again enjoying the pleasure of anticipation, console herself for the present, and prepare for another disappointment.


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