North with a Capital N

What I most enjoyed when I read Karl Ove Knausgaard’s twopart travelogue in the New York Times Magazine was that he traveled predominantly by land, crossing parts of North America less often emphasized, and, for him, hitherto unknown. It got me thinking about wilderness again and fed into my growing excitement for the trip Cooper and I were planning to the far reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at the end of last summer. Knausgaard ends up traversing Michigan and Wisconsin to get to Minnesota and North Dakota, strongholds of Norwegian-American history, while the segment he most anticipates—New England to Pennsylvania—has to be cancelled due to an absurd delay at the start of the trip. I was surprised to learn that this Norwegian has such strong visions of Maine and Vermont, in contrast to his experience driving through Northern Michigan: “an America I hadn’t known existed, that I had never seen in pictures or heard anyone mention.”

His expedition begins on the coast of Newfoundland in early January, not the time of year you’d necessarily pick to visit upper North America. He visits the archaeological site of L’Anse aux Meadows, where the Vikings landed and settled in what they named Vinland, where they stayed several years and then left. Their marks on the land were buried, allowing Europeans to repeat their discovery of America hundreds of years later.

Knausgaard stands on the plain in the late afternoon and sees “the vast expanse of ice, the dark blue ocean beyond, beneath the pale blue sky, the islands in the distance, sheer cliffs rearing up from the water.” Everything still, silent. “A thousand years is no time at all […] I had no difficulty imagining a Viking ship approaching land.” He looks up at the skies in Newfoundland and all over the Midwest and sees glittering stars; he pulls over on the side of the highway to stare up at them. He rides through the north woods of the Great Lakes states for two days before the trees give way to endless prairies.

I want to do that, too. A great American road trip to experience the full breadth of the continent, except there are too many places to visit all in one go. There are the two coasts, mountains in the east and in the west, valleys and canyons and forests and farms. Continue reading “North with a Capital N”

Mornings in Turkey

I want to write about mornings. Early morning, when the light’s still a little blue and the breeze has a light chill that evokes a twinge of nostalgia for something: the end of hot summers that spoke of school to come, waking up early in a tent or on a lake or for a peaceful journey through a city still mostly aslumber, a yearning for breakfast al fresco. When you step outside, the potential of the new day is palpable.

IMG_4716It was my first morning back in Europe, five years after I’d packed up my bedroom in Vauban, toured Aschaffenburg and Berlin each for a second time, and flown out of Frankfurt back to Michigan for my final year of college. I felt no fear or apprehension to be back in Frankfurt Flughafen. I ate a magnificent pretzel, messaged Emma on Facebook (she was still in Ukraine), and wandered to find my gate for the next flight—the flight to Istanbul. I’m not sure how we landed in Frankfurt; it was dark still on arrival, I think, but soon morning revealed the thick spooky fog out the terminal windows.

I alighted in Istanbul at one p.m., where my bag took forever to appear. Then, I couldn’t find anyone holding a sign with my name, for the taxi to my hostel in Sultanahmet. There were masses of people waiting to greet the arrivals, and masses more of arrivals; it was total chaos, and I didn’t like it one bit. A Turkish Ph.D. student from MSU who had been on both my flights, Detroit all the way to Istanbul, called the hostel and sorted it out for me. Once I arrived and checked in, a fog of sleep descended. I might have showered; I took an unavoidable nap. When I awoke, the last light was fading, and I ventured out to see the illuminated Hagia Sophia and find sustenance, but couldn’t shake the overly friendly guy who just wanted to practice his English with me over some tea. I went home hungry to the hostel, couldn’t sleep. After that first night, Emma and I had no reservations for anything. Continue reading “Mornings in Turkey”