We are near the top of the world, Finnmark, Norway, and I’m in a van on the way to do some bird-watching. This is a cruise, but I’m spending the day on land.
This cruise, which begins in Bergan, proceeds clockwise up and around the top of Norway to the Russian Border, then clounter-clockwise back up, around, and down to Bergen. Along the way, we dock at odd times of the day and night, and at each location, no matter a larger town or a smaller village, the chefs will order up notable foods of the area for us to enjoy. These include seafoods, flesh, fowl, fruit, various veggies, and even edible flowers at one stop.
On the way to the bird sanctuary, and it’s a long ride, we are treated to all kinds of scenery, including small towns, farms, forests, and all manner of sights in between. I take particular interest in the reindeer farms, never having seen Santa’s chosen means of flight propellant.
We finally arrive at the place where we will see all manner of birds of the region, and the variety and number prove to be impressive beyond imagination. At times these birds of all kinds swarm like mosquitos, darkening the sky around us. These include a variety of crows and gulls, skuas, terns, puffins, and more. Truly amazing to behold.
But not so amazing to behold as, on the return journey to the ship, we come across a large group of reindeer hanging out at the fenceline long the highway. Our guide asks the driver to pull over, and we get off to have an impromptu meeting with these noble engines of Christmas. Beautiful animals, gentle, loving to be petted. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.
No offense to the birds of earlier. I mean, if a puffin had landed on my shoulder, or something spectacular like that, I’d be a little more jacked about that segment of the day’s experience, but I petted no hawks nor gulls, neither did any of the flock come to peck at my boots, as did the penguins in Antarctica.
The highlight of this long day’s adventure is this encounter with reindeer. I will never forget it.
“As you may have guessed,” our guide says, “from all the farms you’ve seen, this part of Norway is famous for its reindeer. There are even wild reindeer in these parts.”
I hear these words and appreciate knowing this tidbit of information, but the true import of the message does not hit me until I sit down for dinner aboard ship.
Although we may sit anywhere we choose for breakfast and lunch, we have been assigned tables where we eat our dinners all the way through the voyage. This far into the journey, then, we all know our evening meal companions pretty well, and the conversation flows with some greater intimacy than it might otherwise.
As we sit down, then, we all share stories of what we’ve done that day, everyone having gone off on any of the various land tour possibilities. At the same time, we inspect the menu. It’s actually a fixed meal at dinnertime, breakfast and lunch are buffet.
I do a double-take. Tonight, oh geez, our entrée is reindeer steak.
“Reindeer steak,” I blurt out, interrupting and drawing to a halt all conversation. “I can’t eat reindeer steak.”
Someone at the table says something about how good reindeer steak is and how much I’ll enjoy it.
“No,” I say. “I can’t eat reindeer steak. I saw them today. I petted them. I will not eat them.”
Everyone laughs. “Come on, Lanning,” someone encourages me, “you should try everything once.”
We go through the soup course, and I’m dreading what’s next.
The waiter arrives with the plated reindeer steaks and begins dealing them out around the table. I have to say something as he comes to me.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t eat that,” I tell him. “I would feel like I was eating Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
Everyone laughs. For some reason they think I’m making a joke. I am not making a joke.
The waiter stops laughing and tries to put the plate down in front on me.
“Please, no, I seriously cannot eat this.”
He gives me a look like, I don’t know. Like maybe no one in history has ever refused to eat a reindeer steak before.
“It’s very good,” he says. “We picked it up fresh today. This area is famous for its reindeer. Are you sure you don’t want to try it?”
I say am definitely and absolutely sure. Everyone at the table is already tearing into their reindeer. It looks medium-well. I watch trickles of blood run still.
“Can I get you something else, then?”
“Yes, please, could I get some kind of a salad.”
For the rest of the meal I eat my salad. It’s hard to watch the others cutting up the reindeer, and all of them keep telling me that I’m really missing out on something good.
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Happy #WriterWednesday. Today’s writing prompt is
Use the #WritingPrompt to inspire a piece of writing of any kind, any length, even if just a sentence or two, and then post that piece on your page and link back to me, or leave it as a comment below. I would love to read it : )