I flew today, waking at 4am for a 6am flight from Stavanger to Copenhagen, Denmark. And I have to confess, I love this feeling of the world making itself real as I travel. Norway and Denmark were places that confused me back in New Zealand during those long-ago geography classes but today I learned where they were, having bravely taken a window seat, no longer fearing there may be dragons at the edge of my known world.
Copenhagen ... on an island so flat, or so it seemed from the air, that it looked like one big wave might roll over the city and cover it.
But as I flew, I was reading. Devouring one of the best fictions I've read. 'Best' because it was well-written ... best because it was written by a war journalist too, and their stories are the non-fiction genre I read most.
Denise Leith has a Ph.D. in International Relations, which she teaches part time at Macquarie University in Sydney. Her special interests are the politics of war, human rights and humanitarian action, peace keeping and peace enforcing, Middle East Politics, the Rwandan genocide, the United Nations and US foreign policy.
Denise has two published non fiction books, The Politics of Power: Freeport in Suharto's Indonesia (University of Hawaii Press 2002) and Bearing Witness: The Lives of War Correspondents and Photojournalists (Random House 2004) and the novel What Remains (Allen & Unwin 2012). She is also a contributor to the anthology Fear Factor: Terror Incognito (Pan Macmillan and Picador 2010) and 'A Country Too Far (Penguin 2013).
I was reading her book, What Remains, and I read as the plane climbed up out of Stavanger. I read, glancing just briefly out as we passed over fiords in Norway. I read as the pilot flew low over the North Sea, landing at the airport in Copenhagen. And I read as I snacked there, breakfast, and continued to read after boarding that second plane returning me home.
And while I was curious about the view from those plane windows the book held me fast. I dove into the story of Kate Price and war zones, of Pete McDermott, and a big love.
I read the closing chapters on the 45-minute bus ride from Brussels Airport to Antwerp, wiping away the threat of tears while reading it right through to the end. Then, still not quite home, I spun back to the start, just to be sure of what I had read there ...
I fell into bed here in Belgium, slept for 2 hours and was woken so that I would sleep tonight, only to realise I was missing the story that had carried me across a small part of Europe.
Denise Leith also knew the journalist, Marie Colvin, who was killed while reporting in Syria. She has included an interview she made with Marie. It appears in her book Bearing Witness but that particular interview is there on her website.
If things are never spoken of, if people accept all without informing themselves, then incredibly horrific things can happen. I so very much admire those who go out and bear witness for as long as they can. The price is huge. I'm recommending Denise's book ... so very highly.
Meanwhile, I'm still playing with my new photo-editing tool. I was out on the Stavanger fiord yesterday and took the shot below. It was stunning out there. Just stunning.