The Norwegian Hike

When Sunday arrives many people find their way out in nature. So do we. Taking a walk and eating lunch outside is a Norwegian way of mindfulness. We love being outside. In the last twenty years it has also become normal to climb the highest mountains both summer and winter, especially in the north where there are a lot of mountains.

But a little hike can also do, happily with a little campfire to eat besides. This Sunday we did that. I texted a friend to ask if they were going anywhere. They were already on the go and we followed in their track. The day was winter clear; with the arctic light we are so fond of here in the north. A bit of snow covered the ground, after some rainy days it was hard, called “skare” – crust.ice

Following a path or walking along a small road is the easiest and most comfortable thing to do. Not to day. We found the way where our friends had parked and went along. A little stream flowed besides the road, and some ice had started to cover it. After a little while we had to leave the road, and walk over a frozen swamp. In my younger days I walked a lot in the mountains, young and strong we just went through any obstacle of vegetation or scree, which there are several places. Now it was long time since I left a road, and the crust wasn’t strong enough to carry us all the way. But I loved it. I went in the state of mind focusing to get through the area, all the other things in my head left. I can’t guarantee it, but I think this is one of the things with the Norwegian hike; we walk through our messy brains. When we arrive at our lunch stop, we also arrive at a place of greater silence.

mountain and the fjordAnd most central – we are very fond of the view. It is a well-known thing to everyone living in Norway. We seek higher places or places where we can see the ocean. Then we breathe a little easier.

It was nice meeting our friends. Minus 10 degrees Celsius made it a bit cold, and we missed our camp fire. We had too few matches, and our proudness got a break when we didn’t get the fire to burn. We decided to go home to eat some apple cake and drink another cup of coffee.

over the frozen swampThe dog ran around enjoying dog life, we strolled quietly back along our tracks. The sky was photogenic so I had to stop a lot.  It is difficult to capture the beauty of the sky, and the bit of sun that stroke over the mountain top.

I seldom use a tripod, even if my photographer in the house is telling me to do so. I love the easiness of just taking quick photos when passing along. This autumn I decided to buy a camera, just a tiny one called Cannon GSX. I am still trying to learn how to treat it. The camera on the phone is easier. But I will learn more. And in the dark period where the light is of most interest, it is necessary with this tripod. So I am going for it.a house by the sea

Troublesome Darkness

It was the time before electricity, before science took over people’s thoughts, and folk tales and folklore told stories about how things really related to each other. When autumn darkness grew stronger and the Polar Night arrived, in that time darkness was troublesome. It housed several spirits, trolls, and a special creature connected to the ocean in northern parts of Norway, called draug. It was a dead man, without head, never buried, literally an “again-walker” or a revenant.

nordlandsboat

The traditional fishing boat was built in different sizes. this is a small one

For fishermen, autumn and winter work was about fishing gear, some small boat repairing, but the most with the boat was done in spring and summer time. After Christmas, men were heading for the big cod fisheries, most of them to Lofoten Islands, but all along the coast from Finnmark to Lofoten people fished. The traditional fishing boats were open row- and sailboats, a type called nordlandsboat, used in northern Norway. The main size were with four or more men onboard. Through 19th century the participation increased a lot, at the peak there were 30 000 men fishing in Lofoten through the winter months, so the fisheries were rather big. The wintertime activity was demanding, a lot of men drowned.

shoreline

the shoreline were young boys and men could med draugen

There was a period of preparations before the fishermen left home. Boathouses lay nearby “flomålet”; the high-water mark, with the boats inside. Draugen lived at sea and his area was up to high-water mark. Young guys, who were going to join their first winter fisheries, could meet draugen in the boathouse, or when they walked along the shores in the darkness. This could result in fights in the area between high and low water. In northern Norway the difference between ebb and flow can be 4 meters at the most. So these areas were changing all the time, following the moon phases.

boathouses

boathouses just above the high-water mark

In some local Sami tradition draugen could also move upstream in rivers, and he could even challenge women. Sami women participated more often in fisheries than the Norwegian who for the most stayed at home. But draugen was something mainly men had to deal with. It was death calling, challenging every man who put his feet into a boat. He had to deal with this fear of death to make a living for him and his family.

In modern research we see draugen as a personified force made of all the dead men at sea. It could be a way of handling fear of death, and a way of being especially aware for the dangers at sea. The weather and the waves could challenge the boat. A lot of stories tells about waves rising suddenly threatening to fill the boat, or wild wind occurring from the north, from the Polar Regions, nearly as a ghost. The men had to develop a special awareness to these situations, and to see draugen, or traces of him, was a way to be aware.

I wrote my master degree about draugen and the nordlandsboat. Reading so many stories about this creature, I was for a period a bit disturbed of the thought of him, when I went in the darkness, along the shore.

Photographing Christmas Spirit

This night nearly half a meter of snow appeared. Wind stopped in the morning, a bit of bright sky showed itself so we could imagine light. Silence came; it’s a winter sound, when there is a fury blanket over everything.

morning in Polar Night

light comes in so many different colours

As an adult, I often think that the best part of Christmas is the time before. This dark month in northern parts of Norway has its own brightness. Preparing gifts, the traditional food and all the lights; candles, stars in windows, Christmas trees outside. Often the snow is perfect for a couple of days and we think that this will be perfect.

But nature is not always at our side, so Christmas Eve can be a rainy, stormy and not so peaceful experience. In that case this period before can show the real spirit of Christmas.

winter morning

someone have to move away all that snow

I’m not talking about buying gifts. It is this feeling who visits. In the morning when you look outside, or the cats jumping straight in again afraid to drown in the snow, I can have this glimpse of childish feeling, the joy for the gift of snow. It also carries memories of skiing; small feet skiing around the house.

So, I’m going for it and hope others do it too. Just enjoy, play along and celebrate the whole month, whenever nature shows the spirit, welcome it.

There is a saying that when all the women are baking, the heat from the ovens makes the weather mild a period before Christmas. So the cold white snow will not last. It’s of course also a typical coastal climate, these changes between cold and warm days. In the inner part of Finnmark, it is colder and more stable; there can be minus 40 degrees Celsius.

I’m running around taking photos everywhere, before the women bakes too much.

Muffins and Stuff

Blueberry muffin

Sometimes they get perfect

They are English, muffins. And I did really not grow up with them. They are not under my skin or learned by heart. They get too wet or too dry. It is easier to bake bread. We do that, at least some of us, in Norway, bake bread. I’m good at that, but muffins? And scones? Not so easy either.  I’m still trying. And my man, he has to eat them, him and his friends at work.  I like the blueberry muffin type best, and something named lunch muffins, salty ones with cheese ham and some vegetables. They were both a part of my “how to learn photography” project. I went to it like a former PhD- student.

Preparing a good meal is central for us and dinner is the highlight of the day. I and my man do not quite agree when the dinner should be, but I decide since I’m making it. We have grown up with some traditional Norwegian food, me and my companion. “Fish and potatoes” is a saying here. We still make dinner with cooked potatoes, and we like fish in several ways. One of them is cod, salted overnight. Slightly salted we call it, and we have bacon next to it and something we call “gulrotstuing”, carrot in white sauce (béchamel). But this kind of traditional normal food is not so photogenic, (not at all says my good friend from Finland), so I have no photos. We just eat. On the other side, when I invite friends, I make it more delicate. Tapas are a great thing, with focaccia.

Tapas

When my friends are visiting I try to dress up the food

Photographing food is a work of patience. After a while I understood that all the spectacular photos of food weren’t taken with a mobile camera.

Now, when Christmas is heading up, we eat this “lutefisk”. There is no English word, and we just love it. It is cod, treated with – lye – I think the English name is, and then washed in running water (sounds terrible, I know). We cook it in the oven and have a lot of stuff besides. The last years the dish has been very popular at restaurants in the town Tromsø. If you visit, you should give it a go, but perhaps be prepared to get used to it slowly.

Lutefisk

Norwegian delicacy, cod, potatoes, pea stew, carrot, bacon, mustard

Looking for the God of small Things

The start

Brigde over to the little island Håkøya

When life sucks the medicine often offered is a daily hike. Of course, running, or fighting your way uphill with high pulse, everybody understands that the endorphins are going to cure bad mood. The calm little hike on the other hand, it is not easy to see how it is going to cure anything. But fresh air has been understood as medicine in both Norway and other countries in Europe from mid-20th century. Special sanatoriums of treatment offered patients with tuberculosis the fresh air of the Alps. Thomas Mann writes about it in the novel The Magic Mountain. The book stands in my library, never read. I know I should. But I think about the patients with tuberculosis who struggled to breathe, and decides to put on my clothes and get out.

Close by our house there is a nice little island where I often find myself head to. There is little traffic, the birdlife is awesome and a lot of horses are paddocked outside. And it is ok to just stroll away, not heading for any high mountain. The highest point of the island is about 100 meters above sea level. And in the seashore there are different stones making strange patterns. People are visiting and burning a campfire, perhaps grilling some sausages. It is a good place this little island. I have a separate category in my private photo gallery named by the island. My first photos I am a bit proud of are taken here.

The bridge

The old part of the bridge are graphical

The bridge over to the island, have both old and new parts. There are always new possibilities looking at the bridge, the light change it every day.

When days have been of the kind that the hike has been delayed and delayed, I have a window in my kitchen. In wintertime it gets kind of graphic. It’s a challenge to capture the pattern in the forest. I don’t think I’ve done it yet.

my kitchen window

An inspiration and a challengde

 

Welcome to our Home

In Norway we visit each other. On the countryside, where I grew up, it was normal to just stop by. Now we make appointments, but we are still visiting each other. So our homes are important. Other people are going to see them. That keeps us busy decorating all the time. I don’t know why, but Norway has a high activity of redecorating. It is substantial counted on a national basis. So it is kind of typical of our time, the way we are living. I think it tells a lot about the culture –  how the houses are decorated, how the architecture is.

We were also redecorating. Our house had been an old cabin many years ago. Different owners had built it bigger and bigger. And – they had done it without carpenters, so the starting point wasn’t too good. Luckily my good man is a craftsman, a boat builder for real, not afraid of any type of house project. Houses are easy, boats are difficult, he says. He has been in charge of the work, done a lot with the kitchen and the bathroom, which we say are the most important part of the house if you are selling or buying. And the rest of the house comes afterwards. We were done with the main rooms, now it was the bedroom, and we were building a garage. I say we, because I had started to join the process. I have always done a lot of painting, but now I also nailed panel. A bit of crying and swearing, my mental spirit wasn’t the best, but it developed.

Some of us are still in what we in Norway calls “furuhelvete” (hell of pine)– panel of pine. But painted, then it is more modern. Grey had for a time been a popular color, both inside and outside. After a very long period of white, nearly totally white. And white isn’t wrong. Never wrong in Scandinavia, these bright rooms letting in light summer and winter. Our kitchen is like that. But you know, burning wood, the white is struggling. Me too, having to wash it.

For the bedroom, we joined the trend of grey. Nearly finished, I went shopping of new linen for the bed. And the big trend now was – linen. Oh, expensive, but I found a good offer, as housewives should. Voila, our bedroom turned beautiful and trendy. That’s kind of happiness, making something nice. We still love it, after a year. And it is going to last, the room got a good attitude. 20170306_104408

My photos, on the other hand, are not going to be awarded. Photographing bedrooms wasn’t that easy as I thought. The new look was to let the bed look casual. That wasn’t easy at all. 20170403_082536

Start from below

 

 

My life had been troublesome for some years. Without work, I did not know what to do. I was sad, bored and without my usual “go”. A good friend tried to help; she suggested that I should write notes for the good things in my life every day. And then have them in a jar – so I could see them, the good things. I tried, but could not see what was written on the notes. It didn’t quite work to stack the good things in the jar.

After a while I got an idea. I would buy a phone with a camera. I was going to take photos of the good things. Having them on the phone, I could see them all the time.  Perhaps then I could be more grateful for the good things in my life. Start to be happier.

This is the beginning of the story. A low point in my life. The winter was beautiful, and I was lucky. On my daily walk the first day I met some moose. Another day I met reindeer. The landscape around Tromsø is full of them. I posted photos in Facebook; suddenly I had something to tell.  I even established an Instagram account @marja.9105

Norwegians love to own houses or apartments, it’s kind of a goal in our life, buy your own place to stay. And I had it, my own house. I had loved it; it was a dream coming through. But the dream had faded. So how to get the feeling back? Instagram has a lot of photos of food, interior and design, and houses.  So I got inspired to try to show – to myself – and others; how nice our home was. We had finished redecorating our bedroom in January, and I was proud, some place inside i felt proud. Why not take photos? I had always loved baking and cooking. Years ago, when Facebook was new, muffins were a big thing in Norway. No, several years later, I started to learn how to bake them – and to put them on Instagram.

The winter went on and I got interested in the light; I was totally fascinated by the light. I have always loved the winter in northern Norway, but now I tried to put it into the camera. My brain started to function.

Even when living in one of the richest countries in the world we are not happy all the time. Personal crisis hit on, trouble with work, illness – some people are even poor. Perhaps we are a bit lonely; our culture has a kind of a solitude to it. But we live in these beautiful surroundings, all this nature.  Totally we are about five million people at 385 180[a] km².  Finnmark is the county with most space, bigger than Denmark but with only 75 000 inhabitants.

Norway is part of the Arctic. We have The Arctic Council Secretariat in Tromsø. Our mainland is neighbored by the Barents Sea and Svalbard is under Norwegian jurisdiction. Besides the understanding of the High Arctic as Svalbard over Seas and the Low Arctic in the northern part of the mainland, there is also the Sub-Arctic, towards the south. These three areas are delineated by the climate and the vegetation.

Birdlife, northern light, midnight sun, winter with snow, and polare low pressures, the horrifying storms that appear suddenly. They make our Arctic surroundings and give us Arctic experiences. This blog is about living in it, and how we have, in the northern part of Norway, dealt with it for thousands of years. Once these northern areas were described as hell, now their popularity tells a totally different story. Welcome to join.