My first book

I am sorry I haven’t published for a long time, but I have finished my first book.

It is a history book about traditional fishing boats in northern Norway. And “draugen” which I have written about in Troublesome Darkness earlier. For now it is only in Norwegian, perhaps we are going to translate it to English. We try to come back to normal while we wait for all the books.

Midnight sun has arrived, we are just waiting for the rain to stop.

As another person said – I will be back – even better.

Forside

Explore the Arctic Coast

I love these small houses along the coastline, often red or with traces of red. The oldest ones have no paint at all. And they are not all the same. Some places in Norway there is sort of a common style and architecture, but not in northern Norway. The main reason can be the Second World War. When the Germans withdrew from northern part of Troms and the County of Finnmark, they burned nearly everything, all houses, barns and boathouses disappeared. After the people was poor and they used what they could get, and just started to build the houses they needed.

naust Kvænangen

A small boathouse built after the Second World War

I try to find new angles when I take photos, but standing there it’s like they look right into my eyes, and they often happen to be placed right in the center of the photo. Slowly I try to move around them, perhaps there are new things to see?

In Norway it is not allowed to build huts or houses near the shore, the rule is to avoid the 100 meters closest to the sea. The red boathouses are popular to use as huts, standing so close to sea as possible. You can see some of them have got new facilities, their owners trying to avoid the rules.

morgenlys naust

Boathouse in early morning light

These boathouses are traces and echos of a long lasting culture of fisheries which made it possible to survive under these harsh conditions. Every man and some places also women fished for food and income. They took their boat out every day, rowed to the fishing area, fished and then rowed home again. The fish fed the people, in wintertime even their animals. You can see it as an underlying main pulse of these areas. Boats, boathouses, fish, rowing and sailing forth and back. Perhaps you can think of that when you see those boathouses lying there along the shore.

Ute til lunsj

Det ligger et fembøringsnaust ute på Balsnes. Balsnes ligger i munningen av Balsfjorden, ikke så langt fra Tromsø. En av Tromsøs ishavsskippere bodde på Balsnes, Halfdan Jacobsen. Vi vet ikke helt hvor. På Balsnes er fjorden åpen, man ser nordover til Tromsøya og byen og så vidt mot Rystraumen, innløpet fra Malangen og veien sørover. I dag skal vi ta en tur dit, til naustet.

Vi pakker matbomma, en kopi av en gammel fiskerbomme, lagd av båtbyggeren, min samboer. Fiskerbomma er malt med blå linoljemaling og inngår i båtbyggerens og mitt liv, fra den daglige nistepakken i båtskottet, til utallige bilturer rundt i Norges land. Den har en egen lukt av linolje og tre. Kjøreturen tar sirka en halv time. Vi er takknemlige for vinterlyset, mørket har abdisert og utsikten mot våren er en nedoverbakke. Det motiverer til utelunsj. Reinskinnet tas med, litt lurvete i kanten, men fortsatt en god venn.

Fembøringsnaustet er stort, velholdt og vakkert. I våre øyne. Spesielt naustdørene har fått en nydelig patina. Det er ryddig rundt naustet, der det ligger på nedsiden av veien. Hovedhuset ligger et stykke oppover på andre siden. Det føles ikke som vi invaderer privatlivet, men det er ikke godt å vite hva eierne tenker. Vi tar likevel sjansen, for vi liker fembøringsnaust. De er karslige, vitner om en slags storhet. Samtidig er de lavmælte, på ingen måte overdådige, nøysomme kanskje. De er akkurat nok. De rommer en stor båt, en fembøring som kunne være opp mot 45-50 fot, på lengden. I bredden er det sannsynligvis plass til en del mer, en småbåt, fiskebruk og annet som fulgte med i gårdens og båtens arbeid gjennom året.

Lunsj ute

Naustveggen er god å sitte inntil

Det snakker vi litt om etter vi har fått satt oss i naustveggen. Det er minus 10 grader, men likevel lunt. Hjemmebakt brød, nypesyltetøy og kjøttrull. Smøret er for hardt etter min smak, kaffen god og varm. Halvdan Jacobsen ble født for sent til å lære å ro fiske i en fembøring antar vi, i 1912. Da hadde de for det meste gått ut av bruk. Motorene hadde startet opp langs den nordnorske kysten, og de som fortsatte å ro, brukte mindre nordlandsbåter.

Halfdan ble skipper, han lærte på farens fangstbåter. Faren het Karl. Halfdan overtok etter Karl og etter 20 år i næringa fikk Halfdan bygd Polstjerna, spesialbestilt for polarisens utfordringer. Hun står nå i glasshus i Tromsø sentrum, ferdig med sin fart i polare strøk. Halfdan har også lagt inn årene.

Det står ingen fembøring i naustet. Det er så godt holdt at vi ikke ser inn. Det kommer til å trekke oss tilbake hit, nysgjerrigheten er ikke stilt. Jeg tror jeg må finne ut om det var her han bodde, Halfdan, før han flyttet inn til Tromsø med sin kone. De fikk ingen barn.

Det er fritt for kaffe og magen er fylt. Kulden har sneket seg inn i tåspissene. Vi pakker sammen og går til bilen.

Lilly, my Grandmother

She was a special lady, my grandmother. I lived with her several years in my childhood, and she gave me the feeling of being special. She had delivered 10 children, two of them died, a girl after three days, and her eldest son in his youth, because of diabetes. Lilly was her name, a hardworking lady at a little farm, typical type for northern Norway, small with lean soil. It was located close to Lofoten.

Every time I make a traditional soup called “kjøttsuppe” perhaps translated to “meat soup”, with vegetables and beef or pork, I think of her. Food was her way of showing care and tenderness. Her children are telling stories about her, how she baked eight breads every morning before the rest of the family got up. She was a strong woman, joined her husband fishing prawns at sea, and they worked on the land through the night because the daylight was for fishing.

Lilly 1

Lilly, my grandmother, delivered 10 children and got 15 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren so far.

My grandmother represents the women of northern Norway, poor but strong, hardworking ladies, giving birth to a lot of children. Then they had to fight to keep them alive. Often they had to manage the children and the animals alone. The men left for different type of fisheries through the year; summer, autumn and winter fisheries. Especially the winter fisheries lasted for several months and this time of year was the hardest one to manage both for humans and animals.

I feel so humble for this history, for their efforts to bring us to live, we who came after.
She loved her potatoes, in special a local type from northern Norway called “Gulløye” (“golden eye”). When she got old I used to help her take up the potatoes. I look back at the memory with a smile in my heart.

To honor her we have named our sailboat “Lilly”. The boat has a kind of same attitude of strength and robustness as my grandmother, both in a gentle way. She died right at the start of year 2000, a few hours into it, and had lived nearly through the 20th century. I made meat soup yesterday and thought of her.

 

 

The Sun, my Father

In these northern areas sun has played a central role for living. And the most important is her absence. I call her a she, but in Sami culture the Sun is a he. In the autumn she slowly disappears, to 21.th November when she stays under the horizon until January 21th. Then the Polar Night rules the show. And in these times we can enjoy it to the

polar night 2

The blue light is typical for the polar night period

fullest. The pallet of pastels in the sky, northern lights and the moon coming and going.

People who lived before us struggled through wintertime. The most challenging for poor people living by the coast, was to have enough food – for themselves and for their cows and sheep. The animals were the assurance when fisheries didn’t go well, and the sheep gave wool to clothes necessary to survive in these areas. These people waited for the sun, and for spring. Times when weather conditions no longer were so harsh.

Polar night

polar night gives a special light

The Sami people have lived both at the coast and in the inland. Most well-known are the Sami living with their reindeer herds, moving from inland to the outer coast and back again each year. The coastal Sami lived by the coast all the time, used all resources nature could give.
Old Sámi faith, usually understood as shamanistic, had a spiritual leader, the noaidi. To communicate with gods, and spirits and do all the other stuff he could do, he had a drum which he used when he put himself into trance. The drum was the central tool for the noaide carrying out his tasks. On the drum each one had painted symbols. The sun was one of these symbols, and some drums have them in a central position of the drum.
Do you want to know more? http://www.saivu.com/web/index.php?giella1=eng

A famous Sami artist, Nils-Aslak Valkeapää (1943-2001), have made this poems called “The sun, my father” (Beaivi, Áhčážan). You can find him on you tube, reading poems and singing songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qjF6qAMvys reading in Sami
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efu-tnZt_mU singing the traditional Sami song called joik

Reindeer

He just waited

Sami and Norwegian people had and still have their lives in these northern areas. Some places they lived side by side, other places more separated. Sami and Norwegian, two different people also mixed together in a lot of different ways. The sun in the north, he – or she – is central for living here for all of us. We wait for her.
When she returns we have a celebration, a “sun day”. We even have these buns called sun buns. You will get fat if you eat too many, I promise.

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.