Here in the Modalen valley the sounds and smells of spring are all around us, although the mountains that rise above still have quite a bit of snow on them. One day last week I saw neighbors driving off with their winter jackets and skies to enjoy a couple of hours up in the snow, while other neighbors were sitting on their porch in their t-shirts enjoying the warm sun down here in the valley. Such a contrast!
Of course everyone knows that winter is my favorite time of year. And I decided that, before the snow melts from the mountain tops and I say a complete goodbye to this preferred season of mine, maybe I should try to capture my impressions of “winter in a valley”??
Because we are in the mountains, this first full winter for me in my new country brought more snow than I expected. Closer to the coast there isn’t as much as other parts of the country. But even here in the mountains with their colder temps and more snow, I still experienced a much milder winter than my family and friends on the east coast and in the mid west in the States.
The temperature in my area ranged from 19 to 44 degrees (Fahrenheit). Not too bad, but we did have a couple of wind moments that made it seem much colder. Whipping up the fjord and continuing up the valley, it was intensely powerful. And once, filling the car with gas at the pump at the end of the fjord, I got a blast of wind that went through me like nothing I have experienced before. I’ve encountered wind in Illinois and Iowa, but coming off the fjord it seemed to have a little extra “oomph” that really took my breath away.
One dark night MacKenzie and I were enjoying our “ball toss” play, and I could hear the wind increasing high up the mountain. It was a little eerie with the sound so high above me yet – because of the intimacy of the valley with the mountains that surround us – it was part of my environment too. And then I could hear it shift. I heard the limbs of the trees a little further down start to add their shaking to the mix. And suddenly I heard a huge blast making its way straight towards us, getting louder and louder. I laughingly hollered at Mac to “hold on” and then it hit. I had to hang on to my hat in that particular blast and Mac”s Labrador ears were straight behind her as she squinted up at me.
Yet even with the wind, our house did not shake. I expected to hear windows rattling and walls creaking. Nope. Norwegian houses are truly built to withstand the elements!
And now I’ll write about snow. Snow! Yippee!! Heavy and wet, or cold and dry, I loved the snow in this valley. The feel, the playfulness of it – as always, it brought out my happy winter-loving side. Driving wasn’t really a problem. If it snowed in the night, the main road out of the valley was plowed in time for my 7:00 am drive to my Norwegian classes. Over the winter we had two snowfalls that gave us about three or four feet each, and many other milder snowfalls that covered the old snow and ice and dirt … isn’t that renewal so appealing?!
I loved being out in it. It was so absolutely quiet! Occasionally I could hear an owl hunting up in the mountain forest. When Mac and I would go outside at night, snowflakes seemed to come out of nowhere in the pitch dark sky. I would tilt my head back and watch them appear; they seemed to come in slow motion, drifting and teasing, the shadows created by the few streetlights seemingly chasing each other along the ground towards those lights. Magical!
And then, during the long nights, the top of the fallen snow on the ground would sometimes freeze, and the crunch of boots on the ice and snow seemed magnified by the silence of this remote area.
Driving to language class in dark December and January mornings, the headlights of my car highlighted the frost-covered bare trees and the snowy and frosty ice along the road. It seemed to turn them into billions of sparkling diamonds, and my focus on the road in front of me was rimmed by those diamonds. If the moon was out, it dimly showed the snow covered mountain tops – with that slightly blue-tinged glow the moon gives. Being so far north the day expands quickly and so by February the drive was in the semi-dawn and the diamonds were gone, replaced by the muted colors of the early winter morning.
It was just as beautiful.
Even in the deep of winter, the days would often warm up above freezing. And then the silence disappeared. The roar of the waterfalls and river when the snow started to melt echoed off the mountains. I would find myself caught in the sound bouncing between them as I walked in the warming temperatures. It sounded of overwhelming power, and energized the air around me. I remember calling Abby on my cell phone once while I was outside, with that sound as background. She wasn’t able to answer, and that was probably a good thing. My surroundings were so loud I could hardly hear her voice message!
The colors of winter here indicate the purity of the water. When some of the snow melted off the mountains and flowed down to the river, the rushing water over and down the rocks in the river was a deep green, and as always you could see the river bed clearly. When I stepped into fresh deep snow during a daytime walk, it reflected a slightly bluish tint. It made me think of a glacier’s color: cold and unpolluted and with a deep purity that can’t be seen anywhere else.
I did have a moment that startled me a bit with its power. One night during an extended warming period that had followed several days of cold, I heard a loud crack and knew the ice holding the largest waterfall near us had broken. A few moments later the sudden rush of the water coming down from that waterfall hit the rocks just before emptying into the river. It was a short distance from where I was standing and it was a little alarming!! Even MacKenzie jumped at that one.
And speaking of melting: as spring tries to make its way to the mountain tops and the warming sun loosens the snow from the mountain, we can hear the shelves of snow give way and see the snow avalanches that have tumbled down. The power of the sounds and the sights are overwhelming.
But as I finish capturing in print my senses of winter, I have to end with my favorite moment of all: the sight of thousands of Norwegian Pines standing silently on the lower parts of the mountains, draped in their winter white. THAT is how I have pictured Norway, and in the intimacy of a valley I was surrounded by that vision every day.
And now spring is arriving and although its promise of rebirth is enticing, it is with reluctance that I say goodbye to my favorite season. The warming air does feel good, and I can look up to the mountain tops and still see the snow of winter … I think it’s a little of the best of both seasons for me right now!