I shared photos of a Norwegian moon a couple years ago (here and here) … below are two shots of this March moon as seen from my home office on the side of Løvstakken. The setting sun is still kissing the mountain tops of southern Ulriken.
A blissful walk on a Løvstakken trail behind our community. I love the play of sunshine through the Norwegian pines.
Norwegians – well, ALL Europeans that I know of – celebrate the new year with fireworks.
I had experienced a Modalen New Years my first December 31st here. A neighbor set off a few fireworks, and I enjoyed standing out in the crisp, cold air watching their colors explode against the blackest night imaginable.
I was in Iowa last year, so didn’t know what to expect in Bergen and, particularly, from our balcony on our side of Løvstakken.
The noises started a few days before … and increased in intensity as midnight approached.
My Dad joined me on the balcony, and we experienced a (probable) once-in-a-lifetime event: fireworks up and down the Bergen valley, echoing against the mountains and sailing high into the sky, crystal clear at first and gradually a little more dull as the valley began to fill with firework smoke.
Fascinating! Exciting! Unbelievable! Awe-inspiring! I took a few photos, but the memories my Dad and I carry from that night are so much more real! (The “official” photography of the night started with my favorite nighttime sky decoration.)
The morning sky just after sunrise while standing behind our townhouse, partway up Løvstakken …
Jan and I moved back to Bergen in early May. I am so glad for our year in Modalen, a place of remoteness where I began to truly understand the strength and integrity and endurance of a people who, generations ago, had to subdue the elements to carve out a life in an isolated area.
But although I do miss friends and the wildness and splendor of living in Modalen, it is good to be back in “civilization.” Instead of driving the hour and a half into the city, we can take the bus or a quick taxi when we want to go out to dinner or to a Saturday afternoon jazz concert … and, since we aren’t driving, both of us can enjoy ourselves (drinking and driving is not tolerated in Norway). Or, if we are out of a supper item at 6 pm we can run down to the grocery store which is open until 9 pm (Modalen’s market was well-stocked, but closed about 4:30).
We are living on the side of Løvstakken, one of the mountains that we could see from our apartment when I first moved to Norway. Our views look over Nordåsvatnet, the salt water lake I wrote about in an earlier blog post.
And out my office/music room window – on the other side of the water, very tiny! – I can see Troldhaugen — very inspiring for my flute practice! 🙂
There are many families in our area, but it is so QUIET. Everyone is respectful of their neighbors and community. There are of course “people sounds” throughout the day, but in the early mornings and late evenings/night time there are only the sounds of occasional cars. When walking Mac at night, I often hear an owl just behind our development . While on one of the many paths up Løvstakken the sounds of people disappear and it is easy to forget how close to the city I am.
It is peaceful, in many ways even more so than Modalen. A different type of peace – quiet, but humanity is close by too. We feel as if we have come home.
Five weeks after our move here, Jan and I flew to the US to visit my family. Iowa and Wisconsin together, and then he came back to Norway and work, and I continued on to Maryland and New York. And so the purpose of these blog thoughts: It really hit me, during this vacation that happened so soon after our move, that wherever I have found myself, I am content and I feel home.
We were in Iowa with my Mom and Dad and brother and his family. Lots of rain, floods, tornadoes. A week and a half later, we all traveled to Illinois and stayed overnight near my other brother and his family. The trip was very long because of the flooding and detours. And then all of us continued to Lake Delton in Wisconsin for our semi-annual family reunion, another extended journey because of washed out roads and bridges.
Lake Delton. Ah yes … beautiful views overlooking a beautiful man-made lake … except our condos at the resort overlooked the remnants of the lake, as the dam had broken and the water had drained just a few days earlier. We dubbed it “Mud Flats Delton.”
It could have all been a disaster. But the condos were wonderful, and vacationing with my husband, surrounded by my extended family, sharing memories and current activities, eating together, enjoying the play with my nieces and nephews – it didn’t matter the surroundings, it was family and warmth and love and home.
And then I flew to Maryland. Feeling at home there is understandable as I lived in the same house for 15 years. Of course I enjoyed getting together with friends and co-workers this trip, but the best part was being with the girls and their dad. The house was bulging with four adults carving individual space – yes, it’s the family home that David and I created, but so much is different now. He and Abby have lived there together for over a year. Both work at Ft Meade and have their routine. Amy had just moved to Maryland to go back to school, and then I arrived. She and I did our best to fit into their schedule, with enough of the “Mom’s here for a couple weeks! Let”s celebrate!” to give that time a special glow. Giggles over the dinner table and late night conversations confirmed to all of us that, despite life changes in the parent relationship, our sense of family love continues to grow. I missed Jan and we all wanted him there to complete the family, and yet I felt home.
And then we traveled to upstate New York to visit David’s family for a few days. I hadn’t been there since his Mom’s funeral, and in the years before that I had pulled away as he and I worked through our journey. Even though I am happily remarried, his family is still a special part of my memories and current thoughts … but I wasn’t sure how I – or they – would feel. Where would I fit in?
I didn’t have to worry. Our time there celebrating Abby’s 25th birthday, and our reconnecting as an even bigger extended family, was wonderful. I really felt as if I had come home.
And then I came back to my real home, to the life Jan and I are creating together in Bergen. And I felt as if I had picked up the routine of my days and emotions and settled right into home.
My life has been blessed with some travel in the States, Mexico, and Europe. I’ve lived in nine states in the US, I was stationed in Berlin, and in Norway I lived in Modalen and now Bergen. My physical surroundings have changed more than anyone could have imagined 50 years ago when I arrived in this world, but everywhere I have lived, I have felt at home.
Of course, not all of life is happy, and there have been moments this last year and a half in Norway where I felt that the difficulty of adjusting to a new country, language, and life was more than I could handle. But I have worked to find contentment in my surroundings. It is good to be content with wherever you are, in whatever circumstances you find yourself, isn’t it? And even better when that contentment has so much happiness surrounding it.
For this American girl, contentment + happiness = home.
Hey! A math problem I can understand! 🙂
We moved about twenty minutes further up the valley – this is the winter view looking down the valley towards the fjord:
I was answering an email from my Mom in Iowa last night. She mentioned that the leaves there are past their fall beauty and that many are already on the ground.
That got me thinking about my area of the world, and that I needed to capture in words my impressions of this, my first Autumn season of change and color here in “my mountains” of the Mo Valley while it is still new to me.
When we came home from Italy on September 20th I was amazed at how quickly the fall colors had arrived and changed my landscape. The three weeks away had brought out the colors in the tree leaves, and I thought that, since I live so much further north now, it would be over quickly. But in my walks and drives in the valley and to my Norwegian classes an hour away, I can still see the colors of the season.
This morning, over a month after my first observation of Norway’s Fall season, Jan and I sat drinking our coffee while looking out the window. My email conversation with my Mom was on my mind, and I realized that there are really TWO seasons visible in the small space framed by my bedroom window. We’ve had wind and rain that have stripped many of the trees of their leaves, but there are still a few vivid yellows to be seen. Yes we are also past our peak overall, but living on the side of a mountain is much different compared to living in a more flat landscape. From our bedroom window I can see that about 100 yards up the mountain from those vivid yellows the trees are bare and they look lonely. And, in other higher mountains surrounding our valley, further up above the tree line the Autumn colors of September are gone, and it is early Winter.
This past Saturday – again while drinking coffee and looking at the mountains, our favorite time of the day together – Jan and I could see that snow was falling at the tops of the higher mountains. And so we did what any normal crazy people would do – we drove up to see that new dusting of snow at 1200 meters (about 3/4 of a very steep and twisting mile). (Edit – after reading this, Jan made the comment that normal crazy Norwegians would certainly not DRIVE up there, they’d go hiking …) By the time we went it was a little above freezing up there, so any new snow and the snow from a few days earlier was starting to disappear. The fog was moving in …
… and it was beautiful in a lonely way – many muted AND vivid shades of gray, tan, brown, and green.
There were icicles that were melting and falling. They were cold and crystal clear – you can drink the water in the mountains, it is so pure. MacKenzie was very curious about the melted water slithering underneath the ice, and enjoyed crunching on those that had fallen onto the gravel road. It was so silent and still, the sounds of her chewing were unnaturally loud and seemed an intrusion. The melting water under the icicles, on the other hand, was soothing and peaceful. Some of the icicles were on the mountain rocks, and some were over green moss – the effect was sparkling, even with the fog and no sunshine.
All of our senses come alive in such an environment!
From down in our valley, we could see the streaks of snow were gone by Sunday. And so I can see Winter arriving, then receding, all while I am experiencing Fall … and I keep observing and marveling.
As with most views and experiences in my new life, it is difficult to describe AND pictures don’t do it real justice. But the combination of “the sunny side of the mountain vs. the shady side” and “further up the mountain vs. down closer to the valley” creates an interesting topography of every aspect of the Autumn and Winter season, all at one time.
And it is another fascinating, surreal moment for this American girl who continues to fall in love with her new country.