Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Norway: Madonna and Angry Boy

Sculptures everywhere – that is one impression of Norway. 

Before driving back to their home in Oslo from the mountain cabin, Oystein and Liv treated me to a very long hike up a mountain to the Madonna. It’s a curious anomoly to have a Catholic icon in a Lutheran country. Even more curious is that much of the path-work was built by Nepalese Buddhist  Sherpas. Really??? The laying of the flat stones resembles a mosaic, a work of art. 

It was a wonderful hike up 3.1 km (but lots of up and down that isn’t counted) and a rise of 140 m. Most of it was above tree line. Lichens, reindeer mosses (that the reindeer eat in the winter), cloudberries, blue berries and crow berries.

The views from the hike were an inspiration themselves for artistic creation!

And the Madonna and child were worth it! Lovely, curved soft... and the child looks up to her.

And everywhere in Oslo are more sculptures. 

The Opera House is one enormous modern sculpture.

Does it resemble an ice-berg perched by the water? You can walk on its roof! 
See the very interesting interior. 

And the sculpture of a ship-wreck in the harbor in front!

But the most famous, the most impressive and the most visited is Vigeland Sculpture Park. 

I can’t do it justice, folks. I love most that it is by one man and that his love of the human form unifies the 212 scultures into one theme. The gates, fountains, the individual granite forms and the monolith depict men, women and children in all relationships and all ages. The 14 meter high Monolith  was carved from one piece of granite with 121 intertwined figures and topped by  scrambling babies (for life, for the divine?) Enjoy!

The most famous individual work is that of the Angry Boy. 

I don’t know why—I don’t see too many angry Norwegians, but his hand has been burnished bright by the touching of admirers.

From life to stone, from stone to life.

Indeed, while having a coffee with Oystein in a cafe afterwards my relationship with the human form had changed, at least for awhile. Every attitude, ever gesture, every combination of people in the cafe was a potential subject waiting to be sculpted from the bountiful beautiful stone of Norway.

And I'm learning so much from this country -- its gorgeous scenery, sane society, kind people, delicious food, the profound emphasis on family life -- indeed how they have carved a marvelous country from the sometimes unfriendly elements of stone and water.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Two Cabins in Norway

Vacation cabins are fairly common in Norway and boy am I glad! 

Because here I have been for a week in not one, but two cabins!

When I decided to visit Norway because it was roasting in the rest of Europe, I looked up  my high school exchange student Oystein. It took some research to find each other's emails but we connected and he and his wife Liv kindly invited me to visit. We negotiated their vacations and travels with mine and somehow I ended up on a boat going down a fjord somewhere south of Bergen. Here is Oystein waiting for me on the dock in Malkenes on the island of Tysnes.

How long had it been? 

Well, 50 years since I first met that rosy-cheeked, smart, kind young man with whom I shared calculus, chorus, and graduation. “Do you look the same?” I had queried him on the phone when getting boat schedules. “Well, I have no hair and I do have glasses,” he warned. “And I have no glasses and and a new knee!” I joked. There he was, both of us ghosts from the past, and yet still easy friends.

And he was an excellent tour guide around the island, showing me Arbakkasanden, a set of ancient stones and an iron-age burial ground.

Sharing a cabin is not tourist life. 

Even though the view from the kitchen table is idyllic, you could call it life with the vigorous and very fit locals! Since Liv was initially visiting her sisters, Oystein and I developed a routine which centered around food, fish and work. Breakfast—soft-boiled egg, good solid bread, butter, yellow cheese, brown cheese (sweet boiled- down whey from goat’s milk), caviar spread and raspberry jam. Lunch was usually the same minus the egg. Supper was the same plus fish and potatoes! And oh such fish!!!

This is their island summer cabin and focuses on fishing, boating, grandchildren and work. 

Oystein likes projects. He calls this work “play”, since it is different than his profession in child psychiatry. First task of the day is rowing out and hauling in the complicated three rows of fish nets with two sizes of holes that confuse the fish (and me). He so carefully disengages the very many legs of a tangled crab, and voila—lunch! And then one or two fish and voila – dinner! I show no interest in cleaning them and appreciatively eat them instead—pan sautéed with a little flour and butter. Fresh and sweet – you couldn’t buy a meal like this! 

(And repeat the fishing process in the evening, freezing any excess.)

Then raspberry picking. Add yoghurt and sugar – voila, dessert!

Did I earn my keep? 

Well, some of the food was free from the land. And yes, I worked! Helped haul these ancient ceiling tiles from the cellar of the very ancient falling down barn (which he will somehow restore as another year’s project) in a wheelbarrow to be stacked against a rock ledge, to be used for some other project… And I helped close up the cabin for the summer by hauling into the boat-house picnic tables, a boat (cleaned by me), anchors and cleaned and dried nets.

And in leaving I cooked for us stinging nettle soup! Delicious – nettles (picked with gloves), butter (of course for the requisite Norwegian cholesterol intake), onion, potatoes and salt. We could have used some bouillon, nutmeg and cream but who is going to complain! So good to eat from the land! To just see nettles growing and remember some ancient wisdom that said they are good for something! 

And who is going to complain about anything about this cabin on this beautiful island? It’s not a hostel! And my own room! (Well, I could make noises about the lack of an inside toilet, but we survived. Better than camping…)

And then an 8 hour trip to the winter cabin in the eastern mountains. 

Waterfalls on the way.

Two beautiful stave churches from 1200 AD with complicated peaks (supposed to resemble stone cathedrals?) and wood carvings. 

A quick stop at a sports outlet where I snagged a pair of long underwear at ¼ the price at a “back-to-school sale”. (Mine disappeared in the Bergen hostel. Really!!!!) And then joining Liv in this beautiful wilderness. 

First order of agenda was to check for a toilet. Yes! And so much more. Spacious. Comfortable. My own room. Fireplaces. A boot drying machine. And the addition of one more meal per day in the evening. 

And am I working here? 

Well, I’ve nixed hard manual labor for now in order to get caught up on the blog and let my poor wrenched shoulder heal. (Lifting "too much luggage" on three plane flights in one day to get to Bergen.) But… we did climb above tree level for a whole day searching for cloud berries. 

Scattered, sneaky little delicacies that we’ll enjoy for dinner and freeze the rest for their Christmas.

And did I ever enjoy her marvelous cooking! Look at this first course of freshly picked crab and avocado. 

A second course of trout from the island, potatoes and beans.

And a third of ice-cream, picked blueberries and cloudberries. Boy am I cared for! 

And another dinner’s entrée of raindeer stew with locally picked lignon berries!!

Better than being a tourist, folks. Part of a family for a short while. Food, work and home.
Thank you Norwegian cabins and friends!

A Bucketload of Blogs

Another apology my friends!

The owner of a farm where I have been “working” just explained why I have been so frustrated for many weeks. (And why I’ve been getting concerned queries — Where in the heck are you?)

“The only thing worse than no wifi is some wifi!” And boy is he right! 

I’ve been having so many adventures, writing and taking pictures but have been unable to post the blogs! 

In one retreat center in Portugal I had to walk a goat path next to a cliff for 45 minutes each way to a tiny cafe for wifi. 

Even there I had to put the ipad next to the router at the bar and buy some home-made pastry for the favor.

And in Nepal (that’s right— I have moved on) you don’t even want to know about living in an almost barn-yard and maybe getting some wifi if you stand outside the farm’s office window, in the dark. But never enough wifi to post a blog!

And after 5 days, again without wifi, at a blessedly peaceful retreat at a Buddhist Monastery, I’m in a hotel with— wifi! So before I head off to another remote farm I’m sending you a bucketload of blogs. Sorry! 

Please dole them out over several weeks, please? That’s how I experienced these amazing places.

Enjoy! And especially enjoy the privilege of the internet that we usually take for granted. 

And I’ll do a little meditation on patience...

... Kathy who is trying her best