August 17th now. Back on land. I’ll take you post by post through a few remarkable days. First however another glimpse of that amazing midnight sun…at midnight.
ON BOARD THE GOOD SHIP LINDEN: TUESDAY, AUGUST 13TH.
On board the Linden…out of Longyearbyen. Forty-six degrees, feels much colder to this New Mexico-habituated body. We’re sailing (well, actually there’s no wind, so we’re engining) now to our berth for the night which is at Basecamp’s other outpost where a couple of the crew and a couple from Amsterdam will put out fish nets for tomorrow night’s meal. I, on the other hand, will try for a full night’s sleep…I must have this catch-up in order to enjoy a few more midnight suns before leaving this sunny Arctic place…wherever I go there I am, just me and my best friend, the sun.
So the Linden did haul cargo back in the day and, we are told, because of that it’s a safe, sound ship. It is simply beautiful. Many photos will be shared! With the book upstairs in hand, the Story of the Linden, it might be called I will offer up some more details. For now I’ll just say it is gracefully, elegantly, sensibly beautiful.
There’s a crew of five: the Captain and First Mate, a cook, and two young jack-of-all-trades crew members, all Danish. Then the Captain has his parents and a friend visiting for this adventure. There’s Elodie, a journalist/information officer from Paris who works with a research ship funded by a number of countries but sailing under the French flag. Our expedition leader, Mette, a Norwegian, is an absolutely incredible woman with years of work in bomb-removal and other dangerous occupations in Afghanistan and the Western Sahara. She’s also been an emergency mental health worker/trainer in Oregon and now works as director of expeditions for various companies in the Arctic and Antarctic. I intend to be her in my next life…and what a knowledgeable resource she will be for my 2020 trip to Antarctica. Finally there are three of us passengers. A couple, he’s a test-making company official and she a medical doctor, from Amsterdam. And me. How much better could it get…not possible.
For dinner the Captain, who was Chef for the day, broiled fresh salmon, with plain boiled potatoes, drizzled with butter and a really tasty green salad. It was simple, flavorful, and I’ll sleep well.
Tomorrow we will look for walrus and any other wild life around the fringes of the fiord and then our science-journalist is gathering plankton which we’ll examine with microscopes, look at some documentaries about plankton, and be guided through a bit of individual research. And another interesting fact, walruses suck seals’ brains right out through their ears or mouths or eyes (can’t remember which right now) if they can catch them.
I’m very briefly connected so probably won’t be back in cyberspace for another couple of day—by which time there’ll be many posts; hundreds, perhaps thousands, of photos; and more exciting facts about plankton. I love it here.
What is a person called who’s happiest when it’s cold and dark and wet outside and warm and cozy inside? A Northerner? An Icicle-Lover? The Abominable Snow-Shrew? Whatever the name, that person is who I am. You see why keeping up my spirits in a hot dry oh-so-sunny climate, where every building interior is maximally refrigerated,is something of a challenge.
It is 12:40am here at the Gardermoen Bed and Breakfast. Two hours since my last post. Two hours of deep sleep. I feel wonderful. What to do with the likely hour or two before my next sleep? Wander through some travel thoughts perhaps. So where does an introverted pluviophile with chionophiliac tendencies who is also in love with the concept of hygge go for happiness and fulfillment? Svalbard would be my guess. Especially to a cozy wooden ship sailing the chill summer fiords. So it’s light for 24 hours a day instead of dark but it will be in the 40s and it might rain. And that ship’s interior looks cozy-enough for even the most hygge-crazed Dane or, in my case Norwegian.
I’ve read much over the years about the northlands, recently focusing on Svalbard. I imagine it to be Greenland through a Norwegian lens. There’s a most engrossing book (especially if you’re a Chionophile) called The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule by Joanna Kavenna.
Joanna Kavenna went north in search of the Atlantis of the Arctic, the mythical land of Thule.Seen once by an Ancient Greek explorer and never found again, mysterious Thule came to represent the vast and empty spaces of the north. Fascinated for many years by Arctic places, Kavenna decided to travel through the lands that have been called Thule, from Shetland to Iceland, Norway, Estonia, and Greenland.On her journey, she found traces of earlier writers and travellers, all compelled by the idea of a land called Thule: Richard Francis Burton, William Morris, Anthony Trollope, as well as the Norwegian Polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen. She met wilderness-lovers; poets writing epics about ice; Inuit musicians and Polar scientists trying to understand the silent snows. But she came to discover that a darkness also inhabits Thule…(from book promo)
Opening the book’s section on Svalbard titled “Prophets,” Kavenna includes a Longfellow poem:
With favoring winds, o’er sunlit seas,
We sailed for the Hesperides,
The land where golden apples grow;
But that, Ah! That was long ago.
How far, since then, the ocean streams
Have swept us from the land of dreams,
That land of fiction and of truth,
The lost Atlantis of our youth!…
Ultima Thule. Utmost Isle!
Here in thy harbors for a while
We lower our sails; a while we rest
From the Unending, endless quest
Am I searching for Ultima Thule? Nothing quite so grand I imagine. Kavenna has written an exceptional book of history, literature, geography and adventure. I highly recommend it for anyone heading to the ‘real north.’ Growing up in Minnesota might make my northern quest a natural development—Kavenna’s done what I would dream of doing if only I were a hundred or so years younger.
I’ll come back to The Ice Museum on days when I run out of fiord photos. Now I’m sleepy…a chapter with the Minnesota Dylan and I’ll surely doze off… Yes, ‘n’ how many years can a mountain exist/Before it’s washed to the sea?
Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway. Here’s a first look at that midnight sun phenomena. From my camera/phone to your eye.
BUT IT ALL STARTED BACK IN THE OSLO MORNING.
Scandinavians used to live out their cold dark winters in Long Houses, the animals at one end, the humans at the other. It seems to have worked rather well since we do continue in great friendship with our furred and feathered companions.
This is a wrap of the South Dakota visit, a warmly reassuring trip to a familiar family place. A few photos…mostly animals…although a few humans crept in. Cousins all.
And to verify our Norwegian animal-lover credentials, you can hum along with Norway’s major musical export from a few years back.
Dog goes “woof”
Cat goes “meow”
Bird goes “tweet”
And mouse goes “squeek”
Cow goes “moo”
Frog goes “croak”
And the elephant goes “toot”
Ducks say “quack”
And fish go “blub”
And the seal goes “ow ow ow”
But there’s one sound
That no one knows
What does the fox say?…
The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) By Ylvis)
I’m just back from a few days in South Dakota, adopted land of my mother’s family. The time with my first cousins was just as family time should be and the reunion with more distant cousins likewise. Then there’s my ongoing exploration of the family tree and the grandparents and cousins that go back…and back…and back.
Now I am considering ‘extended family’ in a whole new way—in layers and branches and trees. The first layer grandparents, parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren. Enough family, right? But then it turns out the second layer, aunts, uncles and cousins, may be even more fun…the connections strong but the problems just a little more distant! You don’t have to fight with them in that annoying sibling way, but you can share endless family gossip and stroll familiar graveyards, reminisce over souvenirs from another time and eat too many cookies.
Not to belabor this extended family/ancestry obsession I have right now—with so much Norway ahead in which to explore all of the roots and branches—but this is a travel blog and I just traveled to South Dakota. So before the Big Trip I feel compelled to do make a post or two about extended family as that term relates to the South Dakota cousins and this particular trip.
Ole O. Floren and his brother, Lars, immigrated to Minnehaha Country, South Dakota from Trondheim, Norway in the 1880s as young ambitious men determined to make their way in this new world. The little research I have done so far on Ole, my grandfather, is that he worked extremely hard and managed to establish a prosperous farm in the Sioux River Valley near Baltic, South Dakota. He died in 1909 when my mother, Ovidia Mathilda Floren, was only two years old. She said she always remembered him holding her.
Ole’s entire family eventually immigrated as well, including his sister, Bergitta Olsdatter Floren, who would marry Ingebrigt Aasen and found the Aasen family—whose reunion my cousins Vivian, Marty and I attended on this South Dakota trip.
My mom’s paternal lineage goes like this—from Ole O. Floren to Ole Larsen Floren to Lars Olsen Floren to Ola Olsen Storflor (Floren) Tangvoll to Ola Erikson Almli Tangvoll to Erik J.L. Almli (born 1672). My second cousin once removed, Kirby Aasen, has done substantial research so this is almost certainly correct. This won’t get me into the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) but then, given the way I feel about this country right now, I much prefer heading back into history with Leif Erikson and his dad, Erik the Red, born in Norway May 4, 950, who died in Greenland after founding the first Norwegian colony there.
I am finding this research into my ancestry and subsequent old and new connections with family enormously interesting and also somehow reassuring in its timelessness. Births and deaths and, if we’re lucky, lots of potlucks in between.
So here’s the thing about abnbs. When you’re in a ‘foreign’ country don’t you always wonder how the natives live? I mean on a daily basis, personally, in their most private of spaces and moments. Do they use duvets or sheets and blankets? What sort of knickknacks do they put on corner tables? What do they eat just before going to bed? Well, turns out that in the kind of abnb that’s attached to, right by, or even within the owners’ actual living space, you get a glimpse of all that.
Here I am in eastern South Dakota, right on the Minnesota border in what used to be called a mother-in-law house and in New Mexico we call a casita. It’s a small one-bedroom house (actually about the size of my apartment at home which is 800 ft2 ) tastefully and pleasantly decorated. I’ll meet the owners tonight or tomorrow and I’m anxious to see if they fit the image I’ve conjured up for them.
They are above all friendly or at least most accommodating. Every detail is just right for the comfort of their guests, whether random travelers or family at Thanksgiving. There are extra blankets, soft towels, shelves of the kind of things one forgets in the rush of home-leaving (toothpaste), TV (which my present travel ethic doesn’t permit me to turn on), and every imaginable form of almost-junk food. Even if you’re on a scrambled tofu, kale and coconut water diet, a shelf of processed seaweed and dried prunes is not a desirable greeting when you arrive at your destination all travel worn and easily annoyable. I for one am much happier seeing pop tarts, ‘froot’ loops and m&ms although they shall remain untouched.
There’s a big yard…of course there is…this is after all the upper Midwest. And I’ve been invited by the hosts to help myself to tomatoes from the garden. And I shall. Picked up some fresh farm eggs and vanilla salted caramel whole milk yogurt (so much better than unsweetened Greek) yesterday at a healthfully-stocked store called Pomegranate; it reminded me of Wild Oats before it became Whole Foods and before the reign of Jeff Bezos. Smallish and fussy about what they carry.
Now for breakfast. Scrambled eggs with cheese and fresh tomatoes, white coffee, and perhaps a pop tart for dessert. Wait a minute. Midwestern pot luck lunch today. Meaning a table of ‘hot dishes’…and I do love hot dishes. In northern Minnesota there would be several with wild rice, here probably not. So saving the big breakfast for tomorrow might be a good idea. How about yogurt and banana for now?
A day ahead of familiar cousins and heretofore unknown cousins. A family reunion of my maternal grandfather’s side of the family. A small one I think because…well because how many cousins of my generation are still alive! Just like my high school reunion…
Albuquerque to Denver to Minneapolis 6:45am to 2:30pm. Minneapolis to Sioux Falls 4:00pm to 9pm.
Here I am. Sioux Falls, South Dakota. You only hear me talk about Minnesota and Norway. But there’s a darker side to my family’s story. We are part Swedish and have a South Dakota heritage as well. I’m kidding about that ‘darker’ part—I just say it because dad always claimed the reason my mom was so stubborn (and yes indeed she was—but in a good way…) was because of her Swedish blood. During this summer of my Norwegian (and Swedish) obsession, some of my stories, references and asides are, perhaps…well, almost certainly, being repeated. Be patient, next year I’m traveling the Silk Road through the Stan countries where I have no relatives or tales from the past—although there is that three-percent Russian on the DNA chart…
Today’s been a seriously fine down-time day. Sleeping late in the most comfortable little airbnb for which one could ever wish and lazing about in pleasant and familiar family conversation with two of my favorite cousins, Vivi and Marty. Good people, warm summer day in the Midwest, and now back in my temporary abode with excellent salty butter, heavy white bread (like mom used to make), good yogurt and milky coffee. Maybe it will even rain tonight. Life is good…a lot of the time actually.
Here’s the picture album from yesterday’s trip getting here, mostly in photos of rare artifacts and occurrences. Such as Southwest planes and McDonalds’ food. Very rare. And sunsets. There are way too few photos of sunsets in the world.
Approaching the South Dakota border at dusk. New camera.
I’m liking the abnb idea better all of the time.
From Oslo, I took the train to Kristiansand and then the bus up the Setesdal Valley to Byglandsfiord where I had a reservation at the Revsnes Tourist Hotel, the only hotel in the village. It looked pleasant, set amid birch and pine and small rust and gold houses. I wasn’t such an experienced traveler back then and was lugging two heavy bags with me wherever I went.
Now I hauled them into a brightly colored, Scandinavian-spare lobby and approached the smiling young man at the front desk.
“God ettermiddag. Kan jeg hjelpe deg?” he says. Although I speak no Norwegian I still recognize some phrases from childhood.
“Good afternoon to you too. Yes, you may help me. I have a reservation for Neset.”
“Oh yes, Mrs. Neset,” is the response in flawless English which I would soon find everyone my age or younger spoke, “we’ve been expecting you.” The formalities are quickly over, I stash my bags, and am ready to explore.
Back at the front desk. “Hi, I thought I’d go for a walk. Do you happen to know of a place right around here called Neset or that used to be called Neset?” I of course have no hope that he will have heard of such a place but maybe he’ll be able to steer me toward someone in the village who would know what I’m talking about.
Jon (according to his name tag) says, with considerable surprise in his voice, “Well of course…It is right around the corner. I thought you must be related to the people there since your name is the same.”
“A place called Neset is right around the corner?”
“Yes yes. If you just go left out on the road and walk a small way you will see it. It is a campground. You can walk there in twenty minutes.”
I am stunned, overjoyed, eager. I can feel my heart pounding. Dad’s birthplace. My quest realized.
I’m shaking a little as I walk out the door, turn left and start down the two-lane paved highway. A small but steep mountain rises to my right, birch and pine climbing up the side and patches of fern-carpeting amidst the gray rocks, the grass along the roadside is summer emerald, there are tall stalks of glowing fuscia flowers scattered here and there, and patches of tiny purple and miniscule yellow blooms otherwise decorate the gravel, grass and weeds. Byglandsfiorden to my left is broad and blue, but not so wide the painterly landscape on the other side cannot be fully appreciated. It’s very beautiful. My heart needs to slow down.
It appears. Neset Camping—the green highway sign says so and a second fancifully-painted sign on the side of an ancient white barn confirms it. Neset means ‘the headland’ in Old Norse and indeed, before me, is a small grassy peninsula jutting out into the lake, there are clumps of firs and substantial boulders and, already in place, a series of small white cabins, campers and tents. I grew up in the outdoor vibrancy of Minnesota summers in “the land of 10,000 lakes” so this brightest of green and blue vistas is both brand new and yet familiar.
My dad, the old Norski, was born on the very spot of land at which I now gaze.
I walk slower, faster, slower, faster along the pavement, cars whizzing by. I turn left onto the long gravel driveway that leads to a big white general store, coca cola sign flashing in the window, the words Neset Camping across the front here too.
A youngish man is just walking out; he sees me, and since prospective campers do not usually appear without a vehicle, he calls. “Hei, kan jeg hjelpe?”
“Oh yes, I think you can help me. I am Marjorie Neset and I believe my father was born right here.”
I explain that my dad was only seven when they left for America, he doesn’t remember so much of this except that his mother often fished for their meals and that there was a boy he used to play with.
He smiles. “Velkommen, I am Olav Neset. You know my father Mikkjel is just here in the store. I have heard him talk of a boy he used to play with who moved to America. Maybe that was your father.”
An older man comes out on the concrete step.”Pappa, kom hit please.” He walks over to where we stand. Olav explains to him in Norwegian who I am.
Mikkjel responds, he is smiling broadly, takes my hand and speaks as Olav translates, “Yes, he remembers your father. He was called Svein.”
Olav waves his hand toward a rocky outcrop in a small but dense thicket of pine. “Dad says that’s where they used to play.”
It feels so…right. Mikkjel remembers a little more than dad, after all he has never left this place. After a talk and a walk I’m invited into the family home a small ways from the store for waffles and strawberries and seriously black kaffe.
That’s when I knew I had found my tribe. Although Mikkjel and Olav are not my blood kin, they feel like people I have always known, like family friends of long-standing, which of course is what they are.
I’ve been back to Neset Camping three times since then; it never gets any less thrilling or meaningful.
According to cousin, Arne Neset, of Stavanger, Norway, Neset history begins in the late 17th century when one of our ancestors, Knut J. Haugen, appears to have bought the farm Haugen from the bailiff Christian Mouritzen Torup in Grendi around 1695. Thanks to Arne’s fairly extensive research here’s what we know. First a ‘begat’ paragraph to bring the family up to the 1860s. For five generations, the family name was Haugen. Knut J. Haugen married Jorunn Guttormsdotter Vassend; their son Gunnar K. Haugen was born in 1705. Gunnar married Birgit A. Greibrokk and a son Knut G. Haugen was born in 1727. Knut married Asgjerd A. Lande and their son Gunnar Knutson Haugen was born in 1753. Knut drowned at Kvarstein, just north of Kristiansand, after a trip to town when they tried to cross the river Otra. The boat capsized and Knut didn’t make it to shore. Thanks to Arne there are some historical incidents included that help bring the family to life for us. To continue on the path to the Neset name, we’ll pick up with Gunnar Knutson Haugen who married Asgjerd Jonsdotter Lauvdal, resulting in a son Knut Gunnarson Haugen, born in 1778. This Knut married Torunn Sveinungsdotter Asen and one of the children born to the union was Sven Knutson Haugen, Arne’s and my great grandfather.
SVEN KNUTSON HAUGEN
Sven Knutson Haugen was born about 1825, seventeen years after his brother Gunnar, who was the inheritor of the Haugen family farm. According to Arne’s research and knowledge of the family and of Norwegian customs and laws, Sven probably received his share of the inheritance when his father died in 1847. He was 22 years old at the time and probably working as a farm hand at Haugen. He must have spent his share of the inheritance and, in order to make a living, rented land to farm. The croft he made his home was called Nesodden, situated on the north side of the farm Neset between Byglandsfiord and Grendi. This is where my story becomes personal because Neset is where my father was born and a place I’ve visited several times.
Around 1860 Sven married Gyro T. Smidjan, a beautiful young woman from the croft Smidjan, nearby in Grendi. It is said that Gyro had hair so long she could sit on it. Gyro’s sister Anlaug is the great grandmother of my new cousin and friend (from Ancestry.com), Al Yerbury.
Sven lived at Neset in great poverty because—the story goes—he had squandered his inheritance and he drank too much. Sven is said to have been a talented fiddler/violinist, who not only played fiddles but also made them. Arne says his grandfather Knut must have been born when Gyro was 27 and Sven 37 years old. My grandfather Torjus seems to have been the youngest child, born in 1876.
Later in life Sven got religion and became a very stern and severe person so it probably wasn’t a happy marriage or nice home for the children. Arne’s father told the story that when Sven’s young son Knut (Arne’s grandfather) once built himself a fiddle, like his father had done in his younger days, Sven got furious and broke his son’s fiddle. It’s easy to imagine that one of the reasons Torjus (my grandfather) became a sailor and eventually emigrated to America (without ever contacting his family again) is because of his father’s cruelty.
It’s also true that crofters’ children had almost no chance of eking out a living from the land. The croft was too small to sustain more than one family, and to find work as a farm hand was difficult and the jobs were seasonal. Since this was before the development of industries and factories in Norway the only way to survive was to emigrate to America.
THE NESETS OF MINNESOTA
The children of Sven Knutson Haugen and Gyro Torjusdotter Smidjan included Knut (1862), who married Birgit Jakobsdotter Norstebo (Arne’s grandparents); two babies, Tarann and Ingebjorg, for whom there are few records; Mari, born about 1870, who married Peder Aamodt (their son Sven Aamodt emigrated to America), Emilje who moved to Roros, Gyro who married an editor of the local newspaper in Lillestrom, north of Olso): and Torjus, who was born around 1872 and married Asborg from nearby—although her exact birthplace has yet to be discovered by me. Torjus and Asborg lived for awhile at Neset before emigrating to Minnesota in 1910.Torjus and Asborg were my grandparents.
Torgus (the name was Americanized) and Asborg had six children, Sven (Swan) and his twin sister, Elin (who died in the US); Ilif (Ike), Gyro (Gertie), Ingeborg (nicknamed Lillibelle) who was born in the U.S. and died very young; and Helen, also born in the US.
Torgus bought 160 acres of spruce and poplar woods at the end of a long dirt road in southern Koochiching County sometime after arriving in America and divided it between Ike and Swan before he died. Torgus, Swan and Ike worked in various lumber camps but lived all of their lives up on those acres at the end of the road where I grew up.
Sven had two children, Marjorie May Neset and Robert Neil Neset, with his wife, Ovidia Mathilda Floren, from Baltic, South Dakota. Ovidia’s parents were Olaf Floren (from Trondheim) and Mathilda Strom (from Sweden—near the Norway/Sweden border. Sven and Vida were married on June 2, 1938.
Ilif married Selma Simonson; they lived on the land next to Swan’s. Gertrude married twice; with her first husband Harold Bachman, she had three children, Richard, Harold Junior and Daphane. Richard was killed in a car accident around 1951, we have lost track of Junior. Daphane has married at least twice and has three children as well.
Helen married Lloyd Tack of Tenstrike, Minnesota and had two children, Dolores and Audrey. Helen lived much of her life in Northern Minnesota but they moved many times to the western US and to Alaska in search of work. Dolores married Don Lowrey, an Airman, and Audrey married Otis Hahn, a farmer, lumberman and gold miner. Dolores had three children, Debbie, Mike and Cindy and Audrey had Randy, David, Linda and Terri.
Sven’s land continues in the family. I bought it from my parents when they retired and have divided it between my sons, Scott and Steven Klotzback.