“I’m Norwegian,” I say whenever I have the chance. “Oh really, how long have you lived in the U.S.?” Then I have to admit I was born here. “But I’m full-blooded Norwegian,” I insist—ignoring that wee bit of Irish, English, Russian, Lichtensteinian blood that Ancestry claims flows in my practically pure Norwegian veins.
Up North, my history/geography/travel memoir will have a very long introduction or a first section steeped in Norway and Norwegianness.
Which means the first week to ten days of 2015’s Up North/Far East trip will be Norway Revisited. Scandinavia, including Iceland, is not new and I’ve been writing about Odin and lefse and DNA throughout my two UCLA classes but two things remain to do. A well-researched (meaning books, not just Wikipedia) chapter or more on Norwegian history and a solid few days in contemporary Norway with laptop and camera in hand, cousins to visit.
I will, beginning today, go to Ancestry a few times a week and avail myself of a U.S. second or third cousin’s research. I will begin (again) reading at least half a chapter a day of a Norwegian novel that’s not crime-based (which means I have time for a whole chapter of the latter). That would be Knut Hamsun, Sigrid Undset and/or that hot new guy, Karl Ove Knausgaard. I actually have dipped into each previously and find them all rather hard-going but I’m sure that’s only because Karin Fossum and Jo Nesbo have spoiled me. I will report back on these activities in January as an attempt to keep myself honest—and because I have Russia, Mongolia and China to cover as well.
Norway is scenically beautiful, socially advanced and economically successful. While not quite the paradise we imagine, it does rank #1 or close in all quality of life charts.
I love it there. Of course my visits have been brief and much of my love is based on my inherited Norwegianness from Ovidia Mathilda Floren of Baltic, South Dakota (first generation American) and Sven Neset of Byglandsfiord, Norway (immigrant, age 7) and on growing up in a northern Minnesota Norwegian community.
For all of these reasons plus the fact I am increasingly sick of us/U.S. and the myth of ‘American Exceptionalism’ I am becoming more Norwegian by the day.
Also we all seem to get more attached to a past, the past, our past, my past as we age. I have a wall of restored family photos from Norway and from the Norwegian communities of the Sioux River Valley in South Dakota and Koochiching County in Minnesota. I fall asleep with them every night.
Besides I’ve never believed in heaven but Valhalla has possibilities.