Cousins are close enough to claim as blood relatives without feeling you must account for them in the same way as your parents or siblings or children. In a way second and third and fourth cousins are better than first cousins because you can still claim kinship but they’re just distant enough so if you choose to think of them as superior examples of humanity and exemplary specimens of your particular blood line you can.



I have only three close living first cousins, special people all, but I know them very well and it turns out they’re not without some small flaws. They may have noticed the same thing about me…

On the other hand, my Norwegian cousins seem quite perfect. They fall in the second and third cousin category and live around 5000 miles away which may account for some of that perfection. Nevertheless I am so very pleased to have come to know them better as visits go by and I’m very proud to be part of the Neset clan of Setesdal Valley.

Even though I’ve shared thoughts and many photos in the past, here are a few more to catch up on this year’s visit—and to rhapsodize just a small amount about my love for Norway.



I met Arne for the first time in 2005 when my sons and I went on a ‘roots’ tour of Scandinavia in general and Norway in particular. I had already met Knut and Gurine, Arne’s brother and sister on my first visit to Norway in 1985 so it was starting to feel like I had real connections in the ‘old country’ as my dad always referred to his homeland. The sense that I am somehow part of a bigger world is more important to me than I would have ever realized. Vikings and waffles and Norwegian ‘exceptionalism’ (which Norwegians don’t say about themselves—but I choose to think they’re quite exceptional in the very best meaning of the word).

Cousin Arne and his wife Aslaug live in the west coast oil and university city of Stavanger. They have a lovely home full of books and an eclectic collection of art (that I especially love). They’re both retired now but Arne was a professor and Aslaug a City administrator. Arne’s also the author of Arcadian Waters and Wanton Seas: The Iconology of Waterscapes in Nineteenth-century Transatlantic Culture. I’m impressed and admittedly a little jealous of his writing; in fact I keep the book on my writing desk hoping it will inspire me to write more and better. I must admit to not having read Arne’s book yet because it is quite a scholarly tome on a subject I know little about. However I suspect from just dipping into the beginning it might be quite a good—if intense—read so it’s on my schedule for this fall. I do not want to see Arne again without having read it!

Arne and Aslaug are keenly interested in their family of two children and three grandchildren, in their city and in world affairs. Best of all they are such friendly, welcoming and interesting cousins to have. Aslaug said at our second meeting that she definitely sees the family likeness between Arne and me—in our shared and obsessive love of butter. I’ll happily settle for that until I can add having a published book to the list.

So this July in Stavanger.


One Comment on “The STAVANGER Cousins

  1. I am enjoying your family visits. I have some family out there in the world that I should connect to…but that would require me to do some research, that I have put off for years. Perhaps you are inspiring me to do that. The photos look so….so…Nordic. I want to go, I am sure Schuyler would, he has expressed a desire to go to Northern Europe. Perhaps we could do a connection tour of Europe some time. Thanks for showing me how fun it can be.

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