I’m traveling on a different kind of quest this summer. To Norway to find…me? India and Greenland were physical challenges. Russia and South Africa literary, historical, and artistic adventures. Vietnam last year and Norway this year feel more like major life searches. In the case of Vietnam to see with my own eyes (and to offer mostly unspoken apologies) a place we Americans nearly destroyed in the name of false pride. In the case of Norway, it’s all about me. A search for all of the roots that went into the making of the scraggly bare-branch result that is me.
I’ve visited Norway several times and come to know the cousins of which I’ve written so proudly. This time though is special. The exploration is both farther and deeper. Farther because I intend to visit the country from its northernmost city (Longyearbyen) and fiords on the Arctic islands of Svalbard to its southern tip at Mandal near the city of Kristiansand. I will cross the border into Sweden not too many miles out of Trondheim, the place from whence my maternal grandfather set out for South Dakota. I’ve been reading fairly extensively about my country of origin over the last few years—from Viking literature to Karl Ove Knausgaard. Now it’s time for more of a geographic focus. On my first Norwegian trip in 1985, I took a train from Stockholm, Sweden to far northern Narvik, Norway. This time my itinerary takes me even further north, south and east. More about old trips and new routes to come.
It’s a deeper exploration because I intend to visit each of the locations that were the centuries-long homes of my ancestor and from which those who migrated to the US began their journey. And possibly, thanks to Ancestry.com, meet even a few new cousins. Home base for my dad’s parents was the Setesdal Valley which runs north from Kristiansand, the city in the south of the country from which my seven-year-old father left for America. My maternal grandfather came from coastal Trondheim in south central Norway and my maternal grandmother from across the border in rural Tannas, Sweden. Supposedly Grandmother Magnhild was half Norwegian, half Swedish (making me 1/8 Swede) but it’s looking more and more like she was mostly Swedish—a mystery to solve this summer if I’m lucky.
My next post will talk more about my Ancestry.com searches—a pastime that could consume one’s whole life if activities like work, home, family, health, and streaming Scandinavian murder mysteries didn’t get in the way. On second thought I think the latter might count in the overall cultural research picture. I did spend some weekend time with two excellent Norwegian detective/murder/mystery dramas and feel better informed regarding dastardly deeds in dark forests because of that. I recommend Borderliner and Occupied both on Netflix.…
I have stopped posting on In New Mexico. There’s no time in my slightly too-busy life to maintain more than two blogs (Time and Place and 79) so I will include a few photos and comments about my everyday family/friend life here amidst the travel talk. Actually nearly everything in my life involves travel to some degree now that I think of it.
We are all part of one or more social groups/communities. Mine include family, work/art/old friends, and book club and gym buddies. The latter gym category having much to do with travel since it’s part of my desperate attempt to keep fit enough for hoisting up luggage, squatting down to pee (in Asian toilets or on Arctic hikes), trying to sleep on a bouncing seat as the slow/fast train rocks its way to the next destination. This summer, the rutted roads and streets of India and Nepal won’t be there to challenge me, but Norwegian mountainside trails and seaside rocks will demand ever more walking/abs prep.
My charming, funny (and healthy) gym friends had a birthday party for Ian and me last night. Interesting people, stories and laughter and excellent food. And, just to show off our super-fitness, here are the birthday celebrants doing a three minute plank—wait wait, I meant three second plank.
Back next week to talk about Ancestry.com and discovering I might be a quarter Swedish! Dad might have been right…he always claimed the reason mom was so stubborn (and indeed she was—but usually for good causes) was her Swedish blood. I suppose I might be called stubborn.