Saturday was crisp and sunny, the perfect day for a stroll along the periphery of Neset Camping, taking in the everyday landscape of the little boy Svein who would grow up to be my dad. Neset means small peninsula or outcropping in Norwegian and that describes this scenic spot of land sticking out into Byglandsfjord. Olav Neset and his ancestors have owned this land for a long time, building it into one of the most successful campsites in Norway. When my dad, his mom and siblings left for America, there was only Olav’s family home and barn, a couple of small log buildings and the cabin that my family rented at the other end of the property. Both families took their names from the place, the farm and land, which was common in those days. It was a time of great poverty in this country, hard to imagine in the prosperous Norway of today, but the reason for the mass Scandinavian exodus to America, similar to the great Irish emigration.
I always like walking about and listening to the quiet country sounds of waves on the lake and wind through the pines, birds singing, cawing, ducks quacking, a dog barks…it’s nice. This is a kid-friendly place and, while it’s quite empty now, in the summer the sound of children chasing each other and laughing makes me think of dad and his twin sister, Ellen, and little brother Ilif, doing the same all that time ago.
Okay, let’s get on with the Walk Around Neset photo album before I wax too sentimental.
Sunday, September 16, 2018. Just as I prefer my Sundays to be…it’s a grey rainy day and I have too little to do. I should explain. I have been working somewhat diligently on book organizing ever since arriving at Neset Camping on Tuesday. The book that has emerged in bits and pieces over the last years. The book that has potential, people say. That book, which if I do not write it now will never be written…because…well….there’s age and memory and stamina and desire to consider. To rephrase then. There’s too much to do…all of it about what I always think I’ll do…if there were only time and solitude. Hello, time and solitude…So Just Frigging Do It.
One of the reasons for this surplus of time is that I’ve slightly wrecked one leg. It’s been a little creaky off and on but apparently walking a few kilometers in the cold and rain was an insult too far. So here I am alone in a comfortably rustic cabin in the rain—unable to go for a long walk up the mountain…oh darn. Today’s agenda, keep on organizing and reviewing and non-serious editing for the Book, with time out for what will be one of my last posts while physically on this trip, and some time for streaming Midnight Sun (Swedish, a little confusing but I recommend for geographic/travel adventure in the far north of the country, lots of death and destruction, and several outstanding actors).
Oh yeah…there’s also selecting which of the thousands of mushroom, grass, water, duck, butter, historic house/new friend photos to include when I publish these Neset posts.
For breakfast I’m preparing eggs, Norwegian cheese and diced green chili (mild of course), cooked in a whole lot of Byglandsfjord butter; It’s Santa Maria Green Chili from Peru. Yum, just like Old El Paso. Soon 11am and still raining. If I were one of those hoping and praying people, I would make it all about the right to rainy Sundays, which is just about as possible to achieve in New Mexico as world peas and an end to gun violence. Maybe if I just flat out demand…Like goddamn it god, just for one Sunday a month could I have an all-day of rain. That’s my pluviophile personality speaking. Obviously if I hadn’t developed some New Mexican traits I wouldn’t have searched the Kristiansand grocers for green chili.
I’m making book progress. It’s nice, lots of breaks of course but then I have a whole day…and since this is a thinking-it-through/new and better ideas/contemplating-my-navel stage, breaks are good. I pace, pack something, wash a dish…and a productive thought presents itself for my consideration. I jot it quickly down with the purple-ink pen I brought along for just this kind of work.
Monday morning at Neset but still late evening in New Mexico. Just to finish the rain obsessing…all day it rained. A steady healing peaceful rain, not much wind, not too cold, just thick water making that softish drumming on the porch. Done!
It’s time to come home…I’m waking early, worrying about money and work and apartment decisions and the marathon which I stupidly signed up for—two t-shirts this year, who could resist? It’s not like I signed up to run, just a 10K walk. I know the rest of my body will probably cooperate but my left leg feels bothered, annoyed, sporadically painful. I’ll check it all out at the gym where, if I collapse—since it’s Pres Healthplex—they can do something, although that’s not my insurance carrier so maybe they won’t?
The real purpose of making this post was to post a whole lot of random photos of life around Neset Camping. First let me just step outside and check out dawn breaking over Byglandsfjord. Click click click.
Here’s more of yesterday…rainy yesterday. Bunnies, duckies and mushrooms to follow.
Tuesday Evening. Neset Camping. Have I said ‘…perfect day’ too often? At this moment I’m in a lovely cabin which is pleasantly familiar because I’ve stayed in it before (miss you, Lace) and it’s cold and windy outside on my private bit of lakeshore and warm and cozily-lit inside (as all the world should be…). Branches of the big fir tree out front are waving vigorously about and the moss-splotched boulder (where my dad used to play) is just feet away from the corner of the cabin. Out the front window a lone duck is braving the choppy waters while I’m all snuggled up in what will be my piney refuge for almost a week. Am I excessively sentimental about this place? Of course I am but I give myself permission…because being here makes my life perfect for a few glorious days once in awhile.
This is my last real blog post of the week although I may post an album of trees and water and random ducks once in awhile. I have things to do.
Today has a multitude of small components that go into my once again throwing around ‘perfect’ but there are two that loom large—the first being another really fine road trip with Simon from Kristiansand up here to Byglandsfiord the back roads way. It just simply does not get any better than that, especially with someone else doing the driving and that someone being a person like Simon who’s interested in history and the environment and the world in general, who is from southern Norway so knows the highways and byways of the region and, in fact, has a rather dramatic personal story of doing the right thing under circumstances of corporate intrigue that bordered on downright dangerous.
The backroads of southern Norway are scenic to put it mildly, you know, all those mountains and rivers and forests and bucolic farms. Well Simon has an extra for his personal tours—he works for one of the larger suppliers of hydroelectric power in Norway with dams and power stations up and down the Setesdal Valley (Norway is 99% clean energy, almost entirely hydroelectric). The most interesting plant was built in the 1920s, it is quite a beautiful building and everything still works just fine; at another site they were releasing some of the overflow from all of the rains this week so there was a grand scene of water showing off just how powerful it is.
We climbed around the mountainsides a bit, drove down narrow windy roads, and visited some of the old railway sites from when the train ran between Kristiansand and Byglandsfiord—the train my grandmother and her brood would have taken to meet the ship that would take them to America. Then we had a hot dog and Simon brought me ‘home’ to Neset Camping—which forces me to use that word-perfect again.
Along the way….
Am I a short-timer now? One more big – and important – week in Norway – at Neset Camping – a short stayover in Oslo, a day in NYC, and home. But this moment is still Kristiansand. It’s been a completely enjoyable few days with my gracious family hosts and that brilliant road trip. In between there was some art that I found most interesting so thought I’d share a few photos as a farewell to Kristiansand.
So…who knew? The University of Agder here in Kristiansand has the largest Beat-Art collection in the world. Bigger than San Francisco’s. My cousins found this out when visiting The Beat Art Museum in San Francisco (http://www.kerouac.com/) which they had assumed would have the most substantial collection. Turns out it was right here where Tone works at the University of Agder.
Of course I visited and collected more photos. For more info go to https://www.facebook.com/uiabea/
All of the information about this collection and the beat artists is available on line so I didn’t try to document each photo. Just wanted to share the knowledge that these collections exist and are pretty spectacular…maybe particularly for those of us who only know the Beats as poets and writers.
Some of the names are below. Also the University of Agder has published a beautiful book about this collection. Unfortunately it is both heavy and expensive so won’t be coming home with me.
Tone and Simon gave me an extra nice treat on Sunday—an all-day road trip around the southernmost points of Norway. Road trips being my favorite form of recreation, and a road trip in Norway being about as scenic as would be geographically possible—may I just say it was a perfect day.
In our ten hours on the road we traveled by green fields pleasantly ornamented with white sheep and more golden llamas and grand gray mountains; through well-preserved historic villages and by some of those famous fiords of Nordic legend. There were two geographic/historic standouts: Lindesnes and its lighthouse and the village of Loshavn.
Please enjoy this fat album of a full-day ‘on the road.’
We left at ten, me with great anticipation and Simon a bit happy as well as we were going to be covering some of the territory of his family’s ancestral farms and villages and he hadn’t been in awhile. Tone says they often enjoy Sunday drives, though perhaps not always as long as this one turned out to be.
I won’t try to name any of the locations except the two already mentioned above. Here’s the beginning…
The Lindesnes Lighthouse stands on the southernmost point of the mainland of Norway, nearly 1,100 mi southwest of the northernmost point of mainland Norway. May I brag just for one sentence—the lighthouse is 1413.62 miles from Longyearbyen where I just was!
Our next main stop was Loshavn is a small port village located at the mouth of the Lyngdalsfjorden. The village, with only a few residents has “perhaps the best-preserved wooden buildings along the southern coast of Norway. The place has a history of character, especially from the years of the Gunboat War (1807-1814), the so-called ‘privateer era.’ During these years, Loshavn was militarized to protect the mainland from any British invasion and some of the residents also ran unauthorized hijacking of British ships with government approval along the coast.”
This is where one side of Simon’s immediate family came from—he was often at one of the grand and stately white houses that make the village so distinctive. Although his family apparently was not part of the privateering…I enjoy thinking of him as a pirate since I know so few. It’s a nice change from touting us all as descendants of those bad-boy Vikings.
And then we took the long way home.
There was that most pleasurable rainy ride from Stavanger shared in all of those raindrop photos—leading up to the best possible time in Kristiansand. My family here includes Tone, Simon, Oda and Erland. Tone is the daughter of my second-cousin, Gurine, whom I first met in 1985. I liked her so much; she and I agreed back then that if only we lived closer to each other we would become such good friends. We did write a few times and spent a nice but too-short time together in 2005. With the easier communication possibilities like Facebook available now I’m sure we would have managed a fine friendship.
But now there’s Gurine’s exceptional daughter Tone as family and friend. What make it all even better are her husband Simon and those charming grown children. Simon feels like a great comrade as well and I love the fact that Oda and Erland treat me like a familiar and somewhat interesting adult aunt/cousin and not some doddering distant relative who’s accidently wandered onto the premises. If the world can just hang on until people like them (and my grandchildren of course) are ready to run things, we’ll be okay). These individuals are each involved in their own interesting lives, Tone and Simon are university and energy administrators, Oda is in marketing for an international corporation and Erland studies in a master’s program in IT.
Considering my Norwegian cousins along, with my Minnesota and South Dakota cousins, wonderful folks and friends all, I realize how fortunate I am. I should send them all thank you cards for sharing their DNA with me. Since I’m so bad with those gracious kinds of gestures, please consider this your thank you.
Here are a few first and most casual family and food photos before I start on the remarkable road trip to which I was treated yesterday.
I quite surprised myself by finding these photos of rain on the train window so beautiful. Hope you enjoy them. I do realize people from rainier climates might not find them so special…but New Mexico friends you may like a raindrop in your day.
The few photos that follow seemed to me to be more abstracted than even the rain-drenched group I called landscapes. So with my eye for art (that’s a joke, okay?) I thought they should have their own post.
Friday I took the train from Stavanger to Kristiansand. It rained hard, downpour-hard, almost all of the way. The trains are clean, cozy and efficient; the countryside is beautiful and yes, most beautiful of all, it rained—snakes and snails and puppy dog tails or, as my Norwegian dad always said, it’s raining pitchforks and ax handles!
Of course I took pictures the entire three hours. Because when will I ever see this much rain again? I’m sharing these in three separate posts, one for the rain-dimmed landscape, one for the abstract art that emerges, and one for simply the rain in all its own glory. If you need your images clear and scenic you might not like these—but then again you might?
Having family in Norway and Sweden is possibly the nicest thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve now visited often enough so that the country of Norway and my Norwegian cousins feel like they must have been part of my life always. With my newly discovered Swedish cousins it just gets even better. I’ve mentioned before pondering all of the reasons this extended family pleases me so very much and there are several. However the biggest reason remains that they are simply such great people! Wise and kind and interesting and well…fun to be around. I know, I know, I always say this about them but actually…it’s true. So, I’ve just left Stavanger and visiting with Arne and Aslaug. It was the best of visits both because of these nice people I keep bragging about and also because I’m getting to know Stavanger better. Just a few final photos… then on to Kristiansand and Tone and her lovely family.