The Sunday Nature Call, uke 42: Love Thy Neighborhood
My brother says it’s better to be lucky than good, tru dat, especially if you like to see new birds. Week 42 gave me a surprising bounty after my scores of Week 41. I’ll take all the luck, and help, I can get. Maybe I was lucky, but I also got some help from a new friend in Rørvik; mange tusen takk R.S.
There always seems to be a bird that I just can’t quite identify. Both were on the coast at the islands of Vikna. The first was a large brown hawk – ohhh, hawks are just giving me a hard time this year.
The others were very interesting and conspicuous in behavior – I’m sure a seasoned birder would name them with ease. There were like ducks, grouped in a shallow salt-water bay. The birds were dark on top, white underneath but the behavior is what will give them away: they flew away with the slightest approach, running on the water and with a low outstretched neck and head – very unique. What were they?
Storskarv (Phalacrocorax carbo)
X (X x)
Havørn (Haliaeetus albicilla)
Toppskarv (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Fossekall (Cinclus cinclus)
Sangsvane (Cygnus cygnus)
We had been advised that there would be at least one community-wide cleanup/workday in our area and that you are obliged to help. Plus it would a good chance to meet people since at this event, the Norwegians expect to run into one another. At 10 AM Team Hanson was ready. Actually only the senior partners were ready, the junior partners didn’t make a quorum so I can’t say how they really were
We found our way to the registration area, fumbled through Norwegian, and got assigned an area. “Oh, that job seems easy,” I thought. Another addition to my list of completely misunderstood exchanges in Norway. In five years it will be really funny.
The appointed hillside was covered with cut tress, saplings, and brush. The task was to drag it up off the hillside and then on to the community pile, I threw myself in the work with gusto. Man, I haven’t done any yard work since July, it felt good to do something familiar like this. In no time at all I was in my t-shirt despite the air temperature below freezing – sun and stillness: with hard work who needs clothes?
I met a neighbor, an elderly gentleman surprised an American was pulling sapling up some obscure hill in Oslo. He approved, plus his granddaughter was studying to be a math teacher, so I was okay in his book.
Meghan’s english attracted a friend. A hitherto unknown neighbor from the midwest, now over a generation in Norway, overheard Meghan talking to the boys. I think he was eager to re-familiarize himself with english.
Others were in my sector as well. A woman who wielded the loppers with abandon. A big guy with no hair he-maned the logs up the hill. I was leaving those for the tractor, maybe he needed an excuse to do something manly. A woman came around from the organizing committee with a basket of snacks. All so koselig.
We cleared the hill about 12:30 and called it good. “Rest!” called the sawyer. A lunch of whatever available and then some chill time in the apartment. I announced that I was going to take a 20 minute rest, i.e. if I sleep longer than wake me.
I woke myself several time with a choking snore only to drift away again. With a little courage and curiosity I peaked at the clock: “Holy Smokes, it’s after 4!” I’m not missing a grilled hotdog for all that work. And we all breezed out of the flat and to the gathering.
In a parallel universe there were Hawkeye tailgate parties taking place. The crisp of the air, smell of roasting meat, the feel of a cold aluminum can in my hand, and the idle but happy chit-chat with others reminded me of a fall football game. But instead of celebrating ritualized violence, we had gathered on a glorious autumn day, to smell the air, bask in the sun, and tidy the unmanicured elements of the natural world.
In Norway nature is celebrated, maybe venerated more than the scriptures. But there were more than two gathered, setting to work their hands. We made something better of our community and ourselves. For a great output of labor, no money traded hands. To be in league with your fellowman to make life better, inside our out-of-doors needs no defense. Is “dugnad,” one of those Norwegian words that just doesn’t translate?
Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh