The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 49: Four Seasons in Stavanger

The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 49: Four Seasons in Stavanger

It’s been a dynamic of week of weather and terrain, including Oslo, Stavanger, and the ski trails east of Lillehammer.

New birds: 0

I did get to see a Bucephala clangula up close at Mosvatnet in Stavanger, not a new bird but nice. Alas, too dark to take a photo with the iPhone.

Four Seasons in Stavanger

imageThat old and conspicuous truck is what awoke my mind to look around and be alert. No, I wasn’t in any danger of getting hit. I was sporting my new hi-viz gaiters on my running shoes in addition to my full refleks kit. But I wasn’t paying attention; I had been to Stavanger before.

Running in new places has been one of my private joys in Norway. A beckoning pedestrian path, an undiscovered forest, twisting and narrow city streets, and new bridges are stimulants for my appetite to run. I have gone on several runs of two hours that felt like joyrides – all the newness makes the kilometers melt away.

In contrast, I now find my section of Oslo staid and uninspiring for a run. In Røa, running has become work. I hope it snows soon so I can ski for a change.

On Monday,  I touched down in Stavanger from my 9:00 flight from Oslo. At Gardermoen the grounds were covered in frost and ice. Some snow survived in shaded patches. Ice was not in the cards for Stavanger, it rarely is.

The moderating effect of the Gulf Stream still surprises me. The daylight and my mind say the weather should be bitterly cold. My skin falsifies those claims. It won’t get warm in Stavanger, but it also won’t get cold.

Walking past the ancient cathedral I was caught in a shower of sleet. Frozen BBs cascaded, like a hose had just been turned on full blast. Crunch-crunch went my feet. Bracketed by rain, the ice pellets wouldn’t last long. It was like vernal sleet in Iowa: quick, dispiriting, but temporary. Sleet, a sign of spring.

Within the hour I was off for a run. My legs were sore from an excessive session of squats on Saturday but I hoped some movement would help (it didn’t). From the hotel I started my run along a familar route at the harbor but got stopped by an unexpected sight: billowing clouds.

imageThe far mountains of my prairie home are the summer Stratocumulus clouds that blow up in the afternoon heat. They form temporary formations as impressive as any in the Sangre De Cristo. And when the low light of evening reflects off their battlements and peaks, it is easy to pause and just stare. They invite wonderment.

The clouds in Norway have been different because I haven’t noticed thunderhead growing towards the heavens. Today was different. Warm weather clouds were working their advective magic over the harbor. The light is low at this latitude and the sight took me home for moment. Cumulous clouds, a sign of summer.

After that old pickup truck snapped me back from my runner’s hypnosis, I was reminded of how amazing Stavanger was. Tomorrow was the beginning of atmospheric winter and I was at 58 degrees North. Yet the temperature was moderate and I had no fear of frostbite. From my path I could see across the harbor, across the Stavanger City Bridge and see the distant mountains. The bands of snow falling on their peaks alternately revealed and concealed their white collections. Snow, a sign of winter.

imageI headed northwest along the harbor only to get stopped by construction. My double-back into the neighbors got me a little turned around. I found myself running up to a school of some sort. It was a school, but nothing like I’ve seen in America. The Stavanger offshore tekniske skole was a training center for work on and around the oil platforms of the North Sea.

imageAt the school’s campus I got stopped again, they were on a dead end. The next stop would be over the cliff and into the harbor. Switching course I got stopped again, this time by a warming vision, a rose. A red rose in bloom, up against one of the campus buildings. The rose called and I answered. The fragrance was weak as were the blooms but they were lovely.

Actually, here was a row of rose bushes. Surprising charms of red on dark green foliage. They softened the footings of the institutional building. Roses, no longer budding due to the weak sunlight. Foliage all around, turning dark, littering the ground with brown corpses of the halcyon days of summer. Fading flowers and falling leaves, a sign of autumn.

Usually when I want to experience several seasons I need to watch a movie or exploit the appliances of modernity in my home. In Stavanger, I just had to go outside.

Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh

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