The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 23, #2: There’s No Room to Share
Bonus Sunday Nature Call this week. My walk just got me inspired, I had to write.
There’s No Room to Share
A hen Goldeneye flew low and fast upstream, I was now on the downhill part of my walk on the upper reach of Akerselv, the river that flows from Maridalsvannet. Marisdalsvannet is a special lake and off-limits because it is a source of drinking water for Oslo. I volunteered to take #2 son to a nearby birthday party. One, maybe I could passively-aggressively use it as leverage at a later date. Two, I could walk the river in hopes of seeing some new birds. The latter point being more important than the former.
Moments later the duck had reversed course and landed with a unusually loud splash about 50 meters ahead. I would expect a female duck to be far more furtive. It took until the next bend in the river for me to understand the cause for such a scene.
Akerselv is a thoroughly modern river. I say that because it was used by early Oslo citizens for water and simple economic uses. During the Industrial Revolution, the river was put to task in a form of wage slavery that surly matched the working conditions of the laborers. As the factories took in raw products they created finished goods for profit, and waste. The profits went up to the villas and corporate offices, the waste was left to stew in the river.
As the factories were ultimately abandoned it seemed like the Akerselv was as well. A tired and worn relic from an older time. Yet today, the river is a prized public possession and in quite good health.
Thankfully the Akerselv had one thing going for it, it was in Norway. In particular it was in Oslo where there was an existing movement and mindset for conservation and public use. The banks, once denuded, are vegetated. The water, formally filthy and devoid of most life, is vibrant. The people, historically exhausted, now walk its lengths for salubrious effects.
The river source is 149 meters above sea level, the length is 8.2 kilometers. Walking to the fjord on the additionally meandering paths will take you longer. If you only measure your life in quantifiable distances, then you’ll have know idea how far you’ve gone.
As a modern river this river is neither wild nor enslaved. The water volume is managed to prevent flooding. The streams sides are naturalized, landscaped, and hardscaped. Its lower watershed is urban run-off. But there are wild creatures, some of which are local and other migratory. Some of the migratory beasts come from the fjord, others from West Africa. They are people from all corners of the earth enjoying its riparian charms.
All this use means sharing. There are beaches for people, and turtles if they’re reckless. There are pools for fishing but with limits. Most of the banks have paths, but not all. Some sharing is difficult if not intolerable. Beavers are present but only with the overt toleration of the management. Moose, as amazing as they are, are not welcome.
Despite the lifetime of lessons in Kindergarten, sharing is a tough thing to practice. To share is to trust, to empathize, and to take a risk. I think I need to go back to my little country schoolhouse and get some more lessons from Mrs. Fritz.
Aldo Leopold wrote that our time of an Abrahamic view of the world must end. That own-consume-destroy-relocate zeitgeist must be replaced with an acknowledgement of the permanent damage that people can do to the world. Instead of owning the world we need to share it, with the living and the unborn. His words came in the afterglow of the atomic flash. I can think of no more profound genesis.
Extant American conservation champion E.O. Wilson recently published words calling for a radical idea that will not be considered that radical in the future. Wilson believes that we need to set aside half the earth for nature. The half that remains needs to be shared with other life as well. For Wilson, like Leopold, sharing is necessary, hard, and probably an unachievable goal in full but one that must be pursued.
Reserving space for wild creatures is an easily appreciated sentiment and a difficult practice, consider the moose of the Upper Midwest. PreColumbian Wisconsin had moose, pre-settlement Wisconsin had moose. For a period in the 20th century moose were absent. Today a handful inhabit the state. Unlike Whitetail Deer, moose do poorly around people and disturbance.
Sure, the climate of the last generation is now warmer than the past 500 year, the heat is hard on moose. Of course there is far less unbroken cover in the Great Northwoods, everybody wants a cabin and a couple of acres, moose don’t like neighbors. The Fish and Wildlife Service just accepted a petition to initiate a study for the moose of the Upper Midwest (Acles access anderson) to see if they qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The moose are strong candidates for protection, how hard could it be? Here is where it gets really hard really fast. I thought about what habitat is most endangered and vital for the moose, especially in a warming world: water. Moose need unmolested access to shallow lakes and bays on larger lakes to feed and especially to lounge and “beat the heat.” But the lakes of Badger state are developed, unfettered recreation is a god. Would people be willing to share access to the lakes with moose? Could society tolerate retarding the develop of remaining tracts? Moose are cool, but if you don’t know them, then it’s hard to share.
The duck took a long and low position on the water, fairly mimicking an alligator. It was a sight I’d never seen. Slowly and then with a burst of speed she rushed towards the bank and the shadows. I heard the commotion but still didn’t see the object of her ire.
Large fluffy balls scattered on the water. A hen mallard gave kurt quacks to her chicks. The Goldeneye approached again and snapped. I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if it wasn’t like an alligator attack!
She returned to the center of the river. Victorious and proud she dipped and flailed her wet wings. It was a display of authority, and in the low light a luscious sight. Topping off the exercise were fits of aggressive calling, something like a rolled “R” three times capped with short and hard “R!” “Rrrr, Rrrr, Rrrr, R!”
The Mallard made a beeline for me on the opposite shore and hauled out at my feet. I never imagined that a duck would ever see a safe harbor in me. I guess your enemy’s enemy is you friend, genus and species be damned.
I was perplexed. All this work, all this flying for a hen Goldeneye without young. Was she angry for loosing her clutch? A gull flew overheard. The Goldeney called with rage and display her wings. The gull flew back and the hen gave a stunted chase. And then I finally saw a small fluffy ball swim from the shadow of the bank to the hen, she was a mother.
I was heartened and saddened. The little guy was really cute, the marking with white and dark feathers were surprisingly conspicuous. Yet, she would have laid about 12 eggs. To think that only one survived to this point, maybe less than a week old: nature seems too cruel at times.
Her loud calling continued, though the tone was a little different. And then I saw a second chick, near the first. Ah, two, good. A chick needs a sibling. Wait, there’s number three!
Three is a reasonable number for survival in the city. With all the house cats on the prowl it’s a wonder she has any survivors. Happy, I left my vigil to continue downstream. But wait, here comes number four to the call, it was all the way on the other side. What an unexpected dispersement. And then I saw number five also swim out of its hiding spot on the far bank. Five, five is a good number, a prime number, I’m sure she can keep track of five.
The Goldeneye didn’t want to share the river with the Mallard, the Mallard didn’t mind me. I can’t help but think that maybe out of that 8.2 kilometers of river we couldn’t find a way to make a little more safe space for a duck. I think that in this relationship we’re the only ones who know how to share.
Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.
A brief entry for the week. I have been hosting company so my time for long narrative was unavailable. Not a strong excuse but that’s the one I’m going with. A friend helped me with this week’s non-bird, tusen takk Andy.
New birds:0, Journey to date: 70
Kjempemessig Norske Rødnebb (Norske rubrumphalus rex)
Poetry for high sun and cold water; or, Frivannsliv
What makes a Viking?
rain, cod, pines, sheep, fjords, and rye
Swim the cold water
Strømsdammen so fresh so cold
From the shore, it’s easy to be bold
One foot, two foot, start to go numb
Then plunge right in, ain’t it fun
I went for a swim, you have been told
Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.
The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 10: A Contemplative Life
The forecast in the Arctic for novel feathers was discouraging. My local source in Hammerfest said all was quiet save for gulls and crows; I don’t get excited for gulls or crows. Returning from teaching one afternoon I thought I spied a small raft of diminutive ducks in the harbor. A quick retooling and I was walking the harbor promenade when I saw an odd loner, my catch of the week. Satisfied. In Nordkjosbotn I saw either Parus palustris or Parus montanus. Oh so close to claiming the latter, I am so close to certainty…but, close to certainty isn’t good enough.
New birds: one
Teist (Cepphus grylle)
A Contemplative Life
“On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again”
Being on the road, riding the rails, and plying the currents of the skies, is to be a Roving Scholar. Also, to be a Rover is to be somewhat exhausted, the travel connections, the new hotels and the new pillows, the same breakfasts…all are the glories and grind of travel.
An unadvertised element of these job has been time to think. Without a car, I am a rider, a passenger, someone who waits. Be it waiting at a bus stop or airport gate, waiting to arrive, or just my hotel room, I wait. I wait a lot in Norway. And time to wait is time to think, if you let it.
As a luddite there are some tech habits I resist more than others. One is going about in public with earbuds or headphones. I just hate it, I think it looks ridiculous, as if one is plugged into a troubling messaging system that is delivering instructions from afar. Two it’s dangerous because you can’t hear cars or people overtaking you, to say nothing of the fact that you can’t hear the birds.
Instead of tuning in, I tune out. And when I tune out I get to hear something precious: my own internal voice, my conscious. Travel has made this possible in ways I’ve haven’t experienced before, not to this degree. Being able to tune out because of travel compliments my go to method for tuning out, running. Accordingly I have been able to do a lot of thinking in Norway. Sometimes I even get to think about thinking.
This thinking about thinking (people in education like to use the term “metacognition” here, generally the one big impressive sounding word they can get away with using) got me to wonder about how our ancestors thought as they lived. They lived out of doors and interfaced with the natural world so much more than our sealed building and cars permit. Were they all big thinkers?
A woman at her cabin loom, attending to a familiar pattern, she hears the wind without the walls, the groans and creaks of the trees. What did she think?
Sitting but not resting, watching but not looking, the collier may have been the ultimate philosopher. His thoughts smoldered like his work, energy transforming and emanating from a central core.
So many other jobs, so much other work, lost work that were handmaidens to contemplation. I don’t envy their poverty. Would they pity my modern distractions?
I run to think. And on lonely roads my footfalls quickly fade, replaced by the sounds of nature and my own internal dialogue. Maybe a live action brain scan could show me actually having a conversation.
“What animal tracks are those?” “A hare, but why would it cross here?” “No clue, though they lead towards that mountain.”
“The stratum of that mountain reveals its thrust and displacement from the level.” “Yeah, but wouldn’t it be cool to climb?” “There are a lot of mountains in Afghanistan.” “Hmm, when will they have peace in those mountains?”
And so it goes. A small sensory detail or stimulate flows and winds, curls and blooms into new thoughts and topics, paths of logic and discourse I never would have imagined. But because I had the time/space to think, it did.
In week 10 I got to a lot of time to think. My time engaged in travel was sufficient for a post of its own. Fortunately I was able to match the contemplative time engaged in fossil-fueled transportation with meaningful runs in the deep fjord. I might be ready to make a claim that the deep fjords are the most thoughtful spots. But such a declaration will have to wait until my travels are done. Until then I will keep my senses open for the offering of nature and the blessings of a contemplative life.
Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.
The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 9: Signs and Trails
Top of World! I’m writing these words from our planet’s most northern city, Hammerfest. This is my new record for latitude and longitude. Sun had set by the time I landed so the wonders of this oasis in the arctic will have to wait another day.
New birds: zero
Signs and Trails
Whoosh, I’m trying this at home, err…on my skis. I suppose I feel at home on my boards. The speed, the wind in my face, the sights flashing past my eyes, and the occasional rumble of my skis. I feel so free.
But upon reflection, I was not free. No, not barreling down that hill, not at any time during the entire jaunt, never free. As testament to how contrived my run down the hill was, this was actually my second run. During my first descent I realized this would be cool to film skiing down past the Olympic stadium, so up I climbed to run it again (note, the “short” video was too long to load).
The Friluftsliv beacons me as a concept; it’s an ideal. And yet, the pursuit of Friluftsliv probably isn’t attainable for me. Perhaps it is more analogous to a journey than a destination. Yet, pursue I shall, mediated by signs and trails.
I dragged my skis along on this trip to Lillehammer. This visit was much anticipated. One, I would get to give lectures to education students at the local university. Two, I would give the lectures with my friend, brother-from-another-mother, and fellow Rover, Andy. Three, I was glued to the television in 1994 watching the Olympics and eating up everything Norway that NBC was willing to dish out. My heros skied in Lillehammer, and now I would too.
For 30 kroner I caught the city bus up the mountain, I think that’s pretty good as lift tickets go. My destination was the Birkebeineren stadium, but in true Norske fashion, the bus doesn’t actually take you there. Too decadent perhaps. Rather, you literally got dropped off on the side of the road, at a seemingly random blue sign, into a snowbank. Next, clamber over the bank onto a trail, and then to ski to the stadium. Still a small price, and frankly a much more romantic way to get to the stadium and the faded echoes of olympics past.
My arms were still killing me from last week but Lillehammer called and I was damn sure gonna answer. The sun had fallen behind the mountain but there was plentiful light to take a small lap around the Abbortjernet lake loop. I just had to get back to the road in time to make the 6:30 bus or it would be a very dark and long walk to the hotel.
People were skiing but not too many, just the way I liked it. I skied out of the stadium area and onto the Birkie trail. Let’s chalk this up to research. A familiar “Powerline” stretch and a series of right turns took me back in due time. Homework complete, I only had to wait for Thursday for my longer effort, and hopefully with more functional arms.
Later than intended but outfitted with spiffy new skiing glasses with the tilt-up lenses, I paid my 30 kroner and ascended to the stadium again. We were three on the #6 bus, I was the only skier. What do the locals who don’t ski do during the winter? The noise and vibrations from the chains on the tires were comforting, a bus on these roads demanded confidence.
The heavy overcast probably looked flat and especially cold, unless you were on skis and reveling in the surroundings. A couple of young men were practicings biathlon. There was no special fencing or warning. In Norway they trust you to make good decisions and then live with the consequences; i.e. if there are guys shooting guns then keep your distance. There would be no one to sue if you got shot.
My new app, Skisporet, helped me plot a reasonably adventurous course up and around a mountain. However, my ability to read maps (when you’re out of cell-phone range) has been found to be God awful in Norway. My apologies Senior Drill Instructor Sgt. Dominguez.
Despite my effort to read the signs, the trail seemed to take me where the trail wanted to go. On I skied. A light snow of large wet flakes hushed the woods and gave me a sense of solitude to a greater degree than was accurate. Within 20 minutes I had stripped off my windbreaker and heavy wool sweater. Without wind, a wool undershirt sufficed to keep me warm enough.
The signs pointed me towards Sjusøen and I followed. I skied at Sjusøen in December, I didn’t realize how close it was to Lillehammer. On this side of the valley is a world of well-groomed and interconnected ski trails. My head spins at all the possibilities of adventure, I lifetime might not be enough.
I stayed on the trail. I kept to the right side of the wide groomed surface bordered by parallel lines for traditional skiers, coming and going. Frequently I met a senior citizen from the other direction, I always gave a smile and I always got one in return. Several times I was passed by a silver-haired streak, that made me smile too.
The trail split, to the left was towards Sjusøen, higher and farther from Lillehammer, but with an aura of mystery and potential. Right was clearly a more direct path to my starting point. Discretion being the better part of valor, I skied left. The signs and the trail were clear.
I was lucky I missed my turn for the higher mountain because this area of trails rested on a shelf. So while on a mountain, the trails were paradoxically level. The trails were well marked and I supposed if you had to ask for help then it would come freely.
There were signs and trails that contrasted with the manicured scene. On occasion a narrow path darted into the woods, a sign to seemingly nowhere: an ungroomed trail.
While Ola Nordmann may have a reputation for taking to the wilds, at least here those side trails were usually covered with untrammeled snow. Are they really trails if no one takes them? Do the signs matter?
Another sign that caught my attention was a antler rubbing on a young pine. The orange of the bruised tree called out amongst the common backdrop of evergreen and white. This was a sign, but to where? The trail had long since been covered with snow. Did the perpetrator stumble upon this opportunity for dendographic violence or was this tree on a path, its destiny decided?
Trails in the woods, paths for exploring, and accompanied by signs, do they set us free? Thousands of people will pass point X on this trail this year. But how many people will ply the snow just 10 feet off the trail? Probably none.
Norwegian language has a wonderful way of combining words rather matter-of-factly to create a new word. So, Friluftsliv was created from three words: Fri, free; luft, air; liv, life. The Free Air Life was an apt neologism, and spoke to the ideal and ambition of people to live large in nature. But the word hides in plain sight a limitation, the impossibility as a mortal human-primate to achieving the goals of Friluftsliv. The air is the domain of birds, and we are stuck to the ground with our feet. In three dimensions and without trails or signs birds alone may come the closest to living Friluftsliv, the rest of us will continue to dream and to rely on signs and trails.
Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.
The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 2: I’m Not Sure the Squirrel is Safe
Snow on the ground, days getting longer…living! People are smiling. No, really they are. And if it’s not for their personal pleasure in the snow then it’s the chance to remember the magic and wonder of being six years old with a new sled on a slick hill. Wee!
Svartand (Melanitta nigra)
I’m Not Sure the Squirrel is Safe
The arctic day paired nicely with the commanding view, kind of like a cold beer and a T-bone steak: Epic combos. As I picked my way along the snowy stone walls in the tracks of another intrepid soul I paused frequently to just stop and look, to stare, and to feel the cold. I would get to run back to the hotel for a hot shower, the Norwegians who guarded this gateway on the Oslo Fjord hundreds of years ago had no such luxury.
In the distance is Sweden; now they come for work, not pillaging. In this fresh snow, tracks are so easy to see. My tracks have added to another, but otherwise it’s lonely up here. A blanket of white on all these stones, a blanket that won’t keep them warm.
The Kongesten Fort (the King’s fort) is still and frozen. Aside from slipping, I have nothing to fear here, not the least of which are the Swedes. A squirrel darts along the ground from one tree to the next. It doesn’t fear the Swedes either.
The ramparts are attacked by children as I leave. The nearby school is having a field day and they are quickly coursing down the imposing entrance as a raceway. I am more worried about their safety then they are. Their teacher looks unconcerned, I’ll trust her judgement.
Safety and security are interesting ideas but I am not sure they actually exist. Maybe they are like dragons: we can talk about dragons, write books about dragons…but they aren’t real. To make the most of friluftsliv one must be careful, although I don’t think you can every really be safe. But as my college roommate warned me more than once, “There’s a fine line between tough and stupid, and you don’t know where it is!”
Just walking down a Norwegian sidewalk is an exercise of risk. The amount of snow and ice on the paths here would be unacceptable to any proper Midwesterner. Cities and property owners would risk lawsuits from the disabled – and rightly so – for failure to keep an accessible path. No ADA in Norway I guess.
On my walk into Fredrisktad city center from the train station I was treated to a evening wonderment of large cold flakes falling on the city. The beauty helped make up for the fact that I was literally dragging my luggage through the snow, “sidewalks” in concept only. When to my surprise, ahead of me laid a barren street. No snow, no ice, nothing except clean stone from sidewalk to sidewalk.
The rest of the walk to the hotel was a snap. I asked the receptionist what was the deal with the impeccably clean, almost rebelliously un-Norwegian, street? She said it was heated. Well there you go. If you want people to stroll main street during the dead of winter, then heat the way. Brilliant.
Why don’t we do this in America? Fyi, in America we are going to spend over One TRILLION dollars on upgrading our nuclear arsenal – really without debate. How about 1% of that for heated streets?
The goal for this run was the fortress, my 6th, and maybe to see a new bird along the river. This close to the sea there is always that exciting interplay of fresh and saltwater that attracts so much wildlife.
My run started on the clean streets of Nygaardsgata, but just past city hall I had to strap on my spikes as expected. Truth be told, hard packed snow or ice with spikes is pretty easy running, it’s the soft snow that’ll spin your wheels. A moment for application and I’m off again.
I needed to find my way to the river crossing to the old town. The receptionist at the hotel said running the bridge was unsafe. Betraying my maturity, I took her advice. I found the river, a lovely place for a stroll, or in my case a run. I could imagine the waterfront crowded with tall ships during the summer celebration. One tall ship was anchored and battened down for the winter, that will have to do for now.
Waterbirds coursed the river. Typical mallards, gulls, a solitary Goldeneye, and a flock of basking Skarv. And then I spotted the big guy. Splashing with enthusiasm in the middle of the river this large black duck-looking bird had my attention. I was doing my best to see into the sun to make an ID. A lovely elderly couple walked past and paused, wondering what I was looking at.
In my homemade Norwegian I asked if that was a duck and if so what kind? At least that’s what I thought I asked. The gentleman said it was an “Ender.” “Ender,” I repeated and then repeated the mantra as I ran off. I could look up what that meant when I was done. Past the fine houses and bust of Amundsen I found the ferry.
To promote tourism and minimize traffic, there are free ferries in Fredrikstad. Brilliant, again. The little ferry was just leaving the east landing and heading to me, the crossing took a minute. Down came the gangplank and about five people disembarked. I was the first aboard, feeling pretty proud. Ok, ready to go. We waited. More people strolled aboard, they waited inside. I stood out – no need to get warm if I’m a true hardy runner!
The engine purred to keep the boat pushed up against the dock. I stood in the sun but the low angle meant it was bright but I felt no heat. Finally, and according to schedule, we left for the fortified city. Down went the gangplank and I was the first off, now running to generate some much needed heat.
The air was cold enough that I had to keep my armstrapped phone inside my jacket, lest it die. This made stopping to take pictures extra slow, so I just took fewer photos. The perimeter of the fortified town was a geometric workshop in resistance to black powder weapons. The architecture was frozen in time as much as the landscape was froze in snow.
I knew the fortified city would be an easy target for me, I really wanted the Kings Fort. Running to the golf course and camping area I could see the fort looming on a small but obviously significant promontory, the only problem was no clear path. Thank you Allemannsrett and gaiters, I made my own trail through the snow.
My freedom was rewarded with a frocked hunk of rock and oh-so-old structures. Confidence in my legs, heart, and wool, I made it safely here. I will make it safely back, if I am careful. The squirrel is watching me. Given the abundance of roaming cats, I’m not sure the squirrel is safe.
Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.
The Sunday Nature Call, uke 35
The lure of technology to humans must be like the lure of a wriggling worm on a hook to a brook trout (BTW – not a trout). How can one resist? The truth is we don’t and neither do brookies, and we both pay dearly for our impulsivity. The other morning this week I spied an unfamiliar bird out the kitchen window: game on! Armed with the big camera I was quite excited. But as I fiddled with the camera, trying to find the feathered object in the viewfinder and compose a proper shoot, it flew away.
“Damn!” I cursed. Stupid camera, why can’t it be easier to use, have a better lens… You already know the answer, the fault wasn’t in the camera, it was in the operator. I accept the responsibility and am humbled. Had I just focused intently on the bird and took note of the plumage, the movement, and the voice, I bet I would have added another bird to the ledger. But I didn’t and I am to blame.
Isn’t that how technology lets us down; we get convinced it is really going to help, but then the technology ends up being an interference to the actual lived experience. And that’s what we really want, the authentic, in-the-moment engagement. The lure of technology (read computer and microprocessor-based gear) is that it will help you better capture, augment, and intensify the reality one is trying to experience. It can, and there are times when it does. But I’ve been finding myself too often on the sour side of technology.
Have you read, “Undaunted Courage”? What about, “Beyond the 100th Meridan”? “Walden”? Oh, here’s an obsure one, “Tall Trees, and Far Horizons”? All great adventure stories that relate evocative experiences, captivate, and inspire. For those adventurers not a cell phone was to be found. GoPro, absent. GIFs, JPEGs, Likes…non-existent. No Tweets. And yet, the stories are present because they were recorded. Paper and impresser, contemplation and remembrance, the ancient tools of humanity.
Of course, I will keep my SmartPhone and i-pad. I had a little fun making a GIF of #1 son chopping a log at a kids’ festival Saturday (Norway: kids=free-for-all). If I can remember that technology is an augmentation of the lived experience for human primates, then I’m sure I can live more authentically. If I think my gadgets will save me, then I am doomed to buffering, corrupted files, and not being able to enter the bloody four-digit code and then open the application quick enough to capture what I could have done if I had just stood there and gazed in full sensory enjoyment of the very thing I was foolishly trying to record!
I’ve missed birds. I have fumbled with a device and then lost the moment. Trying to capture some awesome experience here or there, I have ended up frustrated with my kids because they weren’t performing in ways compatible for me to capture the moment for digital perpetuity. You too?
Week 35 Tally:
Stillits (Carduelis carduelis)
Grønnsisik (Carduelis spinus)
There is a change in the air, it’s happened so suddenly. Cooler breezes, an autumnal feeling rain, birds flocking, these harbingers must be acknowledged and accepted. If you practice Friluftsliv, then there is no consternation. Just make the most of today. And if tomorrow is rainy, well, then you’ll need to dress accordingly. My active wool is ready – I just wished I had packed my second pair of running shoes – so I would always have a dry pair to put on.
No hawks, no sweat. Maybe this upcoming week, or maybe never: Semper Gumbi!
Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh
The Sunday Nature Call, uke 34
Twice I’ve seen a hawk this week but the views were too fleeting to make positive identifications. Patience and persistence will win the day, plus a dollop of luck never hurts. Sunday was generous, I made my new bird score today as well as a surprise.
Spettmeis (Sitta europaea)
This guy was easy to identify, he was acting like a nuthatch. Maybe I’ll get my hawk this week.
Where are all the squirrels? It’s been several weeks without a sighting – so odd. I was tempted to offer a doubloon to whomever could spot one for me – they were becoming my white whales. But today, the sun shined on not one but three different squirrels in different parts of the forest. They (Sciurus vulgaris) had lovely chestnut coats with a light underbelly. Sighting one didn’t give me the feeling of inflamed attention like Captain Ahab, my reaction was more in-line with Clark Griswold.
Another inferential sighting was made: Moose! Here they (Acles acles) are called Elg, it can be confusing. Elk are called Hjort. Back to the moose, er Elg. We were on a trip to “the beach” at Bogstad lake. On the walk to the lake, there they laid, on the middle of the trail, big poop. My first thought was a dog, but uff, that would be one scary big dog. We weren’t sure at the time and I didn’t bring the camera, but after consulting the wisdom of the internet I’m confident. Now I can have a new obsession.
The focus of this week’s Sunday Nature Call is less about the wildlife than on how people here seem to interact with it. We have noticed differences on several fronts. One front is the time children spent out-of-doors. Two, there’s a bias for making the most of the weather you have. And three, the structure of society makes accessing the out-of-doors more convenient.
Kids spend a lot of time outside. The other day was gorgeous and Meghan noticed the nearby daycare was in the park the whole day: they played, they rested, they sang songs, they ate, they played…all day outside. I suspect they peed outside if the urge called.
They boys’ school lets out at 1 Pm, typical. Then there is “Activity School,” pronounced “Aks, (like Ox) and according to everyone, “everybody does it.” You have to pay though…tell me something new about Norway, but I digress. The first 90 minutes or so they are outside – just having chaos as is totally normalized here. My boys are getting killed. They just aren’t used to spending hours outside without structure. Probably suggests a bigger problem (mine).
My dad has a favorite phrase, “Make hay when the sun shines.” I bet there’s an expression here that goes something like, “Spiller når solen skinner.” It’s probably so obvious they don’t but they should, trademark John Hanson 2015. In my post about Halden I noted the reveling in the outside lunch (but really, who wouldn’t?). On Wednesday we did something I feel like the Norwegians would do: we took advantage of glorious day.
I had found out that there was a new beach/swimming area constructed in the harbor and that it was pretty neat. My first thought was “that’s nice, but I’ll wait.” Once I told Meghan, we were packing. Sørenga was a happening scene. Very cool on a hot afternoon. Bodies were strewn about the decking, soaking in the rays, while many others were swimming gayly. Well, when in Rome.
Owen and I hauled ourselves to the top of the diving platform. I jumped – OMG it was cold. I yelled back at Owen it was great. He jumped, and then nearly jumped back out of the water onto the deck. We were refreshed. Ryal took some cajoling but he jumped too. His reaction was priceless. I felt like I was getting away with a little bit of child abuse that we could all laugh about later. Meghan took the plunge, once. The thing was, I got used to the water pretty quickly. And in the water, but under that broiling sun, it was actually pretty nice.
And maybe that’s the one of the big mental shifts. Who cares if the water is cold, you get in and enjoy. I read a report, empirical research, that people in northern Norway feel better about the winter (there it’s total darkness), than do people in the south of Norway (who actually get some sunshine). In other words, life is short – get out there.
The last point it is the most abstract, potentially stereotyping, but key feature. In this Constitutional democracy, Norwegians have voted to make health and the outdoors a priority. For example, we have come across two outdoor “gymnasium” parks without trying. High taxes on alcohol and chocolate are others – living longer and better does sound like a nice exchange.
Here you are essentially guaranteed some vacation. You own it, not your employer. The standard of living and labor laws are such that running between multiple jobs or juggling will-call employment are unusual. Most people have employment conditions that give them enough certainty and knowledge of one’s schedule that leisure time is possible to be a planned and consistent experience. They voted for that, why haven’t we?
My challenge for you is to take stock of your relationship with fresh air. One, do something pointless in nature despite the weather. If you regret it, I will send you a personal apology through the post. Two, think about how little it would take for you to get yourself and family/friends/dogs…outside – unplugged – and unfettered. Just think about it.
I’ll be keeping a look out for hawks carefully this week. Also, I be keeping a good attitude about the weather. We’ve had an exceptional run of stellar weather that is forecast to end. I will do my best to choose joy.
Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh