The Sunday Nature Call, Uke 25: The Sun Always Rises; or, When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
New birds:1, Journey to date: 74, and a correction
Svarthvit fluesnapper (Ficedula hypoleuca)
The Uke 23 entry noted the Varsler, I was mistaken. I did my due diligence uncovered the true identity, the habitat and warning call were the keys to the mystery.
Møller (Sylvia curruca)
Varsler (Lanius excubitor)
The Sun Always Rises; or, When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
As I held out my hand a tiny gray flake alighted. Even for Oslo, a snowflake in June is a rarity. Ah, but this was no snowflake. This was Sankthansaften – Saint John the Baptist’s Eve.
My time in Norway was getting shorter, just like the nights. Sunset at this latitude and month is so slow, the angle so oblique, that the transition from direct sun to twilight is unnoticeable. The light of the just hiding sun lingers, as if the sun feels there is too much living to be done. I go to bed late, with visible light and wake to a sun that has been up for many hours. The analogy to my time in Norway has been obvious.
I have no personal tradition of celebrating Sankthansaften. My Midwestern summers accepted earlier and complete darkness in comparison to the high latitudes, perhaps in exchange for unrelenting heat. But when in Norway…
Sankthansaften also marks the end of the school and anticipation of summer holiday, the 5-6 weeks in Norway when EVERYBODY is on vacation, preferably at a coastal or mountain cabin. Side trips to America are allowed. For Scandinavians, the evening is properly observed with sea-side bonfires, maybe a speech, and revelry. I went fishing.
My catch in Norway has been zero although my satisfaction has been great. Remember, it’s called fishing and not catching for a reason. Tonight seemed like a fitting reason to whet a line – it’s nice to invent a special reason – and give it one last go.
The species of interest now in Norway is Atlantic Salmon. The mighty swimmers are coursing from near shore feasts to natal rivers. Their transformation from saltwater creatures to freshwater fish is nothing short of amazing. Their transition back to saltwater following the spawn squares the wonder.
I would not be fishing for salmon. To fish for salmon would require a car and a special fishing license, and probably a trespass fee. I fished the sea, a free right to all in Norway.
I expected nothing in terms of a piscine catch based on previous attempts, this was no different. Contemporary fishing is about the effort, the experience; I was really trying to catch a future memory. For that that there is no daily quota.
There is nothing odd about riding the bus in Oslo with fishing gear. I like Oslo. My ride on the trusty #32 Kværnerbyen dropped me adjacent to Lysaker Brygge, it was a short walk.
Merrymakers were visible in their preparation throughout the day. I saw an unusual abundance of shopping bags marked with the distinct logo of the state liquor store, the night demanded provisions. Others disembarked the bus with me, much better dressed and destined for an overtly social occasion. I headed for the docks.
Brethren with rods in action preceded me. Long rods were their symbols of legitimacy and purpose. My kit revealed my status as an interloper, but also as no threat to their efforts.
These anglers favored floats and live bait. They seemed to me like non-native Norwegians and truly interested in catching supper. A family left with a bag of fish. I found a solitary spot and cast.
Two days earlier was the Summer Solstice. I marked the low sun of the evening with a last photoshoot of the new US Embassy and birdwalk along Lysaker River. The meteorological differences between the Iowa home and Oslo were more striking than simple statistics suggested.
Daylight in Linn County was 15 hours, 15 minutes; Oslo logged 18:50.
Sunrise CR, 5: 31 am Sunset CR, 8:46 pm
Sunrise Oslo, 3:54 am Sunset Oslo, 10:45 pm
But the truer measure went beyond the gross metrix of sunrise and sunset. Dawn awakened at 2:10 AM in Oslo and dusk at 12:29 AM. If there were stars over Røa, then I missed them.
With the abundant light it was difficult to make out all the fires that I knew ringed the fjord. The ubiquitous smell of smoke confirmed to my nose what I eyes couldn’t see. Clearly, Ola Nordmann across the bay from me was no master of a healthy flame. That “bonfire” finally smoked me out and caused my retreat.
A new location, closer to the hungry anglers and a couple of last casts for good measure. A man hauled in mackerel, scrappy and lean they were soon brained and in the bucket. I took down my pole and pit stopped at the corner market on my way to the bus. Instead of fish, I would be headed home with mineral water and candy. I was sure Meghan would be happy with my catch.
Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.
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
That 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.
The 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.
I 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.
At 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
The heat index in Oslo today was 70 degrees, and the newspapers noted how warm it was, Norwegians flocked to the beaches. In Cedar Rapids the heat index was 109, the air temp got to 92. I mowed the yard and was self-drenched by the time I was done. In Norway I won’t be mowing any yard, but I will have to learn and appreciate what constitutes a “hot day.”