Every first Friday of March, as told by the tide, we gather, united by bond and fire, and we celebrate the return of the sun.
#smuha 2017, from Cunningsburgh, with burning at Mail Beach.
#smuha 2017, from Cunningsburgh, with burning at Mail Beach.
Never have I dared to think to see the magic of West Norwegian fjords in such crystalline light during autumn… According to my Norskie friends, this happens only “every thirty years”. One of them even called me a hildigris (lucky devil) when the tenth month of the year remains (with November) the wettest month according to statstics… I had to alter the content of my backpack before I flew.
Magic names, warm welcomes and koselig slices of life awaited my eyes and heart. The term koselig, too often translated in English as “cosy”, does not feel adequate enough. It is deeper than this. It transcends into much deeper meaning that notably includes “warmth of the heart”. If you want to make friends with Norwegians, the simple phrase of gratitude for a shared time and their hospitality – Tusen takk. Det var kjempe koselig – could help you a great deal in that way.
Back to magic names that have animated my heart for quite a while now.
To the nomad that I am at heart, my sense of home turns into a linguistic triptych – hame, heim, home – that takes all its dimension. I have long learnt that home is not necessarily a place, but a feeling. Hame on my side of the North Sea, heim on the West Norwegian side, and home whenever I find my way back to the Scottish Highlands.Three places where I feel happy and safe.
Amusing, amazing, as the tongue adapts itself to such feeling. On my initial voyage, time felt far too brief, even as an appetiser. And yet, it fed my appetite for this facet of Scandinavian culture that seems to be fashioned by the ruggedness of both sea, land and climate. Only now am I beginning to appreciate the Norskie way. And I love it.
Six years ago, when Anita O. led me on board M/S NYBAKK, was I exposed to a brand new world. Nynorsk spoken – the “Viking tongue” as Per Kåre chants with such pride – the official language from Vestlandet (the Norwegian Westside that comprises Rogaland, Hordaland and Sogne og Fjordane) and although Stavanger is still uncharted in my life journey, the other two districts now taste like honey in my heart.
AND what a journey it has been!
From Flesland to the shore of Hardangerfjorden, via the E39 and a ferry… Magic ride in by ethereal autumnal blue. As majestic as last June!
October, the hunting season. As a result, red deer is mostly visible after twilight, as they come to feed on roadsides… Some also seek asylum in private gardens or meadows. This was notably the case when I arrived back in my first fjord. Since R has an orchard, they come not only to find sanctuary, but to crunch through fallen fruits…
The poet returned to the slate table at R’s secret place to enjoy once again the magic of the farm in Hardangerfjorden.
There, my first host offered me the space I needed to sharpen a little more the forester’s way of life at her place. I sat under one of her birch trees and watched leaves fall in a warm breeze, woodpeckers and jays off the old pear tree, blackbirds feed off fallen apples and listen to the tawny owl after dusk. On my arrival, I was welcomed by a white-tailed sea eagle flying over head. an encounter with a red squirrel animated further my pen. Veldig koselig!
To the islander and maritimer that I am, a harbour is above all the heart of it all. Last June, I walked it with Aneta, this time, solo. And reconvened with Vågen, Bryggen i Bergen, the very labyrinth of wood and salt that links Bergen to my island from Hanseatic times. The story of the fish, barrels, sailors and gold that could be made. A whole day in the great city to explore a little more. I stepped back in now more familiar gater (streets) and explored the rich culture Bergen offers. I lost myself inside several museums, incuding The Hanseatiskmuseet” and Kode. Whilst the former allowed me to peep into the local wealth woven by the trade of fish, the latter made me discover Norway’s Greats in fine art. Astrup, Dahl and Munch to name but a few. Bergen deserves so much more than a day or two! Friday night life proved both delightful and colourful in many ways, especially in fine company.
I first photographed Oseana in June, and now in October. The Arts’ hub, coupled up with Restaurant and cinema really mirrors my one in Gutters’ Gaet… There, we walked from the heights of Os to reach water level, and enjoy a Saturday treat, a delicious prawn sandwich from heaven! R really relishes it :-).
The stroll down and back keeps you fit, and lunch there is worth all its kroner! Very homely place too.
And there, I stayed with my second hosts, Anita and François. They too said to come back, and I would feel “heime”. I did! And we shared so many delectable slices of life.
And what a magical place! Privileged to share their home, before they move to their next one in
To that effect, François offered me the ride to their new home. The ride north of 60N. Epic journey through tunnels and fantastic scenery that included Astrup’s country, Jølster, on the way. Unforgettable. Mesmerising.
Mighty Sognefjorden and amazing land and water scapes awaited us in sheer splendour. Really unforgettable. We reached our destination in early evening and stayed overnight at Anita’s parents, Ingrid and Magne. Third fabulous koselig welcome. Accentuated by Ingrid S Nybakk and Tanya Myhre with whom I reconvened since their last trip to Lerwick! We left before dawn the following morning to drive back to Fana. Tusen takk, venner!
EPIC initial exploration of Anita’s county, and now I know my next visit will have to include a return to her homeground as well as the Bergen peninsula and fjords.
And if I did not meet everyone from the Nybakk clan on this occasion, there will be time for a reunion soon. Meantime, I was lucky enough to reconvene by Anne Mabel and Arve Nybakk in Bergen for a day. Another precious unforgettable moment..
Hmmm. So much happened in October. So much love felt on this side of the North Sea. There is now poetics unfolding, brand new pages to be written, as well as a collection of verse to fashion.It has begun last June. It is now flourishing.
Always a peculiar feeling when you taste something different.
Hordaland, Bergen, Bryggen, Straume, Krokeide, Fana, Os. This other side of the North Sea, the western fringe of Norway, along my very 60N latitude, I longed to see, feel, taste with my own heart, turned reality at the start of summer.
All this for the wedding of friends. That leap eastwards for an extended weekend flung new doors wide open. A leap that proved more than a mere one. To reconvene with Anita and François felt such a joy, as much as with Catherine and Iris in Bergen for the celebration, unimaginable, only years ago! We, da peerie Shetland contingent, were made so much welcome by our respective hosts. Magic! I had promised Any a beer in Bergen. We crossed the sea together, I would fulfil my promise; and we did just that. Whereas time vanished like lit gun powder, we made the most of it.
To stop the clock when we are connected in the moment is every man’s dream.
How I too wish to hold our planet still for a while… That race against time cannot be won. I left my friends at the barn in Fana to be reunited with another kindred spirit I had not hugged for a good four years. Precious time.
She, like Annbjørg in Straume, offered me her home as a base. Norwegian hospitality feels as warm as on my side of the North Sea. We yarned very late, slept very little, but shared such a precious slice of life.
Sunday inside her fjord, farm and world. I wished for sea eagles, and Ragni gave me so much more.
Magic Sunday found inside blue, the majesty of Heime, the local équivalent of “hame” (home), starting point of a second collection of poetry now in motion.
So much I have found in such a short time spent on the other side of the sea. So fruitful, inspirational, now I know there is a home on either side of the North Sea.
Poetry is flowing, and, for the very first time, in Norwegian too.
It feels a brand new adventure in the making. My heart now beats on both sides.
Happy Constitution Day, Norway!
A month today, I will discover you for the first time, reconvene with some of my Norskie friends and take a bite for the first time 🙂
I cannot wait to cross the sea, fly along that 60N Latitude eastward and see your mountains shooting off water in the sky 🙂
Today, am clad in your colours. My D-Day countdown has begun 🙂
Today is a PJ & blanket day on my latitude, as October shows its more familiar face – rain & gale filling a titanium sky. I shan’t complain, as Hairst (that wonderful Shetlan word for autumn, and more accurately the “time for harvest”) has been exceptionally dry, with a sky that would make a jeweller proud!
Time to rewind life’s clock and look again at September.
September, a strange month in many respects – the “go-betweener” – Equinox, halfway though light & darkness… A time when I wish to clone myself to be in different places at once, including Hanse House in King’s Lynn to help launch a book of poetry & art for the Transformations’ Project…
Yet this September was different, for I spent it in between Lerwick & Lübeck.
Dates are fascinating.
1814, Norway begins to taste democracy… Sir Walter Scott lands in Lerwick at Robert Stevenson’s (RLS’s grandfather) invitation.
1914, Western & Central European nations slide into total war, entailing the peoples from their respective empires, and which they believe will finish at Christmas, fleur au canon… An old order crumbled into the vacuum victors wrote as History.
On a more personal level,
1984, second (and last) participation to a school exchange with Herborn, Hessen, Germany. Fantastic experience as a pupil to learn & understand about culture from the “other side of the Rhine” and first-hand experience (eye witness) to the impact of land occupation when traveling to “die Grenze”, the frontier – no man’s land area created by the bi-polar world since 1949. A world, Europe, country divided by a “Cold War”, itself a by-product of WWII. The sight of barb wire, watch towers & tanks, respectively Soviet & US, with guards armed to the teeth remains forever tattooed in my memory.
2014 – Germany reunified (since Oct 1990) in a more homogeneous and harmonised Europe (although a world which still bears the scars of the Cold War in some respects…) and a formidable opportunity to help empower 22 young Shetlanders to experience a slice of life with their respective German partners in Schleswig-Holstein, in & around Reinfeld, thanks to a well established German Exchange, the brainchild of my Anderson High School colleague Peter Haviland. This time, I would go as staff, together with my other accompanying colleague, Stephen Arnold.
And what a fabulous opportunity it has been to empower our pupils, equipping them with a very valuable life experience, developing life skills, enabling them to taste continental life in a thriving culture – making them aware of cultural as well as linguistic differences, and, maybe inspiring them in a way in developing language skills at some point in their life… I still remember some of our young participants expressing frustration when communicating, and realising how unfair it felt “not to speak as good German as their German counterparts could speak English”… Serious awareness. Come think of it, and not (too) too long ago, when Shetland was part of a Hanseatic world, with Lübeck as its capital, Shetland fishermen had found a linguistic compromise to understand and be understood by the German fish merchants with whom they were trading; and develop it later on with the Dutch merchants… Shetland’s own dialect borrowed many words from the old Frisian tongue – not only Norse words from the Viking world.
Our pupils were formidable ambassadors for our school, community and ultimately, Scotland. The guests of Reinfeld’s school, KGS, or die Immanuel Kant Gemeinschaftschule, for their 10th Anniversary, our young Shetlanders put to the stage their own spirit & dancing skills, which, in turn, encouraged German participation and applause from the Reinfeld community.
Watching them dance, smile, explore, discover new things, new places, and listening to them sharing their reactions to daily challenges, their emotions throughout their respective voyage of discovery has contributed to a fantastic human adventure.
Schleswig-Holstein was, like Berlin itself, uncharted territory to me. Returning to a (re-) unified Germany with a unified capital proved to be a wonderful slice of life. So great to bathe into such culture and language – to “switch” again into the Germanic way of life, weaving new bonds with colleagues from Reinfeld and reinforcing existing professional bonds with my Shetland ones. Affectionately, I called us Les Trois Mousquetaires, after Alexandre Dumas, very aptly so.
We – pupils & staff – returned home with a collection of stories & fabulous memories to treasure.
Proud of our young generation 🙂
Here, selected images as illustration.
Poetics came through words too.
Brücke, Glocken und
da brig, da bell an
Die Glocke – bell
die Amsel – blackbird
Peerie Fat Man
(an icon fae old Ost Berlin)
du, peerie fat
Check Point Charlie,
Karl Marx Allee,
bear & eagle as your guardian –
I noticed you in
red & green,
short-legged with a
on either side,
© Nat Hall 2014
To my German Exchange AHS S4 Pupils
in between light & Baltic Sea,
and acorns ripe in
you dare and dance,
clouds & gravity,
against bark of
will keep you high;
high as a kite amid branches,
velocity veils frantic
spread across in
your stomach, as you glide from
helm to oak tree.
you look a spider in
Sur le filin, l’épeire diadème.
For Kelvin A., S4 AHS Pupil in Reinfeld, KGS’s 10th
Star Dancer –
sleek on his feet,
meticulous on every step,
even the wind embraced his whirls, as he showed
Boston Two Steps.
He made us
© Nat Hall 2014
All words, images and verse © Nat Hall 2014
And, oh, to avoid any confusion, “Peerie Fat Man” is that little red/green man from the German traffic lights, as photographed below 🙂
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