Each summer, when I go home to my native Norway, I see it in different shades. Always a wider shade of beauty, sometimes a narrower shade of mind.
Summer shades, seen from the outside and the seaside…
…of little islands pleasantly dotting the archipelago… of hard, naked, sloping rocks washed smilingly smooth and soft by the sea.
…of dog roses and dewy meadows, of wild apples, wild strawberries and wild sheep.
…of children running wild – freedom in nature.
…of quaint, white, wooden seaside towns built neatly into the landscape.
…of the silent and contemplative Nordic light.
Discover and rediscover. Different shades, different lights.
These seaside views are especially stunning and especially welcome when the water in your new country basically pours down from the sky. (Sorry Luxembourg, but fake beach parties won’t quite do it…) But behind the scenic views, you notice things about your country and your fellow countrymen that you haven’t noticed before, or that become more apparent now that you don’t live there.
Some of these views are sea views as well. It seems the openness of the sea is contagious, and somehow the rocking blue and the salty breeze make people more open and friendly. There is an armada of small leisure boats crowding the Norwegian coastline in the summer. All skippers and crew members sign an invisible pact to always greet each other and be nice to each other, to always lend a helping hand and to initiate small talk with your temporary neighbours-in-harbour. This might not be a particularly Norwegian phenomenon, but the contrast to our land behaviour is quite remarkable.
Wooden cabins, or chalets, are however rather a Norwegian phenomenon. We often have one in the mountains or by the seaside or both. And if you put all the boat owners ashore, in cabins, they will start fighting like polecats over the right to cut down a tree or put up a fence or an ugly satellite dish, keeping plenty of lawyers busy with matters of the biggest importance that they can not possibly solve in a friendly way themselves. Now ain’t that a bit strange?
In all fairness, we do say hello when our mountain paths cross, whereas if you say hello to somebody you pass on your street, you risk a suspicious “who’s-this-lunatic” look. In Luxembourg, there’s little risk of that. And six months of winter might pass by without any exchange of words with your closest neighbours. Now that might be the case for Luxembourg as well, people coming and going through their garage, only winter is a bit shorter.
I guess in a way we can blame nature for our nature. In a country Mother Nature was both rough and generous creating, homes were out of necessity often built far apart, between mountains, fjords and valleys, and not always very accessible. And so we learned to appreciate solitude, and today, we try to satisfy this yearning for solitude rooted in us by escaping to our mountain chalets as far away from other people as possible. And perhaps we fight with our neighbors over more or less nothing because we actually don’t want them there.
But at sea, we don’t mind seven boats longside – the more the merrier! Does this mean the sea has a calming effect? Does the sea actually make us nicer? If so, I guess we should all be living on canal boats in Amsterdam or other places suitable for that kind of residence.
But in summer shades and dog rose nostalgia, with a sea view, I see mainly good things about my home country, and with that comes a certain homesickness which can not be cured with a pill, like the already forgotten but quite severe seasickness.
And if you think I’m a secret agent for Visit Norway – well, you might not be wrong.
Text and photos by Unni Holtedahl, August 2013