Journey through Hvasser

March 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

I’ve fallen behind in writing and rather than forcing myself to sit down and catch up, I find I unconsciously avoid it. I need to write because it helps me process my experience at the same time as keeping family and friends updated with what I am doing. My mom told me that the greatest thing about writing everything down is that I can look back several years from now and remember what I have gone through. I will recall to memory as much as I can and then ensure I keep up after this.

The weather for the past week and a half has been unequivocally stunning. Rain and snow have remained at bay and the sun glows all day long, rising at six and setting around eight. Though the temperature fluctuates from -3 to 2 degrees Celsius, the snowbank has almost completely melted away. Soon the rain will wash away the snow that prevails and we will have a bit of a wet season before we can head to the beach. I spend most of my days outside on lingering walks, studying the island or roaming in to town. Sometimes when my aunt has her days off we drive to the nearby island Hvasser and embark on a two-hour walk-hike along the coast. I wish my words could accurately justify how arrestingly beguiling this tour is. We begin traveling along the sandy beach and then up along the emerging lawns of the summer cottages. Norway has a 100-meter rule which states that all home and properties lines can only be built up to 100-meters from the shoreline. This rule makes it quite effortless to trace the shore, as well as admire the alluring white cottages and gardens that run along the beach.The water is a calm, translucent palate of blues. At some points it is shallow for at least 50 feet into the water and I find myself bewitched by the consideration of casting myself in and relishing the cool water and soft sand. Cool does not even begin to define just how cold the water is. I’m obliged to admit that upon watching movies where someone falls through ice into a stream or lake I’m quite critical about their lack of swimming abilities. This criticism undoubtedly results from the actuality that I’ve never felt the extreme cold of icy waters. To close our walks we stop at the beach and remove our shoes to wade ankle deep in the water. The first time I put my foot in, I felt a sharp pain of stabbing needles travel up through the inside of my leg. This odd muscular happening was followed by an exchange of extremely hot and cold sensations and then the complete inability to move my foot. Rather than enjoying a refreshing foot bath I was facing a momentary paralysis. It can be officially declared that I no longer doubt the effect of ice cold water on our muscular system. Until the summer sun heats up the sea, I will have to simply stare longingly at the clear waters. The beaches on the island are brief yet numerous, broken up by voluminous boulders and extensive wooden docks. The turf is a mixture of supple, dark sand and small stones and is littered with thousands of miniature shells. Since we are still in the transition from winter to spring there are sizable patches of snow coating portions of the sand. I find it amusing to walk along the beach in the radiating sunlight, stepping from snow to sand and sand to snow. The burly boulders construct towering walls along the beach and are framed by bulky piles of seaweed. My aunt tells me the seaweed is exceptionally nutritious for garden plants when dried and placed on the soil. We proceed up the coast through fields of yellow grass flattened by the weight of winter. The melted snow generates a system of small streams that travel down the hills and through the fields to the sea. We pass through a compact fishing village that boasts three main fishermen and an exquisite seafood restaurant. I remember coming here one of my summers to buy freshly caught and boiled shrimp from one of the boats. During those warm months this area is teaming with people but is now thoroughly vacant. We pass through the village onto a dirt road that runs through a neighborhood. Here, in what is technically considered the countryside, only the main road is paved. The roads that run off it to all the homes are made of deep brown soil and bits of loose gravel.  Our journey continues into a small forest where we are no longer walking on an chameleon ground of sand and snow but rather clambering up large boulders and cautiously traveling through the small crevices filled with ice and snow. I’m grateful this is a popular walk among the inhabitants of the island for their previous footprints alert me of where to take my next step, as well as where not to. Our path changes from snow-filled crevice to slow-flowing stream. In the summer months this path is dry and serves as the main walking path to the shoreline. The water is shallow and glitters in the sunlight that breaks through the bare branches looming overhead. As juvenile as it sounds, it feels as though we are on a sort of secret adventure.

The path breaks out onto what looks like an open field but what is in fact a marsh covered with snow and a series of narrow wood planks to cross it. As we manage our way across the icy planks I notice various holes on the sides where peoples feet have made their way through the snow to the watery mush beneath. Only a few more steps through a packed collection of brush and trees and we reach our final destination, a beach area known as Lilleskagen. The terrain varies, as you can settle on the smooth sand or venture out on the boulders that spread into the sea. The boulders are known as Svaberg (Svah-bear-gg) in Norwegian and are a central trademark of the southern islands of Norway. Over the years, the icy winters have carved away at these exceptionally massive boulders forming a polished curved surface. Most of the time you are able to find a curve that perfectly hugs your body and supports your head and back. We rest for a while and spend a few moments taking in the warmth of the stone, supple lapping of the waves and crisp ocean breeze.

Last Tuesday, my aunt arranged for us to have lunch with one of her friends and her friend’s daughter Cecilie, who runs a horse stable near town. As I got out of the car I was bombarded by an extremely rambunctious and severely muscular Rottweiler. Had I not grown up with a Rottweiler, I think it would have been hard for me to distinguish the breed of this horse-dog because here it is illegal to cut off the tails of dogs when they are born. After experiencing that little bit of culture shock, I stumbled over to introduce myself to Cecilie. She was instantaneously genial and unreserved and I felt no form of discomfort. In addition to Cecilie were her three year old son Thomas, her mom Tina, her friend and friend’s baby son. Despite the cold, we sat down at a white wooden picnic table to enjoy a late breakfast. I’ve grown quite used to the cold here and significantly adjusted my tolerance. I used to avoid patio seating in L.A. when the temperature was in the sixties, yet here I was eating breakfast at a table nestled in the snow.

After breakfast I got an opportunity to experience horse training. Cecilie is a purely sensational trainer as she really understands the development and nature of horses. The horses responses to her calls were both immediate and affectionate. I spent several hours with her as she versed me in the basics of horse care and training tips. Its mentally satisfying to learn about a new subject, especially from such a qualified person. We did some chores around the barn: washing feed buckets, sweeping and measuring out hay for the next day. Cecilie treated me to a horseback ride, which ended up being a lot more humbling than I could have ever imagined it to be.

Last night as I was responding to some emails I heard the familiar sound of snow trucks passing on the main road. To put it plainly, they sound like low flying airplanes. I found it odd, considering the snow had almost completely melted, but I decided to investigate anyway. As I turned the door handle, the door swung open with a freezing gust of wind. I stood there in the doorway analyzing the night: unlit sky with a slight pink glow along the horizon audible through a torrent of wind streams, but no snow. When I woke this morning, I was taken aback by the pale grey glow that reflected off the ceiling; a glow that ordinarily resulted from the reflection of daylight off the snow. Sure enough, I looked out the window to find that the sky was unloading snow into the yard. Within eight hours of night, we were coated in half a meter of snowfall. It’s hard to believe that a couple days ago my Aunt and I savored lunch on the lawn and soaked in the sun for a few hours.

My 2-year-old second cousin Bendik is staying with us for a couple days and in order to tire him out for his nap, we decided to go out into the snow and dig a path to the main road. We spent half an hour getting dressed and Bendik had so many layers on that he was having trouble standing. We stepped into the snow while my aunt went to get ready and he lit up immediately. There is nothing like falling into two feet of fresh powder. Bendik and I found it so enjoyable that we proceeded to travel around the yard and fall into as many untouched spots as possible. At moments we simply lay there with the snowflakes falling on our face, laughing at the luxury and solace of the snow. Suddenly my phone rang and I was blown away by the sound of Christian’s voice on the other end. This was a phone call I had been expecting every day for almost a month. He told me that he was at the Munch museum in Oslo with his classmates and asked if we could see each other later today. Our conversation was punctuated by yells from Bendik who lay awkwardly in the snow piles, paralyzed with discomfort. As I attempted to release Bendik from the depths of the white prison, Christian and I arranged to speak later in the day when we could better lay out our plans. It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen him and I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed him. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, even for your annoying younger brother.

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