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November Walk

18 November 2011

In winter Bergen has two types of weather: glorious or oppressive – which means: cloudless, sunny, and very cold or mild, dark and very rainy. On Wednesday, although the sun had not yet managed to lift itself above the mountains by 10 a.m., I knew that it would be one of our paradise days, and I headed out for a walk.

Since last winter I have walked the path several times from my house to the tiny village of Salhus, a trip that takes about one hour each way. I pass through a woods, across a large slab stone laid down as a bridge over a stream, up again through the trees and to a clearing, and then along the fences of a farm to a sidewalk. The sidewalk follows the sea until reaching the houses of Salhus and ends at the quay where the houses and streets sit so closely to the edge of the fjord that I feel like I am on a boat.

It is one of my favorite walks — not strenuous, moving over different types of terrain, and finally ending up at the former center of the Norwegian knitting industry, a large factory that is now a museum with a café. Here I can sit for awhile inside on heavy, old wooden chairs and look out to the sea and the islands directly across. I rest my legs, warm up with a cup of Norwegian black coffee, and lose myself in whatever fantasies come to mind.

Berries surprised by the frost.

Having now walked this path through all four seasons, on Wednesday I was struck by the change to the forest. The tall grasses that I had traipsed through during the summer, which hid the path as it twisted along, had lain down for their long winter’s sleep. Through the bare, black branches it was now possible to glimpse the blue of the sea. Under my feet, where in the spring the blue hypatica had been rolled out like a carpet, icy leaves lay frozen together in clumps, preserved.

The fjord in winter.

And what strange change has also taken place in me this past year? Here it is, nearly December, and I have not yet begrudged the coming of winter. The predictability of beating raindrops through the night, the days as slits in a door of darkness, the ritual stockpiling of wood and lighting of tea candles – this year the familiarity brings comfort. A meeting with an old friend. I looked at the frozen forest as a child who does not yet understand what death means.

By noon the sun still hadn’t managed to climb up over the top of the mountain, but as I walked further out towards the fjord, I met its bright whiteness and it forced me to close my eyes. I stopped for a moment and allowed myself to be completely absorbed by it. It was not the warm, orange light of the summer sun, but a piercing, electrifying light, coming in directly at eye-level.

I held my face to the light and said goodbye with gratitude. In a matter of weeks we will live in “den blå tiden” – the blue time, when the sun does not stop to visit, but slinks past at the edge of the sky, leaving a trail of dramatic blue light, and making the stories of gnomes and elves all the more believable.

Den blå tiden (The Blue Time)

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. 19 November 2011 16:50

    The long light does lend itself to some moody photography. Quite beautiful in a brooding sort of way. We’re in more of a grå tiden here.

    • 19 November 2011 21:32

      Oh, I know about that “grå tiden”. I grew up in Indiana. “Lake effect” or something. At least what you lose in winter is made up for in summer! But I agree: beautiful in a brooding sort of way describes it perfectly.

  2. Jeff permalink
    19 November 2011 23:28

    The blue hour is one of my favourite things about winter; it’s simply incredible!

  3. 22 November 2011 09:38

    I too love the blue hour. Especially over snow covered Lillehammer. But this fall has been incredibly long and gray. No snow and no blue, but I´ll keep you posted!

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Jena!
    Kimberly

    • 23 November 2011 12:48

      Really? That sounds more like Bergen! Have a good Thanksgiving!

  4. 23 November 2011 04:19

    My dad has a funny quote he says all the time from some stupid cartoon he watched so many years ago that he’s forgotten what the movie is. It has to do with a parrot that suddenly keels over dead. Her owner randomly says,

    “She’s pinin’ for the fjords!”

    It took me years and years to figure out that a fjord is actually a geographical formation and it took me even longer to realize what the man was really saying.

    The bird wanted to go back home to the fjords so bad it fell down dead.

    Whenever I hear “fjord” I think of my dad and all the random quotes he comes up with from his past. It makes me so happy:)

    • 23 November 2011 12:49

      Thanks for making me smile, Tina!

      • 1 December 2011 14:14

        Oh, Jena! I just remember what that quote was from:)

        It’s from Monte Python. LOL!

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