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18 April 2012

A question people ask me with surprising frequency is: “If you could live anywhere, where would you want to live?” This is clearly a reference to the magic carpet we keep parked between our two leather sofas. On any given day we say: Yes! Let’s go there and live for awhile! We jump on, zoom away, land in some other world, and carry on exactly as before. (Which seems the most logical explanation for how I moved from Indiana to England, then to Toronto and now to Bergen.)

But if I could live anywhere – anywhere in the world? Sometimes I respond with “England,” sometimes “Toronto” . . . I’ve recently set my eyes on Italy. Oh, Gorgeous Land of sun and warmth and an endless supply of affordable wine! But I know I couldn’t do it. I’m too tired to learn another language, to figure out all the ins and outs and around- in-circles of where one buys coat hangers or how to apply for a TV license. New take-a-number systems, fill-out-these-form systems, and please-come-back-tomorrow-with-the-correct-paperwork systems. And I know myself. Once I had it all figured out, I would realize that this new place was not the paradise I’d dreamed of. I’d begin thinking of all the things I missed about that last place I lived. I am, in fact, the type of person who’s scared to believe in eternal life because I don’t want to be stuck in Heaven forever. “But it’s Paradise!” you say. Oh, I know, but I will come to hate it, if for no other reason than because I can’t leave.

I am stuck in Norway. I know that. The carpet has lost its magic; there is no where else to go. Stuck between rain drops and impossible “o” sounds, unable to choose between lørdags pizza and cheese-filled lamb sausages, struggling to keep my sanity through a two-hour performance of “Ulverock” (“Wolf Rock”) with my daughter with no clear indication of what storyline could possibly connect a wolf who can’t play the guitar with a goat mother, a May Pole, a magician parrot in a shockingly green disco jumpsuit, lottery cards, the coming of winter, and a dance contest.

But one night, covered under a blanket of the foggy yr that is so characteristic of Bergen, I walked along the road that follows the curve of the sea and looked out across the fjord at the single, slowly pulsating light on the promontory. It, too, was enveloped in fog, but still shining powerfully through. I stopped, and with the mist on my face – the gentle tickle of it on my nose – it was suddenly the most perfect of all nights and I wanted to run and sing for so much beauty.

I have felt this before, on clear days, when the sky is too impossibly blue to believe in. I hike up through the wet forest of Nordgardsfjellet and leave the trees behind me, stepping out onto a sun-filled stage. I stand there with arms to the sea, the wind pushing against me, blowing the hair back from my face so that there is nothing between me and this glorious moment. I find a massive slab of soft, flat stone and lie down, like a lizard. Even with closed eyes the sunlight is so bright that it wipes all thoughts from my mind. Paradise.

Suddenly, a swirl of perfect moments overtakes me and I am living in all of them at once, here, on this rock: punt rides on the Thames in spring beneath a canopy of willow trees, and the frozen fog surrounding the spires of Christchurch that left me speechless and frozen in the street; stretching my neck to look, upside-down, through the back window of a taxi where I find the moon and the tiny dots of stars above me and I no longer care where I am going; sitting alone on a porch swing well past midnight, my mind tip-toeing away from the party inside to wonder at how I can keep this moment from moving on to the next, how I can envelop myself with a halo of perfect moments that lasts forever.

This is where I want to live.

View from Nordgardsfjellet, April 2012.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. 18 April 2012 10:51

    Wow, I love this post and I couldn’t have said it any better myself… Thank you!

    • 18 April 2012 11:07

      Thanks for reading! And I just saw that your book launch is coming up. Fabulous! Good luck!

  2. 18 April 2012 11:04

    Especially since all my friends on facebook are raving about the summer weather they’re having back home. Meanwhile, here in Egersund, there’s a freezing cold wind and snow flurries… God give me strength.

    • 18 April 2012 11:06

      It is very difficult to see pictures of friends on Facebook as they picnic in the park in short sleeves!

  3. 18 April 2012 14:34

    My “a-ha! Paradise” moment came last winter, skiing in the light of the full moon: I was seized by this feeling of “this is so right, this is where I belong”. That adrenaline high was certainly a high moment in my life here so far. So then why couldn’t I get my butt out the door this winter to join those women, and to get back on the skis–especially when I knew that I might reap the benefits of such a high?? I don’t know. I just couldn’t pull myself from the low of illnesses, renovation projects, mothering (not that it’s a low at all, but you know what I mean), Norwegian lessons, work permit battles. I so desperately needed something to remind me *why* the hell we’re living here!

    • 19 April 2012 18:34

      That adrenaline high really does help — and taking walks and hikes with other women! I love that, too. And it allows me to participate in a real, Norwegian tradition. I also know, though, of those days when you want to do nothing other than hide under the duvet. The endless rain, the frustration of Norwegian, the illnesses … I sympathize! It takes so much energy just to live life here.

      I found it helpful to pick a day (mine was Tues. night) and I went on a walk no matter what the weather. If it was really pouring I went for only 20 min., but it was good to have that night for walk night.

  4. 18 April 2012 14:56

    Isn’t that called “living in the moment”? I know and get the feeling once in a while, but I am still drawn to where you are. Reality is I may only get to travel there once or twice more. My circumstances would have to change radically for me to be able to leave. One can never kow the future, though, and that is why I still dream.

    • 19 April 2012 18:35

      Jon! the *point* is finding the moment of paradise where *you* live! 🙂 because Norway isn’t my dream! 🙂

  5. Jeff permalink
    18 April 2012 17:20

    Beautifully written! I love those moments. The ones I’ve had in the rain and wind seem so ordinary and awful to the outsider, but to me, they’re perfect. They really make you stop and think about your life for a moment, where you’ve been, and why you’re here.

    I’m in complete agreement with you about moving so much. I still envision myself moving around the world for the rest of my life, living this glamorous lifestyle and experiencing so many things. But then I remember how difficult it’s actually been to learn everything from scratch, learn to communicate in a new language, get a driver’s license, and more importantly, make new friends. It’s then that I realize that I can be perfectly happy here for a while longer:)

    • 19 April 2012 18:38

      isn’t that funny – that the RAIN can give us that sensation? It’s also nice to know that I’m not the only one who gets migration weary. 🙂 … although I do wonder why my last stop couldn’t have been some place warmer!

  6. 18 April 2012 17:29


  7. Goodness and Grit permalink
    18 April 2012 18:46

    Some days are very VERY good. But seriously….can relocating to Italy, or anywhere for that matter, be as difficult, expensive, inconvienient, and red tape filled as relocating to Norway? I’m up for it! Too bad t isn’t an option. But I am up for it:)


    • 19 April 2012 18:38

      You crack me up, Kimberley — I was almost convinced I COULD live in Italy! We’re going for a couple of weeks this summer. I’ll do some scouting for you! 🙂

  8. 18 April 2012 20:25

    What a beautiful sentiment to living in the moment. Home is where you feel the love.

  9. Angela Vågenes permalink
    18 April 2012 20:36

    This was beautiful. Thank’s for sharing, I needed this today! I haven’t been too terribly happy to be living in Bergen lately, and this helped me to remember that there are moments all throughout my life, and even here in Bergen that I will cherish forever.

    • 19 April 2012 18:40

      Thank you — and I sympathize. I mean the whole point of this blog was to write and write and write until I’d figured out how on earth I was going to live here. (You’ll notice I’m still writing!)

  10. Tore permalink
    18 April 2012 21:12

    For some reason, that post made me think of this:
    “Even with nougat you can have a perfect moment. ”
    — (Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time)

  11. Teresa Owens permalink
    18 April 2012 23:01

    Ah, c’mon Jena! Where’s the photo of the clouds, drizzle, and umbrella carcasses? Beautifully written, as usual, and I’m still struggling with it all, being back here, at “home”. I dream about Bergen once in awhile and the feeling I have when I wake from these dreams reminds me of when I dream about a deceased pet….just plain whistful. I know why Kurt Vonnegut titled his book, “A Man Without a Country”…it’s just how I feel. Thanks again!

    • 19 April 2012 18:41

      The past week has been surprisingly dry! I’m sure that’s the reason for my optimism! 🙂 I’m sorry about the dreams. You are welcome back any time!

  12. 4 May 2012 19:10

    I’m a desert rat, born and raised on the desert of southwest-ish United States. The desert gets old fast. But, it can be beautiful–stunningly beautiful.

    There are two kinds of paradises: the ones you think you want and the ones you discover you really wanted all along. It takes a long time to find the paradise inside ourselves and even longer to understand and appreciate the paradise all around us. Especially if it’s the one we’ve been looking at every day for years and years and years.

    • 10 May 2012 20:13

      “Two kinds of paradises: the ones you think you want and the ones you discover you wanted all along” — beautifully phrased! Thank you for that!

  13. Life's travails permalink
    4 May 2012 20:43

    Excellent post! Feel the same way sometimes but I got my eye on Spain.


  1. An expat dream | Life's travails

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