When I was about 16, my neighbor from across the street introduced me to a game. I’m not going to tell which, lest you look it up and get addicted to it like I did. All that is a thing of the past now, and the only thing that lingers from that period (beside a few important life lessons) are the contacts I made. And one of those contacts, is located in Norway.
Ever since visiting Norway for the first time, I genuinely feel like I have a second home there. There is an atmosphere there, reflected in the language, architecture and culture, that moves something in the middle of my chest. A serene air, a mist that seems to dumb down the saturation and noise so common in Belgium’s society. The people that I got to know there might not all be equally amazing (though some characters definitely are), but they seem aware of something we Western Europeans have forgotten generations ago.
We went there again this month; My girlfriend, a good pal of mine, and myself. Went to see a friend who had recently moved to the eastern border (Americans: That’s the border with Sweden) and invited us to hang there for a week. She lives together with 3 vegan hippies dead smack in the center of absolutely nowhere, in a palace of a house, under a few meters of snow.
Maya is her name, and she warned us beforehand: There was not much to do there. The nearest city is a few hours drive, and the few tourist attractions in the vicinity would probably be closed. Internet access was dependent on weather conditions (or so it seemed).
I wasn’t sure how I would be able to handle the lack of input, coming from a remarkably busy period recently into a whole lot of nothing. No doubt it would be nice to see Maya again, but in a week of spending time under one roof, one tends to run out of conversation subjects. Especially when one’s conversation partner is me.
I had prepared myself mentally for it: To try and think of boredom as calm, and slow myself down to the vastly different rhythm of living. But once we got there, I had no problem adapting. I am blessed with a pretty much stress-free job that didn’t require any of my time there, and gives me no stress when I do end up recalling a few things about it. The others might not be so lucky, but I can’t say I spotted any work-related stress anywhere.
Worst case scenario, we’d end up in a boring part of the country, with boring vegans and cucumber for lunch, with nothing to do and just kind of waiting around to go home.
In the best case, we would make new friends, let the surprises of Norwegian nature baffle us, never ever run out of things to chat about and eat like kings. I know that now, because that’s exactly what happened.
I have never described a vacation of mine (or anything, really) as “zen” so this is a first. Around day 2 we reached a calm state of mind that lasted until we faced Belgian public transport. I watched the sun set barefoot on the balcony, heard the lake crackle as I walked over it, went stargazing with my girlfriend, discovered the Sandman graphic novels (check that bitch out), spotted moose, saw Iron Sky, learned about cooking down to the molecular level (which isn’t the same as learning how to cook),, saw a huge frost ring around the moon, hit the sauna (but did not go running into the snow naked thank god), got lost in the forests, saw moose turds for sale as earrings, and met 4 cats that will always be Norwegian forest cats to me no matter what they say. All without lifting a finger, pretty much.
When we left for Belgium and said our usual “this is not a goodbye!” goodbyes, my girlfriend shed a few brave tears. One of our hosts went, “Aww don’t worry, this isn’t goodbye!” but I knew better what was going on, because I too felt it intensely. We were saying goodbye to a much greater gift than a location, or even the people there. There is something primal to be found in Norway, that you’ll never find in this concrete world. Something gradually lost (and still being lost) by humanity, the ancient connection with the inner self and its relation with the earth as it existed before us.
Life seemed easy, that week. And it was tempting to think we could hang on to it, fantasized out loud about missing our plane and sticking around for one more week, perhaps a month, maybe two. It was clear though, that we had places to be. We can’t go on pretending life is a dream, even our hosts all have demons to fight, facing problems that make ours seem like child’s play.
Still, I’m sure my girlfriend saw what I saw, which means we’ll be back there soon enough. Back home.