Once in Ukraine I bought a bread with the name “Danish bread”. I am sure, there was nothing Danish about it, the producers just wanted to give it a fancy name. I was a student back then, just 20 years old, who had never travelled outside of Ukraine, except to Russia. The name of the bread made me wonder: “What do I know about Denmark? And Scandinavia?” I tried to make a mental list in my head. And was always messing up the capitals (“Oslo is the capital of Finland, and Helsinki – of Sweden?”). Ok, so Denmark is easy. It’s Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid and H. C. Andersen. Sweden is Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Longstocking (I was a literature student and it was easier to name books than IKEA. I had no idea about IKEA then). Norway? Ok, fjords. And Finland – just sauna and that’s it?
I still remember the kind of hunger I felt – hunger to fill in my blanks about that part of the world. I had no idea then that I could end up living in Scandinavia. And those blanks would be filled, with overflow actually 🙂 Already as a child, I had loved Scandinavian fairytales, Moomin trolls by Tove Jansson, H.C. Andersen – and I wonder if this could be a secret reason why I came to live here in the North, though I have never dreamt about it explicitly. Maybe, it was my subconscious dream 🙂
Once, when I was working as a substitute teacher, in the beginning of my teacher career here, we took our second-graders to the local woods. To look for the spring signs. It was officially the subject of the class. To look for the first flowers, buds and bees, to listen to the birds. On return the kids had to fill out the form: “what have you seen and what have you heard?” The science teacher had warned them: “Don’t write “I have seen everything”, it is not interesting. Write what exactly you saw and what you heard (like birds)”. The smartest (or laziest) of them all wrote, of course, in their funny second-grader’s handwriting: “I have seen everything”. While others drew battle scenes from their fantasies. An early lesson on mindfulness. Failed? (Succeeded?)
I have caught myself in a pattern: every spring I go to the botanical garden. To look for the spring signs. After the long winter it feels like coming back to life. And when I see the first flowers, usually they come before the buds, I cheer like in some celebration: “It is spring again! The life has won again! We have survived this winter!” I guess, these emotions would not be understood by the inhabitants of the warmer countries where the season change is not so visible or not so important. But here in the North, where the country is covered in snow and ice for some five months, seeing the first signs of life is like waking up from the dead. For me it is an emotional thing. It seems that in the places where winters are long and harsh, the people are more keen to the change of seasons and are joyful about the spring arrival like no one else.
It is the middle of March already. Do you feel the spring somehow? Here in Oslo the sun shows its face for the third day in a row, making our greenish faces happy and smiling 🙂 Feeling the sun on my skin, I can tell that the seasons are changing, the sun got warmer and soon the first signs of spring will come. It is such a joy for me every year: it is like a victory of life over death. When the first buds appear, I know: we have survived again 🙂
But so far the winter doesn’t want to give up its positions. While the sun tries to melt some snow on the roofs, creating icicles (and threatening our walks), the temps this week fell to -15 at night. Gosh, I have no words for describing how tired I am of this eternal winter. Sometimes it looks like here in the North our seasons are: white and dark winter, light winter, green winter, yellow and rainy winter. All the snow that felt and melted a week ago turned into a blank ice on the streets, and I notice that my feet know so many ways to walk in winter. Heels down first in the mix of snow and salt, fishbone pattern when the snow melts, trying not to slide into the water from the ice on the side, side-side on the black ice. I never knew I could say so much about different quality of snow, ice and road conditions 🙂 So before the ice is gone from our streets, I don’t breathe out with light heart. It is still early to say that we have survived this winter 🙂
On the bright side, the Happiness Report is out again. It always comes out in this boring season when everyone is waiting for the spring but the weather still plays winter games. And it looks like the report was made for cheering up the Nordic countries in this weird period. Because, guess what guess who, the first place this time is taken by Finland! Norway was moved to the second place, and the top is still crowded by the Nordic countries. Haha, very funny. Have these researchers ever been here? 🙂 I have heard a lot about Finland lately, and to be honest, those reports didn’t hint that Finland could win that happiness competition. But it looks they did it anyway, so congratulations! 🙂
The February color theme is definitely pink. I stumbled over its first buds in the end of January and made a little collection in this post . Since then the pink has exploded. It was inspired by the St. Valentine’s day, but to be honest, I have never seen so much pink in Oslo stores. I guess, pink is also Pantone color of the season, so it is found everywhere, in clothes and interior alike. I am a lover of pink, so this season has given me a lot of fluffy emotions. That helps in the snowy season, while the spring seems so far away, and the winter doesn’t want to step back. While other places may soon boast of pink petals on the trees, we get our share while window-shopping. This is Scandinavian lifestyle. Now you know, why they invented hygge! 🙂
I wish you enough sun so that your days can be good. I wish you enough rain so that you know how to appreciate the sun.
Last night I read this phrase in the book “Kjemp for alt hva du har kjært” (Fight for everything that is dear to you) by H. K. Rohde, who was leading the police of Oslo when the terror attack of summer 2011 happened here. The book is a story of self-development and personal leadership. In Norway there are more than enough rainy days, cloudy skies and darkness – and here you learn to appreciate the sun and the light like in no other place.
Is it really dark here? You, guys, don’t live behind the polar circle and don’t have polar nights – so why winter darkness? Right, we don’t have polar nights and midnight sun like in the Northern Norway. But the days in winter are extremely short. In the darkest period, December-January, the sun rises at 9am and sets around 3pm. So the light day is short, and we spend more hours in darkness than in light. But calling it “light” and “sun” is really optimistic. Because of the low snowy clouds we happen to see the sun once in two weeks – if we are lucky. So the days look more like early evenings. You get up, wait for the light, live some hours through the grayness, and then it is night again. No wonder why winter is called mørketida, “darkness time” in Norway. I am not complaining here, but I feel a need to make this thing clear. I am not new to the cold and long winters, after all I come from Ukraine and Siberia is our neighbor (not really. Though some people believe it when I’m saying:)). My city can have colder winters than Oslo at times – but the light day is longer for a couple of hours. And I feel that difference now. After all, we all feel best with what we grew up with.
In my part of the world the winter has moved in. Oslo has seen its first snow and the minus temperatures. Today we are measuring -5 degrees Celsius. Last week the Christmas lights and decorations were installed and the Christmas markets opened. As for me, it is a bit early to start the whole fuss five weeks before Christmas. On the other hand, those lights and cozy turmoil make these cold and dark days a little bit brighter. With sunsets at 15.40 and sunrises at 8.30 the days are so short. If all the dark hours were considered night, how long the night would be, we wondered. 16 hours right now – and more to come. Thus I justified my sleeping for more hours 🙂 Anyone else here feeling like hibernating?
In my own fashion of belated posting, I decided to share my finds of this autumn. In October I was looking forward to a photo walk in the botanical garden – and here are the treasures I collected there. Autumn fruit and flowers.
Two years ago we went to see an apartment for sale and ended up on the roof terrace with a terrific sunset view. Thank you, Facebook, for reminding about it with this picture. The apartment block used to be an office building before. It had some 14 floors, boring flats, and a roof terrace. We asked for the terrace keys and unexpectedly caught an amazing nature show, in all colors of the dawn.
Today I want to share my thoughts about the ability to find and create small adventures and look at the world with wonder.