Sunday, August 21, 2011


We’d been some friends hanging out and I had half an hour drive home at the end of the night. I got to bed around three thirty and woke up the next day with a headache. I went upstairs to eat –a lot! Then I went downstairs again to read. Then I went upstairs to eat more stuff. Then I went downstairs to read more. But finally I made it to the front door. I couldn’t spend an entire Saturday like this!

Armed with a waterproof Gore-Tex jacket, heavy leather boots and big khaki trekking-trousers I drove off to the woods. The rain had picked up during my little drive and I was not too keen on leaving the car with non-waterproof cotton trousers while it was raining like canister shots! So I sat in my car at the car-park answering some pending text-messages while the rain didn’t die down.

I drove on. If it was gonna pour down like this I was not exceedingly fond of the idea of walking around somewhere, just to soak up a lot of water.

I drove to a big lake where I really enjoy the view. It wasn’t raining as hard there and so I walked around at the beach for a while. The weather seemed to have become a little bit lighter so I decided to head for this timbermen’s trail that leads you up the woods and on to the marshes in front of a local mountain. The marshes are down (or up of you will) in a high valley and you’ll have to go through some rough terrain to get there. It’s not that bad but it’s just stupidly wet, branches everywhere and hill up and down in a not so very open landscape.

I parked my car and headed for the trail. Just strolling along I’d expect to reach the top of the trail and then be back again within an hour.

The stream that runs down the valley was running crazy with rainwater, and I could tell from the grass on the banks that it had gone even higher. I had brought a foldable cup with me in a pocket and I stopped for a drink. As I walked back up on the bank again I spotted some wild strawberries on the ground. We’ve got some in the garden and I get to eat them throughout the summer but I just couldn’t stand looking at such taste-packed berries without eating them. Oooh, and there were some raspberry bushes! And the more I picked, the more I found! After further berry-eating I walked myself right into some blueberries. I had thought the blueberry season was soon about to end but these were as fresh as any and looked, and tasted, at their peak! Further on there were some cranberries. When I see cranberries I think of accessories to go along with meat dishes and I couldn’t really mix the previous tastes with the cranberries in my mind, so I gave it a go. It was indeed recommendable and more of the mix was consumed and flushed down with water from the stream.

I carried on upwards towards the marshes. Ever since I became aware of this trail in the early summer I had noticed a nice little waterfall off the road in a narrow little side-valley. The valley wasn’t long and could possibly be in the excess of fifty or sixty meters. A little trail went in on the right side of the valley and the waterfall came tumbling over the rocks on the left side where the valley ended. I walked all the way in and climbed up the side of the waterfall. Behind the waterfall the stream was rather narrow and quietly running. It reminded me about the kind of streams you can fish Trout in with worms or small dry-flies. There was clearly no fish that could live up here, but it was still with a Trout-fisherman’s excitement I snuck through up the stream. At some point I found a heap of branches and things that had been flushed downstream, but what I also found was a railroad tie! There’s no madman in the world that would build a railroad through the marshes up here and it would lead you just about to the centre nowhere! The only explanation would be if someone had built a bridge or a dam further upstream. I tried to step on it, but it was as slippery and slimy as an oiled mirror so it would have been laying there for a while. I walked on and found two or three more of them. In my mind I started to paint a picture of a dam or a lake where someone had done some alterations to the outlet and I got curious to see where all this water was coming from.

The water was now running through an increasingly narrow little valley and I decided to walk out of it and on to some higher ground. More railroad ties were spotted and in my mind the hidden dam, in the midst of the woods, was growing in size. How did they get it in here with no roads? Did someone fly it by helicopter? What would be the purpose of dam up here!? Or could it be a ski-trail bridge that had been taken by a flood? But who have heard of a ski-trail in here? The answer came swift and wasn’t as exciting as my mental amusements; wheel-tracks from tractors! Someone had been cultivating and cutting the woods and they had probably built a makeshift bridge at some point.

The tracks went straight through a shallow passage in the stream, and so did I.

On the land beyond the other bank it was easier to get an overview over the land and follow the stream from a distance. Then I could cut right through the terrain and not have to follow every bend it took. After breaking through some branches I came out on another big marsh with small pine trees scattered all over it. Pine can grow on marshes and their roots can spread out wide instead of going deep. Marshes like these always look so fairytale like. The small pines can have several meters between them, but you can’t always see through the field, because there are so many of them. They don’t provide any shade cause they’re too small, but they give you this sensation of the air around you getting a touch of light green colour to it. Especially when the sun shines brightly through the branches that are placed in a grown up person’s eye-height. I like this terrain, and especially in the winter. With frozen ground and a few meters of snow on top you can just slide effortlessly through it. And it was here that I made another berry discovery.

The season for cloudberries is fading and I missed it while I was working. I saw them when they started to pop up and I’m seeing them now when they’re starting to get over-ripe. But a few good ones could still be found, and I’m glad. The taste is very distinct, and it brings out a haze of memories and references to local desserts and cakes for people from all over the Nordic countries. Cloudberries, mmm… check!

I was coming to the end of the woods and plains in front of the mountain and was beginning to understand that there would not be a spring or lake that produced the water I had been following. It would rather be a combination of small sources in the hills going up to the final cliffs on the ridge above. I thought I could hear a distant waterfall in the first wooded hill, but the rain had picked up by now and I wasn’t sure if it was the falling rain or a dropping stream I was hearing.

On a small elevation in the terrain I found more berries. Blueberries, cranberries and black crowberries. Lots of them! The crowberries have a whole bunch of seeds in inside and not everyone are fond of eating them for that reason. But if you squeeze them between your teeth you get the most amazing squash, and then you can just spit out the seeds. Traditionally it’s been much used to make squash for winter storage. Indulgence was on again!

As I stood on the elevation and looked around I could see where the stream disappeared between the trees. I could also catch a glimpse of a very lofty rock when I looked the other way. No matter how long the exercise has lay dormant, a climber once in body is a climber always in heart! The rock had to be investigated to assess its potential for bouldering. As I came closer it revealed more and more of its enormity! When I finally stood underneath it, it had become clear that it was as tall as a rather grand villa with two stories and an attic and possibly including the chimney and a crow on top. It was huge! But it had none of the characteristics of a good bouldering rock! Besides, the ground underneath was drenched in water, was partly marsh and showed signs of previous flooding. Looking up through the woods I could see a cliff where the rock once had come from. Ice and frost don’t break loose a colossus like this! A few thousand years ago the glaciers retracted… and the rest is history.

I walked around it and found a few comparatively smaller rocks that were stacked up behind it. Maybe I could climb on to one of them and make my way across the next and eventually negotiate my way to the top of the tallest rock. I did. It took some time, but it was worth it. All previous attempts on maintaining some areas of my trousers dry now had to be discarded, as I was climbing on and leaning into the vegetation to get my centre of gravity as close as possible to the rock.

The peak of the rock had lots of interesting features. Apart from an amazing view of the surrounding area and a small green plain big enough for two or three people to sit down, there were lots of the most pristine cranberries I had seen all day! I couldn’t help but think that someone had probably not picked berries up here for ages, let alone climbed up. Maybe not since the old days when there was more tame animals grassing in the woods. This is not a place people come to but it would be a very natural campsite for anyone working out here. I stood on top of the rock for a while and enjoyed the view. I could see very far and thought I recognized a hill in the distance. As I was spectating it all, I could see some fog drifting towards me alongside another hill, like a low hanging cloud. It looked like the rain was gonna pick up. A couple of minutes later it did and I climbed down.

The rock turned out to be over-hanging on one side and gave good shelter. There would have been campsite enough here for two or three people to sleep comfortably without a tent. I sat down and gazed out into the air. The rain didn’t die down again and I got restless. I stood up and gazed instead.

There was no terrain left for wild strawberries and raspberries up here, like there had been no terrain for cloudberries or crowberries where I started the stroll. I had however seen some wild red currants where I started (or at least that’s what we called them when we were kids) and I thought there was a possibility of finding some around here as well. “God, if there are wild red currants up here I’d like to find some!”

The weather persisted and I decided that it was time to leave. I picked up my jacket and made myself ready to leave the shelter of the rock. That’s when I spotted them. Ok, so it wasn’t more than a grand total of three berries, but at least I found them! “Thanks!”

The journey in had gone up the hills; the journey out went down the same hills. There’s not much more of interest to add. Down on the timber men’s trail there were more sweet raspberries, blueberries and wild strawberries to be had.

Before I reached back to the car I was thinking about finding a tree that gave shelter, get my trousers off and twist the water out of them. They were drenched and weighed twice their normal weight or even more, and I didn’t want to get it all in the car. I thought about it for a moment. Water in my boots, drenched socks, trousers that feels like they’ve been dipped in a lake and starting to feel a mix of apathy and complacency I just let it be.

Much more than the first intended hour had passed. My curiosity for waterfalls, imaginary dams and railroad ties had pulled me deeper and deeper into the woods and on to the distinctly Nordic marshes. My original idea of staying reasonably dry by choosing an (initially) civilized route had failed epically! I went looking for the source of a stream I didn’t know anything about, but on the way I had been so epically fed that I dare say I have never tasted so many types of berries in one day before! I had just started with a headache and needed to get out of the house…

Thanks to the One who showed me the way to the wild red currants!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why to get an iPod when married!

I was at my friends' eating dinner. They have five lovely kids. After a few visits to the house already, two of the younger ones took a particular interest in me while we were eating. They are around nursery age and the brother being a little older than the sister.

Out of the blue he asked:
“How old are you?”
“Hm?” Trying to chew the food in my mouth. “I am 31.”
“Are you married?”
“Haha, no I’m not married.”
They looked at each other with some astonishment, and exclamations followed:
“31!? That must be the oldest unmarried man we know!”
The sister was noddingly agreeing while exclaiming her support for the brother’s observations.

The parents, slightly at un-ease with the ongoing inquisition, spoke up now and tried to steer the conversation away from the topic. The children were re-assured that my state was perfectly normal and there was nothing in it to be surprised about. In fact, there were many like me that were not married or attached out there! All grown-ups were well amused, but we couldn’t express it by laughing too freely and some funny looks were exchanged.

Some further interrogation followed while the topic still lingered.
“Why are you not married?” the boy finally asked.
I straightened up, finished my chewing and looked him in the eyes with a smile. Slowly and clearly I spoke:
“Because I’m too ugly!”

Both the siblings looked puzzled by the conversation’s unexpected turn. Their parents quickly prevented them from following the topic or giving their consent and I was happily off the hook… for a while!

After dinner I was commissioned by the little princess to help finish a jigsaw puzzle that we had begun laying down earlier.

I sat in a chair and she sat on the table with the puzzle. We built the castle, assembled the princess’ pink dress and golden crown along with the cupcakes and all the rest.
“Do you have an iPod?”
“No,” I answered. “I don’t have an iPod.”
“Why don’t you have an iPod?”
“Because I have a music player from another brand instead.”
“Do you have any games on it?”
“No, it doesn’t have any games.”
“Why don’t you have any games on it?”
“Eh… well, I only have music on it and it don’t have any games.”
“When you get a wife, you need to get an iPod!”
(I was at loss to find out which was more imperative; to get the iPod or the wife!)
“Oh, really? What do I need the iPod for then?”
“Because the iPod has games on it, and kids love games!” she answered like it was the most given fact in the world.

I was struck by the time-scope! –how the acquisition of a wife immediately meant the presence of kids with the desire for electronic games! She proceeded to sit down and play with her father’s iPad. That’s when we found out that it was actually an iPad I had to get.

Later she sat on my shoulders while we were dancing to the sound of my beatboxing. –an activity that made a whole lot more sense to me!

Fun times!