Friday, October 14, 2011

A Walk in the Woods and the Next Ten Years

I’ve rigged a small music studio setup by the window in one of the living rooms here in Norway. Double speaker sets, a couple of Macs and the necessary extras. Sis came over to have lunch with dad today and I joined them in the kitchen. Afterwards I was gonna sit down to do some admin at one of the computers but the view was just too beautiful. I forgot to tell you, there’s a window with almost panoramic view over the city and surrounding hills in front of me when I’m on the computers.

I was dreaming of mountain trekking, but haven’t had the big push to go do it lately. Just been dreaming of the sceneries but I’ve been spending time in the woods instead. It takes less commitment and can be more spontaneous, as it is just a quick drive away and requires no equipment.

I didn’t know whether I was gonna end up in town or in the woods so I left the house in rather normal clothes. No backcountry stuff. I really should be working and writing e-mails, but there was no way I would be able to focus with a crisp frosty view of the hills bathed in sunlight in front of me.

First stop was the hills I can see from the window. The road up the last leg of the hills was icy. I didn’t know if I was gonna be able to get all the way up but I was in the end. The car started sliding a couple of times, but I managed to correct it quite quickly.

I got a surprise when I reached the car-park, right under the timberline. I couldn’t believe how many mountains on the Eastern horizon was already covered in snow! I mean, it’s just a drizzle for now and you can’t ski on it, but from a difference it doesn’t make a difference. –Just that this looks distinctly like Autumn and not ski-season! Deep green valleys with towering white mountains above, flushed in midday sunlight. I took a couple of pictures, but having just a phone it was impossible to capture the impression of grand mountains as far away as the Swedish border. It was worth a try though…

When I started to walk I realized city shoes and cotton socks were probably not a hit after a frost-night, but the road was nice and it soon became warmer. I stopped a couple of places alongside a lake. –Just sat on some rocks for a while looking at the day. The sun was shining and in the hillside the temperature was getting more comfy. At the second place I stopped I saw some cranberries by the side of the track. There ain’t many left now, but you can still find a few good ones. Oooh, and then I saw some more up the hill. –and then some more… and so it went. And then I realized I was almost up on a small ridge and guessed that there would be really nice view up there. Besides, I shouldn’t be too far away from one of those little roads that criss-cross up the face of the small mountain to give access to the army’s installations, and for Summer maintenance of the ski lift. I was sure it would be nice up there!

A few minutes later I was sliding down three steps for every step I took forward and was revealing hitherto unknown layers of wet dirt under a beautiful top-layer of Erica and grass. I saw my light brown suede shoes change colour, to a colour I didn’t like. It was actually quite ironic! I always used to walk around in funky light trekking shoes before I left Norway. They were fashionable in Norwegian cities and I was always prepared when the day presented me with a challenge. How many other people’s shoes have I messed up by the words: “oooh, come check this out!” It was the mountain’s ironic revenge on me and my life! “Wahaha! –have you become a city boy while abroad? Payback time for all the crazy things you’ve made other people do!” Ok, I got it! You win! And it was actually quite fun. Besides, the ridge was just a few more steps away now!

The ridge that looked so nice and dry turned out to be some old brown grass with a marsh behind. On the other side there was no smooth descent into the woods, but a small cliff with a very steep hill under. And as for the little road I had dreamt of, I was far away and there was another marsh and another leg of woods between it and me. I was not too happy about the marsh-idea on behalf of my shoes.

Counting the way I had come up I could now:
A. Chose the lesser of three evils.
B. Chose the most fun of three evils.

Fun is good! There had to be a way through the cliffs!

There was!

After a while I came to a flat plane in the hill under the cliffs. It looked like someone had chipped it out of the rock at some point and I thought “what a lovely spot to put a cabin.” I reckoned that was probably what it had been used for once. I made my way through the thick branches of some threes, and voilà! –there I stood facing right into the wall of a small cabin!

I could vaguely remember the place from many years back. I don’t know who owns it, but it looks like it could have been quite nice at some point. Now woods were enveloping it and someone had ungraciously removed the front door. The cabin’s days were numbered. It looked so sad! Looking like a little 1950’s holiday pearl, it had been left to die. I do think about that quite a bit these days. How things die and give space for something else. Chiefly things like innovation and initiatives. It says about King David that when he had served his generation he went to be with his fathers. His generation! Anything with the word “generation” in it is often surrounded in hype, popular culture or political disagreements on care of the elderly. But more fundamentally, generation means something “finite.” –A timeline cut in both ends. A birth and a death. That’s the first historic consideration you can make out of it: “What’s the container?” –and only then can you ask: “What is it filled with?” Time-container: 1642–1651, filled with what: E.g. The English Civil Wars. We’re all gonna die, and how sad it may be, this once lovely little cabin had served it’s last guests. But the track had not! Countless footsteps that had once trafficked the hill still left their mark. Once nature has accepted a trodden trail it does not give it up very fast. I later found more of these old trails that I knew. People don’t know them today, and they went out of use before my time, but I once used to know them before they closed up too much. Now they manifest in wet grooves in the terrain filled with pebbles or as open rock in a wet hillside. Nature is slowly swallowing them, and you won’t know what they are unless you know what you’re looking for. Anyway, my shoes and I were grateful to all the people that had once walked up and down the hill. We had had enough mud for a while.

I was back on the road again. I didn’t want to follow it all the way to the end, so I decided to aim for a small hill before the vast marshlands that lead you down towards the fjord on the other side. I sat up there for a while enjoying the view and taking some half successful camera-phone pictures before walking back.

I used to visit places like this, sometimes several times a week. And I would live for the snow and mountains on the horizon. I’m looking back at an era and I’m not really sure what I’m doing in Norway yet. I like being home more and more, but last time really lived here I was this active little trekking-guide/ skier kid. I don’t think I had realized fully how much older I had become, until I looked into some familiar old mirrors I knew here in Norway this Summer. I’ve often felt older than I am, so I might just be younger than I think… as usual. But still…

After a while I came back to the car and tried to shoot some more pictures of the snowy mountains on the boarder to Sweden. Big green woodlands and a grey/white horizon under a blue sky. Really nice, but the mountains were too far away to catch them properly in the frame of a phone-camera.

Next, I set sail for the sea and decided to drive around the hills down by the fjord. Picturesque was the word, but I was just driving right through it all, catching every impressionist’s impression in the same big bag. –Like a little kid with an insect net in the wind. It’s like “good view = happy, period.”

I thought of the mountain treks I had lead and all the people I had introduced to the outback, the youth works and organisations I had taken part in, and the free spirited crazy things I had loved so much and wondered if I had left anything lasting? Karen Blixen’s words played in my head in Meryl Streep’s voice a couple of times: “If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?”

I was 17 and wanted to climb everything with a slope, ski everything that was white and paddle in every little stream the rain left. I used to think of all the fun I was gonna have the ten next years; now, the last decade. Looking back, I got almost everything I dreamed of and a whole lot more. But with time I have stopped asking things like: “will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?” or whatever would be the Norwegian equivalent of Baroness Blixen’s African adventures.

The King’s writer was right that David only passed on when he had completed the task of serving his generation. But no matter how learned the writer was, he didn’t have the benefit of our three thousand years of hindsight. People that go above and beyond in serving their generations usually leave a much more far-reaching legacy. Do you carry dreams of how society, your family, your city, your school or your business should look like? If you give it heart and soul, the next generation may still not sing a song of you, but they’ll be lifted up on the shoulders of your work. My grandparents left my sister and me some of their savings. Not little and not a fortune, but they invested what they could in us. They had been gone for roughly ten and fifteen years when I was a mid-twenties student in Singapore with urgent need for a very expensive Mac to mix music on. For the rest of my life I’ll know that some of my most important skills were obtained, and some of my most important essays were written on the back of the work invested by my grandparents. Proverbs 13:22 says that, “a good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children,” and thus we see that he is allowed to serve more than just his own generation.

I hope the next ten years are less defined by who I am and what I do, but more defined by what I leave.

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