I have spent quite a bit of time in the air, paragliding being my latest thing. Gliding silently through the void is immensly satisfying. And though many people would see me if they looked to the sky, the feeling of solitude is so strong. On this flight I was joined by an eagle for a while. And for a brief time that was all there was; the air, the little flying man and the big bird of prey.
I do not have the words to describe how spellbinding I find mid-winter. More than the frozen ground, the complete silence and the blue light, I sense that nature for some months is reclaiming control over our mad world. It is like the wild is telling us to slow down and just be cool.
Having spent winters in places like Arizona, the Arab Emirates and London, I have realized that it was this season I missed most of all. I simply need to connect to nature when it is at its harshests...and yet most inviting.
The Norwegian eco-philosopher and mountaineer Peter Wessel Zapffe became increasingly disillusioned with our civilizations impact on the wild. As an old man he was asked if he would have climbed again given the chance. His reply was that he certainly would, if only to tear down the cairns he had helped build. He grew to dislike cairns, marked trails, signs etc., and argued that wild places should be allowed to remain exactly that - wild.
This photo is from a recent solo trip in gorgeous surroundings. For three days I saw no people, but many signs of human activity. Should they be there or should we strive for areas of nature with complete absence of mans presence? To be honest I am uncertain about my answer to this question, but emotionally I tend to agree with Zapffe.
This day the downpoor was relentless, but the magic cloudberries were ripe for picking. Norunn decided to mash her share right away - whilst still in the bag. That way, she argued, they were already jam and ready to join a slice of wholemeal bread once back in the cabin.
It is one of those pics that really stir my emotions. In a good way.
There are some places left on earth that seem undisturbed by "the other" world. Places that seem totally pure, devoid of the ugliness of polution and cruelty of man. The North Norwegian Helgeland coast is to me all this.
I know ofcourse that everything is connected and mutually affected, and that these thoughts constitute a mild form of self-betrayal. Still - the feeling of being able to escape it all, if just for a while, is so nourishing.
My daughter asks me about once a week what my favourite animal is, and my answer is always the same; wolfes. Ofcourse orcas are equally fascinating, but they live in the oceans and that doesn´t count here. To me wolfes are the epitomy of the deep mysterious wild.
Recently Mose (Moss) and Blues became part of our family. The Siberian Husky is, together with the Alaska Malamute, the canine that is most closely linked to, and resembles its ancestor - the wolf. They too howl towards the moon, hunt in packs, establish hierarchies and thrive in the harshest of conditions. And though Mose and Blues are domesticated and adapted to a modern life I like to think that they, just as Buck did in Jack Londons "The call of the wild", have inner visions of roaming with their forfathers across an unspoiled northern hemisphere.
Returning from some days in the wild, completely off the grid, I cannot help noticing how rejuvinated I feel. Paradoxical perhaps, because traveling these parts in february does, to be fair, come with some degree of hardships. And still - away from the safe walls of home, the softness of chairs and pillows, the warmth of bathrooms and the luxury of well-equipped kitchens - batteries recharge and energy restores (!). Navigating white-out conditions, assessing avalanche hazards, making progress in deep snow or simply trying to keep dry, warm and hydrated is to me less fatiguing, or at least fatiguing i different way, than a day spent in front of my computer.
The theories to why this is so are plentyful and thorough. I won´t get into them here other than to remind myself and others that we should not so often shy away from some challenging outdoor experiences. They may very well give more in return than what they demand from us.
I have always felt an affinity with dogs. It might be that they basically are wolfes. Or that they are so charmingly honest caring only about the quality of the here and now.
This photo was taken on the first day of 2016. Norunn borrowed a very young Alaska Malamute from some friends of ours. Seeing her complete involvement with the animal, and the way they communicated, made us rethink our descision of not owning a dog again. When children interact with animals they gain empathy, responsibility and playfullness. They may also (re)connect, I believe, with their wild intincts of the past, becomming more aware of the natural world.
And this goes for us grown-ups as well. So now two Siberian Husky sled dog pups are joining us shortly. Yihaaa!
The Setesdalen mountains in mid-November. Minus 10 celcius and a wonderfull cover of fresh snow. Winter is here. Again! Before spring we´ll have carved the mountain sides with loads of sensual curves, followed the lynx´ tracks for hours into the wild and lit warming fires wherever we pause. Nature´s light show will peak during the next months, offering palettes of silver, white, and 50 shades of blue.
The highest mountain in the county where I live is called Urdalsnuten. Its summit reaches 1434 meters above sea level so it is not a tall mountain even by Norwegian standards (our highest is Galdhøgpiggen at only 2469 meters asl). Regardless of what direction you approach Urdalsnuten it is no less than a two day travel into complete wilderness. A couple of buddies and myself used our seakayaks the first day, hiked the mountain the day after and went back home on day three. An easy trip in pristine terrain.
We only saw one other person on the entire trip. On the summit of Urdalsnuten there is logbook where names and dates are entered. To our surprise this place had only been visited by 100 people each year since we last were here exactly two years ago. So this backyard mountain is in effect a more solitary spot on earth than Everest with its anual 500 summit "visitors". This goes to show that remotedness is a relative construct.
This summer my family teamed up with some good friends to go hiking in the Pyrenees. We were 4 adults and 5 kids. These mountains are high, steep, hot and extraordinary beautiful. During these weeks two things became very clear to me:
Children can be incredibly strong and mentally tough. Much more so than I imagined. As long as things are kept fun and without pressure to perform they seem to quite happily tag along. Even so when "along" is a kilometer high slope. Also, the French keep their natural surroundings absolutely litter free. They seem to practice the "leave no trace behind" philosophy with great dedication. Gotta love it!
Summer has arrived in all its warm beauty. I won´t wear socks until September and my beer doesn´t stay cool just by being placed outdoors. This is high quality living! But I guess I´m becoming increasingly aware of how each season brings with it it´s unique blend of opportunities and joy. And as the sun is beating down on my existence I rest in the comfort of knowing that in a handful of months the land is again covered with snow. All moving water freezes and silencens. Darkness envelopes the night and most of the day. But in the few hours of light we glide into the wild on our skis or break through the grey ocean ice in our kayaks.
And before the wonders of winter, Autumn arrives. Crisp clear days with explosions of colors as leaves die and fall to the ground, only to be pushed aside by myriads of delicious mushrooms.
But summer is now, I enjoy it so much! And I will not be sad when it fades into a new season.
Every now and then some people, including myself, search for experiences in nature that contrast the tranquil and mindful settings we usually seek. Elements of real danger, fear and pain are accepted in order to achieve some kind of accomplishment or challenge. The reasons vary from external admiration and status to intrinsic meaning making. This photo is from a recent kayak crossing from Denmark to Sweden. Shortly after it was taken the weather turned on us and our feeling of excitement and bravery was overcome by coldness, loneliness and hours of struggle. There and then I wanted to be anywhere but in the Kattegat sea.
In retrospective I realize that when my existence is narrowed down to surviving the next ugly wave, the horizon of self-understanding is pushed wide open. Unfortunately (perhaps) such insight is to some extent fresh produce. I have learned that as time passes this knowledge evaporates, the memories of fear and pain fade, and I will again find myself in some stupid and perilous situation....
I take photographs of old houses where people live or have lived. I find them captivating. What unfolding events have the walls of these buildings witnessed? In a close past people were born and died in the same house, and in between all of lifes everyday hardships unfolded. Have these walls enclosed atmospheres of peace and serenity or despair and anger? Probably both I guess. I found this motive in Finnmark, way north of the Arctic circle.
I also take photographs of signposts but I really don´t know why.
In Norway there are some 350 lynx. One of them resides in my favourite skiing area. This morning I ventured out early hoping to capture this magnificent predator on camera before daylight. Though its tracks were fresh (next to my skitracks, close to the edge) I never saw it. Its presence, however, was strong. I simply knew the animal was there, monitoring my every move. Such moments are intencely satisfying, at least for me, to the point that they provide quality of life long after I have returned back to civilization. And I seek them again and again...
This moment in time was captured by a good friend as we paddled towards the emerging light of day. It was a Tuesday morning in December and the blue winter light of dawn was breathtaking. Admitedly, knowing that most people were hustling to work at this very moment did not dampen the deep feeling of content. The photograph later won my friend a well deserved award.
Recently I had the pleasure of spending some time down under. It makes me deeply happy to see that there still are some dazzling beautiful places that are not ruined by human intervention. What value that holds!
The expression "green intelligence" refers to the notion that we are predisposed to learn behaviour needed to get by in the wilderness. As biological creatures adapted to the outdoor life this seems reasonable. One can witness green intelligence in practice when people without nature experience venture outside. Their learning curve is often a lot steeper than one should expect. The photo shows Norunn getting an insight in the noble art of bulding and lighting a fire. Give the kids some matches and let them try for themselves - they love it!
Paul Bogards book "The end of night - searching for natural darkness in an age of artificial light" should make most of us see the light. By ever increasing and thoughtless light pollution we are depriving ourselves of the most beautiful and spiritual sights of all; the night sky. This clear as glass, three-dimentional dome above us with so many stars the sky looks like snow, or as Bogard says; so starlit the earth seems to drop away. Having read his book I will never look at outdoor lighting in the same way again.
I recently returned home from travels in beautiful Utah and Nevada. Making my way through spectacular wilderness I was dismayed by how large areas were not available to the public. I have noticed this many times before but it always makes me sad. I firmly believe nature is something we all have inherited and have a rightful access to. Talking to US colleagues working with Wildeness therapy I learned that overcomming redtape and obtaining permits for the use of nature demanded considerable work. I was proud to inform them about the Norwegian public right act which allows any person to access and use all land (regardless of who owns it) except for the immediate vicinity of private housings. Landowners are not allowed to put up fences or other barriers.
In this case - lucky Norwegians!
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