It has been months since I felt these twinges of longing, since I felt feverish joy (or cried) upon seeing Norwegian brands or logos. It takes time, but homesickness – that long, painful goodbye slowly fades away.
In the peace of a wilderness campground last August I felt my shoulders unwind for the first time in several months. I had been so overwhelmed by the frantic rush of Los Angeles that I hadn’t been able to calmly take stock and adjust.
On the same camping adventure we met up with friends, and friends of friends. One of which was an environmental psychologist that specializes in helping people cope with transitions. Her ideas for transitioning included forming a written identity (statement) as a couple so that we know our values and who we are (and what we’re doing) no matter where we are in the world, and some type of ceremony to mark our passage.
The clarity of our statement brought a stable framework to our existence in Los Angeles. It focused our values and gave a clear recipe of what we needed in order to thrive. We decided to mark our passage with a community collage project and asked family and friends to send us the pieces for the collage that symbolized their hopes for our time in Los Angeles (this is still in process, ok, yes, I’m procrastinating). In addition, we asked one of my extra parents to take the main ingredients of our life statement and symbolize them in a landscape tapestry quilt. We picked fabrics and she went to work. We unwrapped it on Christmas and it was certainly poetry she wrote with those fabrics.
Back to August – when we returned to Los Angeles armed with our statement and good ideas and the fresh wilderness air still clinging to us, we decided to try a new church. We had been to one church for a couple of months and it didn’t click for us. When the pastor preached an anti-gay sermon I knew I could never conscientiously return (if church isn’t for the likes of them, how can it be for the likes of me?). Not belonging to a spiritual community had been bothering me, adding to my unsettled feeling.
While visiting this new church in August I remember my husband pointing to a Scandinavian name on the back of the bulletin, they could be Norwegian, he whispered to me. It was a beautiful service, both elegant and thought provoking and as we left a kind-looking man stopped us to ask if we were new. My husband began to explain that we had just moved to Los Angeles in May. The man listened, tilted his head, looked at my husband keenly and then ventured, “Snakker du norsk?” (Do you speak Norwegian?) I lost my breath, time slowed, my tears welled. He was Norwegian, he had pastored at my husband’s grandparents church, his husband had been playing the organ and he was one of the pastors at this very church in Los Angeles!
I’m pretty sure I floated out of the church, down the sidewalk and to the car. I felt so light and joyous and surprised. It was the most unexpected, good gift I had ever been given. We had found a spiritual community where we belonged.
I guess you could say that meeting a Norwegian friend was one of the best ways of easing homesickness, but nature and intention and church and time helped too. Eventually human beings can get used to just about anything (it just takes longer for some of us). I had to get used to the traffic and the honking and the rush this time around. My next cultural adjustment will likely be returning to the quiet of Norway, but as they say in Norway, ikke ta sorgen på forskudd, (don’t grieve in advance). I think that is good, solid advice. So I’ll be here right now, ever grateful for the gifts I’ve been given.