The day we left Norway was a fresh, mild spring day. Given my reluctant acceptance of our departure, I was surprised at how peaceful the ending came. Perhaps it was because it had been expected for so long that now it seemed rather casual. Our “goodbye’s” felt more like “see-you-later's” as we hugged grandma, aunt, uncle, cousins and parents, and drove off to the airport in a station wagon weighed down by our luggage.
It was at our arrival at Los Angeles International Airport, mind dulled from lack of sleep, eyes adjusting to the cabin lights, passengers rushing to grab hand baggage and line up to exit that I felt the knob of life tuning to a higher, shriller American frequency. I blinked back tears again. I don’t think anyone else heard it, maybe not even my husband. But it was familiar to me, I had lived with it most of my life. The frequency is an aggressive tone, the busy rush to achieve, perform, to be somebody – to use every crumb of time for useful pursuit, and when you just can’t perform anymore, to throw it to the birds of mind-numbing entertainment.
During my first year in Norway a fellow immigrant had told me she didn’t realize how stressed out she had been in her home country until she had settled into her calm Norwegian life. I had been puzzled at the time when she said it, thinking that that wouldn’t be the case for me. But it was. Maybe it is the five weeks of annual vacation or the 37-hour workweek or the leisurely dinner parties or the candlelight in dark winter or the gloriously long summer days or the forest, lakes and farms or cross-country skiing or hikes or picnics or campfires – but to me the pace of life is a gentle, soft song.
I’d like to think that I learned parts of the song, that it plays in me and that I can choose it as my own life frequency. That is what I hope for in Los Angeles. It doesn’t mean I’m not confronted with other tones of life everyday – the angry driver at the stoplight or the impatient patrons in line behind my loaded grocery cart or the constant honking and beeping to get others moving. These are not the tones I want to learn.
So I wonder about the life I will lead here. How can I remember that gentle, soft song? What are the notes that make up the song? How can I keep playing the song when I hear so many conflicting pitches around me?