One of my first days back last week I took a breathtaking walk on the forest trail near our apartment, marveling that it felt like a crisp fall day with just thin, clear sheets of ice decking a few shallow spots in the lake feebly indicating the true season.
Then, to my astonishment, when I opened my curtains on Saturday morning – you guessed it – I caught my breath as I gazed on the stillness of a white world.
While winter refused to come to Norway this December it apparently (according to the Norwegian media) terrorized most of the 50 States with lows of up to -34 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thankfully, California proved to be golden! I relished sitting in the midday sun warming myself in the 70-degree weather for a couple of weeks (Yes, I’ve apparently become a sun devotee with the best of Norwegians).
But I wasn’t able to avoid another type of winter tempest: the flu. With a long introduction and finely detailed denouement it lasted two weeks of the vacation. It pretty much derailed what I had envisioned as the perfect holiday retreat.
At the commencement of my mind-blurring fever, I wanted nothing more than to be in my cozy Oslo apartment, comforted with familiar surroundings, reclining on my very own bed. The intensity of that longing startled me; just as when I opened the curtains to see everything covered in white – the feeling came suddenly and swiftly – and I realized then how deeply Norway has taken hold of me.
Back in Europe I enjoyed hearing Norwegian over the intercom on our flight into Oslo. I rolled the word “dere” (“you” in the plural form) around my tongue, liking how it sounded so Norwegian and feeling relieved to have a plural form of “you” back in my vocabulary again (how did English miss that one?).
I welcomed the convenient public transportation that took us from the airport to our small Oslo suburb. I savored the tap water (one can drink unfiltered tap water almost anywhere in Oslo and it truly tastes refreshing!). I gazed admiringly at the containers under my sink that conveniently help with sorting and recycling all of our garbage.
Side note here: I was known at one of my jobs in the States as “the recycle police” as I indignantly rescued plastic bottles and scrap paper from garbage cans, muttering in frustration at how easy it was to put recyclable materials in a different bin that was right there.
So you can say that my recycle-police-heart swelled with gratitude when I became acquainted with Oslo’s recycling program. Their marketing campaign is particularly effective on me: a banana peel isn’t just a banana peel – it is fuel for one of Oslo’s bio-fueled busses. In addition to harnessing energy from food scraps Oslo recycles paper, glass, and metal and then uses the left over trash as energy for winter heating (You can read more about it here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24209185). It’s really all a bit blissful for me.
Back to that winter that initially refused to come – it thankfully hasn’t shown any signs of retreat yet. It has been a snow-globe world out there today. I’m eagerly anticipating the groomed cross-country trails near our apartment and delighting in the crunch of snow under my winter boots.
I guess it’s really the simple things here that make up a life that I have come to hold so dear. And I can thank this winter for helping me to recognize that. Welcome, dear winter, welcome!