Will you need help down the stairs, ma’am?, the flight attendant asks.
No, I am ok going down, I tell him.
After the next helper (so kind, I am overwhelmed) and the taxi we are at our destination.
We are greeted with weathered leather chairs, mutton pillows.
Panne velvet in gold.
Fireplaces and stacked wood.
I am familiar with the vibe of the heat-challenged North, even in Summer.
I am so tired that I don’t think that I ever can move again. But there is dinner to be had.
We decide to eat downstairs. At least there is food. And good.
The next day the sun is up for real in the night…midsummer here the sky is never really dark.
And we are up.
There is breakfast…all manner of breads and nuts and a brown, carmelized goat cheese sliced thin, Brunost, which is local.
And smoked Fisk.
And out to explore, sort of. We take the metro to the Nationalteatret to catch another bus…to learn about the city.
The parliament, for example, was built to the only design that didn’t look like a church. The sculptures everywhere, beautiful. The hills, the flowers, the Viking history.
The beautiful light everywhere.
We look in windows. And more. We stop in Filippa K. We go into Marimekko, although Finnish, The Mother Ship.
We go to Vigeland park to enjoy the peace. But the birds, clackity-clackity-clack, are so loud. But the sun is lovely.
Here, in Norway, there is an initiative, The Right To Roam. They way that all Norwegians should have the right to enjoy the beauty of their country and therefore can pitch a tent almost everywhere, just to enjoy it. The Right to Roam.
The only caveat, they must respect nature.
In fact, they have put Go-Pro cameras on the sheep so you can enjoy the beauty of this country from a sheep’s point of view.
Dinner is early here. We end up at a classic place, all sorts of pictures on the walls of folks who have eaten here…but the meal is fine and amazing…does not disappoint.
I hear a story at breakfast how, in the middle of the night, there is a police action — and three rooms were cordoned off…and a man we know was sent to sleep in a conference room.
Wait — a police action? Three rooms?
Morning is spent writing, he is in meetings. Lunch is next to a stream, cascading over rocks. Next to the zebra-striped miracle that is the Oslo kemnerkontor…the tax office.
This land of Norse legends, of Thor (he flung two whales over his shoulder, dontcha know) and Viking ships and salty food and soft ice cream: Softis iskrem.
And tall people. And the Norwegian kroner which has pictures of fish.
Ever moving, ever progressive, ever cautious, but with a past recalled by empty chair sculptures on the side of the fortress hill. Back to a time almost 80 years ago when certain folks were sold to Hitler at 20 Kroners a head.
A time they cannot erase.
In the forest here, on the hill, they have dug up thousands of mines from the war …but the locations are still marked on the trees. We are all beautiful but bear the markings of our pasts.
So as not to forget.
I want to see a place where colors explode in the sky at night. But here, too far south, I am told.
And anyway, this time of year…there is no night.
I want to be strong like Thor. Always, always strong.
I hear that there is a train you can take to go up North — a train that will take you through the fjords. Next time I want to take that train.
The next morning I talk to the guy at Joe and the Juice. He is not the mogul but tells me his name is also Joe.
There are not cues to go to sleep, here, I say to him. How do you do it?
We don’t, he said. I sat in my garden with my friends until three this morning. And caught a few hours and was at work by six, he tells me — while make my juice.
This is the best summer that I can ever remember, he says. Next week it will be ten degrees colder.
He is maybe twenty-three years old.
But for now, the air is crystalline. The sun a warm star. For real.
How long are you staying in my city, my country, he asks me.
I leave Sunday afternoon, I say.
Oh good, he smiles at me and continues….then I will see you again.