Not any old brook …

Winter brookThis is a snow covered brook – but it is not any old brook. It is the brook that runs along the border of the farm on one side. It is lying there now quietly, preparing itself for the spring rush of water which is still some time off.

In spring it is all mossy and green – the ferns glistening in the damp spray of rain and humid air.

SONY DSCDown in the grooves of stone and moss is a fascinating world of colors and smells, the strong smell of disintegrating wood and earth will swirl around your nose. I like this smell, it is the smell of the earth and helps me to keep in touch with it.

SONY DSCIn autumn the the brook runs cheekily down its course, singing its merry song to all who take the time to listen and wonder. Sitting on a stone by its course it is easy to let the world stand still and to be present in the here and now. All worries are washed away and I am just where I am supposed to be.

SONY DSCAlthough the brook is beautiful in winter, I am longing for the time when it will wake up from its winter sleep, to let me once again listen to its merry song.

She drank deeply…

Something had woken her up. She lay there listening carefully, but no other sound than the deep, slow breathing of her husband beside her could be heard. Her hand stretched out, the fingers curled carefully around the glass, cold from the night air which had slipped into the room since they went to bed. Slowly the glass was raised to her lips. She drank deeply…

Her thoughts wandered to all the memories which had entered her life the past year. The gradual move to the farm, to all the kind souls who had helped in one way or another. The talking, the decisions, the waiting, the driving, the carrying.

She had broken her arm, the arm she uses most, trying to move some fallen trees. Six weeks the arm had been in a cast, six valuable weeks when she should have been able to help out with the move.

Her thoughts moved on to the death of her mother in June. Sitting at the bedside waiting for her last tortuous breath to be drawn. An experience she never had had before. She saw the coffin in her mind’s eye, covered in beautiful wild flowers. The simplicity of the funeral, just as her mother had wanted it. Warm voices filling the little church with the melody of childhood psalms.

Just a year before, the death of her father.

Then there was the final move. The sale of the house in town, the packing and the unpacking. The hour long drives back and forth, back and forth. Time to think, time to plan, time to make sure that the decisions they had made were right.

The arrival of their lovely animals. Another memorable moment, another momentous decision. The responsibility they had taken on was not to be taken lightly. When one of them miscarried, sadness enveloped their hearts and underlined the responsibility they had taken on. The little heart shaped stone covering the grave a silent reminder.

Through all this, her work ran on, demanding attention no matter what. The days were filled to the brim, with no time left over for creativity other than that which was needed for the project they had taken on.

There had never been a moment of doubt that they should make this move, and yet at times the words had been spoken «have we done the right thing?» Yes, they were sure. Over dinner last night they had talked about it again and both had expressed how comfortable they were with the decision. The words entered her heart and she felt settled. Yes, this was their home now, this is where they would stay. Hopefully for the rest of their lives.

She wondered if her readers would understand, if they could sense all that had happened in the months gone by and if they would come back to her once she had started to write again.

She now knew what had woken her up. The words were finally back and she had to get them down on paper before they were lost again. She carefully slipped out of bed, her feet touched the cold floor. Picking up her night gown, pad and pen she went downstairs to the kitchen and sat down to write.

The road forward

In memory of my father

Exactly a year ago my father died in Washington DC at the age of 92. He was there on a mission with the Norwegian army, as part of a delegation to honor, amongst other things, American soldiers of Norwegian descent who had served during World War II. His death was unexpected as he had left Norway reasonably fit for his age. As of the moment we received the call that he was very ill, everything became a turmoil for me. Trying to reach him before he died, getting the message on the airplane on the way over that it was too late and then traveling home with him on the plane was a tough time. Little did we know at the time that this event would also change the direction of our lives.

My father was a veteran of the Korean war, Norwegian UN soldier nr. 2, in charge of setting up the Norwegian MASH hospital there. One of the highlights of his stay in Washington DC was the tour of Arlington cemetery. At this point he was already ill, but he would not let this event pass him by. To me, the most poignant picture from this time, is this one where his image is reflected in the stone memorial of the Americans who fell in Korea.

Credits: Erling Eikli

It is an image expressing to me that he was already on his way over.

The funeral was very much the way he would have wanted it. We will forever be grateful to the Norwegian Army for the way they assisted us in every way.

Credits: Christian Nørstebø

One of my dad’s strongest wishes was for me to take over the farm. Unfortunately he never got to know that his wish would be granted. It was only after spending quite some time here sorting through things that we realized how lovely and peaceful this place is and that we decided to move here permanently.

Dad – thank you for the gift you have given us. Thank you showing us your love for this place and for opening our hearts to its loveliness and to the people who have so warmly included us in their lives. I just pray that you somewhere, somehow, know that we are here, taking care of your beloved Bjørnerud.

We miss you! Your memory will always be kept warm in our hearts.

Credits: Christian Nørstebø

This coming weekend we will make and drink a Mannerheim’s schnapps in your honor. You always had fun trying to adjust it to your taste with different kinds of Norwegian aquavit, but for those of you outside of Norway, here is what is supposed to be the original recipe. Make sure that all the ingredients are ice cold.

Mannerheims schnapps

  • 1 liter vodka
  • 100 ml dry gin
  • 200 ml dry vermouth

 Dad’s alternative

  • 500 ml vodka
  • 500 ml Faun akevitt
  • 100 ml dry gin
  • 200 ml dry vermouth
Stir and serve in brimful shot or aquavit glasses.

SKÅL!    

I will always remember the sparkle in your eye when you looked up at us after the first sip to see our reactions to the current mix.

A little sad, a little weary and definitely a little worn at the edges and out of focus

Dear friends,

My only excuse for not having posted for ages has been that we have had a lot of work  with the process of selling our house, restoring the farm and preparing to move. Perhaps the excuse is good enough? Having made the commitment to have a blog, I know it is a “no no” not to keep it up, but the energy levels and the creative inspiration have not been readily available.

To cap it all I broke my arm yesterday. So here I am, a one-handed typist, trying to get a few words out to you, before you totally give up on me. Please tell me you will be there still when my arm is out of the cast in six weeks time!

The other day I came across these words by Margery Williams from ’The Velveteen Rabbit’:

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day…”Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Perhaps this process of moving, breaking my arm and blogging is part of becoming real? Hopefully my hair will not have been loved off, and my eyes not dropped out by the time I have become real …

Helter skelter in the “stabbur”

“Stabbur” is the Norwegian name for the house where grains and other food were stored on the farms before the time of fridges and freezers. This was also where cured meats were hung to dry. These houses were built so that mice and other rodents couldn’t enter. Some are still in use for air drying meat and to keep a freezer or two, but mostly these houses are now used as storage space.

Our stabbur has definitely been used for storage, and the way things have been put down wherever there was some empty space has created a fascinating mess. No one seems to have tidied up or thought about sorting out things for the last 100 years or so. It is fascinating to go in there and just look and try to figure out what things have been used for. There are at least a thousand and one mysteries to solve. My thoughts also turn to the people who used these things; who used them, why, and why put things just there?

Snow shoes for the horse ...

I go into a kind of trance looking at these things, some of them are really beautiful. The wood planer is worn smooth and oiled by rough hands that have held it for hours on end. The handle on the meat grinder likewise.

An old door handle lies in the corner, the brass gone dull by not having been in use. Wooden strap-on skates hang from a nail, the curly tipped blades gone rusty.

Leather skistraps

Home made skies and sticks hang on a beam above my head. It is not hard to imagine the strength needed to move forward on these skies in unprepared tracks, whereas we glide along silky, smooth ski tracks on super light skis. I wonder who are the lucky ones? The ones who made the skies themselves and then conquered the snow slopes on skies they really could be proud of … or us who don’t have to struggle much for what we have.

A decrepid ladies bicycle stands in a corner – something must have been broken otherwise it wouldn’t have been carried up to the loft and tucked away in a corner, or perhaps the person who owned it was too old to use it?

In another corner are all kinds of carpentry tools, each one a wonder to behold. How on earth did they manage to get things done with these things? Things must have taken time – but then again by having to use time on making things, they probably appreciated them much more.

The women on the farm wove most of the linens. There are still beautiful items in some of the drawers. In the corner of the loft the old loom lies in pieces; it would be an interesting challenge to put it together again. Whether or not it can be put to use is a different matter.

It is nearly a shame to sort this out, but by cataloging it in pictures, some of the memories will hopefully be retained. We aim to try to sort this out one day and display the things on the farm where future generations can see what has gone on before them.

I wonder what Miss Piggy thinks of this, hanging there by the door, staring at intruders with her big eyes? Will she be there for the next generation?

The untouched cellar

For decades the cellar at the farm has remained untouched. Dust and decay has accumulated and most who enter would probably only see all the dirt and dust and stuff which needs to be cleared out.

I, on the other hand, found it fascinating from an artistic point of view and spent an hour down there yesterday looking for and trying to capture the essence of the place. I did not move a thing. Everything is exactly as I found it. I also only used the available light, which there was very little of, and therefore had to use a tripod. A bounce card would probably have cast a little more light on some of the darker elements, but as I didn’t have one on hand, I had to do without.

The brown bottles you see here are the milk bottles which were used in Norway several decades ago. I can still remember the foil caps and the feeling of pressing down on the centre of them to get the caps to loosen.

The walls of the cellar are about a meter thick and built of big chunks of rock. It’s not hard to imagine the hard physical labour which has gone into building this house.

In the cellar there is a cupboard. Can you see that the woodworms have been at work? Behind the door more treasure is uncovered; old jam jars – still with some contents, and  empty ones waiting to be cleaned and perhaps used again. Can you see the cobwebs?

Last fall I bought some blackberry plants, which are resting here waiting to be planted out in spring.

An old pump is making a splash of color –

On top of another cupboard is yet another still life –

On my way out the door I stopped to reflect on all the hard work that had gone into making this cellar, but not only that; this place has stored all the crops that have been grown on this farm; potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, and other vegetables as well as all kinds of berries, both those grown on the farm and picked in the nearby forest. Hours, and hours, and hours of hard work. The people who lived here were very self sufficient – I hope we can do this place justice! Thank you fate for giving us this opportunity to grow and learn and respect those who came before us.

And if after this, you think we are mad to take on a project like this – you may be right, but the house is very solid and it just needs a little care and attention and then I’m sure both we and the farm will be happy.

What made me smile in January 2012?

A new year’s resolution this year was to challenge myself to take note of moments or situations that made me smile, happy or especially pleased every single month of 2012. So here is a small list for January. I know there is much, much more I am grateful for and could mention, to list them all would be too demanding on both you and me.

This little snowman in ice said hello one morning as I came up from the underground on my way to work. His cheery countenance greeted me and kept me smiling for quite some time.

My little brother

Tidying up at the farm I came across this photo of my little brother. Isn’t he just adorable? I had forgotten about this photo, but found it in an old album. The picture is scanned – that’s why it is a bit blurry.

My darling husband, brings me coffee in bed every single morning and it is a very special moment we both look forward to every day. Lying in bed hearing him pottering around in the kitchen gives me a very warm feeling in my heart. After a bit the smell of coffee wafts into the bedroom and then I hear both him and Snorre, our dog, come up the stairs. A wet little nose snuffles under the duvet to get his morning kiss and then Mr. C gets his kiss. The minutes we spend sharing thoughts before starting our day are precious.

Mr. C

Snorre

It’s also been quite fun pottering around the farm discovering old, funny, strange and beautiful evidences of the lives that have lived there before us. One day I hope to bring you some photographs of the bits and pieces we come across.

In January I also discovered Etsy – a marketplace for creative souls around the world. Browsing through this site has been an eye opener, and has given me and gives me lots of creative ideas! Creativity abounds and the resourcefulness of people amazes me!

Pinterest has also proved to be useful in the planning process and a great place to collect all kinds of ideas. Some things that make me smile are collected there too.

What have been your happy moments in January? How about sharing them?