A Child’s Life at Sea Part 4

I slowly reach my hand out for my brother. It is so dark I can’t even see where my hand is. Then suddenly I feel something on my foot. ‘There is something on the ground,’ I whisper to my brother. ‘I felt it.’ Then I hear a splash and a croak and several other small splashes. ‘It’s just a frog, dummy,’ laughs my brother. ‘Perhaps you should try kissing it. Maybe it will turn into a prince.’ ‘Yuck!’ I say. ‘You kiss it yourself if you dare.’ But my brother doesn’t fall for that. He just keeps teasing me. I still am not able to find his arm in the dark, but hearing his familiar teasing is kind of reassuring. Then suddenly we hear footsteps behind us.

The sound is heavy and thudding, like it belongs to something really big. I hold my breath. My heart is pounding and I close my eyes, even though it doesn’t make a difference, it is just as dark in the tunnel as it is when I close my eyes. Then suddenly it is quiet again. My brother has stopped his teasing. He must be just as scared as me. I am completely frozen, I can’t even run. Then all of a sudden I feel a big hand on my shoulder and a voice whispers in my ear: ‘Got you!’

‘Daaaaad!’ Complains my brother. ‘I knew it was you!’ A flashlight lights up and I see my father laughing in front of us. My brother looks pale, but he starts laughing too. ‘Good one, dad!’ I want to laugh, but I can’t, my heart is still kind of racing around inside of me. ‘Come on,’ says my father and takes my hand in his. ‘ Let’s go see the canon.’ And we do, and just like that, with my hand in my father’s, I feel safe again, and everything is right in the world.

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A Child’s Life at Sea Part 3

‘Did the soldiers really hide in here, daddy?’ ‘Sure did, honey. They used these tunnels to move unseen underground when there was an attack. If you follow the tunnel to the end you will find a lookout post with a canon pointed to the horizon.’ ‘Did they really shoot the bad guys, daddy.’ ‘They had to, honey, there was a war and if they didn’t protect our country, innocent people would die.’ I stare at my father. ‘Did you fight in the war, daddy?’ My father laughs. ‘No, sweetie, the war was long before I was born.’ I feel a little disappointed, I really wanted my dad to be a hero. ‘Come on!’ complains my brother, ‘let’s go inside!’

We are on a small island on the south coast, known to be one of the many military bases during the Second World War. Our boat is docked by the stone pier, and my father has taken me and my brother up to see the tunnels carved deep into the mountain. They go on for kilometers and have no natural, or any other form, of light. But my father has brought a flashlight. My brother is already on his way into the pitch black tunnel. I take my father’s hand and we follow him.

There is water dripping from the ceiling of the tunnel and it makes an eerie drip-drop sound that echoes far into the deep. My father switches on the flashlight, but all we can see is black wet slippery stone walls, uneven and bumpy. The ground is also wet. Our plip-plop footsteps bounce off the wall and disappear into the deep, only to return as a hollow mimic of themselves ten seconds later. The sound makes me think of ghosts dragging their skeleton feet on the ground. My brother seems to think the same because he whispers in my ear: ‘I bet it’s haunted! Soldiers must have died in here, you know.’ I shiver and all of a sudden I feel very cold. I grip my father’s hand tighter. We walk further and further in.

‘If the tunnel collapses now, we’ll be dead,’ whispers my brother. And even though I am sure my father can’t hear him, he just adds to the horror be saying out loud: ‘well kids, we have reached the point of no return. We are further from the entrance than we are from the exist.’ I swallow hard. The flashlight flashes a couple of times, and both my brother and I jump. ‘Hold on, let me just…’ My father lets go off my hand to adjust the batteries in the flashlight. Then all of a sudden it goes completely dark. I want to scream, but for some reason I seem to have lost my voice. My brother on the other hand has not. He lets out a roar, fit for a lion. ‘Daaaaaaaad, what’s going on?’ There is no answer. I desperately reach out for my father’s hand, but it is not there. He is gone. My father is gone, and with him: the flashlight.

To be continued…

A Child’s Life at Sea – Part 2

‘Please don’t let her come, uncle, she is too little!’ My brother complains to our favorite uncle and puts his hands on his hips for emphasis. ‘She can hold the torch,’ says my uncle, and smiles wistfully to me. My brother sighs. ‘ She always gets what she wants.’ I glance at him behind my uncle’s back and stick my tongue out at him. He kicks a pebble so hard it flies into the sea and makes an exquisite plopping sound as it breaks the surface. My uncle looks at him sternly. ‘ You are already scaring the crabs away.’ My brother puts on the Life jacket my uncle hands him. He has a sulky face. ‘ At least I don’t have to wear a baby vest.’ That hits home and I give him one of my angriest glares. I am quite a big girl now, but I still don’t know how to swim and my brother delights in the fact that I have to wear a big chunky bright orange Life Jacket with an oversized collar that hardly lets me turn my head from side to side. ‘ Be kind to your little sister, says my uncle as he lifts me into the dinghy. My brother scowls and climbs in after me.

It is already dark and long past our bedtime, but we have been given special permission to stay up. We are going crabbing. My uncle steers the outboard confidently across the black sea, and the little rubber dinghy practically flies above the tiny white-sprayed currents. I squeal with delight. My father would never drive this fast! The sound of the outboard is the only sound we can hear in the dark early autumn night, and the subtle roar echoes against the cliffs, perfectly silhouetted against the starry sky. ‘ Can I have a go?’ Asks my brother, and to my surprise my uncle agrees. My brother doesn’t drive quite as fast, but I am twice as scared. He is still just a boy and I don’t trust boys to drive boats, even little boats like our Rubber-Linus.

As soon as we approach the steep cliffs my uncle takes over. And a couple of meters off shore he lets the outboard die, and we simply float with the current and the leftover push from the engine up to the cliffs. Now it is completely quiet. Only a few nightbirds screech hauntingly in the dead of night. The ocean splashes eerily against the cliffs, and the sound makes me feel so funny inside, like I am excited and scared, happy and sad at the same time. ‘ You’re up, sweetie,’ says my uncle and hands me the torch. I take it with both hands and switch it on. A white ghostly shadow creeps across the black surface and climbs slowly up the steep cliff. ‘ Now remember,’ says my uncle, ‘ when I tell you to switch off the torch, you have to do so immediately, okay? This is very important. The light will scare the crabs away.’ I nod nervously. ‘ Now point the light at the wall of the cliff right under the surface.’ I do as he says, and my brother and uncle lean over the edge of the dinghy as far as they can and stare into the water to the place I point the light. ‘ I see one! I see one!’ Shouts my brother excitedly. ‘ Hush!,’ scolds my uncle, ‘ you’ll scare it away!’ My brother looks embarrassed and is red all over. ‘ Now quickly, switch off the light!’ He whisper-yells to me, and I fumble with the off-button. I should have been keeping my finger on it all the time, I inwardly scold myself. But apparently I am quick enough, because my uncle has already grabbed the crab by its claw and is now flinging it hurriedly into the boat. The crab immediately goes into attack position with its claws out, and to my horror, it is running sideways towards me. I squeal loudly and jump instinctively unto the inflated rubber-side of the dinghy, but I jump with too much force and before I know it I am splashing around frantically in the water. I scream as loudly as I can and try to pull me feet up against my body. I remember overhearing my uncle telling my father that this place is teeming with crabs. Convinced that they are going to catch my toes in their sharp claws I continue screaming at the top of my lungs.

‘ Stop it! You’ll scare away the crabs!’ Yells my brother just as loudly. My uncle has already managed to get a good grip on the sides of my huge orange baby vest and he hauls me out of the water and back into the boat, much like he just did with the crab. The crab is still running around sideways in the boat and as soon as I see it I start screaming all over again. My uncle lets go of me, grabs the crab by its claw and hurls it back into the sea. Finally I stop screaming.

I can see my brother sulking in the bow of the boat. ‘ I told you not to bring her, ‘ he complains to my uncle. ‘She is such a baby.’ I stick my tongue out at him and make a fearsome grimace. ‘ Come on, ‘ says my uncle, ‘ We’ll better get you home, little one, before you catch pneumonia.’ ‘ Arrrrrgh!’ Says my brother. ‘Can I at least drive?’ He looks hopefully at my uncle. My uncle nods. ‘ Okay, but you better make it fast before your sister catches her death.’ At that my brother’s face lights up and he roars the outboard into life and head out to sea in a fierce pace that makes the water foam excitedly around the prow. I sit shivering in my uncle’s arms, but I smile to myself when I think of the crab happily running about in the bottom of the sea.

A Child’s Life at Sea – Part 1

My brother bangs the side of his cot as a huge wave crashes into the wooden side of the boat and soon after my little round-shaped window is submerged in water. The boat, in which we are sleeping, or are supposed to be sleeping in, topples over and my brother holds on for dear life as he is pushed by the mere force of the ocean towards the edge of his cot. We both laugh out loud and I shout in excitement: It’s like being rocked in a huge cradle! ‘ Yeah, ‘ adds my brother, ‘ or a hammock!’ We both giggle at that, and soon it is my turn to be hurled over sideways by King Neptune. But it is then that I feel it. It sneaks up on me like a mischievous current, but when it starts pushing its way through there is no going back. I cringe. But I have to go, it’s impossible to pretend my way out of it. ‘ Daaaaaaad!! I have to pee!’ I shout. My father soon appears in the tiny wooden door separating our sleeping quarters from the deck. ‘ You really really have to?’ My father sighs. I nod my head apologetically. ‘ Okay, but you can’t go to the bathroom in this weather. To sea is too rough.’ The bathroom is all the way on the other side of the boat. ‘ But I HAVE to go!’ I insist. My father looks thoughtful, but then he smiles and disappears. He is, however, soon back. With a bucket. He places the bucket on the floor next to my cot. ‘ If you can’t go to the toilet, I bring the toilet to you,’ he says and smiles. I giggle as I worm my way out of my sleeping bag and slowly climb down from the cot. ‘ Incoming!!’ Shouts my brother, and I brace myself. Luckily the floor is not much larger than the bucket so it still remains standing up when the wave hits. I can’t stop giggling as I squat over the bucket. When I am done my father collects the bucket. ‘ Are you gonna throw the pee in the sea?’ Teases my brother. My father ignores him. Relived I climb back into my cot, still giggling a bit. ‘ My sister peed in a bucket! My sister peed in a bucket!’ My brother makes his voice into a sing-song rhyme, and I stick my tongue out at him. But I am giggling too much to make an angry face. And soon we are back playing our wave-game again. It is a seven hour crossing. I can hear my mother complaining to my father on the deck : ‘can’t they just go to sleep.’

Dancing Fairies


Art by August Malmstrøm

Imagine rowing quietly over a lake a summer night. You are in the north and the sun is betwixt dusk and dawn, still giving off a mellow gleam of pale yellow and grey light. Above the water a mist has gathered, twirling in slow motion in the stillness of the night. And that is when you see it. Is it just a formation of white vapor gracefully leaping in the air? Or is it something else, something you thought only existed in your imagination?


Photo by: Ingolf Endresen

Ever since the first people came to Norway, they have been asking themselves this question. Of course, fairies are not supposed to exist, but how can mist move so intently and musically without even a breath of air? The tales speak of fairies coming out to dance in the mysterious light of the summer night, disguising themselves in the glamour of white mist upon water.

What do you believe? Perhaps you are not so easily convinced of the existence of fairies, but if you were there, rowing quietly over a lake a summer night…you would perhaps not be so sure…

Image credit: The beautiful photo is taken by the very talented Ingolf Endresen. You can see more of his incredible photos here: https://blog.ingolfendresen.com/

Midsummer Madness


Midsummer Bonfire by Nikolai Astrup, 1909

It is the end of June and school is finally out. Kids and parents pack their picnic baskets and head for the nearest meadow or beach, or as the last resort; a gravel football court, where a huge bonfire has been standing tall, composed of old branches and throw-away furniture, since the first day of summer. For some, this is the day they pack their cars or boats, and head for their summer getaways. But the bonfire is certainly not to be missed. Will the witch adorning the top of the driftwood tower fall over before she is licked clean by the building flames this year, or will she collapse at the first touch of smoke like last year?

The witch is the main character of this suspiciously pagan Nordic holiday. She, and her sisters, will be on the prowl on midsummer night, looking for eligible bachelors to kidnap, and god help the girl who tries to stand up for her lover! So the inhabitants of each village try to scare her away by burning replicas of her on a huge bonfire. Since the witches normally fly quite high in the sky, this tend to work fine. At least it has for centuries now, with a few exceptions, so do NOT forget the witch on top of the bonfire tonight!

Since this is a night steeped in magic, more than just witches may be heard from or even seen. The fairies will be out and about too. And it is said that, because of this, if a young girl picks seven different types of flowers from a meadow at midnight and puts them under her pillow when she sleeps, she will dream about the man she is going to marry!

When I was little, midsummers were spent at sea with my family. There would be a huge bonfire on a rock in the sea close to land, and it would burn far into the night. We would grill sausages on a smaller fire and tell each other stories about ghosts and witches. With me always being the main narrator. Sometimes I would scare my two younger siblings half to death!

If you want to learn more about our Nordic Midsummer Madness, you can read the beautiful book which is the inspiration for this post: ” Moominsummer Madness” by the Finnish author Tove Jansson. In this delightful children’s book you will encounter a floating theatre, electric ghosts, private property protests, and wild orphans who dream of seeing a real play.

Midsummer is a time for fairy magic, for fun and for family and friends. It is one of those delicious festivals that dates back to ancient times when it was the turning of the sun that marked the passing of the year, and gave cause for celebration. So no matter where you are, please have a magical Midsummer, and be sure to sprinkle a bit of Midsummer Madness in there.

Happy Midsummer!

My Adventures at Sea – Memories of a Norwegian Childhood Part two

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I always tell people I grew up on the sea. This is only partially true; I grew up by the seaside on a hill, eating breakfast every morning to the sight and sound of the roaring ocean outside the broad red-curtained window. But I became a true sailor at age six when my parents decided to build a 35 feet long wooden sailing boat on a raft on the South-side of the country. My uncle, who was already an experienced sailor, agreed to pilot the new sailing boat, with us on board, safely home across the open sea the summer I turned six. And that was the start of my maritime adventure.

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My family’s wooden Sailing both next to my Uncles’ boats.

Both of my mother’s sisters and their husbands and kids had boats of their own, not a homemade sailing boat like ours, but mass-produced fiber boats with powerful cruising engines and double back propellers. My father had baptized our sailing boat Linus, and from the day of the naming ceremony she was my best friend. I loved her fiercely and fed her bread crumbs from the prow where I usually ate my meals. I was never seasick; the waves had a calming soothing effect on me, lulling me into a dreamless sleep as though I was being rocked in a cradle. And we did meet with rather tough seas at times, so much so that my father had to provide me with a bucket to pee in because it was too dangerous to leave the cabin where I slept. I would lie, shaking with excitement in bed, squealing every time the tiny porthole next to my berth went underwater.

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Here I am sitting in the bow of Linus, singing songs from a songbook.

We had a favorite island of course. It was called Sheep Island and had a perfect little sandy beach, a tall cliff, a forest and a huge green slanting meadow. It was a popular spot for the local sea scouts and we would tense with anticipation every time we rounded the cape of the island to see if the little stone pier was occupied or not. My brother learned to shoot on this island, with a too big rifle and empty tin cans as targets, and I found a perfectly tall flat rock to function as a puppet theater where I could hide while using my dolls to peak over the edge of the rock and enact intricate tales and dramas I made up on the spot. Oddly shaped rocks became rides in an amusement park, and smaller rounded smooth rocks were made to build rock trolls, coming to life with moss hair and store-bough craft eyes. In the evenings, my father and uncles would light a bonfire on the stones that made up the pier, and we would make stick-bread wrapped around birch branches and chocolate bananas secured in tin foil and left to burn on the logs. One time my father climbed a tall tree, made an insertion in the bark and attached an empty bottle to the wound, the tree bled into the bottle through the night and the next day we all tasted beautifully sweet sap.

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My little cousins, my big brother and I on Sheep Island.

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My father hoisting me up in a tree on Sheep Island (oh yes, very much at my own request!) In the background you can see the Theater Rock.

Sandy Cove was another much loved mooring spot. It too had a huge green meadow stretching all the way down to the make-shift pier, but with a dangerous scattering of goat droppings hiding underneath the tall grass. My mother arranged sharp stones for us to scrape our shoes on before boarding the boat, but alas, children will be children. The reason why we, the younger sailors that is, loved Sandy Cove so much was because it had a ghost house. A big yellow abandoned house perched on the top of a hill, surrounded by various fruit trees that never bore any fruit. My uncle and I made up a story about the old lady Olga Sandy Cove who had died in that house and who now haunted it. We convinced my younger cousins of this story, and I practically forced them to join me in exploring the underground basement of the house. The basement was a storybook image of a creepy haunted cellar. It had a damp muddy floor, racks of empty glass bottles, tin boxes with outdated faded labels, rusted garden tools and rotting discarded furniture. And it had a black cat. Of course we only found out later, after running screaming out of the cellar, desperately trying to get away from the black shadow lurking behind the shelf. I had never had so much fun in my life.

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My Uncle, Aunty, Cousin, father, big brother and I having lunch on Sandy Cove by the pier.

Easter was when we peeled of the winter coat tucked around our hibernating sailing boat and set sail once again on our yearly virgin voyage to the islands. Sometimes there was still a thin layer of ice around the prow of my beloved Linus, and I would sit there, wrapped in woolen blankets listening to the ice cracking around the nose of my nautical friend, as my father captained her towards the deep blue horizon. My uncle was the most playful and fun-loving of the adults, and of course a favorite with us children, he would charge us varying amounts of candy to watch the morning telecast of BBC’s “Chronicles of Narnia” on his tiny black-and-white television, and roar with laughter when his tiny son developed the habit of emptying the little leftovers in the cast-away beer bottles into his small mouth. It was my uncle who invented all the games, like the Easter Egg Hunt. He hid a huge Easter egg filled to the brim with candy somewhere on the island, and then left clues for us to find that would eventually lead us to the treasure. We pretended to be pirates as we prowled around in my father’s rubber dinghy, named Rubber-Linus, looking for bottles with messages in them and crab traps bated with clues. When we eventually found the X marking the spot, we hoisted the Pirate Flag and hollered dirty songs, to the utter embarrassment of our poor mothers.

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My two youngest cousins and I in Rubber-Linus.

Whale Island is where I learned to swim, after being tormented and teased for years for not being able to master the craft. I had been splashing around like a maniac, terrified of sinking to the bottom of the sea, until my smiling calm aunt took over the training wheels, and encouraged me to relax and breathe. Under her gentle guidance I learned the dreaded task in a matter of hours, even though I never grew accustomed to being under water, and kept my head always above the dark dangerous deep. Both my uncle and father were certified divers, and we children would get in the dinghy and follow the bubbles as they went into that mysterious underworld that I was always so afraid of.

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The summer I learned to swim on Whale Island.

Long Island was our Bad-Weather-haunt, a small city island only an hour away from the urban coast. This island had a proper pier standing on wooden stilts, and under that pier was the “Death Chamber”. My brother and I would go exploring this dark haunting place in Rubber-Linus, listening to the echo of the many-voiced sea crashing against the echo of our own mysteriously dark hollow voices. When the sun shone its dim light into the openings between sea and pier it blanketed the surface in phosphorescent ghostly green making the orange corals, the pink starfish and the spiky sea urchins glow like some otherworldly creatures.

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Going on an adventure!

In the summers we were granted four blessed weeks on the sea, and we could sail a little further, exploring stranger tides and foreign shores. One year we sailed all the way to Denmark where we bought ten feet of licorice and smuggled boxes of Danish beer back to Norway. Another year we went north, discovering traces of UFO’s and conch shells singing tales of the sea. But it was the South Coast we loved the best. Every year we went island hopping along this beautiful coast of blue-doored white houses, little seaside gardens, red-topped lighthouses and tiny wooden towns selling seasonal ice cream and homemade cinnamon buns fresh from the oven. In the mornings we were greeted by boys in motor boats calling out offers of newspapers and breakfast rolls, and sometimes vanilla Danish or something called “School Breads”, a yeasty pastry with cream, coconut and powdered sugar. The summer my father bought a video camera was the summer I turned movie director/actress/screenplay writer. I wrote, directed and acted in my own films, filmed and produced by my brother. We made documentaries, animated movies and motion pictures. Later on, I casted my cousins in various roles in these movies, and these projects became elaborate productions featuring trolls, detectives, murder mysteries and dance numbers.

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My brother and I in one of the red-topped Lighthouses.

The year I became a teenager was the beginning of the end of my adventures at sea. Boys and parties and friends replaced pirates and sails and treasures. My last summer at sea, and the last summer of Linus, I compromised with my parents and was allowed to take a friend on board. But the sea didn’t agree with her, and she fell seasick on the very first crossing, vomiting into a bucket while holding on for dear life while Linus gave her all in the fight against towering waves splashing on to the deck. We spent a few days in a little sea port, boyspotting from the mast and making up secret knocking codes to indicate the attractiveness of the boys. My friend soon grew tired of the nautical life, and we were shipped home on a train by my parents who, I’m sure, longed back to the days when I would play quietly with Barbies on the deck. Not long after that summer, Linus was sold and replaced by a much bigger sailing boat equipped to sail around the world, a long-time dream my parents fulfilled when I was a student in college. But I will always treasure my childhood at sea, and the sea, with its moodiness and mysteries, will always hold a very special place in my heart, calling out to me to it like an open-armed mother every time I miss home.