The streets of Henningsvær were silent as we left the house. The crunch of our footsteps seemed to echo off the empty streets; nothing breathed. The ocean, the horizon, it all surrounded us, enveloped us, in its blackness and silence. “Come, I know a place,” said Tor Edvin. We wove between buildings and through deep drifts of snow, climbed higher and higher. The pungent aroma of drying codfish filled the air and I could see the outlines of their drying racks lining the hilltops. Finally we stood atop an overlook, the vastness of the ocean beneath us, the tiny town lights insignificant behind. Their tungsten glow illuminated the streaks of clouds that swept across the night sky in all the patterns of the wind, and somewhere near the horizon, the light of the moon gleamed hazy blue through the ocean fog. “Listen,” Tor Edvin said quietly. “You can hear the ocean in so many different ways, all at once.” I listened. The gentle lapping of the waves on the rocky shore, the deep surge of subtle rollers from the open sea, the distant crashing of waves on some unseen coastline, it all blended together in a soft, profound music that filled the cold winter air. I stared up at the sky.
“I feel… so much” I stammered, trying to put words to something completely abstract. “Elated, yet so… unspeakably sad, somehow.”
Tor Edvin was silent for a moment, looking out at his boreal world.
“Sounds familiar,” he said gently, and we turned and ran, flying through the streets, past the ocean, to feel the wind and feel the sky and feel that we were alive.
It is happening inside you as much as it is happening outside.
We would leave Lofoten that day. I awoke with a start, the precious glow of the “blue hour” pouring from the windowsill. You can sleep when you’re dead, I told myself, forcing down a steaming cup of coffee and zipping up my jacket. Henningsvær waited outside, pristine, perfectly still. On the distant horizon the clouds broke and the crimson light of dawn spilled over the sea. It was unseasonably warm and as I walked under the rows of hanging codfish their blood dripped down into my hair like raindrops. Suddenly, that morning, I could see. Everything made sense – form and composition and light, in a magic intuitive way that I only rarely am able to access. I shot roll after roll of film and returned to the house exhilarated, full of the beauty of the world, ready to go and explore and experience and feel and see.
We drove through a snowstorm. Everything around the moving car glided soft and painterly past the windows in soft shades of white and blue, out of focus. The road I know from summers past existed only as a short path of asphalt into a total oblivion of white. We sped forward, eager to make the first ferry, so we could catch the second ferry, so we could be at Skarstad in time for dinner. This country is so intertwined with the ocean it’s hard to understand without seeing it for yourself. The first ferry was new and electric and there was hardly anyone else on board. We ran around with our cameras on the blustery decks and ate our homemade pizza in the lounge area that looked like something from a home design catalogue. All was surreal and quiet and nothing was visible from the ferry except a neverending expanse of blue.
And then comes that magical feeling when you begin to recognize things. Those vague shapes in the darkness suddenly have a place in some distant memory and all those street signs and swings in the road are places you’ve been before. Music blasted from the car; the roads grew icier. Finally, finally, the lights of the Eliassen’s house glowed, welcoming, in the distance. We pulled into the driveway, delighted – and slid promptly into a ditch on the side of the road. The irony killed us in that moment and we lay there in our seats for a few solid minutes, utterly destroyed by hysterical laughter. So close, but yet so far! So it was that we made the final steps of our journey on foot, trudging through the snow in the dark, our laughter exploding out over the driveway towards the house. Search lights beamed towards us from the veranda and I heard Edvin’s voice exclaiming in his amazing dialect before I even saw him. “Don’t worry, we have the tractor!” someone reassured. “We’ll dig the car out in the morning.”
We were back. Fresh halibut on the table and everything just as it was, except now there were posters for Tor Edvin’s film premieres in the kitchen and photographs of grandchildren in the living room. Outside the snow fell in thick flakes from the sky and the ocean wind howled.
(A note, dear readers! I am back in the US now and am in fact so busy with school that it doesn’t seem realistic to attempt to keep up with both blogs simultaneously! Therefore, since I’m still not caught up with my Norway project blog, I’m going to start sharing those posts on this blog as well. Enjoy!)