Being There

The nostalgia hit the hardest at Skarstad.  I don’t know why.  All the familiar smells, of the entryway, the wild ocean air, the old wooden walls – it all sparked memories so strong I felt I was being transported back in time, back five years, when I visited for the first time.  Everything struck me as nearly painfully nostalgic – the color palettes of the interior of the Eliassen’s house, the harbor lights gleaming soft tungsten in the dark hours, the old songs blaring from the stereo, the coffee and the Eliassen’s cat and the intensity of the blues and reds of the landscape and the jagged peaks of Lofoten across the sea, in the distance.  The path through the woods and the seagull-nesting platforms here and there along the fences.  The sensation was overwhelming.  It was amazing.  It was beautiful, and melancholy, and hilarious, all at the same time.

For reference, here we are, the first time I visited Skarstad.

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…And here, five years later.  I must note that we seem to have aged well.  Hahahaha.

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So, what did we do at Skarstad?  For the most part, we laughed.  We laughed and laughed until tears ran from our eyes and our stomachs ached from the effort of it all, and when we weren’t laughing we were either drinking coffee, eating, talking, or making the most of our time there, in every way we could think of.  Going outside, skiing, drinking in the glorious landscape.  Being there.

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Coffee. 

Our first day, as mentioned earlier, was mostly spent digging Tor Edvin’s car out of the ditch we had slid into upon entering their driveway (after hours of speeding down precarious winding highways in an icy snowstorm, the irony of this still amazes me).  I dug out the wheels and spread sand while Tor Edvin cut away the fence that was threatening to tear up the side of the car.  At last, the only thing remaining was an old fence post pressed right up against the door.  After hours of sawing, Tor Edvin resolved to literally throwing himself at the mostly-severed post, in an attempt to use brute force to finally knock it over.  Somehow, this was unsuccessful until I tried to help him, upon which it immediately broke the moment we teamed up.  This came as a surprise, however, and we both crashed dramatically to the ground, the post between us, landing on broken fence parts.  After hours of toil and frustration, there was nothing to do but explode into laughter.  It was hilarious.  The car drove right out of the ditch after that.

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Edvin and a friend offering advice. 

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Taking a break. 

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“That one’s from the 1800s,” Edvin told us.  “Still works!  You should never throw old things away.”

Tor Edvin was more or less in charge of all food preparation the entire time we were there, and made some pretty legendary meals – one of which combined fresh moose meat with a brown goat cheese sauce and juniper berries.  It was incredible.  Edvin sat in the kitchen, telling stories and making fishing nets by hand.  We listened to music and I lingered around with my camera.  A ancient rifle lingered on the tabletop.  The colors of the house were so vivid at night, illuminated tungsten gold.  Greens and reds and yellows all together in a way that reminded me distantly of the color palette in Amelie.  Cold winter air poured in from the kitchen windows and filled the room with steam as dinner boiled up on the stovetop.

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We had skis this time, more modern ones that actually fit us – not the haphazard wooden planks from the 1940s we had clumsily trekked around with in the past.  We were suddenly efficiently mobile, and for days our ski tracks were the only lines that creased the pristine white of the empty road.  Through the hills, to the sea, past the harbor, past all of these places that sparked stories and memories as they gleamed melancholy shades of blue and grey and white.  We skied down to that surreal sculpture Himmel på jord (“Heaven on Earth”), where we had gone so many times in years past.  The weather changed every couple of minutes.  Dense, dark clouds of blustery snow, hazy white overcast – and suddenly, at times, moments of brilliant golden sun that made everything feel like Easter break.

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The Efjord mountains gleaming hazy in the precious sunlight. 

We ran into Ellen, out on her kick-sledge.

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…And everything resumed as it had been before.  We skied and laughed and photographed and filmed, laughed and cried and stayed up too late talking and drank too much coffee and ran around so euphoric in this world of ocean and mountains and ever-changing sky.

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