Thank you

It has felt at times like an invisible force was helping me on this journey. I think it must partly have been you, dear reader. Thank you so much for reading my blog!!

I don’t know how this journey will continue, whether I will carry on writing, possibly blogging is quite addictive. When you see that people from TWENTY SIX COUNTRIES have been reading including Indonesia, India, Russia, South Africa and USA as well as the main readers in Norway and UK its quite a thrill.

SO MANY PEOPLE mainly complete strangers have been so generous and supportive. Don’t believe the papers when they tell you things are awful and people are bad. OK we got to believe  some of it, but they are selling us a small picture. This walk has shown how only one or two generations back, within living memory many people here lived so close to the rest of Great Nature.

There are many people on the way I somehow didnt have time to mention, here are a few;
Finn olav who took me for an incredible trip on his fishing sjark where we saw seven eagles at once and many other birds.

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Ole petter Bergland is a nature guide. He is also almost exactly like John Cleese in Fawlty Towers.

He wears a lovely apron as he cooks and he sings opera before the meal. After the meal I had to sing a joik as entertainment. He is great believer in making things entertaining so is great fun to be with. And his nature guiding is made up of quite a lot of jokes as well as visiting the oldest trees and natural cathedrals.
Our final hostesses were Synnøve and Gunnhild, here is Synnøve buying a barrel.

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The two old brothers who made this barrel have finally decided to retire and there is no one to take on the business. Barrels were a vital necessity to preserve food and this knowledge perfected over the centuries may disappear. Synnøve is concerned about these small things.

Dear reader, goodbye for now and may the road rise up to meet you on your way.

The road ends, the road continues.

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Here are some geese making a test flight before they set off south. We are doing the same. A final walk along the fjære as the beach is called here. The impressions pour in. Each step a hundred stones. Stones, the word is prosaic and yet each one a gem in its uniqueness.
The tang and tare, the two types of seaweed. Tang is from the forests of the deep sea, which loses its leaves to float up to the strand. Tare is that which grows here on the beach. And a magnificent food it is both for the beasts and for us, but for some reason we don’t use it, though Mari and I have been checking some recipes from her great great grandmother. We’re singing along the road.

The work and harvest of this journey has been in three layers.

One, the stories. Stories of people’s lives much harder and more raw than we have known. Full of powerful sorrows and joys. Compared to us far nearer a sustainable life. And woven with these, stories of the parallel worlds of the spirits and of the other plants and creatures.

Layer two was my walk. How to read the map, get totally wet and lost and fall down mountains. Where to sleep and what to eat. I had an aim to eat local food and to walk the whole way. I failed in both these.
The aim of local food was naive. Had I had done it I would lived on fish, meat, milk and cheese. Plus the syre and alpine distort (harerug) I found. I would often have had days without food. But this aim helped me find stories about how humans and nature are connected.
It also meant that I ate mainly local and delicious food.

Walking the whole way. I walked most of the way but there were parts of the journey where there were long tunnels through the mountains where I didn’t want or was forbidden to walk. Another reason for taking the bus or hitching was that I had to reach the festivals where I had a job telling.

But walking has been totally necessary to digest the enormous numbers of stories.
It’s been quite funny people look at you as if you are SO WEIRD when you say you are walking. “You mean you don’t have a car or even a bike you are WALKING?!” Yet their grandparents were walking like that most days and thinking nothing of it.

Layer 3 of the journey was how to pass it on to you. I didn’t bring a computer so I spent quite a lot of time the first weeks tracking down a machine on the way.  After I maybe damaged someone’s pc I finally bought an iPad and worked out how to use it. Then which of the immense mass of stories would I tell and how, at the festivals on the way. Here I am trying to understand.

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Where’s it leading? That is a secret I don’t yet know the answer to. I have been telling some of the stories  but I think it might be something else too. I’ll let you know…

The road nears it’s end

Next day the walking was quite different. So easy, the kilometers disappeared and the pack was light on my back. I saw a woman on the road, a road with only the very occasional car or tractor. I saw her walk into her pretty garden filled with flowers, we went to talk to her.

Well no she didn’t know any stories and we should try the museum. And she was busy, it was time to make middag. I chatted a bit more and mentioned Huldra and the others who live under the ground. Oh yes she had seen Huldra twice. And she gave us a short description of these meetings and suggested we speak to the neighbour.
Another lovely garden, and then when the door opened it was like going straight into a fairy tale. Yes we could either talk for hours on the step or come straight in said Odd, and into the little warm colourful living room where Nancy was ‘resting middag’, as is the custom here. Here they are with the latest family member

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and this is what he said;
I was up in Svalbard working as an electrician one season in 1969 and was due to go back but Nancy said she didn’t want to stay another winter alone with the kids. That next winter the mine collapsed, there were no survivors. She saved my life. I have been back there this summer and I got a lung infection. Nancy got me to the doctor and the medicine caught it just in time, so I think she has saved my life again. Not bad.

My mum and dad grew up here in the North but my dad got a job in the Fire service in South Norway. Then when I was ten the war broke out. Mum and dad had seen a World War before, and they had us four boys and didn’t want to see us starve. They knew there was food in Senja and decided to move back. My uncle had a house far out away from any road, and we went up there and built a gamman (Sami winter house made from roundwood and turf).

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So I went from a town life with electricity and shops and roads and telephone to a life where we had to find all our needs in nature.
For me and my brothers this was a great adventure. There was only one thing that I didn’t like. That was when I had to go up and take the animals out of the snares. Sometimes the bird was fluttering or the hare not quite dead and I couldn’t find it in myself to knock it on the head. Apart from that we really loved living there in the forest beside the lake.
We lived in that little house for five years.

On the way out Odd showed us proudly the woodstore he has made inside, in case anything should happen to him. So Nancy doesn’t have to go out to get in the wood. He has also moved the steps so it’s easier to clear the snow. You are allowed to use your head said Odd. Clearly he uses both head, heart and hands.

Oppover bakker og nedover bakker

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Det var vanskelig å gå. Veien var langt. Tungt. Så stoppet vi, det var lurt. Å stoppe og bare sitte. Å så endelig å bade.
Vi måtte gjennom en lang lang tunnel så måtte vi haike. Men kanskje været var for bra. Bilene stoppet ikke.
Intil vi fant ut vi kunne holde opp og tilbu en liten blåbær yoghurt. Da stoppet neste bil med engang.
På turen hadde naturen forandret seg. De bratte fjellene hadde blitt lune bakker.
Vi gikk ned stien, inn i bjørkeskogen. Vi hadde hørt at det var en nedslitte og ubemannet gamme der. Men det de ikke sa var at det var himmelen.

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Jeg klarer ikke å beskrive hvordan realitet dalte ned. Med den hørte vi en liten pip. Den kom og landet på taket av gammen og vi så et lite hodet dukke opp og ned fra andre siden av taket. Så våget den å komme over til vår side. Det var et lite uglebarn som så på oss. Hodet fortsatt å poppe opp og ned på en dynete kropp. Så hørte vi en svak kall fra langt inn i skogen og den kastet seg i den retning og ble borte.

Gammen var låst men vi fant en måte å komme oss inn. Leste en salme som lå i en liten gammel bok og sov. Fikk turens beste drøm. Nå er det ikke lenge til den er over.

Birds of a feather fly together

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After the party at Senja festival, my daughter Ellen was replaced by Mari. Mari had travelled overland from UK by bus boat and train. A long long way and it was great for both of us to be out on the open road and breathing the fresh air. Watching the plants and calling to the gulls. Many kilometers and cloudberries later we found this camping spot.

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Early next morning seabirds and geese were sunning themselves, dolphins jumping and in the lake two otter children were playing. An endless game of tumbling and diving, running through the long grass and springing onto one another. Birds of a feather fly together. I’ve noticed how the same species delight in hanging out together and I feel the same way, it’s really nice to be two wanderers.

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Now we are in Skaland, North in Senja. We are staying with Gerd. When Gerd was 3 she damaged her foot so the first year at the summer farm with grandmother she was lifted onto a cow and held the horns as she rode around. From the next year she and her sister who was four years older, herded the cows.
Her grandmother was quite someone in her quiet way. At the age of four her mother had died and had been drawn to the graveyard by a white horse. From that time she sometimes dreamt of a white horse which often gave her messages. When she was 11 she dreamt that the white horse jumped over a cliff. She knew exactly where it was so the next day she went there with the cows she was herding. Lying below the cliff she heared cries and found a young carpenter who had fallen there the day before. She got help and the young man recovered. He was 19 at the time, and when she was older they became sweethearts and married. You can’t really get more romantic than that. Here is a picture of them on their wedding day.

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But back to Gerd. The girls looked after six cows belonging to grandmother and six from various neighbors. They were up round six o’clock and after milking and breakfast were out most of the day. The cows loved certain flowers and mushrooms, but this made the milk bitter so the girls often had to run through nettles to stop them. And watch out as there were steep slopes and much bog. Once a cow got stuck in the mire and Gerd ran to get grandmother, a rope and some planks. Luckily the cow had horns to tie the rope on, but as it struggled only the head remained above the ground. Being careful not to fall in themselves they dragged and pulled. At last they got a plank under the cows knees and it survived.

After herding each day they helped with the butter and cheese-making. Gerd says it was heaven.
At that time girls had little ‘minnebøker’ where you wrote your name, favorite food and so on. Under favorite place she and her sister always wrote ‘setra’. At one time a girl cousin came to stay and cried and was homesick. She and her sister looked at one another with disbelief. They might have cried if they hadn’t been allowed to be at the Setra.

Senja festival

Senja festival var raus og integrerte meg sammen med viser og rockeprogrammet. Der traff jeg min datter Ellen. Hun møtte meg på kaia; hun hadde kommet en dag for tidlig men fikk husrom hos Bjørg, en godhjertet dame som jobber på fiskeri ute på havet. Når hun er på jobb får hun bare 6 timer fri om døgnet til å spise sove og slappe av! Allikevel med hus fyllt med familie hadde hun plass til en til.
Hvor lang tid tar det å bli forelsket i et fjell? Festivalen er i Gryllefjord og når vi kom virket de høye fjellene på hver siden av fjorden skumle og innesperrende men innom et døgn stirret jeg på dem med undrende blikk. Her er et dårlig bilde av fjellet og en søt bilde av Nanna som er en lokal kjendis her som vi ble kjent med.

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Jeg fikk egen leilighet til å bo sammen med Ellen, det var luksus. Den første dagen dro vi til kafeen og på neste bordet var det noen pyntete eldre damer som virket så utrolig triste at jeg trodde noe tragisk hadde hent. Ellen lurte på om det var været som fikk dem til å se så ulykkelig ut men det viste seg at det var tedansen som var avlyst.
Vi kom i prat og begynte å snakke om mitt fortellerprogram og de smilte og var glade igjen. Fortelling ble holdt på en bruktbuttik der det i tillegg var kunstutstilling og når timen nærmet seg måtte det hentes flere og flere stoler. Folk presset seg inn og det ble stappfullt. NRK Troms filmet og etterpå ble jeg invitert igjen til neste år. Jeg følte meg enda mer æret når jeg dro ned til havnet for å prøve å få noe fisk og han som tydeligvis var the Big Boss tok meg inn i fiskehallen og ga meg en svær sei. Vi grillet den med den unge teatergruppen Rimfrost og det var sykt god.

Det hadde kommet fra presten et ønske om trekkspill til gudstjenesten neste dag så Nanna fra festivalen og Ellen dro ut midnatt og i løpet av ti minutter hadde skaffet et trekkspill hos en nabo. Det viste seg at det var feil type men vi øvde på noen sanger, dro bort til naboen og sang. Der var det noen skikkelig flotte sangfugler av den eldre generasjonen og vi jammet sammen. Selv om det var feil trekkspill ble vi varme. Ellen dro ut engang til, nå var kl. halv to og i løpet av 15 minuter kom hun tilbake med trekkspill AV RIKTIG ART! Det var ryngende applaus, alle hemninger ble borte, sangen fløy i alle retninger og jungeltelegrafen funket sånn at Sirkus Eliassen og Topcoat og de andre dukket opp også. Litt av en nattspill…

Neste dag fikk vi frokost hos Nanna, en ildsjel som startet Rimfrost og hørte om nye planer med organisasjon Von.
I buttiken hadde jeg truffet Steivor, en tidligere elev på muntlig fortelling. Hun er også søster til den flotte visesangeren og stortingspolitikker Tove Karoline Knutsen og vi ble invitert til kaffe med moren deres som er 94 år. Det ble en fabelaktig fortellerstund. Vi fikk rikelig med spøkelseshistorier og mye annet.

Kanskje det som gjorde mest inntrykk var hvordan disse tre damer fortalte i lag med hverandre. Det var så varm og elegant hvordan de supplerte hverandre!
Her er enda et bilde som er ikke bra men never mind…

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Ghosts

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A mysterious waffle seen at Senja festival yesterday.

How to say this? I can’t help believing in ghosts because my grandfather, who I loved and trusted met several in his long life. But I’ve never been interested in them and when children endlessly ask for ghost stories I find it a bit annoying.
That’s to say, recently I have begun to think maybe there’s a reason why they are so interested. Like maybe in this world where everything is so painstakingly and wearily explained there’s a slice of life which is still mysterious and that’s what attracts them.

So many stories, now I’ll tell just two:
Alvhilds dad was called ‘Far’. This means father in Norwegian and is the name used for countless beloved dads and grandfathers. You may call a man Far even though he may not be your actual dad. It seems to me that Far was Alvhilds best friend as well as being much like a father to her, her children and others around. He enjoyed feeding birds and when at 97 he felt it was a good idea to move to sheltered accommodation some of the birds followed him the short journey. This meant there could be a lot of gulls hanging out which annoyed some people but they put up with it because of their respect for Far. Several birds came back year after year including one gull with special markings.

Far had become 100 and one day Alvhild was working at school as usual but felt uneasy. She knew Far was on his way out and hadn’t eaten for 6 weeks but he was so strong that sometimes it felt like he could go on for ever. That day she had to keep reminding herself that the nurse had promised to call her if there was any change. At last the time for her daily visit arrived and she saw at once that he was dying. She was angry they hadn’t told her but Far had said not to disturb her.
She sat there beside him, and he was as clear in his mind as he had ever been. Soon she noticed the gull standing still and staring intently in through the window. With all the comings and goings in the room it continued to sit there. They said it had sat there all day, staring, its beady eyes fixed on Far.

Alvhild and Far had good time together to take their last farewell in this life. Finally she left his empty body but only when his body was moved did the bird desert its post.
Some days later at the funeral Alvhild was surprised to hear the bell being rung. Far and her mother used to ring the bell but no one had taken over. However as a mark of respect it was done this last time.
But what surprised her most was that the same gull was sitting over the bell tower. Each time the bell was rung it hopped up in the air and then returned.

She says she feels sure that the spirit of her mother had entered the bird.

Far had some cousins who grew up nearby. The boys job was to look after the animals in the barn each evening, and the girl took the morning shift. One night the boy came in and saw a strange woman beside one of the cows, head covered with a shawl and her face hidden. Her arms around the cows neck where it was tied with a halter. The boy was frightened but thought to himself, I won’t let her see that I’m worried. He fed the cows and went into the house but didn’t tell his sister in case she got too scared to do her job next day.

Early next morning she came running in -“There’s a strange woman in the stable!” “I saw her last night,” said the boy.
“What nonsense,” said his father, and they all went into the stable together. The woman was not to be seen, but the father went over to the place where she had stood. Looking down at the barn floor he saw to his horror that it was quite rotten. Gently he moved the cow. Had it not been for the visit of the strange woman it would have been strangled by the halter round it’s neck as it fell through the rotten floor.

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Stories and stories and stories of this kind merging in my mind as I lie in bed. Lying alone in this old house is like going back in time a hundred years. It was Fars house and nothing has been changed. The presence of the past hangs vivid in the air.

Urtemedisin

I løpet av mine vandringer har jeg studerte, plukket og spist mange planter.

Først på Øksnes fikk jeg høre om naturlegen Bowitz. Han var en ettertraktet i distrikten og hadde nøye skrevet ned diagnosene og oppskriftene til urtemedisinene han brukte. Men så var det sagt at familien hadde brent disse. Jeg var veldig nysgjerrig. Siden da har jeg spurt om andre kjente til navnet Bowitz, ja, flere hadde hørt om han men ikke mer.

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For noen dagers siden kom jeg til Bleik og spurte Alvhild. Hun forklarte hvordan i hennes barndom jord i dalen var skilt inn i teig, en lang stripe som strekket seg fra fjell, over myr og eng og ned til stranden, sånn at alle skulle ha en bit av hver jordtype. Hennes familie hadde blant annet jord ovenfor kirkegården. Moren hennes insisterte at de måtte slå det til sist og det ble tørket et spesielt sted på låven. Hvis noen av sauene ble syk fikk de dette som medisin og de ble ofte bedre. Noe kunne de også få til jul fordi det var en delikatesse de satt pris på!

Alvhild hadde også hørt om Bowitz.
Den natten fikk jeg æren av å kunne sove på en ekte Nordlands hus alene. Jeg satt der og arbeidet kl. halv ti om kvelden, etter en lang dags mars. Så kom en dame bankende på døren. Hun het Lillian og hun virket litt nervøs og spent. Hun kom inn på det gamle kjøkkenet og sa hvem hun var. Det var ingen andre enn oldebarn til Bowitz!
Hun forklarte hvordan hennes oldefar hadde vært skomaker og naturlegen og når han ble gammel bestefar hadde tatt over. Etter hans død hadde bestemoren overtatt og det var mange som kom og ville ha medisin. Bestemor tok dem imot, de fikk gjerne mat og overnatting i huset. Lillian husket flere medisiner fordi som barn med samling hun blant annet einar. Faren hennes fortsatt med denne business intill 60tallet da moderne kemiske legemedisiner tok over. Men oppskriftene ble ikke brent, broren hennes satt dem i en bank boks.
Vi snakket litt om hvordan Marcello Haugen brukte urter og om Snåsa mannen. Hun sa at bestemor kunne stoppe blod. Da kom historien.

Lillians bestemor var død og huset hennes skulle rives. Hun hadde lyst å vise det til hennes mann, kort tid etter de hadde giftet seg. Når de kom inn så hun at det var nesten tom i huset men det var en gammel kommoden som var igjen. Men det hun ikke merket var at på kommoden stod det en lapp og på lappen var de ordene som man lese for å stoppe blod. Uten å si noe til henne tok mannen hennes lappen og satt den i lommen .

I ettertid forstod hun at han hadde gitt lappen videre til søsteren sin. Lillian sa at når hun fant ut hva han hadde gjort ble hun irritert til å begynne med at han ikke hadde sagt noe til henne.
Men i ettertid har hun tenkt at dette var en merkelig men velsignet ting. For det vise seg at hennes svigesøster kan både stoppe blod og har andre helbredende evner slik at folk oppsøker henne fra over hele Norge. Hun tar aldri penger for disse tjenester.

Jeg nevnte at jeg har merket at den samiske kulturen har mye kunnskap om urter. “Ja,” sa hun “Og min mann kommer fra samisk slekt.”

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Denne heter turt og de sier er spiselig. Men mange steder har jeg vært forbløffet over hvor fravarende kunnskap om nesten alle planter som vokser i disse områdene er!. Steder der forholdene har vært så krevende at man ville har trodd at gratis næring og medisin ville blitt satt pris på. Mange plantene var i bruk i vikingtiden. Men jeg har truffet Samer som har beholdt kunnskapen om bruk av planter som vokser her. Og Jorunn fra Aaland gård.

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Hvis du er i Troms, og se på TV mandag kl. 18:40, det blir en reportasje om min reise på Senja festivalen.

Check this beautiful woman

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When i was little I used to stand with my arms out in the forest, pretending to be a tree so that the birds would dare to come near me and they did. I’ve always loved birds. There was one bird I specially wanted to see, I’d seen it far off but never near.

We were moving the reindeer with my family in Kautekeino. We were up in the high mountains, nearly to the place where the calves are born. I took my children to a place where I used to play when I was little. We had a little lavo tent and earth house we played in. Stones we used to jump over and one large rectangular flat stone. I told my children this is the place where we used to knock on the stone and call for Huldra to come. And i started to call out; “Huldra, Huldra mother, let us in!” and the children said, “Mummy, stop it.”
The weather was very clear, perfect and warm. So I lay down on the stone with my arms out. The children ran away and played. I lay there in the sun my eyes closed but after a while I kept having the feeling that someone was looking at me.
I opened my eyes and right over me was a large white creature its wings spread wide, looking me right in the eyes. It was quite still, just the tips of the wings fluttering. It was a snowy owl, the bird I had so wanted to see. Here it was just above me. I jumped up and it stayed for a moment and then flew gently away. I called out to the children, “Did you see, did you see?” No they hadn’t noticed anything.

Soon afterwards I was visiting an elderly relative and I told her what had happened. She was quite clear. “When you have called Huldra, she will come, maybe not in the form you expect, but she will be here.”

Maret Buljo, Forfjord

Været

Nordmenn er ekstremt interessert i værmeldingen og det er ikke rart når du tenker på alt som var avhengig av været før i tiden. Nå nesten det eneste som er avhengig av været er at man skal ha det hyggelig. Og fremtidige generasjoners overlevelse selvsagt men det er sjelden i fokus.

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Her er Ivan som fortalt meg om sin bestefar og hvordan han måtte dra 13 kilometer for å fiske. Han stod opp klokka tre om natten og gikk 13 km. Det var ingen vei, bare sti. De store fisketider var om høst og vinter og han måtte ofte gjennom snø. Det var også mørketiden. På tilbakeveien hadde han med fisk. Noen hadde hest men han måtte dra alt selv. Ivan er en flott kar som organiserer Reginadagan, røyker litt for mye og har hjerte åpen. Han sier at han har dårlig hukommelse men egentlig forteller han utrolig bra.

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Marit som jeg bodde hos har mange katter hjemme hos seg.  Hjemmelaget fiskekaker, fiskepudding, hjemmelaget potet (som hun kaller potet som er dyrket her), hjemmbakt brød,  multersyltetøy osv.
Nøklene står i døra til hus og bil.

Marit sa;
“Når jeg vokst opp fantes det ikke vær. Vi var bare ute hele tiden. Det var ingen som maste hele tiden at det måtte være sol.
Men når TV kom ble alt forandret. Folk så hvordan det var i sør. Alt var så mye finere der, inkluderende sol. Og de ble ufornøyde med det de hadde.”

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På veiene jeg går ser jeg mange hytte som folk bruker ferier og penger til å pusse opp. Er en del av årsaken at de tror de har en tilflyktssted når det er krise i byen? Fra min reiser nå er jeg mye klarere over hele kulturen og kunnskapen som må til for å drive naturhusholdning her.

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Her er et bildet der jeg preker på Bukkekjerke. Sorry jeg prøver å la være men det er vanskelig innimellom.

Veien var lang neste dagen.

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Tungt og til slutt etter flere mil med karri mark så jeg en kjekk mann som satt fredelig i hagen.
“Har du lyst å få høre en fortelling?” spurte jeg. “Hvilke type fortelling” spurte han litt forbløffa.

“Ja, nei?” Jeg følte meg flau og prøvd å forklare at jeg vil bytte en fortelling mot en kopp te. “Jeg har ingen nøkkel til husa,” sa han “Derfor sitter jeg og vente her men du kan prøve naboen. Jeg tror hun er hjemme. ”

Så ikke lovende ut, ingen bil og døren var låst. Jeg banket på allikevel. Damen som åpnet var ganske sjokkert men laget meg en kopp te og vi hadde en kjempekoselig fortellerstund sammen mens jeg drakk te og hun spiste burger.

Kvelden var hos Beate Heide. Hun har samlet fortellinger fra det stedet hun vokst opp men som ble tvangsfraflyttet og rast ved jorda for å bygge flyplass. Stemningsfulle og smertefull historier om folk som kan aldri besøke de steder hvor familien har bodde i generasjoner. Historier forteller ikke bare om et sted som er borte men om en tid som er borte.
Beate kjørte meg noe kilometer neste dag som jeg var takknemlig for – må rekke Senja på torsdag. Mistet kartet og kontaktlisten på veien men fikk de første modne multer!

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