Roots

20150404-172739.jpgNearly eighteen years ago me and my family dug up the roots we had so carefully planted in the countryside of England and moved to Norway.

It was so fun! We moved into an artists collective with a panoramic view of the Oslo fjord. The kids played up in the attic with the other artist kids, the adults hanging out with the other arty people. To start with I didn’t miss England in the least. I didn’t miss the language or the people. I didn’t miss all my friends or even my mum and dad.

But after some months there was something that I did miss. I swear to you the first thing I missed when I moved to Norway were the English trees. The giant beech tree, with its grey bark like elephant hide. The spreading oak with its tens of thousands of shiny acorns each sitting in its own dainty cup. In the winter I missed the spiky holly and in the spring I missed the hawthorn. Its blossom lining the hedges like scented snow. I really missed the English trees.
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Its not like there are no trees in Norway. Check it out – the whole place is one gigantic forest. BUT they were totally the wrong kind of trees. When I was a girl they started planting fir trees in long long endless lines across my country. If you’ve trod in one of those arid spots you’ll know its less a forest than a sad prison.

My Dad told me – ‘You see those trees, they’re foreigners! They have shallow roots, they make the earth acid. They don’t belong here. They should go back where they bloody well came from!’ Well Ok he didn’t actually say that last thing but the fact is, like it or not, I was, and I’m not proud of it… But I was a Tree Racist. I despised needle trees one and all.

Until one day. I was sitting outside. We had moved out into a log cabin. The garden was a little forest, emerald moss studded with white wood anenomies and flowing beside us the black Sørkedals river. It was then I saw her. In all her grandeur and poise. Her branches, each one just a tiny bit wider than the one above, she held them curving upwards, like a graceful ballerina. For the first time I had fallen in love with a Norwegian tree. And its just gone on from there really. (See Trees)

It took a long time for me to see the Rowan. Crazily I thought it was some kind of weed. There is one in my garden and I was going to cut it down! Then, mainly due to my Finnish friend, the Finns have a deep history with trees, (we all do, but they sometimes remember it). She told me that the Rowan is a holy tree. A feminine tree, women used to give their girls a coming of age ceremony with Rowan in the forest.

In Norway its been a protector. They would put a sprig over their doors or the barn door to protect the brown eyed cows. The 90 year old man we walked with on the Pilgrims way would crunch a berry and offer it to the kids. ‘These kept us healthy during the war.’ He said.’So many vitamins.’ Since then its beauty has revealed itself to me, and when I tried to steep the leaves as a tea, I couldn’t believe the taste. Its like Almonds. Why don’t we all know this?

Its looking very much like I’m going to die here now. I mean hopefully not right now. But my roots are growing year by year. And when I do, I hope my children will take a little sapling. Perhaps a tiny rowan or a birch. And plant it over my body. A body I’ve spent years feeding, full of nutrition. And then that little tree will start to grow its roots down into me.

I will turn into a tree. My feet will turn into roots, exploring down into the earth. My red blood will become translucent sap. My soft, pale skin will turn into hard, shiny bark. My trunk will become the trunk of the tree. My arms will spread out into many many branches and twigs. My crown will become the much larger crown of the tree. As I reach up, my leaves will turn sunlight into sugar. I will become a tree, a meeting of Heaven and Earth.

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Birch Mari Jerstad in Karasjok.

 

What is Easter anyway?

I offer three answers:

The cross. And standing out in the snow with your arms outstretched. We are in the main bastion of the Norwegian Samis – Karasjok.
The reindeer herder upstairs said this to me, “The reindeer are like Jesus at Easter. They sacrifice everything for us.”

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Here is one of them, being raced by a local lad two days back.

Today I mentioned this to Elin Kåven, an up and coming young Joik star and she said just what I thought, ‘Same with the trees they sacrifice everything too’.

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(This picture was given me by another tree lover I know – Sophie Herxheimer.)

What is Easter answer number two –
It’s the place you are now. Last weekend I was walking through a scrub forest halfway up a steep mountain sheer beside the fjord. My hostess stopped at an open field. I’ve walked there many times before. She said ” You know it took a long time for Christianity to reach here as our nature religion was so strong. But this is where they built the first church. A small wooden stave church and here is the prayer stone which stood outside.” I knew i had always liked that place, but I had never thought about it before. It was just a nice small field on our way over the mountain home. But now she had told me a story. And I know that from now on I will remember that place. Enshrined and opened by her story. Easter may contain a story where you are now, if you tell it, it may remain in the memory, as the cross has stayed in our minds.

Duck egg
For two or three weeks down in Oslo now my dear duck has laid an egg every day. The eggs are large with a huge yolk and a rich texture. How does she do it? She is so fat that her belly nearly touches the ground. She must contain a production line of eggs inside. Inger Lise Oelrich (who has recently published “The New Story“) was staying last week i gave her one to eat and she said: “Do you know the story of Duck Egg?” I do now. Do you want to hear it?

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This golden mosaic egg stands out Jhuels silversmith in Kautokeino. Like something from the Other world this place.