Being in Oslo is enjoyable but hectic; some restorative time in nature is called for. So Peter and I spend a week in Telemark: countless lakes with lilies, wooden houses, granite boulders, pines clinging to impossibly sheer cliffs, and vast stretches of fenceless forest – in which we know deer and elk are moving around, mostly at night. During the long days, we move around too: from the central hills to the high plateau of Hardangervidda, to the south coast with its rocky islands. We’re exploring; prospecting.
In Oslo we went to a talk about moving to Norway, and discovered it could be quite easy – as long as we’re willing (and able) to do paid work. A small percentage of Norwegians are self-employed, the speaker tells us – but with the rise of a small enterprise culture, that’s changing. It’s not the only thing. “Norwegians traditionally help each other. That’s changing, but they still do.” “ On weekends, people head out into nature; not so much lately, but they still do.”
We’re exploring possibilities for entering a culture that still persists. I have felt an increasing urge to withdraw from that which saps my soul. This includes (but is not limited to) the pervasive noise of civilisation, and the selfish and aggressive behaviour that inevitably erupts when too many fish are trapped in a diminishing pond. My instinct is to respond by moving away from the destruction of unbridled consumerism, towards more freedom, peace, generosity of spirit, unspoilt wild places; more room for everyone, human and otherwise. If we all had the same urge, such resources and qualities would quickly diminish, as when birds find a fruiting tree and quickly strip it. But few seem to, or at least not so urgently or persistently. Ultimately, most people choose to live in cities – or feel they have no choice. Anyway, to move towards something perceived as more desirable doesn’t guarantee total comfort or contentment, by any means. This isn’t a rational urge of mine; it’s a deeply instinctive one, watched, tempered and planned for by the rational mind.
Travelling in an older EV with a small range has necessarily kept us loosely tethered to main roads and towns. And we see evidence of constant change: prosperity brings more glass, more concrete, more steel, more tarmac, more ad boards selling lifestyles. We would hope to participate in Norway’s traditional community as well as its unspoilt land, and the former appears to be receding faster than the latter, though much of both is (as yet) largely untouched. We’ll need a car with a bigger range, if we want to find and be in places where community, as well as land, is not yet dominated by left hemisphere functions.
At Hardangervidda National Park Centre, we learn about reindeer. An interactive display shows how populations have travelled over the millennia from North America, to Siberia, to southern Europe, to Scandinavia – moving with the edges of advancing and retreating ice sheets, always staying with optimum reindeer conditions; exploiting newly exposed land bridges from one continent to another – perpetually on the move towards more desirable conditions, and away from that which threatens survival. No border control, no immigration policies. But there’s always new terrain to learn; new weather patterns, and food sources – and maybe some new predators to contend with…
Today, the Hardangervidda herd can move only within the boundaries of the National Park. Whether or not they know it as they migrate west to calve, or south for the winter, they are an isolated population: prevented from leaving by ‘infrastructure’ (mostly motorways and railways). As the edge of the cold north retreats once more, they will experience a strong, ancient prompting to move with it. But doing so will be impossible – unless that infrastructure has by then fallen into disuse and disrepair. Until and unless such a time arrives, they are (like so many trying to live in an increasingly controlled world) effectively trapped. Although they may survive for much longer, they will thrive only for as long as they can hear, and respond to, the voice of their inner wisdom.