Category Archives: Norway

A finely stacked woodpile, skating in the Canadian outdoors…welcoming the New Year

Standard

img_3434

“Birch is most definitely the cadillac of wood, kept us warm growing up,” Ian tells me, fondly recalling winters of his prairie youth. We and a dozen others are gathered around a crackling bonfire in British Columbia on New Year’s Eve day. Stacked in the fresh snow is a pile of wood …readied to keep the fire ablaze.

Despite a temperature of -12 Celsius, the late afternoon gathering is lively and it feels perfectly natural to socialize in the beautiful outdoors. Neighbours wander up with a drink and a ‘Happy New Year’ on their lips, many clutching a pair of skates.

For beyond the fresh air and the chance to greet friends, the other attraction is the open-air skating rink. A few meters from where we’re gathered, the glassy stretch of ice beckons as keenly as a deep-blue pool of water…if you’re a skater that is.

Skating on outdoor ice is a hallmark of Canadian winters, about as idyllic as it gets. Two of my sons are with us and they can’t get their skates on fast enough. Having played hockey in various countries we’ve called home – Oman, Dubai, Norway, the U.S. – the opportunity to strap on the ‘blades’ in the Canadian outdoors is part of their identity. But perhaps that is over-thinking it… it’s just unbridled joy.

img_3119-1

Snow shovels ready at the outdoor rink, near Kimberley BC

They glide and weave effortlessly over the frozen pond. They and longtime friends grab hockey sticks and shoot pucks at the net, shouting into the cold December air, Feels so great to be out here! For a longtime hockey mom, it is music to my ear-muffed ears on this last day of 2016.

We’ve delighted in seeing countless outdoor rinks this holiday season in the small towns in our area…Cranbrook, Fernie and Kimberley. This is what you do. It’s how many families spend time together, building traditions all the while. Perhaps the rink is the setting for a date or where you just ‘hang out’ and meet friends. Or maybe you play a game of shinny – pond hockey – with whoever happens to be around. It’s all of this and more; it’s part of being from the ‘great white north’. This is where the deep and abiding love of skating and hockey is born in the hearts of many Canadians.

img_3429-1

Skating in Fernie, BC

My own boys learned to skate on Grandpa’s pond. On visits home for Christmas the first question was usually, “How’s the ice Grandpa, can we skate?” If the answer was ‘yes’, out came the wide snow shovels. Back and forth they were pushed, clearing the snow for action…anticipation rising as each strip of ice revealed itself.

img_3493

A Sunday afternoon in Cranbrook, BC

Countless hours were spent with family on that frozen wonderland. The grind and rasp of metal blades on the uneven surface, the crack and thunk of a flexing ice sheet, the elated shouts of kids at play, the bark of dogs chasing the puck…the sounds of winter ingrained in our memories. And now for life, the guys can enjoy a day like today and feel at home on the ice.

With dusk approaching, more people arrive and I smile at a small girl on the bench at the edge of the ice. Her mother is lacing up her figure skates and she’s clearly excited. The ice is busy, yet the skaters will be mindful of a beginner; memories of learning how to skate stay with you. It’s tough. You stumble, you fall, you get back up over and over again until you get it. And then, like riding a bike, the sense of freedom and satisfaction it brings is thrilling.

Back at the bonfire, I continue the discussion of wood with Ian and our good friend Nolan.img_1740 The brothers grew up in Saskatchewan where a weighty stack of wood got you through the biting cold winters.

“Birch is ideal,” the two confirm, adding some science to their assertion. “It doesn’t spit, good energy density and it burns hot.”

I admit that I had ‘smuggled’ some ornamental birch logs into my shipment when we left Norway and on reflection, it had always burned well in our classic Norwegian fireplace.

Some treasured pieces of it now happen to be part of my decor in India, of all places. Perhaps like the wooden skis propped in our office, the birch reminds me of my roots. Of growing up in cold winters; in the snow, on a ski hill, on the ice and yes, often huddled cozily around a fireplace. But there’s far more to wood than meets the eye. “Did you know that the chopping and stacking of wood can be a bit of an obsession in Norway, even takes on an art form,” I offer as someone adds more pinewood to the bonfire.

Yes, apparently it’s common knowledge that wood will dry well if there’s enough space for a mouse to run hither and tither throughout the pile. And stacking that wood is not to be taken lightly. Different types of wood should be stacked accordingly and in Norway, besides the practical piles like a sun-wall pile, there’s a round stack, a closed square, a standing round stack or the v-shape pile. Who knew?

img_1714-1

There are also the sculptured woodpiles. I have learned that wood, with its complex hues, also offers an outlet for creativity that one might not expect. The end of a pice of oak is a deep brown. Pine and spruce radiate yellow tones with a little help from the sun, whereas cut ends of elm, aspen and maple display as muted whites. And apparently the rich alder is also a sought-after shade for stacking aficionados.

It seems there’s no end to woodsy creativity, One might ‘sculpt’ a massive fish or even a portrait of the king and queen. I recall that while we lived in Stavanger a retired engineer had created a woodpile portrait of Queen Sonja and King Harold V, in tribute of the king’s seventy-fifth birthday. This masterpiece had been preceded by a portrait of a composer and a likeness of the local mayor. How wonderful to find creativity in wood (and gain a bit of notoriety!)

Yet if it that all sounds a little mundane, there is something far more rousing about woodpiles. “Ok gentlemen,” I joke with my friends at the bonfire, “by any chance did your prospective wives happen to inspect your woodpile before they said yes?” There’s a reason I’m asking of course.

In the late nineteenth century in the American state of Maine, it is reported that young women might determine the suitability of a husband by the condition of his woodpile. Call it a folksy tradition or not, but the general rule was thus:

img_3066Upright and solid pile: the same could be said of the man.

Low pile: a good cautious man but could be shy or weak.

Unusual shape: freethinking and maybe an open spirit but construction could be weak.

Not much wood: be ready for a life from hand to mouth.

Unfinished pile, some logs here and there: unstable, lazy, maybe prone to drink?

Old and new wood together: be suspicious, might be some stolen wood there.

No woodpile: forget it, there must be more suitable candidates!

I think of the wood pile at the back of our mountain home. No it surely isn’t perfect, but the wood has been enthusiastically chopped. At our house you never have to ask twice to have firewood, our guys relish the opportunity to channel their inner woodsman. There’s no question they find a certain satisfaction in the process.

It is said that chopping your own wood is therapeutic and contemplative, even atavistic. A chance to wield an axe, use brute power – a gratifying correlation between effort and output.

Back in 1854 in his book Walden, Henry Thoreau extolled the virtues of not only chopping wood but living a simple life in natural surroundings. It was Thoreau who observed that wood warms twice over, once when you chop it and again when you burn it.

A seemingly simple observation that just happens to be inscribed on a small cushion in our home. Filled with pine needles, it evokes the spirit of the outdoors and nature’s simple pleasures.

I’m curious to see how our neighbourhood measures up in the wood stacking department. I notice finely-stacked woodpiles and logs waiting to be split and chopped, all protected by snow-clad trees and cabin eaves. This is the kind of place where snowboards, skis, snowshoes and sleds lean against houses, fond embrace of the mountain lifestyle. It’s where snow piles high, gathering on roofs and resting on tamarack, pine and birch. Indeed, the reminders are everywhere…embrace nature’s beauty.

We said our farewells, hung up the snowshoes and covered our not-so finely stacked woodpile. Now from our other home in India, restored to face the challenges and the new opportunities the year will bring, I wish you all a joyful and fulfilled New Year. I hope you’ll revel in the beauty of nature…wherever you may be…Terry Anne

A Snowy Winter Collection…an antique fur & the new year that awaits

Standard

 

DSC02065

‘Doll-like’ buildings in Lubeck, Germany

My winter collection isn’t one of lavish coats and fur-lined boots that protect from the frozen air; it’s more a collection of memories. ‘Doll-like’ European buildings dusted with powder-fine snow, simple wreaths bidding welcome to candle-lit homes, snowshoeing through fairy-tale pines.

IMG_4687

Wreaths bidding welcome

It’s usual for me to be home this time of year, in the mountains of British Columbia. I’m mindful that many of my favourite places, my most cherished memories, are of cold countries where a chilled climate quickens the pulse and deepens the senses. Even as the dream-like scenery fills me with wonderment and exhilaration, I yield to the serenity of wintery landscapes.

In a month or so we depart for warmer climes, to our next overseas posting. With endearing memories of the holiday season, these first weeks in January find me calm and peaceful as I’m surrounded by feathery snow, bluebird skies and stately stands of larch and pines.

DSC01976

Old Stavanger, resplendent after a snowfall

At the turning of the year, WordPress has reminded me of the year passed, of the one-hundred and some countries where my blog was read and of those places that I wandered to in 2015; Kazakhstan, Spain, Malta, Thailand, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Malaysia. Most of those destinations are in fact warmer climates, yet Kazakhstan and Canada indulged my penchant for snow.

DSC01913

An antique fur to warm

In Kazakhstan my recycled fur coat from the ’50’s was donned once or twice, melding with the local fashion to combat deep-freeze temperatures. The coat embraced me as we lingered alongside frozen inlets of the Caspian and trudged through snow-hushed Soviet-style streets. Ironically, that coat is packed in a shipment awaiting the next posting, one in which fur will be as useless as cozy mittens and hefty snow shovels.

IMG_4719

Powder-fine snow in Stavanger, Norway

I find a photo of myself snug in the antique fur in another country that I associate with glorious winter days…Norway.

Old Stavanger was resplendent after a snowfall, its wooden buildings a serene backdrop for shades of ethereal whites, contrasted with sprigs of heather and fresh pine on door stoops.

And of that old Winnipeg fur, ideally it should be here in Canada as I enjoy these last winter days before we transition yet again. Instead, I’m gathering my wardrobe of summery clothes to be shipped along with the things we need to build a new nest; collectibles, furniture and books. All that is important…except for our three sons. At this stage in our lives we live in different countries for much of the year; we’re proud of them and supportive, we’ll miss them dearly.

Our family has been happily ensconced under one roof over the holiday season, the first occasion since this time last year. We’ve seen each other throughout the year at various times and places, but to all gather around our table to dine and linger over conversation that we’ve waited a year to enjoy…well, it’s very cherished.

IMG_1135

Tranquility in British Columbia

20160102_111723

Fairy-tale pines

The season has seen us skiing and snowshoeing, playing games, making merry…being a family. We’ve regaled each other with stories and shared plans for the upcoming year. For me the next four months will be busy and challenging; a mentoring role in Amsterdam at the FIGT Conference and shortly thereafter, a trip to Malaysia to collaborate on a book project.

And not forgetting, the move in February to the ninth country that we will call ‘home’. So it seems my new year is to be filled with inspiring ventures and challenges, and most certainly some interesting travels. I wish my readers near and far, a fulfilling year in all the ways you wish yours to be.

But for now, for a few more precious weeks, amidst the planning and preparations, visas and packing, I’ll embrace the treasure that is winter. My crackling fire will warm me and these comforting walls that have welcomed us safely home, will give strength to embrace the endeavours ahead.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the destination of the impending move…it’s Bangalore. It’s India!

 

I’ll most certainly keep you posted,

Warm regards and a very fulfilling New Year, Terry Anne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These particular ones are green…

Standard
20140826_104116

New challenges through a blue doorway in Sweden

As I closed my front door a few days ago, I thought of the new door that will soon open for me, wide with opportunities. It’s been a flurry of activity, packing and departing our house in Canada and I write this, finally relaxed, in a cozy hotel lobby in Sweden.  Sunk into a deep sofa, candles flickering on a simple wooden coffee table, we’ve been mostly awake for the past 32 hours.  Trying to keep jet lag at bay, soon after arriving in Copenhagen we made our way to nearby Lund. It’s a beautiful Swedish university town where our eldest has recently moved to study for his Masters degree.

It’s good to see him settled in his little loft apartment and know he’s ready for this next challenge, his new doorway of opportunity. I’m empathetic that many of us are experiencing change at this time of year. It’s the end of summer and the season of new beginnings for students, yet often a time of struggle for parents coping with their departure. By chance, my moving to Kazakhstan has coincided with our son’s transition and as we visited him this evening, I insisted on taking a picture in front of his new blue door.  Although I suggest these photos rather casually wherever we may reside, I know that there’s an ulterior motive. These photos of our more than two dozen front doors evoke poignant and treasured memories of life lived inside, around and through those portals.

IMG_0267

The doors that inspired a piece of writing in Tuscany

Anyone who knows me well, knows, I love doors.  In fact, one of the tasks at a fondly remembered writing retreat* was to wander silently for thirty minutes gathering inspiration for a piece of writing.  Set in a serene bamboo grove, it’s curious that my muse was not drawn from a natural setting within the Watermill grounds. Rather, I was intrigued by a stack of abandoned doors.  Then again, my choice wasn’t all that surprising for someone who sees them as more than a barrier to keep out the elements. For me, a door can be exciting, mysterious and even better if there’s an interesting ‘knocker’ or other hardware on it!

Of those doors tucked away in an old Tuscan shed I wrote;

IMG_0965

In Krakow, Poland

IMG_6949

Stockholm, Sweden

These particular ones are green, in fact many shades of green, the peeling paint revealing layers of life’s moments. They are now stacked in a vertical pile, discarded behind the archway they once inhabited. I am endlessly intrigued by them; their texture and colour, their hardware and design. To me they become subjects to admire, photograph and even collect.  The doors I prefer are old, often in abandoned structures or homes.  They no longer have the joy of being opened, closed, or being left ajar so the cat can slink in and out. Behind their scratched panels and knotted wood, they hold secrets of lives lived within their protection. Lives, perhaps of hard work, turmoil, misery, even grief – but also of joy, laughter and secret words that cascaded up to their secure surface but didn’t venture further; keeping those vignettes tucked safely inside, keepsakes for family and friends.

 

IMG_1643

An old Roman Villa

Doors are often portrayed as metaphors for life; for hope, opportunity or invitation.  In fact, in Roman religion and myth, Janus is the God of beginnings and traditions, and thereby of gates, doors and doorways. He is depicted as having two faces, one towards the future and one to the past. The Romans even named a month after him – the gateway to the year, January.

220px-HK_Wan_Chai_Stone_Nullah_Lane_Blue_House_74D_n_Door_Gods_n_Letter_Box

A door in China, protected with door gods

The Chinese and other eastern cultures believe in a ‘door god’, represented in decorations positioned on each side of an entry to a temple, home or business. The ‘god’ wards off evil spirits and fosters good will.  It seems doors have always been symbolic and endowed with purpose; often as portents of change.

IMG_7051

A symbolic heart graces a Norwegian door

In Norway, I was charmed  by ‘hearts’ that were hung on wooden doorways, especially at Christmas time. They seemed to beckon one inside, perhaps away from the damp and cold, into a warm hearth. Doors have traditionally been of wood; oak, cedar, cypress, elm or even olive. However constructed, even flimsily such as a tent or teepee, the door has ever signified a secure boundary.   And yet that boundary opens wide to allow one to go forth and explore, though we all know how comforting the sight of your own front door can be after a tiring day or late night out.

DSC00731

One of my favourite doors; the town hall in San Gimignano in Tuscany

I have photographed them in many countries, often for their beauty but typically for the curiosity they invoke. Upon leaving the Middle East where we lived for seven years, I even brought two home with me.  One is embedded within a coffee table, the worn, dark red wood now protected with glass. The other was rescued from a garbage pile beside a once imposing, but now dilapidated fort in the barren foothills of Oman.  I like to think I rescued that one from being chopped up for campfire kindling!

Sintra, Portugal

An abandoned door in Sintra, Portugal

And as for the changes they represent, for someone like myself who happens to open and close more than my fair share, it isn’t always easy.  A few days ago as the cabin lights dimmed and the plane taxied down the runway, tears escaped from my eyes. My anticipation for this next phase was overshadowed by a mother’s love for her children. As two of ours remain in Canada the knowledge of the impending distance tore at my heart knowing this family of five is once again separated by countries, even continents.  Yet, there’s the underlying comfort that within some months, a door will be flung open and family will be reunited with stories to tell of all our adventures.

For now, I can’t wait to see the interesting portals I’ll find to walk through to explore, to appreciate more wonders of this interesting world.  Did I mention my next front door will actually be a Hotel…there just might be a few stories forthcoming from there!

DSC03536

In Christiania, Copenhagen

 

IMG_0358

Lucca, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The Watermill at Posara in Tuscany, as written about in blog post ‘ So you want to be a writer…’