Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Live slowly - a photo essay

Back from a long weekend at a friend's cabin in the east of Norway. No running water. No central heating. No TV. No internet. No flushing toilet.

To get there required two words that have long held a special place in my heart. Road trip. As none of us own a car these days we hired another poor Civic and I promised I wouldn't treat it as badly as the last one. I loved the drive. 9 hours long but full of sweeping bends, sublime scenery and tunnels. Lots of tunnels. Including one that bores through granite for 24km.

Winter might be ageing dinosaur rocking through it's farewell tour but it knows how to play a classic. Lighters in the air, "This one's called The Blizzard!".

It's amazing what can hold your attention when there is not a lot to do. Steve outlines the rough shape of a spoon with an axe in the woodshed.

Our friend's cabin is over 100 years old and is a converted dairy. Everything drips with nostalgia and stories.

The skyline is a welcome change from the monumentally jagged west coast. Rolling hills and trees as far as the eye can see, which happens to be the Swedish border.

The nights are drawing out but the still creeping cold reminds you not to unpack the shorts just yet.

Living slowly. No instant heat, drinks or food. Everything relies on someone lighting the stoves that populate every room. Someone had to get up in the morning and perform this chore before his first coffee. Someone sounds like he's complaining but actually he enjoyed it.

It wasn't all chores, eating and sitting around reading books. We got out for a couple of days skiing. Potentially the last of the season for some of us. The first day we broke our promise to the poor Civic and brutalised it again up the 4x4 track we swore we would never take it to again. The second day we found a far more accessible trail through Finnskogen, a part of Norway where Finnish people settled as it reminded them of home. Intermittent sunshine, elk tracks and a ski trail that flowed and snaked around the gentle contours.

Lichen at lunchtime. Deep in the forest we found a snow-free spot to sit on deeply upholstered armchairs of sumptuous moss amongst the sun warmed stone.

Evidence of Spring's march. Ant hills bursting through the forest floor and adventurous spiders that crossed ski trails, hoping that the flies were greener on the other side.

Eating slow. Mealtimes ebbed, flowed and merged. It seemed like we spent more time at the dining table than anywhere else.

The rest of the time was spent in quiet contemplation, noses poked in novels cocooned by the sound and smell of crackling wood deep in the black iron stoves.

The drive home was hell. The debilitating holiday weekend traffic and the dull surroundings...

14 comments:

Hendrik Morkel said...

Beautiful. Leaving in one and half weeks north east to a cottage for a week of relaxing, I am sure we'll have a similar good time as you guys =) There's even a couple of NPs close by, and the gf already agreed to go for an overnighter with me!

btw, do you manipulate your photos? Shooting in RAW or JPEG? Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta 2 is currently for free until they release the final version, if you're shooting in RAW I'd recommend it, a great software for serious photographers!

Joe said...

Hendrik - thank you. Yep, despite every chore taking more effort and longer to complete I have never felt more relaxed. We all slept like babies too. Next time I go I'm taking my backpacking gear.

Yes, most of my images have had some very basic tweaking, just with the simple tools in Picasa. I'm nursing my slow, ageing laptop through it's final year, when it gets replaced with a Mac then I'll invest in some photography software, and maybe a new camera too. Hopefully by then my perfect camera will exist ;-)

jumbly said...

Slow living looks and sounds pretty damn fine!

Joe said...

jumbly - there was much talk during those four days of making this a permanent change of living pace with the only change being a high-speed internet connection of course!

mcalisterium said...

Sounds like time I spend in years past on the Isle of Coll off the west coast. Wrist watches serve no purpose out there...

Joe said...

Fraser - wrist watches served one purpose - timing the eggs.

kate said...

looks/sounds like the most relaxing break. last time we went to the lake district we ended up with no phone/tv/internet, ok, we had hot water and a flushing toilet but our meals become more elaborate and conversations deeper.

Joe said...

Kate - when life is this simple you don't need a million distractions, hobbies or even a TV, so much of the day is spent just 'being'. And I never sleep as good as I do when I stay there. 10 hours a night, solid. Unless the badgers under the house are fighting/feeling frisky...

Tomas said...

Fun that you like the change to the rolling Swedish landscape from the jagged West coast, I'm so tired of flat Sweden I'm planning a road trip to somewhere on the Norwegian coast in 2 weeks. Not sure where, any tips? I want jagged peaks and stunning vistas!

Martin Rye said...

Stunning

Joe said...

Tomas - I love the mountains and ruggedness of the west coast, it was just nice to see some different scenery for a change. We actually really enjoyed the gentley rolling, quiet ski trails of Finnskogen as an antidote to the wind-scoured, monochromatic landscape of the mountains where we usually ski. As for recommended hiking places I would select an area (Jotunheim, Rondane or Hardanger are all stunning) and contact the DNT office/shop in Bergen or Oslo for a guide book or maps. For a road trip I would just drive clean across the country. The E16 is a good road. 10 hours or so and every scenery imaginable from rolling hills, endless forests to Arctic mountains and majestic fjords. It's still winter here though so keep that in mind when heading for the mountains!

Martin - thank you

James Boulter said...

Living slowly is the way to go, a great looking place in which to do it too!

Dave Sailer said...

I'm always struck by how good your photographs are.

Maybe it's because you know what you're doing.

On second thought, no. Not maybe.

Joe Newton said...

James - I could stay there forever, as long as the mountains could be pulled a bit nearer. Possibly a job for a landscape gardener?

Dave - you're too kind. It's amazing how much better snapshots with my point-and-shoot can be made with the gentle application of the cropping and contrast tools in Picasa!