It’s been roughly two months since we moved to a house by the sea. The house is from the fifties and is situated at Nesodden, a both green and rocky peninsula reached by ferry in the Oslofjord archipelago. We live in an oak forest with curious squirrels and vast amounts of birds, as the land is part of a bird reservoir area.
I grew up right next to a beautiful park with massive chestnut trees, always collecting these golden brown smooth nuggets come fall when I was a kid. Now, my daughter will collect her own treasures, in form of oak nuts with their characteristic little hats. I’ve always thought about Elsa Beskow, the Swedish author and illustrator, when seeing those nuts.
We bought the house during the first wave of the pandemic this spring, but we had thought about it for two years. My gaze always ventured towards Nesodden when looking at listings, this somewhat secretive place that is neither country, nor city, but a perfect combination of the two. Nature within immediate reach — and the city center a mere 20-minute ferry commute away.
I was afraid of being afraid of the dark when I moved here, as I have a pretty vivid imagination. And I’ve been thinking that it’ll come soon, the creeping fear, when winter arrives. Then I remember it’s December already and we’re rapidly approaching Winter Equinox and the sun will linger with us a few minutes longer every day after that. It’s not going to get much darker than this. And I’m still not scared of the dark. I like the massive trees surrounding our house, the oak, the spruce, the pine, the maple, the birch, the roe wood, the juniper and the aspen trees.
Nesodden is nicknamed the crystal island. There are Wiccan gatherings in the woods and the moon is very important here, even for the least spiritual inhabitants — as it lays low over the peninsula, seemingly larger than usual. The move coincided with the building of this website. Maybe a bit meta to write about this, on the actual site. But it had me thinking a lot about identity and language. And what language I should write all this in.
Language is both excluding and including. Norwegian, a North Germanic language with just over 5 million people counting it as their mother tongue, is the private club of languages. It’s both clunky and smooth, a pitch-accent language with ridges, rolling R’s and sharp S’s. I absolutely love it. But it has its weaknesses, the main being the lack of synonyms, especially compared to English. Norwegian is, in many ways, austere in that sense — nodding towards a near past were Norway didn’t have oil, but was actually a nation mainly surviving on farming, forestry and fish.
English is obviously not my first language. But like a well-worn quilted jacket I happily put on from time to time, I flex my muscles in English and feel my identity shift, just ever so slightly, especially after living in London for a bit. My English is stained and filled with beauty marks, but I enjoy its imperfect nature. I watched a Ted Ed video recently about the benefits of a so-called bilingual brain, where they talk about the obvious advantages of exercising your brain to stave off early signs of dementia etc. One thing that was quite interesting during the video was that the subtitles (which automatically started in English) switched to Norwegian half-way, the site having located my IP address.
I heard the term exophonic writer while living in London, something I was unfamiliar with. It basically means a writer writing in a different language than their mother-tongue and authors like Karen Blixen, Vladimir Nabokov and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (with no comparison whatsoever) also chose English over their native Danish, Russian and Yoruba. Adichie’s essay on Lagos in Esquire is a must-read by the way, speaking of languages and this abstract, sometimes difficult notion of home).
I enjoy writing this way, both in English and Norwegian, and especially here, on this site — where there is no deadline, no pressure apart from my own needs and wants, and no specific reader in mind. Perhaps I’ll even delve into the world of crystals soon and share some of my findings.