Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday today to Janice!  

Her brother reminded me of how old she is but there must be some mistake.  There is no possible way I could have a daughter that old.  Sometimes I feel like Rip Van Winkle,  just waking up to a world that has, amazingly, leaped forward some 20 or 30 years.  And lately, each year barrels by at a speed that seems unreal.  However, Janice, know that at least in my mind you will always be young.  And if you are young in your own mind then these crappy birthdays won't matter a bit. I love you and hope you have a great day.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Leirdal, Norway

Ron here with part 2 of the Norway trip posts.
After I left Leinoy I went inland to meet some other cousins, Asborg and her husband Palmer. They live in Guapne, just down the hill from Leirdal.

Leirdal is the village where my great-grandfather Kristen Nitter Larson came from. The village is really just a small collection of homes. There are no stores, schools, or anything else. It sits in a narrow valley under a tall cliff, just south of the Jostedalsbreen Glacier. The valley was carved from a river from the melting glacier. In the 1950's a dam was built just west of Leirdal, creating a lake that feeds a hydroelectic generator. It is part of Norway's hydroelectric industry, which Palmer work for. More about that in a later post.
Modern Leirdal with the dam and lake.
Kristen Larson's family owned, and still owns, a farmstead in Leirdal. It is currently owned by Britta Leirdal. The farm house where Kristen grew up is still there. It is the same house where Britta grew up. Her father lived there until his death a few years ago. Besides the farmstead, she also owns a lot of the land below the dam.

Before the dam and lake were built, the valley wrapped around to the north towards the glacier. The family were not farmers. They raised livestock to sell. They would graze them in the meadows at higher altitude. In fact, there is an old summer shack further up the mountain that they used to live in during grazing season.

I was told that during WWII, they grew some oats at the farm. But it is far too cold, small, and rocky to be crop farmers in Leirdal. At the farm you can feel the chilled air blowing off the snow on the mountains that surround it. I can't imagine how cold it gets in the dead of winter there.

I met Asborg and Palmer at their house in Guapne, and we drove up to the farm in Leirdal. Brita has a newer house next to the old farm.

There is a steep narrow road up to the farm.
The barn, with the old farm house behind (yellow) 
The old farm house (yellow) and the Brita's new house next door.
Above the farm is it snow capped mountains, and behind them the glacier. Grandma Larson and her sister(s) came to visit here in the 1950's. That was before the road up the mountain was paved. So they took off their fine shoes and hiked all the way up to Leirdal.

And then you arrive at the farm.

 There is the barn, the old farm house, and newer house next door where Britta lives.
The old farm house has no indoor plumbing. It only got electricity in the 1950's.

The old farm house
Britta, Asborg, and Palmer

Inside the house, it felt like a museum.
The house used to be a little further down the hill. And they added about 5 feet to the front of the house, which give it a small foyer and kitchen are now. Before you used to have to cook outside.

Here is a video of a nice painting of the farm.

More next week!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A day of Contemplation and Conversations

The following things all came together for me in one day, and they only go to show--You don't have to leave home to experience adventure, terror, empathy, wonder, creativity, despair and hope .

(With my first cup of coffee that particular morning I turned on the computer and found this...I love the Internet...)


A round watermelon can take up a lot of room in a  refrigerator and the usually round fruit often sits awkwardly on refrigerator shelves. Smart Japanese Farmers have forced their watermelons to grow into a square shape by inserting the melons into square, tempered glass cases while the fruit is still growing on the vine. 

(I grew a square peach one time by encasing it in a small square bottle--then couldn't figure how to get it out without smashing glass into the fruit.  So I left the whole thing on the kitchen table as a great conversation piece). 
While grocery shopping that same afternoon I noticed a lady filling her cart with dozens of cans of cat food.  So I had to ask, "How many cats do you have?"  Her reply,  "Only seven but they are BIG cats."  "Oh, just how big are they?" (stimulating conversation, right?)  Whereupon she pulled out pictures of her 'babies'--seven of the most beautiful ocelots in all stages of domestic repose.  After a few minutes of conversation I learned that the cats were each purchased (not rescued) and came mostly from the Central American jungles.  Hmm, I was not too pleased to hear that piece of information.  Is the wild-animal trade still active?  Suddenly, I had so many questions but I think she may have sensed this could become a grilling on my part and she moved away.

That evening I spent some time on the phone with a really dear friend who informed me that her marriage may be foundering, and alcohol appears to be the culprit.  I remember their wedding only 10 years earlier and thinking they were so loving and perfect for each other.  But it has been a very hard 10 years for them with struggles that mirror the rest of our culture.   I truly hope they will weather this but the odds may be against them.  Kids today do not have the same optimism that my husband and I had at 10 years of marriage.  Our culture must find solutions to some of these universal problems (drugs, guns, climate degradation, inequality, expensive education, and on and on) for our children's and grandchildren's sake.

So here is a start:

(I love Wimp--check it out)

But this enlightening day started with a group of women getting together at 9 am at a local church to discuss the rather tame topic of 'Friendships'.  Many of us were new to each other and we were spending a few minutes sharing each others unique experiences when suddenly it came out that one of the ladies present had been the victim, and a hostage along with her daughter, in a home invasion by a drug crazed, gun wielding maniac only 6 weeks earlier!  The bravery of this lady and her daughter absolutely stunned me.  She quietly described that for hours she had been able to hold herself together and concentrate on calming this deranged maniac, for fear that at any moment he would kill her daughter.  There is so much more to this story besides the newspaper account. But there is one reason I wanted to share this in this blog...

People ask me all the time, "Aren't you afraid to be out there traveling alone?"  and I can honestly say that I am seldom, if ever, afraid.  I am cautious and try to be as observant as possible wherever I am but there is no guarantee of safety--anywhere.

The family that experienced the event described above lived in one of the most isolated and upscale neighborhoods in the city.  The perpetrator had to run through over a mile of wild cactus and snake-infested desert at 11pm at night and then to climb a steep hillside to reach the back of their house.  If their house was not safe, then how can any of us be safe?

I am not sure that we all need to carry guns for protection.  This guy was carrying a gun in each hand and had a backpack full of guns and ammo.  And he was so drugged up with Meth that he knew no fear.  My stance on guns may be different from all of you and I am not up for a debate on it in this blog.  But you needn't ask me, "Aren't you afraid?"  I notice since moving back in the house that I keep hearing noises at night--tree limbs brushing the house, boards creaking, Sigh Me trying to open a cabinet door, the hot water heater kicking on.  I never noticed noises at night in the RV.  I slept like a baby.

Monday, May 12, 2014

It's Springtime and the Cactus are in Bloom

I know you, my readers, are hoping to see more of Ron's pictures from his trip to Norway.  Well, he is working on them but he has also been very very busy so just be patient--they will appear and they are definitely worth the wait.

And speaking of "Worth the Wait",  we have a new cousin!   Juliana Grace Jerome arrived May 7th at 11:44am. She weighed in at 8lb 11oz and was 20" long.  And she sure is a beauty.  Her parents are Alicia and Mike Jerome and if you have been following long enough you know that Aunt Louise and I attended the parents wedding in October of 2011 (I posted the occasion on October 5th, 2011).  Juliana's grandparents are Denise & Dwight Brown, (my cousins that  live in San Antonio) and her great grandparents are Cile and Merrill Harper (my aunt and uncle).  

Spring has been just lovely here in Tucson, and now the cactus are in bloom.

It is amazing to see the most nondescript
 of cactus, overnight, produce the loveliest display of brilliant blooms.

No potential house buyers have materialized and I just read an article in a Phoenix publication that  the housing market in Arizona has slumped again and it looks like it will stay stagnant for a while.

My entertainment lately is to catch up on a lot of missed TV programs--via the Internet.  One of those is the HBO series "TREME".  So far I have only seen the first episode but it brought back an intense wave of nostalgia (the wonderful music) and a deep sadness (the program begins only a few days following Katrina). As yet I have not formed an opinion on the show but there is a stark reality to what I have seen so far.   I was in New Orleans only a few months after the flood and saw first hand much of the damage that was--and is--still there.  

Now let me suggest a blog that was recommended by my cousin Jamie.  It will open a few windows into the life and struggles in that part of the country. 

It is by and about Captain Wendy Billiot who owns and operates a charter fishing boat on Bayou Dularge in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.  

And finally, from another woman that inspires me.....

"I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun,"  
Katharine Hepburn, actress

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Leinøy, Norway

Ron here. I went to Norway over Easter Weekend. I was working in London this month and happened to be there for the UK's four day Easter weekend. Since the office was closed, I have been to London and UK a few times, I reckoned I should go somewhere else. So I decided to visit some relatives of the Larsons in Norway.

Both of my grandparents on my father's side are Norwegian-American. My grandmother's father immigrated to Minnesota from Norway. The relatives I met on this trip are cousins from my grandmother's family in Norway.
Flying in to Bergen

I flew to Bergen, Norway's second biggest city on the Southwest coast of Norway. From there I rented a car and drove 7 hours north to the island of Leinøy to see Anna Sofia and her family.

I didn't have time to see Bergen. I wish I did. From the air it reminded me of parts of Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, between Seattle and Vancouver. Lots of islands, trees, water, and mountains. Bergen is the wettest part of Norway. Perhaps that is why it looks and feels like Seattle.

On the way north, I had to take a ferry across the Sognefjord, Norway's largest fjord. I also had to drive through many tunnels. I noticed a couple of things.

Jølstravannet Lake
Overlooking the Nordfjorden in Stryne Kommune
First, there are no billboards in Norway. Or at least there are no billboards in western Norway. I have not been to the east near Olso. I have to say it is so refreshing not to have this beautiful scenery blemished by garish billboards. I only know of two states in the US that don't allow billboards: Hawaii and Maine. Also my home county of Santa Barbara doesn't allow them, but there are still a couple on Hwy 101 that were grandfathered in.

Second, there are no fast food restaurants. Perhaps it was because I was in rural Norway. But I drove over 1000km over the weekend, and didn't see one. Nor did I see a bar, or even a restaurant.
Anna Sofie greeting me at their home
Since it was easter weekend, Anna Sofia's brother Kristoffer Leirdal and his family was visiting too. Also there were another couple related to Kristoffer's wife.

Dinner was waiting. Fish soup! It was yummy.
The view from Anna Sofie and Terje's house.
Anna Sofia's husband, Terje, is a retired fisherman. He owns a small fishing boat which he keeps docked across the street from their house. So we decided to go out and see what we could catch. It was too windy leave the shelter of the islands and enter the open North Atlantic Ocean, so we tried bottom fishing. But it was blowing too hard and the boat was moving too fast to catch anything. We only caught one medium sized cod.
Terje in his workshop
Terje's fishing boat
Kristoffer Leirdal
Me... yea. It is cold.
They eat very well on the west coast of Norway. Fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was wonderful.

This is the fish we caught that morning.
Leinøy is one of many, many islands off the west coast. Most of these are all connected by bridges now. After fishing, we drive over to Bergsoya, the town of Fosnavåg, and over to the Nerlandsoya Island.
Fosnavåg on Bergsøy Island 
Town of Kvalsund on the island of Nerlandsoya
I only had one day in with Anna Sofia and her family. I had to leave at 0500h to drive to my next stop: Gaupne and the Larson family homestead.
Seriously. We had fresh trapped lobster for breakfast.