I woke up this morning, expecting it to be drab. I don’t know why I did, but for once there were unknown expectations.
This was one of those winter mornings of real cold, clarity, crispness, the only difference from my growing up-years that there was no snow outside, only frost on the ground.
I stayed in bed just long enough to start wondering whether the magic was gone. The dawns in December, January, February are sometimes like this. The writer Jens Bjørneboe once called the phenomenon “the meeting of spirit and matter”, when the light comes in the morning, the colours shimmer in shades of blue and pink, and you feel the whole thing is made from something really fragile, if you think about it, glass, maybe, or why not ice. The thing is, you don’t really think, you just inhale the air and watch and feel you’re part of it.
It was still there. Going up my local Markveien, the faces of slightly stressful women of young and middle age met me with their joyful, dogged attitude. I wonder what decisions they will participate in today. The news that Per Sandberg is going to be part of the government made us all shake our heads in disbelief. He is the Kittelsen troll attacking the city, and I have to remind myself that today’s politics is not just another fight between town and country. It has become very obvious for me the last couple of months that our government does things that are destructive for both. Actually, they don’t do politics, in many ways they just go on running the businesses which they belong to, mentally and practically, even if they don’t necessarily own them.
The new baker wasn’t finished with his bread! The times are a-changing again, I guess people in Grünerløkka don’t expect or need to buy their fresh bread at seven anymore, but anyway he bakes really good bread. The family on the corner running the vegetable shop, Turks originally, were up, mounting their crates of mushrooms and oranges.
I passed Olaf Ryes plass, and the town houses smiled at me. Right now people are getting up all around the city, a little later than in the suburbs, one of the benefits of living in the city centre. The suburbians feel the city as stressful, I can feel its calm.
The bearded young men pass me, probably also on their way to work, I go on upwards, passing the beautiful little Bistro Brocante, the Godt Brød Good Bread eco-bakery with its brilliant improvised sandwhiches (you get to decide what’s going to be on them), the once famous Sultan vegetable shop (still going strong, I think, but probably with other owners than the Turks who ran it when I lived here in the 90s, in the other end of Grünerløkka).
My back is giving me trouble, my regular lumbago which comes from living a physically too laidback life. It’ll be gone in a couple of days, but now it stops me from going further than Birkelunden, The Birch Grove. I sit down on a bench, which looks and feels cold in the frost. I choose the one with least ice on the seat, but it still takes a couple of minutes to thaw a little so my ass doesn’t feel like I’m going to get a blather problem. I never did, though, not from frost, but the talk is you can.
The morning light is at its peak. Three different species of birds fly across my small horizon at the same time, three different sizes of black profiles against the sky, flying in flocks. Later comes even a fourth. I recognise the middle size, I think, birds called kornkråker, rooks, the small ones
at first look like swallows, which obviously it can’t be, since they’re on a
winter vacation in Marrakesh or thereabouts. Lastly seagulls, which my always conservative fellow countrymen claim don’t belong here, they should supposedly be by the sea, not in the city.
Well, the sea is not far away, so I wonder. In Tromsø they were a fully accepted member of society, contributing with their eggs (eaten boiled and devoured with local beer when in season) and their friendly presence. I believe they were happily appreciated as part of the scenery. Tromsø is far away, but the scenery is not that different. The light is not all the same, but it belongs to the same family.
Sitting like this in the morning light, the small decorative details on one of the walls of Grünerløkka skole, in the low sunlight, turns into neon lights of a tivoli. It is the local primary school, built sometime late 19th century, like most of Oslo. The old city is built in brick, but the insides are partly wood, which always makes me fearful of fires.
I know the inside of some of these houses, by living in them, visiting some, and hearing about other places. Some people live in dire straits, like a French guy I met, living – according to himself – with a drug dealer and an alcoholic, sharing a flat somewhere around here. Certainly there are things. Other flats I’ve been to are the quintessence of female cosiness, inviting and warm. My own places have been regularly not too orderly, but hospitable, and the starting places of friendships and other good things.
Østlandet, the larger region around Oslo, is actually more sunny and quiet when it comes to weather than many other parts of the country. I enjoy the wind blowing at me, I don’t necessarily need this cosiness to thrive, but I grew up here, and even if nature does not have the excess that I always loved in the north, it has other things – a calm moon over fields in Ski, a shadowy ridge in Asker, the paths that criss-cross all our woods. Quietness under large trees.
The parks of Oslo, our small cafés, and right now, the light that is coming from the hills and the woods, waking up the bricks and the paint of our humble abodes, and the not so humble ones too.
The gypsies from Moldova and Romania don’t have that, they must suffer in this cold. It is not a day for sitting on the ground. My mother taught me not to do so before St.Hans, Midsummer, and even if that was meant as advice for the real ground, the earth, it is a cold day today. You don’t stay outdoors for too long, even if it is beautiful, not without moving.
The morning is gone, the day has come. A sixth-grader runs across my path, clutching his rucksack.
I thought, he’s probably late for school, but he is heading in the wrong direction, maybe he’s late for something else.