Someone had been working while I was asleep.
A new little park had sprung up, beneath the portal behind Deichman, the main municipal library. It was always standing a little apart, maybe because it has no practical purpose, only decorative. Now the decoration had been extended down the little slope between the Trinity Church, Trefoldighetskirken, and the rather drab office block on the right side of Ullevålsveien walking upwards.
They had built a little meander path, with cat mint in the flower beds, among other green leaves. I resisted touching it as I normally do with everything that is or resembles mint, it is a small obsession. I love mint, but cat mint has a smell that is not as pleasant as the rest of the mint family, even though the cats, they say, love it.
Some kind of benchlike town furniture was also there, at the same time a little sculptured, a little arty you could say. Very inviting in the sunny weather. You could sit on it, and I threw a glance down one of the small streets that I pass very often but hardly ever notice. The street actually had a stretch, it gave me a view, straight down the same direction as the opening which the park filled. It ended in a red house with a year painted on it, Anno something, I think ca 1890, like most of the city.
May and early June is maybe the most beautiful time here. The lilacs are in season, a fabulous bounty of scent and colour. I can poke my nose into the flowers and remember the sweet and also sad evenings of my youth, parties
arranged by friends or the friends of friends, or the time after or before
parties spent walking with friends across Asker, where I grew up, or in the
city itself, on our way – somewhere, to talk, drink and eat and maybe get a
glimpse of someone very special.
I extended my movements as I grew older, and found mostly the same landscapes of gardens and houses in Oslo as in the so-called suburb where our house was. For me, the feeling was the same. The magic of our summer nights set me in very peculiar moods. Still does.
I climbed up to the arch, at first avoiding the steps which were made, then giving in to the idea of whoever made it. I am used to walking in the woods, just straight uphill, finding my way there and also in the mountains. A voice inside me murmurs that I don’t need steps to survive.
But I also like cultivated things. As always I want to have it both ways.
Oslo itself is also a result of the mild anarchy that I believe is Norway. Expats living here can’t avoid the dugnadsånd and the thing itself, the dugnad, which is a gathering of people for a practical purpose. Like in a neighbourhood or a block every spring and autumn people gather for a little brush-up, some paint, cutting of branches, the collecting of the winter’s gravel which is spread for the purpose of not slipping and falling on the ice.
Nowadays these gatherings often have less and less practical importance, maybe merely social, but the principles are spread through to other parts of society too. That you choose more or less yourself what to do, but from a list that may be self-explanatory or made by the board of the block, the common understanding of what there is to do, the informality of it all, but with a lot of unwritten rules. Like the necessary modesty of the leader(s), and everyone’s right to veto projects or at least discuss, as long as it is done properly in advance. Bossy behaviour is not generally appreciated, although there exist small kingdoms where this absolutely prevails and everyone seems to oblige whoever has taken the top position.
It is not too simple to understand, I guess, but rests on the power and the right of anyone to raise their voice and try to influence what’s going on, which they are allowed to go on doing until someone stops them. In a neighbourhood it’s all done within a frame of yearly formal meetings and elected officials, so it is not accepted to do things if everyone has not had a fair chance of discussing it, usually on the yearly meeting.
As I said, sometimes the system loses balance and someone goes too far.
The city lies before me, a mix of many styles, a result of this anarchy. Still, there is quite a lot left of the town that was built in the late 19th century, which I actually like a lot, with small parks, gardens inbetween and
suddenly even the odd small wooden house that has survived all fires and demolition.
I discovered one I didn’t know of, right beside the Deichman arch. There it is, the old Norwegian dream that still many carry, a small farmhouse somewhere, lying right in the middle of the city.
I walked down the hill on the other side, passing the Swedish church, which suddenly felt on the inside of something, something nice, not on a backside, which I used to feel. It has a nice yard, an old cemetery just besides it, and further down there is another park.
If we stop tearing down the old stuff, now, we’ll still feel at home, with ourselves and the place we live.