a few snaps from january

January felt like it went by in the blink of an eye, but I was better about getting outside for midday daylight walks than I was in December. Here are a few snaps from my walks, all taken between about 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM.

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January was pretty mild, and we had a lot of rain, so the days with peeks of sunshine felt extra precious. I haven’t minded the weather too much, though – I think that getting outside regardless probably helps with that. Here’s to keeping that up as the days continue to grow brighter!

on seasons

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A bit related to my post on darkness: today I’m thinking about seasons.

For awhile now I’ve found it curious how so much our modern (western) society chooses to strictly adhere to the astronomical seasons as the only true definition of “season” (that is to say, the idea that each solstice or equinox marks the first day of a new season). As if seasons have borders. The winter solstice is December 22 this year, but does that mean that December 21 is “technically” still autumn? Plenty of people would say yes to that question, but for any of us who live in a climate where it’s been snowing already, that actually makes zero sense. Autumn one day, winter the next? (Maybe so, but that day came weeks ago here.) Perhaps printed calendars have something to do with it, but the older I get the more bizarre I find it, all the same.

In some ways I feel like social media has amplified this effect in my own life – many of the people I follow, and I myself, often post about the changing seasons at the solstices and equinox. (See a few of my old examples here and here) But the more I see posts about how it’s not “technically” some season yet but it sure feels like it is, the less relevant this strict adherence to astronomical seasons feels. So I guess I’ve been craving something different. Does it “sure feel like winter”? Cool, sounds like it’s winter to me.

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There are, both today and historically, different ways to define or conceptualize a season. Many places have or have had only two seasons: either a summer/winter dichotomy, or in more tropical regions, a wet season and a dry season. The Nordic countries are one of the regions that historically only distinguished between winter and summer – which makes the idea that Midsummer happens around the summer solstice make much more sense. I’m sure there must be others, but that’s the example I’m most familiar with.

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Even in four-season models, there are different boundaries for the four seasons. I’ve already mentioned the astronomical sense, where the seasons begin on the corresponding solstice or equinox. But do you know about meteorological seasons? Professional meteorologists in many regions use these definitions, and they correspond very neatly to three-month chunks: with winter beginning December 1, spring on March 1, summer on June 1, and autumn on September 1 (this is vindication for all you autumn-lovers out there who consider it autumn once the calendar hits September – remember this piece of information and you can use it next time someone tries to tell you “but it’s no technically autumn until September 21/22”).

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There are systems with six seasons, systems that pay no mind to the calendar at all but rather correspond to temperature or other natural or ecological cues, and other ways of marking seasons that you’ve probably never even considered. The “Season” Wikipedia page actually has a lot of interesting information about all of this, if you find all of this as fascinating or as liberating as I do to learn about.

It goes without saying that I speak from my own perspective as someone who grew up and has always lived in the northern hemisphere, so the dates here correspond to that. The photos in this post are all from 2015-2017, when we were living in Tromsø (which is probably the place where I started to disengage from the supremacy of astronomical seasons, because they made so little sense there beyond the summer/winter distinction).

darkness

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I saw an anecdote on Twitter this week about the words for December in Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic – in Irish Gaelic it’s Mí na Nollag (Month of Christmas) and in Scottish Gaelic it’s An Dubhlachd (The Blackness). There are historical and cultural reasons for this somewhat amusing difference, but nonetheless it’s quite striking. I’ve been having talks with friends in the past several days about this darkest time of year, as Norway is now gearing up for Christmas. Advent has begun, and the city streets are positively full of twinkling lights. There are multiple traditions that involve bringing light into the darkest month – one that comes to mind in the Germanic countries is the tradition of having four advent candles (often arranged in an adventskrans, or an advent wreath) which are lit on the four Sundays of advent. On the first Sunday, the first candle is lit. On the second Sunday, two candles. And so on. The tradition is strong here and for many, it’s largely secular, despite advent’s Christian ties. Viewers of Skeindeer’s Vlogmas videos will be familiar with the poem that many recite while lighting the candles. These days, Norway also celebrates Saint Lucia on the 13th. Other religious traditions and cultures have their own versions of bringing light into the darkness, and a common thread is that bringling light into the dark creates hope. I meditated on this theme a little bit on this blog back in 2016 (see the post “on darkness and light“).

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I continue to be drawn to these themes. When we lived in Montreal, one of the things I really missed in summer and winter were the extremes of light that came with the solstices in the north. We knew Montreal’s winter would be brutally cold, but we expected to cope better because the sun would rise every day. On the contrary, we found ourselves missing the darkness of the northern winter. For me, I felt so in tune with the cycle of the seasons and the movement of the earth when we lived in the north. So in many ways it’s a relief to come back, even if in Trondheim we’re not quite as far north as we were in Tromsø.

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The weather has been in flux here as the days get shorter – the snow has started, but then it’s followed by rain, which is followed by more snow, and then more rain. The rainy days are darker, because the snow forms a giant bright reflector on the ground. At the moment, though, I’m not minding the rainy days. I’m just happy to be back in the north.

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And while we’re on the subject of the days growing shorter, a few weeks ago a book I’d been looking forward to was released: The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis. I’ve been a big fan of Carson’s work for years and years, and I found out about this book because she was working on it. “The Shortest Day” is a poem by Susan Cooper, and here it’s been turned into a picture book for kids, accompanied by Carson’s beautiful illustrations. The poem is an ode to the winter solstice, a celebration of the fact that the shortest day is a turning point – once you finally reach it, the light starts to return again. It touches on the cyclical nature of it over time that I enjoy so much. “Welcome, Yule!”

peak fall

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I think Trondheim finally hit peak fall color in the past week (yes, I know, I am still talking about autumn, but I just can’t get over how long and slow it is here!). But on Tuesday a serious windstorm blew through and knocked down quite a few of the leaves. I have a few snaps from the weekend and the past few days, though, that show some of the beautiful golden color I’ve been surrounded by lately. Luckily, there are still a few leaves still hanging on even after the windstorm, though these photos are all from beforehand.

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I’ve also finished a few knitting projects lately. Both the No Frills I mentioned in my last post, as well as the Featherweight Cardigan you can see in this one, and I also finished up a new design. We got to take some pattern photos last weekend, pre-windstorm, and it was nice to take advantage of the fall colors both on the trees and blanketing the ground. These mitts are for a pattern that will be called Oak Hollow, about which more soon.

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If it’s fall in your part of the world, I hope you’re getting the chance to soak up some color. The autumn gold that’s ubiquitous in Norway always makes me feel like I’m in Lothlorien (especially if it’s a birch grove), and I love it so much.

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transitions

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Trondheim in the autumn continues to charm. I’m starting to adjust to the general level of busy-ness that my life here is going to involve, but it’s definitely been a big shift for me. Partly that’s because I’m still working on some patterns in the background along with my new day job at the university; partly it’s because my PhD coursework has started as well and my to-do list is growing longer; and partly it’s because we’ve still been living in temporary accommodations and it can be a challenge to get into routines when there are things about your living situation you can’t change. But we’ll be moving into our new long-term home in November, and I’m really looking forward to that.

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While we wait for that, though, the weather continues to shift. The leaves are changing, but we still haven’t reached peak color yet. We had a couple of weeks of solid rain in the middle of the month before the sun came back out last week. I was in Kraków for a conference the tail end of last week and over the weekend, and I got home to Trondheim last night after dark. This morning I woke up to much cooler weather than we had last week (a few degrees above 0°C) and saw that the higher peaks in Bymarka (which are still relatively low) had a dusting of snow on them. The mountains across the fjord, as well. Now it well and truly feels like Norwegian autumn. I love Norway at this time of year, and I still can’t get over how much longer and slower the autumn is here in Trondheim compared with up north in Tromsø. This city is truly beautiful in its fall colors.

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One of the things the weather’s change has brought on is a mild panic over the fact that I don’t have that many warm clothes in my suitcases with me (the rest of our clothes are packed away with the belongings we moved from Montreal – patiently waiting in storage for us to move into our new place in November). I feel like I haven’t had much time for knitting recently, but now I’m determined to knit a little more and a little faster, if I can. I have two sweaters which are only missing sleeves, so I feel like with some concentrated knitting time in the evenings I could finish this No Frills sweater by next weekend.

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I don’t usually knit the same pattern over and over, but this will be my third No Frills (or Ingen dikkedarer as it’s known in Scandinavia), and I’m approaching this one a little differently than my first two. I’ll elaborate more on that when it’s finished, perhaps, because each of them is different and brings something unique to my wardrobe even as they all feel like everyday staples. I adore this color, a limited edition colorway of Hillesvåg Tinde made for Drople Design called Villbringebær (“wild raspberry”). It’s a color I fell head over heels in love with when Anne first launched it over a year ago and I’m so thrilled to finally be knitting a garment with it.

So I’ve been enjoying knitting on this sweater very much, even if it’s felt like slow going. Knitting on a wooly sweater goes so well with changing colors, chilly rainy days, and the smell of woodsmoke in the air, after all. I’ve been getting into the spirit of autumn in other ways too. Some of the local apples have been wonderful recently, and the other week I baked a fyriskaka (a Swedish apple cake with cardamom) from Fika, which is one of my favorite bakes for this time of year. I also received a massive bag of little plums from a friend at work – the plum tree in her garden went crazy this year, it seems – and I managed to turn some of those into a few jars of pickled plums and roasted plum butter. I’ve been enjoying the plum butter on toast or lomper in the mornings for breakfast. (We’ll see about the pickles, which were more of an experiment.)

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I’ve also been getting out for long walks or little hikes whenever possible. Now that I’ve seen that the snow is encroaching on the mountains in Bymarka, I’d like to get in a short hike in the next week or two to soak up the season. I always enjoy walking by the water as well. I’m always drawn to the water like a magnet – the smell of saltwater was another thing I missed so much in Montreal. The Trondheim Fjord can feel so much like Puget Sound in Washington state, a similarity I really enjoy.

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Of course there are challenges that come with this transitional season (both of the year but also of our lives), but overall we have fallen in love with this city, and I was so happy to come home to it after a weekend away. I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky that we get to live here. Vi trives godt her i Trondheim.

september

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The semester started, and things got busy. There were a couple of weeks where there was suddenly a lot to do – campus was full of people again, my PhD to-do list grew rapidly, we moved apartments (from one temporary place to another, for now), and there was plenty outside of all of that to keep us busy too. There wasn’t a lot of knitting during those weeks, but we’re starting to settle in now a little bit. And I have managed to finish a project or two.

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One of them is my Granskog tee which I finished a couple of weeks ago! Sadly I did not make it to Oslo Knitting Festival this year – this pattern was designed by Renata Yerkes for this year’s festival magazine – but I know I’ll make it back at some point. I made a few minor modifications to mine, which can be found on my Ravelry project page along with yarn info and other details. While I love the bright green color of this yarn from Sjølingstad Uldvarefabrik, I initially wasn’t totally sure if I was going to be able to pull it off. But I quite like it! This is the fourth green garment I’ve finished this year, so 2019 definitely seems to be the year of the green sweater for me.

I’ve gotten to wear it several times, which I’m grateful for, because the weather is starting to feel distinctly autumnal in Trondheim (although I can’t get over how much later autumn comes here compared with Tromsø) and I’m realizing how many of my warmer sweaters are going to be in storage until November, when we’ll be moving into our new long-term home. Warmer projects are quickly going to become a priority.

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For now, though, I’m continuing to enjoy the shift in the seasons in a new place again. As the evenings grow darker earlier, I’m looking forward to the peak of autumn foliage (only a few trees have started changing so far), and a part of me is really looking forward to the Norwegian winter again (although I’m glad it’s still a couple of months away). There is nothing quite like a Norwegian landscape covered in snow in the blue light that comes with the dark season.

mid-august

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Mid-August. And suddenly, it feels like late summer.

The weather took a turn in the past week. I knew it would have to eventually – the weeks of blue skies and sunshine felt a little bit like an endless summer dream, but without rain, even paradise has an expiration date. And so now we have some slightly cooler temperatures (in the neighborhood of 12-16°C or 55-60°F), grey skies, and pretty regular rain. But I am fond of weather like this too, and it’s been nice to go for walks when the rain lets up. As the nights are growing steadily darker, I’m looking forward to seeing the stars again.

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The back-to-school feeling is in the air as well. Suddenly, the city is full of people again, as people have come home from their vacations and Trondheim’s 35,000+ students have been streaming back into the city in time for the semester start. Businesses that were closed for the summer in July have re-opened, campuses that felt like ghost towns feel alive again, and while a little part of me mourns the loss of the quiet, beautiful summer I’ve been having, I am glad for the change, too. The return of everyday Norwegian life is making it easier to really feel that we have actually moved back, after arriving two months ago.

Based on what I’ve heard from everyone here, Trondheim can be quite nice through August and even September, so it’s very possible we’ll have another stretch of warm, sunny days at some point before autumn really sets in. But for now I’m grateful for the timing of this change in the weather, coinciding with the transition from summer holiday back to everyday life.

P.S. With all this back-to-school talk, I figured I’d mention that Quince & Co. is offering some back to school bundles, and included among them are my Drumlin scarf and Turlough hat. The bundles are kits which include both yarn and pattern, and they have several different colorway options available. These are a couple of my favorite things I’ve designed for Quince so I’m very pleased that they’re offering these and wanted to share.

a few summer snaps

In a country with a such long and dark winter, it is so important to soak up the summer. One of the reasons I was looking forward to arriving in June for this move (as opposed to August, the month we arrived in Tromsø) is that I hoped I’d be able to experience the Norwegian summer again right away. I’m happy to say that’s been the case – and I am loving summer in Trondheim. No deep thoughts today, just sharing a few photos from the past couple of weeks.

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nordenfjeldske kunstindustrimuseum + hannah ryggen

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This weekend I visited the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, or the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design here in Trondheim (update February 2022: the museum building has been closed for renovations since February 2021 and will reopen at a later date. In the meantime, they show pieces from the collections at other locations in Trondheim. Visit the website for more information). I really love museums, but for one reason or another when we moved to Tromsø in 2015 it took me around a year before I finally made it to any of Tromsø’s museums. I was determined not to let that happen in Trondheim, so on a rainy Sunday I ventured out to spend a couple of hours at NKIM.

The museum houses a permanent collection of art and artifacts, but I was especially interested in seeing the temporary exhibition they’re currently (co-)hosting, the Hannah Ryggen Triennial 2019: New Land (the other host of New Land is the Hannah Ryggen Center in Ørland). Hannah Ryggen was a textile artist born in Sweden who spent most of her life in Ørland, Norway, about an hour’s boat ride from Trondheim. She predominantly worked with tapestry weaving, and part of why I find her so interesting is that a lot of her work was very overtly political – she was born in 1894 and was coming of age and beginning to work in a time where fascism was on the rise, and much of her work could be considered social commentary against injustice. I had come across Ryggen’s name before but I hadn’t realized quite how political her work was until I went to the exhibition. (She was also trained in painting but was self-taught as a weaver, a fact about her which I enjoyed.)

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NKIM houses the largest collection of Ryggen’s works, but the exhibition itself brings together both works by Ryggen as well as contemporary works by other artists. The curator’s statement is well worth a read. I enjoyed seeing all the pieces, but two artists in particular stood out to me.

The first piece that stopped me in my tracks was Liquid, by Faig Ahmed, an Azerbaijani artist.

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It’s part of a series (you can see the pieces on his website), and there was another piece included in the exhibition, but this one really had an effect on me. The rugs are proper wool rugs, woven by hand and very traditional up until the point that they become incredibly distorted. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The other artist whose work really spoke to me was Alexandra Kehayoglou, an Argentinian artist. A series of pieces titled Prayer Rugs was her main contribution to the exhibition – primarily smaller pieces, as suggested by the name, and like Ahmed’s work, woolen rugs.

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The description provided in the catalogue puts it succinctly: “These tactile works are in memoriam of places that have been altered or destroyed forever. Some of them document environmental destruction, others depict lost landscapes that can never be experienced again.” The tufted rugs represent memories of Kehayoglou’s native landscapes, and to me the tactile nature of the pieces really drives home a sense of what is lost when we alter the landscape, intentionally or otherwise. It comes across in the small size of these pieces, but I imagine it’s even more impactful in one of her larger-scale pieces (just take a peek at this one on her website).

I’d encourage you to check out Kehayoglou’s website because her work is incredibly stunning.

Going back to Ryggen’s work, the piece housed in the museum that had the biggest impact on me was one called Vi lever på en stjerne, or “We live on a star.” The scale of the piece alone is overwhelming, but it was the story behind it that made me emotional. It was originally commissioned for the new government building in Oslo in 1958, the building that was until 2011 the location of the prime minister’s office (among other offices). This building was one of the targets of the terrorist attacks of July 22, 2011, an event that still feels vivid in my memory, though I only experienced it from afar, learning about it while watching the news in an American airport. 77 people died that day because of one right-wing extremist. Eight years on it is still difficult to fathom. The Ryggen tapestry was damaged in the bombing, but it has been stitched back together and now bears a scar, which I was able to examine up close, as it sits in the bottom portion of the tapestry.

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The scale of this piece is difficult to express through a photograph alone (in the museum it’s located in the landing of a large stairway), but this photo of the piece in situ in the government building probably gives a better idea:

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(Photo: Leif Ørnelund / Oslo Museum, via digitaltmuseum.no)

Perhaps this piece hit me the way it did because the 22/7 attacks have been on my mind as we approach the eighth anniversary (which is tomorrow, as it happens) and I had no idea the history of this piece so it caught me unaware. My very first visit to Norway was in November 2011, only months after the attacks, and I remember my friend Camilla walking me by the Government Quarter, where the damage was still visible, with many windows boarded up. The government has plans to demolish some of the existing buildings of the quarter and build new ones, but there will always be some things that bear the scars of the damage caused by that day, just as Norway itself carries them too.

The exhibition has left me wanting to dig deeper into Hannah Ryggen’s work, and I’ll likely go see it again before it closes next month. I’d also like to make the trip to the Hannah Ryggen Center in Ørland. Perhaps I can share more about Ryggen and her work later on. If you’d like to read more in the meantime, I found this piece quite interesting.

lately

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The first week in Trondheim brought unexpectedly beautiful weather. Most of the past week has been nothing but rain, just at the moment most people here are leaving for their summer holidays. While the rain can grow tiring, it’s also somehow comforting. It definitely invites a spot of quiet solitude, and there’s a lot that I enjoy about quiet solitude – I think I have always had a soft spot for melancholy.

I feel like that makes me sound sad, and I guess I am a little bit. There is some sadness in a big change. There is loss involved, even when you’re excited about whating you’re moving towards. But there is a deep comfort in being back in Norway, back by the water, with nature so close. And we come back to Norway more confident this time. More sure of ourselves, of who we are, of what we want in life. There is still the anxiety of a new city, of not knowing many people. But I definitely feel more comfortable just being myself. When we first moved to Norway in 2015 I had a (mostly) subconscious desire to fit in, to not stand out. I wanted to “pass.” After two years away, I care much less about that this time around. That makes a great difference.

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The wet weather this past few days has meant I haven’t done nearly as much exploring outside as I’d like to. I walked all over the city in the first few days but I’ve been itching to go hiking in Bymarka, the forest that butts up against the west edge of the city. But I think I’ll wait for a dry spell. In the meantime, there has been knitting.

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I had the urge last week to buy a skein of Hillesvåg Tinde and whip up a hat, even though I brought several projects with me (the remainder of my yarn and projects are in our main pack, which we won’t have access to for a little while). I popped into Husfliden last week and grabbed a skein in Cognac (not my typical color choice, but I fell for it for some reason), and knit a Mellomlua over an evening and a morning. Super simple, very soothing. And now I have a new hat. It was only after I knit it that I realized that Tinde was the first yarn I bought after my move to Norway in 2015, and I knit a hat with it that fall. Accidental symmetry.

I’ve been feeling a little bit like I’m in the space between: the space between one stage of my life and the next. Eras of our lives aren’t sharply defined, for the most part, and they can blur together at the edges. But the longer I’m back in Norway the more I’m adjusting to it again, and one day I will wake up and realize I don’t feel like I’m in the space between anymore, and I won’t know when that happened. It’s only been two weeks. So for now, I knit, I walk, I read, and I get to work, of course, since a job is what brought us back here. And I’ll enjoy that.

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