a new chapter

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In my last post I mentioned that my husband and I were preparing for packing up and leaving Norway, but I didn’t say where we were headed. After a couple of weeks of travel, we landed in our new home of Montreal (!) a week and a half ago, and already I don’t know where that time has gone. Moving is so full of seemingly unending lists of practical/tedious/annoying/difficult tasks that need to be accomplished, and we’ve been working away at as much of that as we can. But so far, September has been on the whole a good month. And we are very happy to be in Montreal.

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We left Tromsø the last day of August and woke up on the first of this month in Helsinki, a city that neither of us had ever visited before. We were positively charmed and I definitely want to make it back to Finland someday to spend more time there.

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After three nights in Helsinki, we were off to Crete for what was essentially the first of two “work trips” (I was presenting at a couple academic conferences). Crete was hot and sunny, but after the northern Norwegian summer, we were both pretty happy to be able to enjoy some proper summer weather. Three nights on Crete was followed by three nights on Mallorca for the second conference.

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And then, finally, Montreal. We are setting up a new home in a light-filled space in the city, and very soon we will begin finding our new routines and our new favorite places. Already I’ve enjoyed simply walking the streets of my new neighborhood, choosing different routes to and from various errands in order to explore as much new ground as I can. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and going new places and getting to know this incredibly unique city better. Soon we’ll have internet up and running at home and I hope then I’ll be blogging again more regularly! Until then, you can find me going for long walks as I explore my new city.

a year in tromsø

The anniversary marking my first year in Tromsø has come and gone – I arrived on August 2nd, 2015, and this year on that date I found myself back at the airport as I embarked on a quick trip to Canada. The past few weeks have been a bit crazy and intense but I’m back in my cozy apartment now and have a moment to reflect before diving headfirst into my second year as a graduate student here (hello, thesis; let’s get acquainted, shall we?).

Living abroad for extended periods of time is a curious experience, sometimes exciting and invigorating and other times isolating and deflating. I’ve had the incredible privelege of spending long stretches of time abroad before, and each experience is different. Norway has presented us with both incredible experiences as well as unique and frustrating challenges. But at the end of the day I usually feel very lucky to be living in this littly city in the Arctic, and as I’ve said before on this blog, one of my favorite things about being here is documenting the changing landscape around me through the seasons’ changes.

I’ve shared many, many photos of Tromsø on my Instagram account over the past year, and sometimes I have little videos to share too. What started as a whim – collecting little snippets of autumn into one video – turned into a four-part series of snippets of Tromsø in each season. I thought it would be fun to share those videos all in one place. (If for any reason the embedded Instagram videos below aren’t showing up for you, they’re also collected under the Instagram hashtag #ayearintromsø and can be viewed there.)

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Summer snippets. #sommeritromsø #ayearintromsø

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Autumn and winter are shorter, because Instagram’s limit for video was 15 seconds when they were posted, but I was able to be more indulgent with spring and summer.

I also enjoy revisiting photos of the same places in different times of year, and I think that our iconic peak, Tromsdalstinden (known colloquially as just “tinden,” or “the peak”) is a perfect example. On the top is a photo from February, and below, one from last month. Both photos are taken from Prestvannet, the lake on top of the island. I love seeing the lake frozen over and covered in snow in winter (with ski tracks!), while it forms a glassy mirror of sorts in the summer.

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I must admit, looking back through photos from the past year has gotten me more than a little bit excited for the arrival of autumn… the midnight sun has ended, the nights are growing darker, and soon this whole landscape will change yet again. September will bring visiting friends, and it’s always nice to have things to look forward to.

technicolor sun

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I hope you’re ready for a big photo post.

It’s just past midnight as I’m writing this post from my couch, looking out the window at the blue sky outside. The midnight sun continues to be disorienting; my husband pointed out that the lack of night seemed to be affecting him creatively and he’s right – we’re both night owls by nature and have a history of getting good creative work done in the wee hours. Which can go sideways when the wee hours don’t look or feel like night anymore. I think we’ll both be relieved when the sun starts to actually set again next week (the nights will still be light for several more weeks, but at least it marks the transition toward the night’s return).

The photos in this post were not taken at midnight, but rather earlier this afternoon. The weather’s been chilly and rainy since we got back to Tromsø, as it so often is at this time of year, but today we woke up to nearly cloudless blue skies and sunshine, and we hit temps around 24ºC / 75ºF (hot for Tromsø!). That’s a rarity to be taken advantage of, because in the summer when the weather’s like that, the whole world here is in technicolor. You immediately forget all about the weeks of grey weather as soon as you step outside. I decided to head out for a long walk in the afternoon to take advantage of the weather, because I always love exploring new paths and nooks and crannies of this island.

First I went up to Prestvannet, the lake on top of Tromsøya. The pictures look serene, but the racket is no joke – several species of birds nest here every spring and summer, and the noise is non-stop when the sun never sets.

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After a whole winter of seeing Tromsdalstinden covered in snow, it’s almost strange to see it with very little left.

I wandered some new forest paths…

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…and documented some wildflowers. One of my favorite things about the Norwegian summer is the wildflowers, and up north they grow like crazy due to all the daylight. It’s light and lush all at once. (I seemed to be very drawn to the purple ones today. Also, I’m no botanist, so it’s possible I’ve misidentified one or more of these.)

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I think this one’s skogstorknebb, or wood cranesbill.

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One of my very favorites: geitrams, or fireweed (or rosebay willowherb if you hail from the UK).

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Rødkløver! The red clover here is enormous and super saturated.

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I even spotted a few thistles.

While they’re not widlflowers, the lilacs bloom late here and I’ve certainly been enjoying their fragrance as I walk around town. The blooms make me think they might be dwarf lilacs, but I’m not really sure.

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I also can never resist a good dramatic patch of light coming down through the trees in the woods. It feels so inviting, cozy, and intense all at once.

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I mapped my route when I got home, and it turns out today’s walk was 8 kilometers. I think I’m going to feel it in the morning…

The rain is supposed to return next week, so I’m sure there’s some knitting on the horizon! Hoping to share some of that soon. For now, I hope you’re enjoying your summers as well. x

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summer days

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The midnight sun is disorienting. In Tromsø, the sun literally doesn’t set between May 18 and July 26 due to its location above the Arctic circle. We had many sunny (and even warm!) days in May, but once the calendar flipped over to June, the chilly clouds rolled in and we’ve seen a lot of rain. The thing about a cloudy sky when the sun never sets, though, is that midnight looks a lot like noon. Time does not exist. There have been clear pockets of weather, however, and in the evening on the summer solstice the clouds slowly dissipated and the sun came out. My friend Beth was in town for a visit and since the skies looked like they were clearing up, we decided rather spur of the moment to take the cable car up the mountain. It was still fairly cloudy while we were up there, but it was worth it. (We opted to walk home to enjoy the middle-of-the-night sunshine, and the photo above was taken at two in the morning!)

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We made it up the mountain just before midnight, and it was pretty amazing to walk around the mountaintop at that time of night. The light was constantly shifting and the reflection of the sky on the water was soft and beautiful.

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As you can see, the mountains still have some snow clinging to them, but otherwise, Tromsø is very green now. After the long winter and late spring, it seemed to happen very suddenly.

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I took Beth to the university’s botanical garden during her visit and for the first time, the little cafe that serves waffles and coffee was open while I was there (it’s always been closed on my previous visits to the garden). It was a highlight to sit outside the adorable building, surrounded by tulilps and other blooms, sipping coffee and eating Norwegian waffles. It was wonderful to see the botanical garden really coming alive again after the winter, too – in about a month I think it’s going to be spectacular.

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I’m off to Seattle for a couple weeks now, and I’m looking forward to seeing the night sky again. Stars! Remember those?

velkommen til tromsø

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We’ve been in Tromsø for two weeks as of today, and what a whirlwind it’s been. There’s been so much to do and so many new experiences that I’ve barely had time to think, let alone sit down at the computer (let’s not even talk about the state of my email inbox). We’ve been in our new apartment for a week and it’s slowly (ever so slowly) creeping towards a cozy, habitable dwelling, but this has been the longest and most involved move of my life.

I thought it’d be nice to give you a little bit of info about my new Norwegian home. Tromsø sits at 69º north – well above the Arctic Circle (and the entirety of Iceland, for a knitterly point of reference; Reykjavík sits at 64º north). That means it gets the midnight sun in the summertime (the sun doesn’t set for two months) and polar night in the winter (the sun doesn’t rise above the mountains in the south for two months). That dramatic difference between summer solstice and winter solstice means the days are already growing shorter at a staggering rate. When we arrived two weeks ago, sunrise was at 2:26 AM and sunset was at 11:08 PM. Today, sunrise was at 3:48 AM and sunset was at 9:45 PM. That’s a difference of almost an hour and a half at each end – in two weeks! Still, it hasn’t gotten totally dark yet and it won’t for a couple more weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing the stars again (and eventually, the northern lights). You can check out sunrise and sunset times for the month of August here, if you’re curious.

20446790268_53c94c7d74_cLooking west to Kvaløya from Tromsø at 11:45 PM, August 7th

The natural beauty of the landscape here is overwhelming. Tromsø’s a city of around 70,000 (or 75,000 when university is in session) and most of it is situated on the island of Tromsøya (“Troms Island”). The Norwegian mainland lies to the east and a much larger island called Kvaløya (“Whale Island”) lies to the west. Tromsøya is connected to the mainland and to Kvaløya by bridges. I can’t even describe how happy it makes me to be living on an island surrounded by water and ringed by mountains. The weather can change at the drop of a hat and the light is often dramatic. I could probably stare at the sky and the light on the mountains all day.

20608542516_ef9ee737a8_cTromsøya as seen from Storsteinen on the mainland, with Kvaløya at back

At this point in the year, there’s fireweed growing everywhere and it feels impossibly green and positively lush compared to drought-ridden Seattle. I love the scrappy subarctic birch forests, too. Even though the island of Tromsøya isn’t that big, there are so many corners to explore. We spent some time down at the beaches on the southwest side of the island last weekend, and I’ve started exploring the network of trails that criss-cross different parts of the island. Everything feels so alive. I expect that will change as winter approaches.

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I think we’re a few weeks away from really feeling settled in (we should be acquiring the essential pieces of furniture we still need this week, at the very least) but it’s easier to put up with the hassles of moving when all of this is right outside your door. My classes start this week and perhaps I’ll be able to get into a bit of a routine after the first week or two. And then, maybe then, I’ll be ready to check out the yarn stores that are just a few blocks from our new place. For now, I have plenty to do (and plenty of WIPs that need working on, if we’re being honest).

I’m looking forward to sharing more of this incredible place with you all as we find our feet here.

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summer days

The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere is right around the corner (Sunday the 21st, this year).

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The days have been hot lately, too. The entire west coast is in a drought – not just California, which you’ve probably heard about in the news, but up here in Washington, too. The cherries are early this year. Everything’s early. I can’t remember the last time it really rained. Just endless sunshine and 70-80 degree days.

It might sound nice to some, but it can make a Seattleite grumpy. I’m yearning for cloudy days and and some actual, proper rain. Still, I’m doing my best to savor the good parts. Mary Jane is in town, so she and I and Cirilia headed out to the Ballard Locks this week with some treats to do a little outdoor knitting. We hovered in the shade, but it was certainly beautiful. We enjoyed watching the bird life – so many blue herons! – and eating the homemade cookies Cirilia had brought along.

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I’ve been enjoying the lingering light as the days have grown longer, too. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that when I get to Tromsø, the days will still be quite long and there will be no real darkness my first few weeks there. The days will rapidly grow shorter, though, so I’m enjoying the long daylight as long as I can, whether I’m here in Seattle or in Tromsø.

I hope whatever your summer is like so far, you’re enjoying it!