I spent a few childhood summers roaming the pastures of my grandparents farm with my brother and sister. We used to entertain ourselves by flinging manure from the freshest cow pies at each other, daring one another to touch the fence, just to see if it was electric (which they were, more often than not), jumping from the highest bale of hay stacked in the barn, and sitting on top of the pasture gate, our whole bodies tingling from the thrill of being that much closer to the mean, horned bull. I once found a list of daily activities I wrote in my journal the summer of 1991 on the farm: read, play outside, eat, rest/relax, play outside.
I’ve been living on a beautiful farm in Norway for five days now, and as per usual, my brain is having a hard time wrapping itself around my second full lifestyle change. My eyes are open, my ears are listening, my mouth is closed and my brain is on pause. If I were to make a list of daily activities today, it would closely resemble the one I made when I was ten: feed the chickens, clean the coops, eat, read, yoga, hike, explore, write.
In the spirit of making lists, here’s one of things zigzagging across my out-of-focus brain:
1. I spent the last two months drifting off to sleep to a beautiful goodnight husky howl. Now I wake up every morning to the bellowing of Norwegian cows, bawking chickens, cock-a-doodle-doing roosters and quacking ducks. All at once. It is sort of incredible, but at the same time it sounds like an unorganized orchestra in desperate need of a conductor.
2. All education in both Finland and Norway (amongst other countries) is free. This includes higher education. All people, regardless of ethnicity, financial wealth, social status, you name it…all people have equal access to education if they want it. Instead of sending off young doctors, lawyers, teachers and philosophers into the world with crippling debt, they release them into society with a clean slate, giving them a chance to build a life that doesn’t start with digging themselves out of their deep money hole, armed with a degree they probably won’t even use. Doesn’t that sound nice? I say, peering up from the bottom of my own pit.
3. I am obsessed with reading. Ever since I can remember, books and more books made the top of any Christmas or birthday wish list. Yes, I am a huge nerd. And for the first time in eight years, I feel like I can read a book, guilt free. I’m not thinking about the work I should be doing, or the house I should be cleaning, or the socializing that is happening without me. I am not worried about the hours passing by or the world turning around me. I just read. Because “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ Jojen in George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. So I read the entire Game of Thrones series to avoid Facebook spoilers since I have no access to HBO. Now I know what happens through book five and that knowledge makes me very powerful.
4. Feeding ducks, chickens, geese and turkeys is actually quite similar to feeding huskies. Turns out, everyone gets pretty excited about food. Only this feeding frenzy involves less tail wagging and running in circles, and way more clucking, waddling and feather fluffing.
5. Once when I was FaceTiming with my sister in Finland, my face pressed next to Ivan’s fluffy one as he yawned, showing off his pearly white fangs, she asked me if I was ever afraid of the dogs. Nope. Never. But I am strangely terrified of a few feathered friends on this farm. I am currently fighting two full-out battles, one with Badass Turkey, the other with Mean Goose. Michelle told me a goose once drowned a man in Chicago. A few weeks ago I would have thought that sounded ridiculous. Now I totally believe it. Mean Goose actually hisses at me when I walk by, waddling toward me like he means to snap my pants off. Then he turns his head and glares at me out of his evil eye. I’ve resorted to making faces and hissing back, telling him how much he doesn’t scare me, after I am safely on the other side of the gate. And Badass Turkey is smart, but I am a little smarter. I have to lure him out of his cage so I can clean it, and by lure, I mean he just makes a beeline for me, hoping to peck my eyes out, and quickly I jump out of reach and run inside the cage. I won’t embarrass myself by explaining my exit strategy. But it’s only a matter of time before he figures me out. And then I am screwed. And possibly dead.
6. It’s funny how composting, eating local and eating organic is part of the hipster trend in America, but here it’s just life. There isn’t another way. It is the only way. And it’s a good way.
7. Sooooo, I’ve taken more selfies in the past three months than I care to admit. But let me explain. When you travel with friends, you always have that person you can relive the experience with, that person who understands and relates. But now it’s just me. And I can talk about my experience and the things I’ve seen, but when this is all done, I almost need that photo of myself in the moment, to prove to myself I was actually there, in that beautiful far away place, long ago. So I apologize for any selfies that make it public.
8. Norway is a breathtakingly beautiful country.