On Norwegian Spring, Dalmatian Summer, and Memories Old and New

Now, if you have any Norwegian friends, your social media feed is probably bombarded by pictures like this, because here in Norway, we wait for the spring for a very long time, and when it finally arrives, we’re ridiculously happy and have to shout it out for the whole world to know. But this picture, and this story are not about Norwegian spring, this one is about the smell of pines and the smell of earth, and about Dalmatian summers, long gone. You see, it’s has to be this exact place, on the cross between two insignificant paths at the outskirts of Oslo, and it has to be early in the spring, before the grass and moss cover the ground, so no later than mid-May, but the sun has to be strong and to be warming it for several hours, so, no earlier than mid-May, and the sun rays have to fall on it under a particular angle, so, mid-afternoon, and I have to be passing by at the right moment, and just at this place, and at this moment, the forest floor smells exactly like the ground in that little pine grove on that beach on the island of Hvar where we spent every summer of my early childhood.

We went back to Dalmatia a couple of more times later, before we couldn’t anymore, but it never again smelled like the red earth and the pine needles of Hvar.

Now, all these circumstances (and probably a few more astrological and a pair pertaining to quantum physics that I’m not aware of) occur simultaneously very seldom, I think in the fifteen years I’ve been living in this neighbourhood, it happened three or four times, but it happened today, and then it all came back: Refusing to leave the water (“I not cold! See, my lips aren’t even blue!“ — you check it on your sister, as in on a mirror), you can fend off mamma for a while, but when pappa comes and says “Girls?” without even raising his voice, you rocket out of the water, wet and shivering, and mamma wraps you in this huge bath towel and gives you plum jam sandwiches — we normally didn’t like mom’s plum jam (Too heavy! Too thick!) — but it tasted like ambrosia, anything you’d get to eat on the beach these days, exhausted by the water and fresh air would taste divine, and then, we’d put those huge bath towels to dry, and they’d be dry in twenty or so minutes, and later on, when it got really hot, we’d go to the pine grove, just by the beach, and have a nap there, lying on the inflatable mattresses, covered by the aforementioned beach towels, and wake up bleary and wide-eyed, with pine needles stuck to our face, and the smell of the pine and red earth in our nostrils, and then eat perhaps another one of mamma’s ambrosia sandwiches, and then there’d be a whole long summer afternoon in front of us, before it too ended, and it’d be time to get back, and shower, and put on nice clothes, and go out for a dinner and ice cream and walk on the corso. Up and down, and then again, and again, until it gets really late, nine or even ten, and pappa carries you the last up hill back to the hotel, because you’re little, and your legs are short, so he’s carrying you, and you’re half asleep in the warm Dalmatian night, and you relax in his arms, and although you’re just five or six you know life’s good, and that there’s a whole another day of the Hvar beach and the pine grove waiting for you.

And then you’re in your late forties, and you go home to your kids in the early Norwegian spring, and suddenly the smell of the pine grove hits you, and you come home a bit teared up, and full og memories and emotions, and you realise you can’t just burry them in your own memories, they wouldn’t get it, so you decide in stead to write a little story that they can read later on, if they feel like it. And then you take them and the doggie to the woods, to eat sushi in the glorious sunshine, and maybe, somewhere, some place they least expect it, one rainy day in Korea perhaps, one of them will suddenly feel a smell that will take back memories of a Norwegian spring afternoon and sushi by the lake with their mamma and the doggie.

I write at times, about nothing much important, because I enjoy it.