I have been trying to write this post for several days and there is so much going on in my mind and heart that I have found it difficult to put down into words. First of all, it was almost like a dream that my husband suggested going to Norway this summer! I knew we had planned on going, but that it was going to be that soon, was something I hadn’t expected. So I was overwhelmed with this opportunity, and the fact that he wasn’t going with me, was sad too. But he felt that with some things going on in his immediate planning, he wouldn’t go this time. That left an opportunity for my youngest son to go with me. He was able to get time off! So…we were going to NORWAY!!! I couldn’t have been more thrilled! I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. With all the planning that goes into an international trip, my mind was in high gear planning, helping my son get his passport, and getting him ready at such short notice too. He has always wanted to go and this was his chance to make his dream come true also. I was excited about sharing this trip with him. It was still hard to believe it even as we were boarding our plane to fly out of Seattle!!
I packed as light as I could because I have traveled many times and carried way too much. I thought I did so good this time, but found once again, I packed too much. But, after many sleepless nights, excited conversations between my son and I, plus conversations with my cousin in Norway and I, we were finally at the day of travel. You see, this day was extra special, not just because it was MY dream to go to Norway, but because it was also a dream of both my mom and my dad to go to Norway. Life circumstances that often can happen, caused them not to be able to go. So this day had special meaning for me. I felt like I was going and taking them with me in spirit. I had my grandma’s wedding ring representing my grandparents, and my mom’s wedding ring representing my parents, and they were worn on a chain around my neck everyday I was there! What a blessing it was for me to go on this adventure together with them in that way.
As we landed in Norway, I was taking a shot or two of the country as we landed. So excited to get out of the plane and meet my cousin and her husband who were meeting us! We had talked so many times about sharing coffee with each other on her very beautiful porch with a view!! Now, I was here and we were going to have an opportunity to do just that!!!
We were tired from the trip but I couldn’t rest; too much to see and too much to ask and talk about! My cousin gave me the run down of our schedule over the next several days. We were going to be quite busy! I was so grateful to her as I learned of all the plans. To this day, I don’t know how she managed to contact people and make the arrangements for it to happen. The plan was for us to see the area, visit the various places and family of my grandmother, then of my grandfather on my mother’s side, and also to meet relatives on my father’s side of the family and see where my grandfather on my father’s side was born and grew up. So, we were in for a real treat during our visit to Norway!
NOTE: This is several weeks later and what I have come to realize is, this type of trip is just hard to put into words. So I am attempting once again to share a little of it with you.
After about two hours of driving, we came to a beautiful farmhouse that I had seen in so many pictures. To say that I love their house is an understatement! The house is very comfortable and it sits across the road from the fjord. The views were spectacular!!! I couldn’t wait to get my camera out! It’s a farmhouse! Yes!!! We went up stairs to be shown to our rooms and oh what a lovely home! It was like walking into my house on steroids! Her decorating style and the things that I love, were apart of her home. Antiques and decor was SO something that I would do if I could find the things that she used. Jesse was in awe…something out of a fairy book. I enjoyed a few moments to take it all it and enjoy the views of the water from upstairs. I took a couple of shots and then headed back downstairs for the evening. So many much happened, so much experienced and felt, and I couldn’t wait to get to know them better!
Riding the ferry was an experience! The beauty around us was very amazing. If you didn’t know by the scenery going by, you wouldn’t know you were moving because the ferry was so quiet as it ran.
We have relatives that are buried in this cemetery. Beautiful church and grounds that are taken care of by family members of those who are buried here.
We are sitting on what is left of the foundation of my Grandfather Melley’s home. It was very emotional to be there and think of them walking these paths and across the valley. We each took a rock from the foundation to bring home.
I love how even when you take a drive, stopping to enjoy the scenery with a cup of coffee and some goodies is part of the journey! Such a fun time!
This is the kind of scenery I’m talking about! It is absolutely gorgeous!
This is the valley that my grandfather would have looked upon each day he grew up and played there. Below is a home that was built by a relative to live in when he was in Norway. What a view to wake up to everyday. One of my cousins lives in a home that is covered by the trees in and that is the barn that goes with her home.
This cozy nook is something that just thrills me in many Norwegian homes. I love their windows, the sweet way that they decorate them. Doesn’t this just invite you in to sit for a while?
Breath taking beauty all along the way when you drive around Norway. Each time I think…I could SO live here. And here. And here…
As we travel up, we can see the beautiful valley and fjord beyond.
You know my love of barns and I sure saw a lot of them. Love this one from my cousin’s farm.
Another little vignette from inside a settra house. This one belong’s to my cousin where we stayed while we were there. So cute! Love the lights that light up on the window, don’t you?
Relatives and Jesse and I as visited the Nerdal farm. My mom would have loved this whole trip. So many of the relatives that she communicated by mail with when I was growing up, are ones that I was able to visit with! What a treasure! In fact, one home that I went to for coffee had a picture of me up on her shelf! So fun to see me there!
The good ol’ days in the barn…
Beautiful church and grounds. We visited the graves of family here that day.
I was also shown where my mother’s father, my grandfather, was born and raised. Although there is only a part of the foundation there today, it was so exciting to stand where he stood and walk where he walked and played. I also loved the scenes of the valley that could be seen from where the house would have stood. There was another foundation there that might have been a meat house/cellar and we discovered it had a walk in area at ground level and possibly a floor above that where maybe dry goods were stored. It was quite emotional for me to experience all these things and come to understand first hand what their lives were like there and the parts of their life which made them consider coming to the US. Jesse and I took a rock from the foundation that was left of the home and brought it home with us!
What a gracious community we enjoyed while we were there. Everyone working together to see that we could enjoy as much of the area and life experiences as possible. I had both sides of my family working at it during our stay. I saw the place and home where my grandmother, on my mom’s side of the family, grew up. Walking around inside the home that housed her, her sister, her mother and grandmother was quite overwhelming to say the least. We found a Bible that day that belonged to my grandmother’s grandmother. I could see how their whole life was lived in one room and a sleeping room. They did have a sleeping room upstairs for a quest that would sometimes come to the area. I’m sure that was a source of income to them to house someone who needed a place to stay.
This is the Bible that we found in the home that was my Grandmother Melley’s home where she grew up. It was in a chest with the name Wirum and 1933 painted on it. Wirum or Virum was her maiden name.
The valley where my Grandma Melley’s home originally sat. This was their daily view!
As you can see from the pictures above, it is hard to even begin to express the beauty I found there at every turn. From farmlands and barns, to fjords and water scenery, my camera was going nuts with me behind it! The air was clear and the water was gorgeous and equally clear. We could stand at the ferry docks and looks down into the water and see all the way to the bottom! Quaint houses along the banks as we wound through the country side. The mountains? Gorgeous! I even did some hiking while we were there so that we could go up and see a settra house. That was a house that the workers on the farm would have lived in while they worked for the farmers. We hiked up there and stopped at a cottage on the mountain where they asked us to join them for coffee and a cookie. So they brought out chairs so we could all sit down and we enjoyed the company while we rested our legs. I was sitting there hoping for a look inside his cottage house and was very excited when he asked us after we had coffee if we would like to see inside. WOULD I!!!! It was delightful!!! I could tell he loved the mountains and simple life he lived there. He spent a lot of time at his cottage cabin in the mountains. He showed Jesse some of his photos he had hanging, which were really interesting. The fun part? He spoke English and so we could understand him! Fell in love with that little cabin! If you visit my website at JoAnnShiley.com and look in the Norway Gallery, you will see a picture that was taken from his kitchen window!
I learned of my father’s father, and where he was born and where he grew up. I didn’t have much information on my grandfather on my dad’s side at all. Thanks to a great couple that are cousins, and a cousin and his wife, I have come to know more and more about Grandpa Johnson and his family. They graciously took me to see the churches in the area where my grandfather was baptized and attended. I got to see where he was born and grew up but there was no foundation particularly to see. However, Jesse and I found a mound of rock that was in the general area, so I took a rock from there also to take home with me. I saw where a home that my great-uncle supported for many years was located. Such a kind heart he had. He became a pastor and pastored in the US for many years. I even came home with some GREAT gifts, part of which was some genealogy of my dad’s side from this wonderful couple who drove us around that day. We had a great visit with them. Got to see a beautiful resort also!
We had lunch and coffee and treats at a couple different homes and so much fun to share life with them. Pictures came out to see if we knew any of them, and some I got to take home. We were taken to a couple different farms and got to learn of the farming in my grandparent’s time, and what life was like during that time. It was so hard for them. But what a joy to learn about their lives! At one of the farms, we saw beautiful rosemaling work that was done by a relative. I would have loved to get a few of those pieces!!!
One fun side trip I got to make was to see a sweet lady that I had been writing to for a while. I had first contact with her husband. He and my mother had communicated in earlier years. I have a letter from him that he wrote that I treasure very much! He passed away, and I began writing to her and using my cousin, her daughter, to help in translation. But then I used Google Translate and tried writing in Norwegian. 🙂 She and her daughter have sent norwegian socks to me a couple of times and I just LOVE them and use them like slippers at home. Every time I wear them I think of her hands making them. So of course, if I could, I wanted to meet her and her daughter while I was there. It wasn’t looking like I could. But, we made contact with one that knew where she lived. So…we were able to find her home, and I stopped by! My other cousin helped me to translate my apologies for just dropping in on her, but I didn’t want to leave Norway without meeting her and her daughter, and not be able to give her a hug and say thank you for the gifts she made. I wasn’t able to connect with her daughter, which I was sad about because we had been communicating back and forth on Facebook. But I was happy that I could visit for a few minutes while we were passing through. What joy to finally meet her in person!
All the relatives were so wonderful! I’m a person who loves to hug, so they all got plenty from me, although I don’t think that is such a common practice in Norway. However, to have them drive us around to meet up with all of these other great relatives was so fantastic! All the family history we learned while we were there was making our brains hurt. It was quite a heavy schedule but they gave of their time, gas and energy to make it happen and we sure appreciated EVERY effort they made!
The cousins that we stayed with took us on a drive up the mountains so we could see the falls. It was so beautiful up there and the water was ice-cold and so refreshing! Once again, we had coffee and some cake sitting on a rock right by the falls! That is the life! Stopping long enough to enjoy your surroundings. I think we miss out on so much of life by not slowing down and living simply. We got to see the inside of a cabin where people that came up to the mountain have stayed. There was a guest book to sign too. Forest workers and whomever, have used that cabin. Pans and utensils hung on the walls, and other items that would be needed to spend a night or two there if needed. Even some wood for the wood burning stove.
We even enjoyed seeing the marvelous Northern Lights while we were there! Jesse and I had never seen them before, and even though the show was a bit smaller than normal, we were in awe of the beauty of the moment. I did get a couple of photos of it. But I was so excited about seeing it, that I watched it instead of going for the photos. Kind of a God thing for our eyes only that night.
What I Learned
I can’t begin to tell you all the things I learned on this trip. But a few were how our genes run strong. I couldn’t believe how many mannerisms were present with my relatives there and what I knew of my grandparents at home. Having seen the niece of my grandmother, and I think it would be the great-nephew of my grandfather, I noticed so many things that were similar; expressions, the way one walked, the way a word was spoken…it sounded or looked just like them! The fun thing? They had never gotten the chance to meet each other. But what a joy to see the connection with them.
I love how Norwegians love to enjoy life and the outdoors. They love to eat and have coffee together and to actually enjoying being together. It is a priority to them it seems. They don’t sit around on computers and phones, although they use them, but they get out and walk, ski, hike, pack a lunch or coffee and treat, and away they go. They NOTICE the beauty around them and breathe it in! They live it and live off the land and what it provides. They grew up learning that way and it is a part of their culture. It is their therapy so to speak. They enjoy simple times; simple things. It isn’t something they fit into their life. It IS their life. I LOVE that. We went for a ride to see the area, we went to the mountain to enjoy the mountain and all the beauty that surrounds it, the echoes of voices across the mountain creek both groups of us walk down the mountain on either side, the sound of running mountain streams, blue skies, and how about that coffee and cake by the falls? They will go down to the water’s edge, and put up a platform just so that they can gather with neighbors, have a bonfire and enjoy drinks and snacks together. Now THAT is cool! It doesn’t get any better than that!
I learned the fun and importance of learning about where we come from. I wish I would have asked more questions than I ever did. But, I have determined more than ever, that my kids know more of the things that they may not have known about my grandparents, my parents, and myself and my hubby. They won’t ask most likely. But its important for them to know. Someday, they may desire to know and if I don’t share it now, they won’t know. It was a grand experience for me to watch my son get to experience this with me. His reactions, his excitement of learning, and as much as he enjoys the outdoors, watching him love it every time he was out there. That is life. It’s all part of the legacy I leave behind. I have had a box that I have shared with my grandson since he was little. I add things all the time to that box and he learns the story behind each item. I want him to remember the stories about life.
I want to go back. I want to have more time to enjoy what I saw before. Spend more time with the people I have come to love. That might be too direct for my Norwegian relatives, but it’s how I feel. I didn’t get to be with them very long, but I sure came to love them. They were so good to us and so gracious to share and teach us about their lives and about our relatives. I want to take more pictures. Do more shopping. See other places. I might even want to hike the mountain and leave my not in the box at the top. Maybe… I want to go back to the farm and see that big beautiful mountain when there isn’t any fog around it. And maybe, just maybe, bring back a beautiful painted wooden bowl. Also? My cousin’s husband challenged me to learn Norwegian. I am working on that. He told me many say they will but get back home and they don’t. I am trying to be the one that DOES.
View of Surnadalsora, Norway, which I could see by walking just up the road a short ways. What a view!!
I know I will live differently here because of my experience there. I have always incorporated my heritage in my own home, but I will do more of that in months to come. That makes me happy every day I get up. I brought a big lefse rolling-pin all the way back home with me, and a butter mold, and pewter ware, and a sweater, to name a few. I have pictures up to remind me of the beauty. The memories are a part of my life here now. I feel grateful that God allowed me that dream. He made it happen. I know my parents would be so excited for me to have had this opportunity to go and as I said earlier in a post, they were with me in spirit.
In closing, I would say, don’t wait. Begin praying about your dream and don’t ever give up. And when those things start changing, run into it as fast as you can. He desires for us to experience life fully and completely. This trip has spurred me on once again to keep doing what I love and enjoy! Make every day count for I am not assured of tomorrow. I live simply and enjoy my life everyday in surroundings that bring a well-spring of joy and gratitude everyday I walk around in my home.
This was a long time dream of mine, and also of my son. He was able to make it happen a lot earlier than I. We would both leave you with these words of advice: don’t wait until it is too late to make your dream come true. Plan it! Go for it! Eat beans everyday if that is what it takes to make it happen. But do it. It has been a paradigm shift for both of us. Yes. I AM going back. That is for sure! I hope you enjoyed going along with me to Norway and that you could catch a glimpse of my joy!
Walking the journey with you…