Guest Post: Six degrees of separation

By My Brother

I declare war on “weather whiners.”

With the combination of having my international jet-setting sister and her family living in Oslo, available vacation time built up and enough funds stowed away, my wife and I decided that instead of taking our toddler on rides at Disney World, we’d spend around the same amount of money and go on “Edge of the Arctic: The Ride”.

Not knowing a whole lot more about Norway other than what my sister blogs about (our online video chats pose as play dates between our toddlers) the one thing I did not have any expectations for was the weather.  Even for mid-August, I set my expectations low: I was prepared to enjoy Oslo even if it was tinted by gray clouds. What we got was end-to-end perfect 75 degree sunny weather on this trip.

I felt unworthy of this rare taste of perfect weather in Norway.

A view of Oslo from above

A view of Oslo from above

Coming from the Midwest where people are constantly commenting – er, whining – on the weather, the phrase “if only” comes up a lot.  In the winter it’s “if only it were just 40 degrees I’d be so happy.”  In the summer “if only it were a little cooler, like 64.37 degrees it would be perfect.”  We are never happy about the weather.  Weather seems to be the excuse for not doing things that we want to do.

Perhaps that’s the real meaning of 6 degrees of separation.

Now here we are, in what’s constantly rated as the world’s Happiest Country (another reason our Scandinavian trip beat out Disney World), in possibly the only time these people will get this weather all year.  I said “people” and not “poor people” because Norwegians do not appear to pity themselves.

Scandinavians have achieved a sort of middle ground, or sweet spot, in between America’s culture and it’s counterculture. For them it’s not “if only,” it is “both.” What I mean by this is that one can be both leisurely and hard-working, capitalist and socialist, jock or art geek, family man and workaholic, mathematician and writer, enjoy cold and hot, all at the same time.  It doesn’t have to be just one way.

Holmenkollen Ski Jump

Holmenkollen Ski Jump

Our very gracious hosts went around their work schedules and gave us an Oslo 101 tour by taking us to Vigeland Park (a historic art sculpture park where my son couldn’t stop giggling at the naughty but artful and imaginative statues) and the beautiful iceberg-like Opera House, where  the 3-year-old cousins put each others’ toy wars aside and started a probationary friendship, running around the roof together like penguins. This was a great intro to a city whose landscape reminded me a little of a cross between the quaint slanted streets of San Francisco and the hilly forests of the Midwest.  Of course the intangible piece of any city is the people and locals around us who were making their very short commute to work with a look of contented determination in their faces. Two seemingly contradictory feelings which they inhabit seamlessly together.

Besides being a wonderful family bonding experience, we achieved what I see as the Scandinavian way: bi-polar nirvana.  Heavy travel and relaxation.  Shopping and culture.  Bonding and individual exhilaration.

Besides an interlude in Stockholm we had almost five days to spread out the rest of the trip where I could mix in jogging through Oslo (a great way to absorb the atmosphere of the city) with going to Aker Brygge on the coast, picnicking by the Royal Palace, checking out the Holmenkollen Ski Jump with it’s spectacular viewing deck, the Fjord Boat Tour, and taking in Edvard Munch 150th anniversary  exhibit – the “Scream” artist who’s a lot more than just that one painting.

Seeing how Munch had some extremely bi-polar stages in his career, with some of the happiest most optimistic paintings next to some of the darkest, most saddest heart-wrenching stuff you’ll ever see, I came to the conclusion you can live two separate lives, but overlap them simultaneously.  Viewing the wonderful views from atop Holmenkollen, and then shopping gave me the “\bi-polar Munch-ian experience of doing things on this trip that seem to be polar opposite activities.  It’s something I wish to achieve in America every single day.

So,to my people back in the Midwest (and I am speaking to myself to remind me just as much as anyone else), it can be a cold, icy, and wet miserable day, and you can still have the time of your life and be a productive human being contributing positively to society if you do like the Scandinavians, who seem to get on all of these “happiest” rankings against all weather odds (if you view weather like most Americans seem to).

Just don’t quote this back to me in January.

Opera House

Opera House