Turning 70, the Day

70 years young!
70 years young!

Circa Diem.

Let’s start with the translation of the Norwegian birthday card Magellan got me:



The day’s first image: a full moon glowing through the A-framed window at the head of our bed in the Aurora Suite, an upstairs apartment in a former fishing shed on its own wee island, now the home of Monia and her family. In Nyksund, an abandoned fishing village reborn. Edging the wild Norwegian Sea on the far north of the Vesterålen Islands. My watch had broken the day before so I didn’t know what time it was. I tried to capture the moment with my camera but was too sleepy to get it right.

Magellan and I had come to hike the Dronningruta, a trail from Nyksund over the mountains to Stø, a route named for Norway’s beloved Queen Sonja who walked it in 1994.

Situated on two islands near some of the country’s best fishing grounds, Nyksund, at the beginning of the last century, was a thriving little community. In high season as many as 750 boats tucked into its narrow harbour. But with the advent of larger vessels, Nyksund declined. The last residents cashed their resettlement grants about the time the Beatles emerged and by 1972, Nyksund was a ghost town.

Revival started in the 80s when Karl Heinz Nickel, in collaboration with Berlin University, launched an art project for disadvantaged youth to come and restore the derelict buildings. Tourism, such as it is, began in the 90s, maybe after Queen Sonja’s visit? Our host, Monia, arrived in 2003.

Year-round residents only recently reached double figures and even in the summer, Nyksunders number only 30-40.


At Ekspedisjonen, where we had a superb dinner the night before. As the only guests we had the lone waiter to ourselves. After asking him about Nyksund winters, I wanted to return for specialties like “ptarmigan with rich sauces” that they serve to head-office people from Sortland who come for group dinners and Christmas parties. He told us the famous Norwegian architectural firm, Jensen & Skodvin who designed The Juvet Landscape Hotel, was looking at building five units with a restaurant in Nyksund. “No Norwegian will pay 5,000 krone a night,” he said. “It will be all New Yorkers and the Japanese.” Superb coffee, bread warm from the oven, local jams from wild fruits, salami and cheese…


For more than an hour we explored this unique village.


To Lofoten, an archipelago of six main islands and countless smaller ones—the area I’d most looked forward to seeing in Norway—a three-hour drive. Longer for us as we stopped for photographs and a birthday picnic at a scenic spot, Arnfinnvika.


“The Venice of Lofoten” on a group of tiny islands at the foot of Vågakallen Mountain, Henningsvær is one of Loftoen’s most beautiful fishing villages (we went three times). “We have time for a side-trip,” Magellan said. Following a narrow waterside road and crossing one-way bridges linking small islands, we got lucky: the Lofoten’s Galleri Lofotens Hus, a two-storey museum/gallery where you can see/purchase Queen Sonja’s art, was still open.


The minute I saw Lofoten Luxury Tents online (they’ve wisely renamed it FLO Lofoten ECO Escape) I wanted to be there on my birthday. The Sami-style tent we slept in, a lavvu, is on the sea on the south side of the island of Vestvågøy near the town of Valberg. Cozy, with a wood-fired stove and sheepskin throws, apparently it’s very popular in winter for aurora viewing. Not exactly luxury, it’s a lavvu with no lavo—we had to walk up the hill to an eco-outhouse.

The owners are Erik, a mechanical engineer from Sweden, and his wife Runa, a local artist whose parents previously owned the property and now live across the bay, and their two children. In addition to the lavvu and their own home, there’s a more traditional rental home, a chicken coop and large garden.

I’d made arrangements for Runa to cook us dinner and given her carte blanche with the menu. To our tent she delivered klippfisk wraps, bacalao—a salt cod dish she makes with tomatoes, olives and potatoes lavished with sour cream—and wild blueberry crumble with a bottle of vanilla crème anglaise.

I was reminded of a quote (where I found it I don’t know) about food in Norway: “For the curious and the adventurous this is not the country of silver service squared upon white tablecloths delivered by a bevy of gloved waiters who in perfect synchrony remove the silver lid from each plate at the table. Who wants that anyway?”


There were none that day save the day itself, an accrued appreciation of the ones that came before and the expectation of a new season. Yes, new season, not new year.

For many years, I’ve measured my life as a procession of the years I expect to live divided into the four seasons. Life began in spring in Saskatchewan on a farm, in between the one-room North Invergordon School and the hamlet of Crystal Springs. Summer began in my 20s in Calgary. During the autumn of my life, we lived in Vancouver. A Scottish poet lauds my favourite season. “Autumn is the mind’s true Spring; what is there we have, “quidquid promiserat annus” and it is more than we expected.” Now winter has made her light arrival. And I’m good with that.  What more could anyone want?


To see more about the town of Nyksund, here’s the best source I found, and to see Monia’s website and more of the Aurora Suite go here nd for more about the town of Nyksund, here’s the best source I found.

The quote is from Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave, 1944, written under the pseudonym Palinurus, a journal, a collection of aphorisms, epigrams nostalgic musings, mental explorations and literary quotations from the likes of Baudelaire, Flaubert and Goethe.


25 Responses

  1. Happy Birthday Week Gloria. Really fine and elevating ‘birthday’ insights.
    (PS I’ve always loved September and still do.)

  2. Really fine and elevating ‘birthday’ insights. Happy Birthday Week Gloria.
    (PS I love September – always have and still do.)

  3. Birthday

    So much world all at once – how it rustles and bustles!
    Moraines and morays and morasses and mussels,
    The flame, the flamingo, the flounder, the feather –
    How to line them all up, how to put them together?
    All the tickets and crickets and creepers and creeks!
    The beeches and leeches alone could take weeks.
    Chinchillas, gorillas, and sarsaparillas –
    Thanks do much, but all this excess of kindness could kill us.
    Where’s the jar for this burgeoning burdock, brooks’ babble,
    Rooks’ squabble, snakes’ quiggle, abundance, and trouble?
    How to plug up the gold mines and pin down the fox,
    How to cope with the linx, bobolinks, strptococs!
    Tale dioxide: a lightweight, but mighty in deeds:
    What about octopodes, what about centipedes?
    I could look into prices, but don’t have the nerve:
    These are products I just can’t afford, don’t deserve.
    Isn’t sunset a little too much for two eyes
    That, who knows, may not open to see the sun rise?
    I am just passing through, it’s a five-minute stop.
    I won’t catch what is distant: what’s too close, I’ll mix up.
    While trying to plumb what the void’s inner sense is,
    I’m bound to pass by all these poppies and pansies.
    What a loss when you think how much effort was spent
    perfecting this petal, this pistil, this scent
    for the one-time appearance, which is all they’re allowed,
    so aloofly precise and so fragilely proud.

    translated from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak
    and Clare Cavanagh

    Gloria , all the best wishes .You are amazing person .
    big hug Jola

  4. Love the analogy if the seasons.. Happy birthday, you are in inspiration to us all. Hope you have a great visit to Saskatchewan and have a great year ahead. Love Heather and Brian

  5. I absolutely love the season precession approach! Makes me reflect on my own. Happy Birthday Auntie G. Thinking of you from NZ 🙂

  6. Happy B Day indeed, see you this week👍👍👍👍🎂
    Under the heading of Glamping is a picture that did not clear up, not sure what happened, shows like a white ghosting igloo shape?
    I was surprised the first picture showed the pillows looking away from the awesome scene, I am sure you may choose otherwise.

    Beautiful pictures and scenery, awesome colors.

    1. Yes not sure why they did that, maybe it better suited the look of the room. I’d have reversed it too. Just checked and there’s no ghosting on that first image, the video, or the others so hopefully yours was just a Saskgremlin.

  7. Love your picture Gloria! We hope to return to Norway one of these days. Dallas has now found a map of the family farm in Ulnes Norway (near the Ulnes Church built in 1270).

    The A frame cottage is beautiful and the Glamping video / photos are fantastic. When you guys return to Costa Rica, you will have to check out this place owned by a friend of ours.


    Dallas and I were to be in the Seychelles next year for her 70th birthday (on our way from South Africa to Dubai on a 3 week cruise).

    Have a great birthday this coming week (hopefully the smoke will have dissipated by then).

    Pat & Dallas

  8. You never cease to amaze me Birthday Girl 🎂. I don’t know anyone else who would celebrate their platinum birthday in a tent in Norway and describe it with such joy, such wisdom, such love for life. Have a wonderful birthday this Wednesday as you celebrate the same day as my sister who turns 70. I doubt her platinum day will be as descriptive as yours!

  9. Beautiful post and pictures Gloria! Love the season analogy, winter is our longest season in Canada so you are good! Have a very Happy Birthday week, lots of love.

  10. What a wonderful experience, although staying in a luxury tent holds no interest for me. You’re not in the winter of your life yet Gloria; it’s going to be a long autumn. My wish is to ignore my 70th birthday.

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