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At the pinnacle of puberty

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Visitors from the Netherlands

It is during a summer sometime in the mid-70s when a befriended family from the Netherlands are to spend their vacation with us in Norway for the first time. I'm in a gloomy mood because the previous day, in a fit of bewilderment, I had my long blonde hair cut extremely short. No idea what got into me when I entered the hairdressers in Kongsberg. As soon as I sat down in the chair I froze and realised I had made a terrible mistake. An embarrassing silence became tangible. While the hairdresser tried to tempt me to exchange a few words with him, the poor man could not suspect that he was dealing with one of the antisocial moods that came over me as soon as I felt a strong dislike of something. Of anything in fact.

And so the befriended family arrive and are warmly welcomed - except by me...but (luckily) that remains unnoticed. They are impressed by the beauty encountered along the way and express their admiration for the hytte and its surroundings. The weather is lovely, the table is full of Norwegian treats and my silent mood has no influence on the atmosphere yet.


My adolescent years are like a thick, heavy blanket. A blanket with a big suffocating impact. The blanket suppresses my feelings, makes me flat, gloomy, shy, insecure and moody. Insecure about everything in general and about my appearance in particular. I find myself ugly; the big teeth, the nose, my length ... and then there's my hair last but not least. It has a natural wave that I dislike, I want it to be much, much straighter ...oh and not to mention my hands. Everything is wrong with my hands; the fingers are not long enough. My oh my. The Cosmopolitan is my style bible and every time I look at the perfect models, my imperfections are even further emphasized.

Looking gloomily into the camera

Looking back at photos from that time, I see a woman in the making, a child still, with a typical Scandinavian face - looking gloomily into the camera. As soon as the familiar suffocating blanket comes over me and one of my anti-social moods pop up, I submerge into daydreaming - and drawing, endless drawing. Tall girls with long straight hair of course, but mainly fairy tales. Fairy tales in which the Norwegian forest and the animals play the leading roles.


When a few days later the blanket and the gloominess weigh less heavy, it is time for some action - and when I say action it usually means from one exreme to the other. While the parents are spending a day in Kongsberg, we plan to climb Store Ble. The endless road to the mountain's summit starts immediately behind the house. First along the sandy path that climbs up slowly like a winding ribbon, further and further into the forest. There we are, a group of six children, talking, laughing and stumbling over our own feet; my friend and I, both with our younger siblings.

Store Ble area in Telemark
Store Ble directly behind our hytte

More than an hour and a half later, the increasingly rocky road ends, and the serious climbing starts. The top of Store Ble is no longer visible from that point, making it more difficult to sense our locality. The journey is getting harder and harder. Dense and green forest has given way to rocks and half-dead, thinned trees and shrubs that we use to pull ourselves up. The younger sisters are agile and resolutely clamber after us. The nine-year-old brothers have to be pulled up frequently, but they too persist - enjoying every minute of their adventure. A large number of bones are scattered beneath a man-high rock - clearly remains of smaller rodents; we're on lynx property.

It is hot, very hot and the climb seems endless. Bare arms and legs are full of scratches, more scratches and insect bites. Going back is not an option. Bletoppen must and will be reached. Field bottles are constantly being filled with water from the countless streams and when we finally - after hours of scrambling - reach the summit, we cannot help but look around us breathlessly and let the imposing view and the cooling breeze affect us. Bletoppen makes up for all hardships along the way.

Top of mountain Store Ble in Telemark
Ble toppen

When one of the siblings suddenly jumps down from the edge, we're all in a terrifying shock. It turns out to be just a joke, when she reappears with a broad smile on her face, standing on a ledge, one and a half meters below.

We have to go back. Now. As in now now. The weather is about to change. I know from my dad that thunderstorms can strike from one moment to the next, even when thunder clouds in an otherwise seemingly clear sky still seem far away. We decide to start moving; first by carefully descending from rock to branch and from branch to rock - but as the storm gets closer, moving faster and faster, until we run across the flat plateaus on our route plunging down.

With the familiar sandy path in sight, we reach the single last rock plateau on the way home, stumbling over our own and each others legs and feet. With a deafening blow - like from a huge metal plate on a rock - lightning strikes behind us, leaving the ground thumping under our feet. An intense sulfur smell spreads. We do not dare to look behind us and keep on running, speeding up even, while dragging the screaming brothers along. We finally reach the sandy path and only when it starts to rain, fear slowly gives way to a careful form of relief.

It is six o'clock and dusk when the hytte comes into view. Soaked and exhausted, we stumble up the porch. When later - all six of us sitting on the couch in our pajamas, reading - our parents return from their outing, there is absolutely nothing - apart from tangled hair and battered limbs and faces - that betrays our adventure. And there's absolutely no one who takes the strong stories of the brothers, at all seriously.

Hytte in Telemark Norway
Back on familiar ground
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