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‘The right to roam’ steps beyond hiking

National Geographic’s online post about this delightful way of life says everything we need to know about the devotion Norwegians have for roaming the outdoors in all kinds of weather.

JSSP Art Voices

Just imagine starting out on a multi-mile trek by foot in February of any year here in North Dakota. Your friends and family might say you’ve lost your marbles, but Norwegians, Swedes and Finlanders would join you and call it a fun outing. Sure, we say, they live way over there and have all those fjords and mountains and get the balmy waters from the west. And they do, but they have comparable winters and plenty of snow, coupled with humidity. All three countries have a long-held tradition of getting outside in nature, regardless of weather and being where they can see it inside.

Their passion for nature, friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv), translates as “open-air living.” Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen used the term to describe the value of spending time in remote locations for spiritual and physical well-being. It is reminiscent of “hygge,” that hard-to-pronounce state of Norwegian contentment.

National Geographic’s online post about this delightful way of life says everything we need to know about the devotion Norwegians have for roaming the outdoors in all kinds of weather. In Jen Rose Smith’s story of September 2020, she gives an example that lifts the heart:

“Even as a toddler, Mina Floriana Read was an accomplished troll hunter. She learned the skill from her father, Alexander Read, who helps her look for the (maybe) mythological creatures on their hikes in Norway’s backcountry. The senior Read tends to favor rugged trekking gear; Mina Floriana, now nearly five years old, often prefers a pink tutu.

“The pair have undertaken serious expeditions together, including a 57-day winter trek when Mina Floriana was two. Along the way, they’ve won a prestigious Norwegian Wilderness Award. In her short life, Mina Floriana has spent more than 300 nights sleeping in a tent.

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“In Norway this is not as outlandish as it might seem in other nations. The Reads are simply following the concept of friluftsliv, which translates roughly to “open-air living” and is deeply engrained in the country’s heritage.

“From the remote Arctic to urban Oslo, friluftsliv means a commitment to celebrating time outdoors, no matter the weather forecast.

“The idea is as Norwegian as cross-country skis and aquavit. But amid a pandemic that’s upended rhythms of daily life around the globe, friluftsliv might also be a model for coming more safely and sanely through the northern hemisphere’s approaching winter season.”

Having trekked up mountains in Virginia along with my own mom and 3-year old granddaughter some time back, it is a highly recommended effort even in bitterly cold weather. Being outside is as natural in any weather as a shovel by my side is in summer. I just didn’t know it had a name. In our country when you do things unaccompanied by a crowd of people and a band announcing your “arrival,” we Americans seem fearful of bucking organized and properly sanctioned group activities. But happiness in life doesn’t depend on following the crowd. We have people complaining about being stuck at home during the COVID pandemic. Maybe a solution to getting well without the mask is to go trekking in the winter with nothing in mind except to touch the beauty of fresh air and listen to the crunch of snow.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send it to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.

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