Love, Anticipation & Tradition, the Joy and Insanity of Veganism, and Serious Contemplation of Our Future

Love, anticipation, and tradition. Three feelings Morgan and I would describe to you about going on almost two years of getting Ethiopian takeaway once a week from Zehabesha here at home. It may one day be a real heart breaker should we leave Yellowknife before Dinku and his wife someday do, and it’s much more than them being the only restaurant to offer vegan options. So when we discovered that in Bergen, there were two Ethiopian restaurants, we obviously couldn’t help ourselves. And while it was fabulous, you know where our heart and tastebuds lie.
Meanwhile on the other side of the world at similar geographic latitudes, veganism has sky-rocketed, and you can’t go out to a restaurant in Trondheim without vegan options abounding. Veganism, or the first real absorption of vitamin D in weeks, we loved this little place. So much so, we’re having our first real conversations about an eventual move out of Yellowknife to there some years away still. And that isn’t just the box of hipster vegan doughnuts strapped into the middle seat on our flight down to Bergen talking.

If we can move a little bit past food, just for a quick sentence or two, that love, anticipation and tradition line could maybe more appropriately be applied to finally visiting Kristian Birkeland’s terrella at the Teknisk Museum in Oslo. It was something really special for me to catch up with him there, and spend a long while in his exhibition. But more on all that when you’re on tour with me and I put you to sleep with the history of the northern lights.



Bergen, and the Bergen - Oslo train

Kr. Birkeland’s 100+ year old terrella at the Technical Institute in Oslo

Sean NormanNorway
Sore Muscles & Completely Drenched - Lofoten

Ohh yes. The northern lights dancing above the cutest fishing villages tucked into some of the most jagged mountain peaks in perhaps the most beautiful place in the world - the Lofoten islands. How idyllic.

I can probably count the minutes of sunshine over five days on two hands. Initial hours in Reine went by with admiration to all my shell clothing and backpacks - they were remarkably resilient keeping everything inside, including me, dry. And then there was day two, and three, and four, and everything, actually everything, including the two of us, was soaked. It should have been enough rain to sink the Lofoten islands themselves.
But we weren’t going to let puddles in our shoes and hiking trails turned raging rivers stop us from proving to ourselves just how out of shape we were (still are). Muscles ached, entire legs vibrated even just sitting still, but the Lofoten islands are just magical. It’s a fairytale land with all the nature in the world to become lost in.

Sean NormanNorway
Technically 4 for 4, but So Much More - Tromsø

Well, we’re home. We survived torrential rain, wind, wild berries and cancelled ferries, and our next move is learning Norwegian to move to Trondheim in a few years (joking not joking). Norway exceeded every expectation and every memory I held of it since 2010.

But for now, if you want the cold hearted statistic, then yes, we saw the northern lights all four nights in the Tromsø area, including from our late evening flight arrival. But our four nights in Tromsø weren’t about chasing the aurora or comparing where the northern lights are better. That doesn’t matter. It was about reconnecting with an old friend who started all this aurora chasing for me over ten years ago, so we spent a few beautiful nights in conversation with Kjetil & his amazing family both in the city and at his cabin in the countryside.

Tours resume tonight for me, but I’ll hold off blogging any Yellowknife aurora photos for the sake of keeping a few posts of our Norway trip together over the next couple days.

Sean NormanNorway
Weather So Still, an Atmosphere So Dynamic, and Beginning a 28 Hour Journey

A 28 hour journey to Tromsø, Norway begins for Morgan and I in just a couple hours. Just enough time to change camera bags, throw my thermals into my backpack, blog photos from the last few hours, and get to the airport for a 6:05am flight. We’ll arrive in Norway some day and a half later, capping two nights without any sleep, to go straight into the countryside to chase the lights with good friend Kjetil, who I last saw some eight and a half years ago.

But on a night in Yellowknife when you would think I would just be eager to get going on the trip to Norway, there was a beautiful calm about the experience. The weather was so still, so crisp and clear, and yet our upper atmosphere filled with pinks and dances like you cannot imagine. It was perfect.

I won’t have my laptop in Norway these next couple weeks, but I may give blogging from my iPhone a try should we be lucky enough to have some nights with the aurora there. Otherwise I will fill this space when I’m back home toward the end of the month.

Thank you for the beautiful autumn, my loves. xoxo.

Sean NormanOctober
Reflection Season Lives to See Another Day

When we’re consistently reaching the negative teens overnight, all the reflections are off ice these days. And with no significant snowfall since freeze up began, apparently today, ice skating was a popular daytime activity on the lakes in town. These folks are braver than I.

And tonight, if somehow the noise from the lakes freezing up didn’t send shivers up and down your spine, then auroral activity like this would have.

Sean NormanOctober
A Warning, Snowbanks, and the Temperature Drop

A notice from the Department of Transportation the other day warned drivers of ice and snow accumulation on the highway between Behchoko and Yellowknife. A little overzealous I thought for the few remaining centimetre or two that sparsely covered only areas of shade around town. Fast forward some twenty kilometres into the countryside there are legitimate snowbanks on either side of the highway. Well that changed accessible locations for night. So there we were just off the side of the highway, trudging through some 30-40cm of snow covering the countryside, in -16. Guess who wasn’t dressed and prepared for that?
Let’s just say all eight of us.

But the glow of light off the snow covered landscape as the aurora danced all across the sky some hours after we arrived was the most amazing feeling. It was a new feeling this season, that crunch of snow under our feet, some hoar frost on every weed and small bush being illuminated by passing car lights. It was the complete winter wonderland, and it’s going to be a very, very good winter.

Sean NormanOctober
Hopefulness All Day

All day I watched as some colder cloud moved down and over Yellowknife exposing just trace amounts of scattered cloud and clear sky far to the north. But 15 minutes by 15 minutes, it kept up, and as nightfall came to Yellowknife, so did those pockets of clear skies. The sky clarity wasn’t spectacular, but for a night labelled with a few centimetre snowfall, this was perfect.

Sean NormanOctober
You'll Never Believe It

“It’s really unbelievable” I said at one point last night some time after the skies were continuing to clear. I meant it about the aurora of course, but I jokingly not jokingly meant it more about there being clear skies. Magic.

Sean NormanOctober
Something to Blog About

It was a moonless, mostly cloudless beginning to our night. Some change from the awkward silence around this blog lately, which you know equates to something just a little bit less than clear skies. So tonight we’re back, far from perfection, but we’re back. And the overnight forecasts for as long as Environment Canada will show us - clear skies. Let’s go. Cautiously.

Sean NormanOctober
Potential Delusion

I’m not sure if it’s the month and a half to two months of some of the most challenging autumn aurora season weather in four years for me, or if it’s the genuine exhilaration of getting to some baby clear breaks after a long, fairly ominous drive out of town, but I loved this. I loved the clear breaks, the sight of some aurora through broken cloud and optimism of further clear breaks on the horizon. It was good.

Sean NormanSeptember