Day 29: Toboggan or not toboggan

Day 29

Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do

Explore processes of nature, for at least one hour weekly, by being in the park.

I feel sorry for the kids in Denmark during winter. Not because it’s cold and windy. You get used to wind (you even start to like it), and it’s not really cold. If anything, it’s not cold enough, it’s usually annoyingly close to freezing on the wrong side of zero. And that’s bad enough– kids look out the window when they wake up in the morning and see snowflakes, they jump up and wake their parents, dad! mum! it’s snowing!, they get dressed, with gloves and scarves and hats, they get out the door — and they realise that it’s half a degree too warm, and the snow melts on the ground.

Grey winters are the worst kind of winters, they’re so dark, and feel a bit sorry for the kids here because of that, I really do. Sometimes, I envision myself next winter explaining to my youngest son that snow really should be white, and that this greyish, dirty stuff on the ground isn’t proper snow, it’s snow mixed with salt and general pollution, and if you go up in the mountains, you will se how snow is supposed to be. Mountains.

Grey winters are bad, but that’s the main reason why I feel sorry for the kids here in winter: They have no mountains. They have no idea what a hill is. And their idea of toboggan is just pathetic.

Yesterday, for some reason, the weather gods decided that it was time for some proper winter. Last time, the snow completely melted in a couple of hours, but this time, it was only a tiny bit colder, and the snow managed to avoid being turned into water. When we went to school in the morning, the kids touched the snow, ate the snow, made snowballs and made me promise, over and over that we would go tobogganing after school. If the snow hasn’t melted, I said. Promise, they said. If the snow hasn’t melted, I said again. You must promise or you’ll get this snowball in your nose, they said. Ah, OK, I said, I’ll see what I can do.

When I got back home, my neighbour asked me about the weather. Snow, she said, as if that explained everything — have you guys gone tobogganing yet? There’s a hill next to the museum. Yeah, we’ll go after school, I said. Unless the snow melts during the day.

The snow didn’t melt. When I picked the boys up from school, there was still snow on the sidewalks, even though they had salted the streets and turned them into the regular grey-muddy stuff which sticks to your shoes and brings all cleaners to the brink of despair. Toboggan, the boys cried of joy, toboggan! Toboggan! Oh boy oh boy oh boy! Oh, alright, I murmured, we’ll go tobogganing. There’s a hill next to the museum.

When I was little, there were hills everywhere. When you google “akebakke/aking Halden” (and many other places in Norway are much better for tobogganing), you get pictures like these:

This is tobogganing to me: white snow and steep hills.  And when I trudged through the greyish stuff with two excited kids, one pregnant wife and two small toboggans, that was what I envisioned.

What I got? This:

(Picture taken when all the kids were at school)

(Picture taken when all the kids were at school)

There’s a delightful book by Roger Pihl about the Danish mountains. The author has climbed all mountain tops in Denmark above 100 meters and writes about it as if they really are mountains. It’s satire, making fun of how flat Denmark is. (Pay-back for Danes calling Norwegians “mountain monkeys”.) But there is also some truth in it: if you have lived your entire life in Denmark, one of the flatter countries on Earth (No 13. according to this list.), of course you get used to the Earth being in general quite flat. You start moaning about having to bicycle up enormous hills which in fact are close to invisible to the untrained observer. You get used to wide horizons. And you believe that a five second toboggan ride is as good as it gets.

I watched my kids going up and down a tiny hill yesterday, together with 50 other kids, trying to toboggan down a slope with less and less snow. I watched the snow erode as more and more kids went down the hill. I watched my kids lifting their legs, trying to avoid braking with their feet, and still stopping halfway down. I watched fathers running down the slope to give their kids some speed. And I watched kids enjoying themselves immensely, laughing and screaming, happy there is a big hill in Copenhagen.

I watched and felt sorry for them. They have no idea what a mountain is.

Then I lifted my eyes and saw the horizon and the vast sky, and I realised what Ulf Lundell is singing about, and I felt sorry for myself as a kid, having to spend my days beneath a castle-like fortress.

Then I watched my kids again. They didn’t want to go home, they were enjoying themselves too much, and I started thinking. Who am I to feel sorry for them? Yes, they would enjoy the hills of Halden even more, but so what? There are always something more enjoyable somewhere — does that mean that one cannot enjoy what one has right here, right now? Isn’t their joy good enough?

It started snowing lightly and I just stood there, watching the small snowflakes gently touch down upon the brown slope.

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