When I set out on this adventure I called a personal climate strike, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing. Family, friends, colleagues kept asking about the plan – it’s a reasonable question and my answer was ready-made. I was on a mission and I used the big guns: the spiraling ecological crisis, the climate crisis, the crisis of injustice due to our consumption habits – all the crises in the whole world.
While gun-firing crises at the poor people who dared to ask what I was planning on doing in freakin’ Norway I could see them growing more uncomfortable with the minute. My attack went somewhat like this:
We need to change our lifestyle, our consumption patterns, our mode of travel, our economic system, our everything. Did you know that there is plastic in your poop?! That permafrost is no longer permanent? Don’t you care about the fact that half of the insect population in Europe has vanished, that Australia is on fire? Don’t you?
I should have worn a safety hazard sign on me. Save yourself if you can. With a gasp of air I ended my sweeping swipe, confessing that I was feeling increasingly depressed about the state of the world and that I needed to find a way of contributing something meaningful without going coo-coo. Hence, dropping out, heading to the Norwegian woods, working on farms for a while, or for ever. Any questions?
And all for some random #farmlife in Norway
It wasn’t only for my mode of delivery that people thought I had lost it. It is no small deal to leave your circle of friends and relatives behind, a city that took you long to feel at home in, a career that was going okay’ish, in total a good and privileged life – and all for some random #farmlife in Norway.
It’s been three months of this #farmlife, and so far I can say it is both nothing like I imagined it to be and all I could wish for. Coming to Norway feels and has felt not only like a mission but also like throwing in the towel; the towel called being a freelance journalist in Berlin. I had been putting a lot of pressure onto myself, pressure to come up with new ideas, to be more creative, to get better assignments, to make money. It was exhausting and there was a growing feeling of not getting anywhere. Yes, there were good assignments, among many mediocre ones, and yes, after some years of struggling there was some financial stability. But as soon as I took the foot off the gas the machine staggered, work oportunities and calls for assignments decreased. I feel it is about time to come to terms with the fact that I am just not as exceptional a journalist, as gifted a story teller as I wish to be. Admitting to your own mediocrity, to average, is not easy. Neither is it a good motivator. I think my climate strike, brought forth by the very real climate crisis, served a good deal as a cover-up for an internal crisis too.
Ironically enough, a third crisis, the corona shutdown, to some extend brought both these crises to a halt. Needless to say, the permafrost will keep melting, regardless of some dolphins now jumping in lagoons in Venice again, or me seeding carrots and mucking out cows instead of working as a writer. Still, the full stop corona has brought to us (except to the people working in hospitals, health departments, to policy makers and of course to those fearing for their loved ones in critical conditions) makes me feel slightly optimistic. People seem to be reflecting quite a lot what is valuable in their lives right now. Being unable to shop, consume, travel, be over-productive, distract yourself with keeping the wheel spinning seems to be giving us some much-needed time to think and feel. Sure, most of us are longing for things to get back to normal as soon as possible. And all the postponed consumption might result in an increasing need for gratification, once that happens. But maybe this pause has some longer-lasting effects as well, like taking pleasure in things that are not for sale and that, by chance, are also less harmful for the world we are living in. It’s for sure the more mundane pleasures: checking in with friends, enjoying nature, going for walks, runs or hikes, caring for someone who might need a little help, taking pleasure in preparing food yourself, DIY-ing things that you might have bought before.
This is what I am doing now
As for me, this virus has – after some nervous days where I was contemplating what to do – brought some peace of mind to my adventure. It has brought me to the here and now, to the place where I am, physically and mentally. The feeling of missing out, of having made an unfortunate mistake, of having taken a bad turn, diminished. Instead, I feel more like I have arrived. This is what I am doing now. I keep thinking that while working in the green house where it smells of humid soil and I can see countless healthy earthworms and insects inhabiting the space. This is where I am now, I think while learning to differentiate tiny lemongrass seedlings from weeds, while dozing off in the shy spring sun. This is what I am doing here and now, I think while taking immense pleasure in cooking vegan meals for the farmers and the volunteers on Bergsmyrene Gård, the new farm I am working on. The Bergsmyrene family makes it easy to feel cheerful, being so appreciative, and providing a wonderful community, while equally being considerate of everyones private space. Farm life doesn’t feel particularly political, like I was really being on a climate strike. Other than spending and earning no money, providing people with good biodynamic vegetables, treating soil, flora and fauna in a sustainable way and nourishing myself well. Well I guess that is already something.
I don’t write much these days and currently I don’t brainstorm about new assignments. The ones that were in planning are all cancelled due to corona. I am ok with that. Instead, I work together with a small and wonderful group of people. We are outdoors most of the day, we eat good food, we take immense pleasure in baking bread together, I go for long walks, do yoga, go for a quick dip in the fjord. I read books and sleep tight. It feels like I am exactly where I need to be.