The vexing silence

I grew up in Haugesund. It’s not exactly the metropolis many of the locals identify it as, but it’s still a town. Along with the smaller neighbouring municipalities, there are at least 100,000 people in a relatively small area in the northern part of the county, so it’s pretty crowded there anyway. This town has 35,000 people living on just 72 square kilometres. Haugesund has no opportunities for growth, unless people are more willing to build higher. There’s not a tradition for that in this town, however.

farmer's market
This is the farmers market in Stavanger with the harbour in the background. Slightly busier than Vikebygd.

I haven’t lived in a town/city since I moved from Stavanger, a city of 250 000 people, in 2004. It was where I had my first job. I just moved farther and farther away from crowded areas after that. Not because I chose to, but the competition for jobs has been very hard in the towns and cities, so I’ve had to work in smaller places. We first moved from Stavanger to Vikebygd, 40 km outside Haugesund. That’s been my favourite place so far, because although they didn’t like outsiders, they left us alone. It hasn’t been like that everywhere we’ve gone. It was just a 40 minute drive from Vikebygd to Haugesund, so it wasn’t very isolated either.

the hamlet of Vikebygd
The “harbour” in Vikebygd
Source: Espen Sundve (wikimedia commons)

After four years there, I got a job in Tokke in Western Telemark. That meant moving farther away from a town. It was 2.5 hours to Skien, a town about the same size as Haugesund. I felt a little more isolated there, but didn’t hate the place. There were some drawbacks of course, like the time I had to have the car repaired. My job was an hour away and there was no bus service. I had made an appointment, but when I showed up the car mechanic said he couldn’t repair the car because he had to work. I was tempted to reply: “Yes, of course you have. You are working on my car.” I don’t know if he would have appreciated the humour. The work he referred to was driving the ambulance. He wasn’t just the community car mechanic. He was also the ambulance driver and taxi driver. I don’t know when, or if, he had time for repairing cars. I got a feeling I had landed in the fictional village of Cicely, Alaska from Northern Exposure.

Now I live in Halsa in Nordland County, about 3 hours from Bodø, and there is nothing but mountains between us and the town. Some things are easy here, but just before Christmas it was rather bothersome. The car was at the garage, but the mechanic wasn’t. He was sick for a week. The problem is that this community doesn’t have a doctor, so getting sick here is especially problematic. I guess they believe in fixing cars, not people. It was a nuisance being without a car here. We were stuck here for a week, and walking to work in – 15 degrees Celsius is a bit more refreshing than necessary. The scenery here is breathtaking, especially in winter, providing I can watch it on National Geographic Channel. In reality it’s just cold and uncomfortable.

I have always had many thoughts and inner voices. These thoughts aren’t always unpleasant as such, but the disorderly nature of them is hard in a world that hates chaos. I suspect it has a lot to do with my nonverbal learning disorder. I’m not exactly big on structure, so it’s a bit chaotic in there. Some of the troublesome thoughts remained somewhat muted and in the background when I lived in a town, but they are pretty loud here without all the interference. I often have the radio or TV on at home even though I do not listen. TV increasingly serves as insulation against internal noise. It helps not thinking about it all the time.

The interior noise is the main reason I have difficulty getting things done. I’ve been working on a children’s novel for years, but even though I constantly have ideas, nothing much happens. It’s so hard to get my ideas out. I dream about the opportunity to only work on my book, but right now there is so much happening in my job as a teacher. It’s impossible at the moment. I’m not sure it would make much difference to get a leave of absence either. Maybe this is just part of my nonverbal learning problems. I only know that I have a hell of a struggle focusing, although there is very little that compete for my attention here.

My ability to focus would probably not be any better in a town, but I miss the opportunity to distract the chaos in my mind. That’s one of the things I use my two blogs for, organizing the chaotic thoughts I have. That’s good therapy, but I also hope it’ll help getting the author out. I’m not sure what the English expression for it is, but if you have ambitions as a writer, we Norwegians say that you have an author in your stomach. At the moment it feels like he’s trapped and I’m working on releasing him.

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