Yesterday, I went skiing. In Denmark! With an exclamation mark. Because it is unusual. First of all, unusual for there to be enough snow in Denmark, secondly, I usually go skiing in my home country Norway. Where the mountains are immense, and the snow is deep.
But this year, as we all know, everything is different. And I’m stuck with my skis in Denmark, a country where mountains do not exist.
So, I felt a little desperate taking a long ride in the car to the very last skiing expedition this year, as the rain was already starting to fall and most of the countryside was very green indeed… But there was still just enough snow there, one hours’ ride southwards, on a flat golf terrain, in between villa quarters and busy streets and driving cars…
But frankly. Distracting from the sounds of the cars, it felt as good as going skiing on the top of the high plateaus in Norway. Because the sense it gave my whole body, of finally making those innate, parallel movements again, and the feeling of gliding slowly into the white landscape, was so immensely missed. The fog was so thick I could not even see the houses. I did not fear frostbitten hands and was totally safe knowing I did not need a map or a compass to find the way back to the car. Nor did I need to carry a spade to be able to dig a cave in the snow in case of a sudden blizzard…
Skiing through that immensely white landscape, I was reminded of one of those experiences of skiing in the mountains of Norway, as it, too, was carrying such an immense contrast.
I was skiing alone on a mountain top near my home in the Telemark region of Norway, as the year had just passed to 2001. I had just come home after spending new years’ in Ghana, on a holiday with a friend. I was still bathed in the memory of having my senses stirred intensely: the intense humidity and the heat, the firy taste of chili red-red, the ever-present sounds of laughter, children playing, ocean waves, drums and song, the intense smells of spices, dirt and sweat, the colours of beautiful cloths, brown earth and greenery everywhere. The intensity of all these sensory impulses and people all around, the excitement of being a stranger in a new culture and meeting new people, hearing their stories, sharing new food, intensely sharing and talking with my friend about our experiences. I was still processing the travel home, looking down over the Sahara desert, the Mediterranean, passing over the contours of Europe, landing in Norway and the train journey back home to this silent landscape wrapped up in white.
Coming home, the first thing I did after having a good long sleep, was to take my car and drive up to the white, beckoning mountains with my skis. I had done this so many times. Walked into the white landscape, alone on my skis. But this time, it was the weirdest experience. No sounds. No colours. No people. No taste. I could almost smell the smell of no smell. For the first time in my life, I so intensely sensed the ABSENCE of sensory stimuli. And the intense freezer cold sensation on my nose, after all that heat. Such a contrast. So white. So silent. So empty. So colourless, tasteless, soundless, smell-less. So cold.
So different. And so immensely beautiful.
Such an intense sensory experience, the one world showing me the contrast that was necessary for me to see what I had been in so many times, but not really sensed.
I would not choose the one before the other, I love them both. The contrast between those two worlds, so innate to me (having been born in Africa, raised (mostly) in Norway) was suddenly more apparent than ever. It made me even more aware of the amazing and beautiful contrast in our lives, in our world, on our planet.
More apparent now than ever, maybe, when we cannot travel, and are forced to see and enjoy what has always been here, on our own doorstep.
And it makes me wonder. What about our inner contrasts? That inside world, sometimes so overpopulated with inner voices, sounds, chaotic feelings and noise as sensual impressions are crowding the space. At other moments, if we are lucky, a silent space of just beauty and inner peace.
That colourful, lively, crazy, passionate part of ourselves, contrasted to our deep (maybe seldomly experienced, but still ever present) inner stillness and calm wisdom.
We often fear the intensity of our inner contrasts. We may fear being confronted with our loneliness, the silence and the emptiness inside. We may fear the passion and the colourful uncontrollability of our passionate inner life when letting go of controlling our feelings.
We need them both. That is why I take the time to meditate, to experience those sudden, rare moments of my inner white space of stillness and peace and deep knowing. That is why I try to find ways to activate my inner tiger, so it does not sleep for too long, but lives and roars and jumps around making a lot of noise. Even if it freaks me out.
Maybe that contrast is what makes life worth living. Learning to let them both live and enrich each other is a big part of learning to live with ourselves and our own wholeness (holiness).
I love the contrasts of this outer world. They mirror my inner world so that I can sense it clearly.