Traveling in Place is how a place-based person like me enjoys seeing the world. After six days of urban living, we migrated from Dan and Lene’s sleek Copenhagen apartment to their relaxed country house in Blavand, on the west coast of Denmark.
First, we drove through the “Kiss and Fly” lane at the Copenhagen airport, where we kissed Ruth goodbye so she could fly back to Georgia; then we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic as the city emptied out for a long holiday weekend. For a while, we were stuck next to a car with license plate 101. A uniformed driver was at the wheel, and a well-barbered gentleman sat reading in back.
“Oh, that’s Prince Henrik,” Lene said, as if it were an ordinary thing for a royal to be stuck in traffic. Evidently, in Denmark, it is.
The traffic let up as we headed west, crossing the islands of Zealand and Odense to the Jutland Peninsula, the only part of Denmark that’s connected by land to Europe. At 56 degrees north of the equator and midway between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice, we enjoyed a prolonged dusk; the sun didn’t set until 9.
We arrived at the summerhouse just after dark, so we couldn’t see the pines or the ocean, but we could smell and hear them both, although we couldn’t distinguish the sound of the wind from the wash of the waves.
The two-bedroom house is tucked into a pine grove on a bluff, about a quarter mile from the shore. For Dan, the main attraction of the house is that there’s no lawn – just beach grass, wild roses, heather, gorse, and mugo pine; for Lene, it’s the proximity to where she spent her childhood summers with her grandparents. For me, the place was undeniably charming, and being there triggered a hallucination of time past superimposed on time present.
Dan and I spent our childhood summers at his parents’ summerhouse in Vermont, just up the hill from where I now live. It was the rhythm of those days, the freedom of the outdoors, the mysteries of the forest, the spectacle of deer grazing in the meadow, naming birds during the day and constellations at night – all these activities fueled by good food and filled with much laughter – that Dan and Lene had reincarnated, as if they had relocated and updated the past. It’s true that we were in Denmark in May 2016, but we were also in that timeless place of vacation, where time stops and all that matters is when to take a break from reading and go for a walk.
We were graced with sunshine and a wind that propelled us down to the beach, where kite surfers zoomed over the waves. Rafts of shells marked the high water line; I channeled my mother, who was an inveterate shell collector, and picked out a handful of them – my souvenir of the trip.
Despite the sunshine, the wind robbed any warmth from the air. I was bundled in fleece, but my companions stripped and dipped into water that wasn’t quite fifty degrees – mostly because Dan and Lene compete annually with friends to see who will be the first in. What was Tim’s excuse? The next day was windless and warmer; I joined them just so I could say I’ve dunked in the North Sea. The water is as cold as any Vermont stream in May – but salty.
Between walks on the beach, we read, ate, heard a cuckoo bird sing and saw a deer run past, much like the afternoons of my childhood in Vermont. Just like those childhood summers, we also had projects, reinforcing my belief that “vacation house” is an oxymoron. Lene weeded between the patio flagstones, and we helped Dan plant a miniature garden that is perhaps more about the faith that placing a seed in soil represents than it is about the expectation of crops. We also roused ourselves for a trip to a lighthouse and a visit to a museum about the off-shore windmills that we could see turning at the distant horizon.
There are wind turbines all over Denmark, in the countryside as well as out at sea. On land, they tend to be solitary or in small groups of two or three at the end of a field, turning majestically in the near-constant wind. We also passed an industrial lot in the port city of Esbjerg, where windmill parts were awaiting transport and installation. Up close and personal, the blades are immense and graceful, evocative in size and shape of a whale.
At the end of our third sun-soaked day, we swept out and shut down the house. Dan and Lene planned to return the following weekend; Tim and I headed back to working and living in place, in Vermont.
Here are a few more photos of the trip – some of which magically reappeared on my phone after last week’s post.
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