Sussan is enjoying her last summer among the snowfields of Central Norway.
"I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this." — Susan Branch
It snowed in the early morning. After a stretch of warm weather it was welcomed. Sussan had moved to the snowfields and the vidda (high treeless plateau) for health reasons. Heat will kill you, the doctor had said. How about ice, she had answered. Just don't slip and fall, her family had warned her.
She cleaned at the snow-lodge. Folks came in early summer to drive between snow banks that towered over 3 meters before they melted under 20 hours of daily sun. Now it was end of August and autumn and soon the road would close, then a short respite before snowflakes and skiers showed up and eternal twilight descended.
I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this. Just enough visitors to keep her busy. But not so busy that she couldn't watch violet, white and yellow flowers bloom at the edge of the receding snowfields or birds visit the puddles and tarns they'd call their summer home or put her hand in ice cold glacial melt that colored the streams a pale green. She didn't have a word to describe it. The glacier ice was blue, the firn like sugar, the smell — clean. Not all the snowfields had melted this year; some had grown. One never knew, they said.
Elvekonger (dippers) still searched along the streams. The bugs — she could live without the bugs — but the birds depended on the buffet-on-ice. She loved to listen to them sing. She had picked buttercups. She had harvested golden cloud berries and made her own multekrem (cloudberry cream).
She had enough books to keep her happy when it got quiet. She had done a lot of reading.
The cool fresh air had done her good. Her lungs approved of the lack of city smog. Why her father's family left their village to live in the city she couldn't fathom. Wait till winter, her friends had laughed.
They could laugh all they wanted.
Her boss wasn't laughing. "We need to speak Sussan." Typical Norwegian. Few words, direct, always neutral. Steady. But something in her voice...
"Your husband called. He demanded that you come home."
"Called me every swear word I knew and a couple I didn't." The boss smiled. "I didn't say much. He didn't act like he was coming here. And soon it'll be too difficult to travel and far too uncomfortable for a city banker."
Now Sussan smiled. Her boss had promised not to tell ole stuffy hubby where she was and they had agreed that Sussan shouldn't speak to him.
"Did he mention divorce?"
"Good. I don't have time for that nonsense."
Her boss slightly nodded.
"The doctor called too."
"Any news? Like I'm going to live forever?"
"No. But he can't promise another summer. The lab results don't look good. Your lungs may be too damaged and..." Sussan finished for her. "...and the side effects from my psych medications didn't help and that can't be cured."
"Yes, that, but he's worried about a new spot on your liver."
"I'm not. We all know that I came here to breathe and live my life to the fullest while I still could."
"You could get treatment in London."
"No, the bad air will kill me."
"Yes, but I don't want to be cured. There's no one to go back to and nowhere else has ever made me this happy."
"You may not last until spring without treatment."
"I'm fine with that. I have all autumn to make new memories and all winter to remember this summer. By spring I'll be out of cloudberry jam. If I see the hestehov (coltsfoot) bloom again it will be enough."
Her boss looked down. Sussan lightly touched her hand.
"It's enough to have lived this summer. I shall never forget it.
"And your husband?"
Susan gazed at the white moth orchid in the window. So delicate. So Norwegian.
"What he doesn't suspect can't hurt me."
"Do you have any suggestions?"
Sussan looked at the couple that had driven up in a car. Didn't look like backpackers, looked like her family actually. Americans most likely.
"The cotton grass is beautiful this time of year and you may see quite a few late birds if you take a stroll. Autumn is here."
"It snowed a couple days ago. Just a light frosting but it's a warning. Where are you from if I may ask."
She was right again. She was usually right.
"Still warm there?"
"It may freeze here tonight. Where are you staying?"
"It's nice in Lom this time of year. Make sure you visit the stave church while you're there and eat at the bakery."
"Right by the waterfall in the center of town. Just ask for Bakeriet. It's a small town."
"We're from a small town. So many places in Norway oddly remind me of home. My mother's family came from Otta."
"Then you must visit there as well."
A pleasant visit. Most everyone passing through was pleasant, even if too many were rushed. She didn't miss the city or being rushed.
The Sognefjellsvegen had just opened up after winter and soon the tourists and backpackers would be back. The days were already long. The yellow hestehov (coltsfoot) was peeking out between exposed rocks. The snowfields glittered.
Sussan and her boss had checked everything to make sure that the lodge was ready to welcome the summer hoards. They sat with their coffees in a window where a new purple moth orchid had opened a couple buds. Sussan spoke.
"Looking forward to summer?"
"It won't be the same without you."
"Well, just remember last summer. For me, that was enough."
"Your husband picking you up?"
"Yes, there's a hospice in Sogndal." Sussan laughed. "I made sure I waited until it was pointless to fly back to London."
"You're back together?"
"No. I don't want to have anything to do with the son-of-a-bitch. But... he's being kind... and that's enough. He's honoring my last wish."
They sipped in silence until a car honked.
"I told him I wanted to stay where I could breathe. Told him that it was time for him to let go. Told him that my last summer here held memories enough."
© Copyright 2021 Kåre Enga [178.171] (29.juni.2021)