Summer is achingly sweet here in Bø. The sleepy months of winter are long, leaving little time for life to dilly-dally when the days begin to warm up. I watched as, seemingly overnight, summer painted the landscape green and called forth armies of wildflowers to march across fields, up slopes, and patrol roadsides. Not just one family of ducks paddles along the shoreline, but dozens, trailing long trains of fuzzy ducklings. A mother moose followed by two young trotted through the neighbour’s yard while I sipped my morning tea.
There is a ten day gap in my journal, void of voice and sketch. It exists not for lack of inspiration, but due to an overwhelming pull towards creation. Surrounded by so much raw beauty, my hand is frozen as my eyes feast and my artist giddily suggests one potential subject after another. I have gone on several bike rides around the island, hunting for spots to sketch, hardly able to settle on one, but at least I am filling the memory card on my camera.
I find myself taking the same photographs over and over. Lonely, dilapidated house, weathered and paint chipped wood siding, cracked windows, waist deep grass filled with lupins and wildflowers I have not yet learned the names for, set against a backdrop of reflective ocean, horizon filled with dramatic peaks marking the northern stretch of the Lofoten Islands, and a brooding sky. What is it about the neglected and abandoned that I find so attractive?
I have always pick the funky cafe filled with mismatched furniture and hand turned mugs over the sleek, white and stainless steel versions. The views surrounding me as I explore Bø on my borrowed bike are like nature’s version of my favourite cafes – raw, rough, and romantically ruined.
The neglected accumulate details over time: cracks; gouges; rot; piles of rubble. Other elements are lost completely, long since reclaimed by decay or repurposed by a neighbour. This give and take of design components reshuffles an otherwise expected whole, and it is that which sets my imagination brewing, rewriting what I see into a personal, visual fantasy.
Every place has a history, every space a story, but it is the drama where we can see ourselves playing a role that garners the most interest. The ‘rustic’ is pulled apart just enough for my mind to fill in the gaps with what-ifs and rebuild the forgotten to match an image created with my own ideal. So, when I find myself stopping every 200 metres, extending a bike ride which should only last an hour through an entire afternoon, and staring at old shacks long since empty of habitation, I do not just see the ruin. My mind’s eye is building a tableau, a chimerical paradise custom tailored to suit my inner romantic.
This is not the first time I find myself drawn to capture the worn and desolate, nor likely the last. Remember these beauties from Nazare, Portugal?
What do you see? Broken down bâtiments counting their days for the arrival of a merciful bulldozer? Or grand castles and funky hovels filled with secrets ready to be whispered into the right set of ears, shimmering to reveal a new vision if you tilt your head just so and wonder, ‘What if?’