northern light

Last week we spent five beautiful days in Denmark and one in Sweden. Now, I love Britain with all my heart, mind and soul, but Scandinavia constantly, patiently, gently, whispers for my attention. I have felt a deep connection with these northern lands since I first visited thirty years ago, and art, music, design, literature and personal connection continue to keep me in thrall.

The first things that overwhelmed me were the light and the colour. The light is not bright, but it is everywhere, it seems to radiate up from the street and pour from cracks in the pavement. It was raining nearly the whole time we were there, but still there was this soft, beautiful light. It finally dawned on me that it must come from the sea: Denmark is made up of hundreds and hundreds of islands, completely surrounded by sea, and is only ever gently undulating... no hills or valleys to catch or block the light. It is sea-light. And the colours... the colours are the colours of the sea, the sky and the shore... soft grey-blues, dove grey, softest pinky grey, taupe, charcoal, white blonde, ash, and white... so much white... beautiful white, full of every colour of light that exists. So monochromatic that even barely pigmented colour sings, but gently, softly, liltingly. I was in a personal heaven.

The next thing that took hold of me and pulled me inside out and back-to-front and practically left me breathless with longing and wonder was the innate sense of style that permeates from every door, window, garden, shop front and item of clothing. I felt like I had come ashore in a dream, stepped into a favourite magazine or fallen into the pages of a beloved book. It felt like me.

Personal style and interior decoration are the same in Scandinavia: natural, neutral, simple and soft, a mixture of beauty, comfort and practicality. All those lovely, muted, understated colours, exquisite attention to detail, respect for old buildings, warmth, light and a sense of calm. Simplicity. A sense of balance. No clutter, no chaos. And light.

Windows to exclaim over as you explore the pretty little streets: bowls of orchids, tiny succulents, my favourite houseplant known in Denmark as 'spots-in-the-air', little displays of collected treasures. Front doors which nearly always have welcoming green plants climbing up custom-built cast-iron supports. Elegance and simplicity.

Gardens, whether large or small, public or private, that have a real, tangible, sense of place. Open space with simple stone and evergreens. Nothing contrived or fussy. Sedums and succulents in carefully placed pots. And always somewhere to sit: everybody stays outdoors for as long as they can in the summer. Absolutely everyone has a very large square umbrella or awning so that they can still sit out if it's raining.

Loveliness and comfort in fresh, clear, wholesome things: dill, clear glass, aquavit, white, linen, lit candles, the sea, ryebread. Everything seemed to be done well, to somehow embody peace and purity, from the pouring of a glass of beer to elegant town planning and appreciation for historic buildings, to a properly integrated, modern transport system that runs to time.

Oh, and the sea. Did I mention the sea?

This last photo was taken at possibly one of the most breathtakingly lovely art galleries I have ever been to, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art just south of where we were staying in Helsingør. I spent nearly the whole time here in deep, happy tears, an almost spiritual experience of connection to the sea and the intensity of art, watching the misty grey-blue sea lapping at the shoreline as an Alexander Calder mobile sculpture flipped back and forwards in the breeze of an offshore storm.

Does all this make me sound a bit dippy? Because, it's probably time to own up that actually, I am.

30 comments:

Lyn said...

we are all a bit dippy!
lovely post, I have never been but think it may have to be put 'on the list' of places to visit.
thanks,
love
Lyn
xxx

marigold jam said...

Beautiful post and if that sort of feeling is being dippy then count me in too! Loved it.

Jane

rachel said...

A beautifully expressed description of how I felt about Copenhagen; yes, it has to be the quality of the light, and how it seeps into the psyche of the inhabitants and influences how they dress their surroundings. I so want to go back again.....

Gigibird said...

Dear Dippy Dora
The job for the Danish Tourist Board is in the bag:)
So they have banned Cath Kidston? Hooray
So there is a land of good taste -

Sweet Birdy Love said...

Hey Sue, what a wonderful visit you had, certainly made quite an impression on you.
You have me reaching for my passport. I'm a little bit envious that Scandinavia is practically on your doorstep.
When something touches you so deeply, it's a wonderful experience.

debbieosborn said...

It sounds lovely, I want to go!
Debbie

m said...

How lovely. It's many years since I was on the Danish side but there's another beautiful gallery across the sound in Helsingborg ... same sea, same beautiful light. No wonder they're so stylish!

Jackie said...

Oh Sue......words fail me but they didn't fail you. A beautiful description of a beautiful place. I went 26 years ago and we had to visit the office of the curator of an Art gallery in Charlottenlund. Her room was furnished in completely natural materials and neutral shades. Stylish and simple. I so enjoyed your post.It really makes me want to go again.

Hollace said...

What beautiful words arranged to express an deep affiliation with such ethereal things as light and color. I'm glad you had such a soul-refreshing time. I hope it will send you into creative outbursts.
Really, considering the afghans I've seen you do, the colors you named in your 1st paragraph sound just like you. The writing is just like your patchwork in "know thyself", a study in color and texture and design thought. http://mousenotebook.blogspot.com/2009/04/know-thyself.html.

Susan Heather said...

I must put it on my 'bucket list' you make it sound wonderful. Rather a long trip from us here in New Zealand but hopefully I will manage one more trip north.

Frances said...

Sue, forget that dippy business. It truly does not at all apply to the way that this post has expressed your reaction to and appreciation of Scandinavia.

I do envy you the sampling of the beauty to be found there, and hope that I may eventually get there myself. Probably summer is the most delightful time, because of all that sheer delight of the unique light. Still, from some so the folks on the web with whom I have traded comments, I can sense that the lead up to Christmas time and the long nighttime might also be pretty magical.

All of your photos are so well chosen. It's hard to pick a favorite, perhaps it's the one of the green lawn with the pathway and the distant sea, but could also be quite a few of the others.

Any chance of your posting some more pictures? Hope so. xo

KnitNana said...

Can't just be you! I'm feeling might "dippy" myself after this luscious descriptive.

Hmm...where's my passport?
(((hugs)))

BumbleVee said...

it sounds like a perfect place to visit.... as a matter of fact..I almost felt like I was there for a minute or so.... thanks for a wonderfully descriptive post.... what wonderful colours it sounds......

A Time to Dance said...

We must meet up soon so I can pick your brains...I have always wanted to go to Denmark and Sweeden and your post has made med all the more determined...it sounds wonderful...glad you had a lovely time...every blessing H

Gilly said...

Oh Sue, your description of the light nearly had me in tears! And I visited Copenhagen even longer ago than you did - about 54 years ago!!

There seems to be an innate creativity in everyone there - even the open sandwiches are works of art.

Must dig my passport out again!!

Chrissie said...

oh dear, I've a lump in my throat. I lived in Stockholm for a year when I was 18 (40 years ago ...)and Scandinavia is engraved on my heart too. Your post brought back such wonderful memories.

acornmoon said...

I can see why you felt so at home there. it all looks very Mouse!

My husband went to Estonia and when he came back I am sure his eyes were bluer, this may sound dotty, yes I am dotty too, but I am sure the light made his eyes bluer. It wore off after a couple of weeks. I wonder if that is why Scandinavian's and Estonian's have blue eyes?

I am very envious of your trip, it has been on my wish list for ages.

Sea Angels said...

Sounds fabulous A Time to Dance sent me as she knows I too love that part of the world...would love to go to Denmark nearer Christmas and Hotel tips would be most welcome.
I love this post and am glad you had such a lovely time
Hugs Lynn xxx

ljw said...

It does sound rather magical

Rose H (UK) said...

Just 'found' your lovely blog whilst 'blog-hopping'.
Love your photos and posts. I'll certainly be back for more :o)
Best wishes
Rose H

fibrefrolics said...

What a gorgeous post.It sounds just my sort of place. I would love to go there. I love Scandanavian design and the lifestyle sounds very appealing.Dippy is good!
Penny

Cottage Garden said...

An etheral post Sue - I felt transported to the shores of Scandinavia by the immediacy of your prose. I follow many scandinavian blogs and concur with your appreciation of their inspiring style. I really must visit this part of the world.

Jeanne
x

rossichka said...

Dear Sue, congratulations on this post!! It's worth to be published somewhere because it's written from your heart and soul and I think it represents the feelings that Denmark awakes if not in all then at least in the bigger part of the foreigners who visit it! I was there five years ago and since then I haven't stopped dreaming of a new visit! Some of your feelings are just like mine, most of your impressions, too! Although your story is intimate and speaks about your individuality I found so much in common. This assures me that "the fault" is in the country - in its charm and magic! Your perception and description of the light is something that I haven't felt in the same way, maybe because I spent most of the time between "four walls" (I attended an international conference, dedicated to Andersen's bicentenary), that's why it was so interesting for me to see it through your eyes of an artist! As you see I'm so excited that I can just say THANK YOU for this incredibly beautiful and moving story!!xxx

vicki said...

Sue - Such a beautiful post - wonderful sentiment. The photos are absolutely beautiful. Your ability to take us there with your photos and prose are amazing. Dippy - no way - just someone who truly appreciates a beautiful place and the joy that being there gives to oone's soul.

Vicki

Ginny said...

What a wonderful place! I can see from the colors it is a place where you belong.

elsy said...

sounds wonderful, everything that we crave for ourselves in colours, a serenity.......oohh i want to go

Alice said...

No - it's not dippy:) I love Scandinavia too.

Lorenza said...

We went to the Louisiana Museum in winter, amidst snow and ice, it was absolutely breathtaking! I nurture a little dream to work in Copenhagen for a year or two, who knows... one day :)

Wild Somerset Child said...

Definitely NOT dippy! What a lovely and observant post which made me feel so rested to have read it. Thankyou.

Joyce across the Pond said...

I so agree with all your sentiments about Scandanavia....we have travelled all over all of the countries and the design and simplicity of it, it's classy, elegant looks got me from day one when we crossed over the German Border into Denmark....oh the joy of observing everything, even the simplest home. It is many years since we started visiting and I remember well my first visit to an Ikea store...imagine my heartstopping feeling....at that time I just bought endless amounts of candles which were dirt cheap and stored them in the bedding compartment of the caravan for transporting home...next came some simple and plain Orrefors crystal candleholders for which I got the tax back at the port! Oh you have brought back so many beautiful memories...thank you...have so enjoyed reading your blog...and have bookmarked it.