A couple of weeks ago a neighbour unexpectedly invited us for a turkey dinner. We hadn’t really got to know each other well except brief exchanges outside his building or bumping into him on our evening walks. We gladly accepted the invitation – dinner invites don’t happen too often in this place but above all, we were keen to meet new people in the ‘hood.
It turned out to be a very pleasant evening. There was another couple, also folks we hadn’t met before. At some stage, we ended up talking about living in Kauto. Our host said the town is like Twin Peaks, full of odd and strangely behaving people. (In fact there is a mountain with twin peaks that I can almost see from my window. It’s called Bealljáš, ‘small ears’.)
Maybe thinking this place as Twin Peaks helps me understand and survive it better. That it’s not personal that the way people interact is so weird. Not that I’ve ever watched Twin Peaks (I never really was a TV person, perhaps because of my childhood trauma when my parents, concerned of bad influence, banned me watching Dallas and the Dynasty). Now we don’t even have a telly because you’d need a satellite dish to get beyond the couple of Norwegian channels. “How do you spend your evenings?” somebody asked when he heard that. I can assure you, not in bars, cafes, libraries or movies.
Alas, I had to google Twin Peaks and found the storyline at Wikipedia. Well, there aren’t murders but who knows what else people in this town are hiding. There was a wave of sexual abuse cases of under-aged females that surfaced about two years ago. Most people wanted to hide the issue, silence and cover it up as quick as possible. Instead of raising awareness of sexual violence against women and children, you can feel it in your bones that you really shouldn’t even mention the cases, even if it obviously is an issue that begets further discussion and research.
Our host and the other couple had heard the news about me leaving my job. The host asked me why. Afterwards I realized it was another of those Twin Peaks moments: no reaction, no comments, no nothing. Not even ‘sorry to hear that’ or ‘too bad.’ (Did I live in Canada for too long?). Even disagreement would’ve been good, at least then we could’ve had a discussion about issues around it. I keep wondering whether it is pure and simple disinterest or fear of getting involved and taking sides (and if it’s the latter, why are we afraid of taking sides?). And I’m not talking about our dinner party but in more general, when I drop in with or bump into people I know, all you’re faced with is silence. I don’t expect or want people to talk about what happened to me but I do think there is a need to discuss the bigger picture – first to figure it out what it is and then go from there, wherever it takes us. How do we move forward otherwise?
My mom told me on the phone about a woman who had lived in Kauto for some time. Her experience had been that the town is like there was a rug pulled over everybody. So nothing personal, I remind myself again. But isn’t it human to care about and be interested in people around you? Interested in what they are up to? Maybe not in Twin Peaks.
It’s hard to go home or find home once you’ve left. I think my condition is some form of social claustrophobia. I still wonder, eleven and half months later, whether I am the alien or if I landed on an alien planet. But they say it takes at least a year to get used to the new surroundings – I’m still hopeful. (I haven’t forgotten it took me about year and a half to like Vancouver and its never-ending rain.)
Recently we were talking about the dark season that’s upon us now. I remarked that I don’t understand how people handle it all their lives, it’s so tough when there’s daylight only for a couple of hours. I had to be reminded that I grew up in this part of the world. Oops, how did I forget that?
The late Sami artist and writer Nils-Aslak Valkeapää wrote that “my home is in my heart/it migrates with me.” Too bad it has become a cliche repeated by anybody who feels a bit out of place. I’m starting to think that maybe home is where your support is – support in terms of having a conversation, discussing things that take place around us, figuring out things that affect our lives and matter to us. And also expressing sympathy when things don’t go well. I don’t know what I would’ve done without my friends and colleagues in far away places and without our virtual conversations that have helped me to see the bigger picture and put things into perspective.