Friluftsliv – Free Air Life

In our first book, OUR LIFE OFF THE GRID, I didn’t wander too far into the spiritual, zen, supernatural aspect of living this way.  I concentrated more on the mistakes I made and, if there was any magic in the telling, it was simply that I was still alive and able to write about it when we finished.  I did tend to slag urban life (and continue to do so) but I and my readers make allowances for that, I think, much as they make allowances for the proselytizing of vegans, AA members and reformed smokers.  We’ve been burnt so we preach.  They think we are kind of like ‘zealots’ in some way.  Born again.  A smidge pathetic.

I understand completely.

I did mention it all (the magic) once. First book. Last chapter. “It’s impossible to ignore the present when you are in the woods. Now is big out here.  It embraces you.  Living even partly feral requires an intimate and immediate awareness of your environment.  The present moment is often so enchanting, so totally occupying, you are ravished by it.  It is a momentous love affair with life.” 

I got a bit carried away…

…..but, as it turned out, I was onto something.  It seems the Scandinavians, more accurately, the Norse (the idea comes from older times), not only knew that there was something magic about being in the woods, they gave it a name.  Friluftsliv means, literally, free air life.

But, in the broader context, the meaning is more about feeling alive and part of something natural and magic. It’s about belonging to the natural world.  It adds an element of profound awe and appreciation to the mix.  Frilftsliv means feeling connected to the earth, to nature and feeling all that at a deep and personal level.  They also believe that such deep feelings open the mind and the soul to even greater depths of knowledge. It’s about being. They think we need this.  They think we need this all the time.  In that sense, they are like Thoreau – or, more accurately, he like them.

But the Scandinavians don’t just talk and write about it, it seems they also do.  And they do in a big way.  Thus we hear of these guys mushing dogs in the dead of winter, having campfires and such in remote places.  Basically, the Scandinavians get out there.  A lot.  Getting out to the forest – as part of your everyday life – is a large part of their lifestyle.

So, what am I saying?  I dunno…..I felt that magic.  I still feel that magic.  Living out here has a quality, an aspect, a je ne sais quoi that I tried to describe in the book passage above.  The reality is, it is one of those things you really have to experience for yourself to fully understand and, more to the point, I do not think it comes right away.  Camping for two weeks out of the ol’ Winnebago won’t do it.

I do not know WHAT it takes, actually.  But, in my experience, it took me a year to ‘get it’.  ‘Course, I was pretty busy during that time and so maybe it took me longer.  I find myself telling would-be OTG’ers that it takes living out here for ‘at least six months’ but I am just guessing.  I do not know.

My friend and distant neighbour, RW, read that last chapter and exclaimed, “You get it!”  He’s been here for over thirty years and spent most of his life mountaineering.  He definitely gets it.

So, why write about it?  Friluftsliv is something I had never heard of until today.  Never even heard of the concept as it is so clearly described in Norse literature.  I read Thoreau but, until I felt it for myself, it was just words.

And, worse, we in the modern world have lost the right words.  We talk of ‘Supernatural BC’, ‘Mother Nature’, the magic of the forest and so on but we can’t really convey a non-word idea that way.  This is one that is 95% experiential.  I wish I could describe it adequately for you.  I know I cannot.

So, I will leave this blog entry at this: some cultures know it (Friluftsliv) and have incorporated it into their lifestyle and society.  I do not think we, in the modern western world, have.  Some others may have done so and have managed to even write about it but those lessons are in a foreign language at the very least.  I do not read about this in my English readings so far.  Thoreau, only touches on it.  And those other-culture stories, too, may fall short without the actual experience to accompany it.  But it is something.  It is a very real something.  It is a very real, very necessary and very healing something that we lose or miss at our personal and collective peril.

So go hug a tree or save a whale or something, why don’t you…?  Take as long as you can.  The life and culture you save…….

10 thoughts on “Friluftsliv – Free Air Life

  1. For lack of a better word, David, I would call it “Mindfulness” With apologies to all the yogis and yoginis out there, of which I am one. Maybe they might agree.


    • Paul, just because you like yogurt does not make you a yogi. Not even an Italian yogini….
      I think mindfulness as it is currently employed is very much it…but F is just a bit more married to nature… I said….hard to describe for me….
      Do you use Parmesan with your yogini?


  2. And the nice part about it is we don’t have to wonder if continuing with Site C is a good idea or not.
    Not that I prescribe to the “I’m okay Jack” line, but if and until they find a proper foundation for this ill-conceived vanity project, you and I are isolated from their spiralling rate hikes.
    Sorry, but I haven’t yet got over this blunder!
    Will you be posting from Hong Kong and Thailand? I’ll be following from Nicaragua if you do.


    • I think I will. Especially if some bar girls get me…..then a lot of hospital pictures. Sal in a Thai jail. Could be fun.
      If you get caught up with the cartel – inevitable – ask to take pics and send them. I’ll do a memorial blog.


  3. William Wordsworth agrees with you Dave !

    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
    This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
    The winds that will be howling at all hours,
    And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
    For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
    It moves us not. –Great God! I’d rather be
    A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
    Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

    William Wordsworth

    His comment on the persons unaware of nature.


    • when davidicus was vexed about finding a new interest I suggested poetry,
      he seems to me ‘an enigma wrapped in a paradox’ so to speak.
      One who cherishes the quietute of Read isl > 1 person per square mile, yet labors discomfort and expense to voyage to one of the densest humanly populated places on the globe,
      one who disdains large party groups, yet plans to party for two weeks.
      Here he will get a fundamental lesson in guanxi.
      No disrespect intended, you are contributing to keeping my world a bit more interesting then it might otherwise be.


      • .

        I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260)

        Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

        I’m Nobody! Who are you?
        Are you – Nobody – too?
        Then there’s a pair of us!
        Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

        How dreary – to be – Somebody!
        How public – like a Frog –
        To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
        To an admiring


      • Well, Aldo……Guangxi as a network for reasons pedestrian, not so much. But for love, friendship, intimacy, communion…. absolutely. I love those I love. I want to stay close to those I am close to. I would go to hell for a loved one. But I wouldn’t cross the street for a celebrity who means nothing to me. I do that because ‘connection’ is magic. I think you understand…..a close friend of mine calls it the circle of love. To be included in mine is a good thing. All are welcome, few are chosen.


  4. It’s a wonder her poems survived her death. I’ve heard the perhaps hypocriful story that Emily had directed her poems to be destroyed upon her death.


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