A Norwegian Valley Where the Old Ways Beckon

One sweltering night last July, I found myself inside a small auditorium in a Norwegian valley called Setesdal for a community concert. A young woman stood in the right aisle, dressed in the valley’s traditional bunad dress, a billowing black skirt with red and green stripes at the hem, a full-sleeved white blouse, and a kerchief that covered her hair. Her crystalline soprano voice unfurled across the room. From the other side of the auditorium, a middle-aged woman, also in full costume, sang in

The Norwegian Sweater Detective

In a postcard-perfect valley in southern Norway, Annemor Sundbø nurtures her life’s work: old garments, paintings, and other clues to the myths and meaning woven for centuries into Norwegian sweaters. Now she’s trying to bring back the sheep that used to sustain this time-honored craft. The Setesdal valley was once quite remote from the more populous Norwegian coast, with access to its interior possible only by means of a network of trails and footpaths. Today, the region’s unique culture prese


Finse, an easy-to-miss railway stop high in the mountains on the popular Bergen-to- Oslo train route, draws hardy urbanites year-round. The town offers access to some of the most remote and beautiful alpine hiking territory in southern Norway (think boulder-strewn plateaus without a tree to interrupt the sight lines) as well as gracious lodging at an old-fashioned mountain hotel.Cross the train platform at the Finse station and enter directly into Finse 1222 , a rustic lodge that opened in 1909

My Norwegian Wood

My husband, daughter, and I had been living in southern Norway for several weeks—since mid-February—when the sun emerged for the first time. Two weeks of record-breaking snowstorms had, overnight, begun to thaw and I was surrounded by the sound of rushing and dripping water. The icicles that hung from our eaves had vanished. At midday I took a long walk on the gravel road that follows the river. I didn’t wear the heavy down jacket I bought just as I left the States, which I had used almost daily

Old Norwegian sheep and their durable wool

After writing extensively about the history of Norwegian knitting and textile design, Annemor Sundbø turned her attention to the very foundation of those textiles, to the wool without which, she says, there would have been no Vikings. In the process, Sundbø has become an ardent ambassador for the value of the wool produced by Norway’s original breed of sheep, the Old Norwegian spelsau. Spelsau, which now exist only in remnant flocks, grow wool that is



Stephanie Coontz (a Mother Jones interview)

In February 4, 1997, when English au pair Louise Woodward fractured the skull of her 8-month-old charge, Matthew Eappen—causing his death five days later—she unleashed a storm of outrage. One of the targets was Deborah Eappen, the child’s mother, who had returned to work as an ophthalmologist (albeit part time) after her son’s birth. Eappen was vilified as selfish and irresponsible for leaving her son in the care of an 18-year-old. But even as the public and pundits were lambasting Eappen, policymakers were quietly acknowledging a growing national problem. With more two-income households, the country is suffering from a critical shortage of safe, affordable ways to care for children. President Clinton made the push for national childcare a pillar of his State of the Union address in January, and there are several childcare bills sitting in

A sit-down with Julia Flynn Siler: Author takes in-depth look at 19th century sex trafficking in Chinatown

Julia Flynn Siler is the author of “The White Devil’s Daughters, The Women Who Fought Slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown,” published by Alfred A. Knopf on May 14. In this deeply researched work of nonfiction, she tells the story of a Presbyterian mission house established in San Francisco in the 19th century that rescued hundreds of Chinese sex slaves and helped them establish new lives. The narrative

Poet Laureate Robert Hass (a Mother Jones interview)

In accepting the post of poet laureate of the United States two years ago, Robert Hass postponed his writing life for what he has called an “act of citizenship.” Since his appointment, he has written a weekly column on poetry syndicated by the Washington Post and has traveled around the country to urge more funding for literacy and education, and to suggest the need for deeper awareness of environmental relationships. Hass’ tenure as poet laureate has been a more public expression of the lifelong concerns that inform his poetry: a close attention to the natural world, a sense of self developed in relation to the landscape, an acute awareness of both the pleasures and pains of being human. His books of poetry include Human Wishes, Praise, and Field Guide. In his latest collection, Sun Under Wood (Hopewell, N.J.: Ecco Press, 1996), Hass says he is writing “the poems of middle age…poems of what’s irreparable in the world, things you can’t change.”