IMG_2263In the Footsteps of My Mothers by Kari Tauring for Underdølen Magazine, Spring/Summer 2015.


In the Footsteps of my Mothers

I am Kari Tauring, Grace’s daughter who was Myrtle Engen’s daughter who was Thea Marie Nykreims’s daughter who was Oline Gudvangen’s daughter who was the youngest daughter of Turid Nedberg and the only member of the family to leave Norway for America. I am related to the Kappadal farm as well, but for me, this was a journey of mitochondria. Mitochondria is part of the genetic inheritance only passed through the mother and there is a special bond between mothers and the children they carry.

999.6 meters from the bottom to the top - that's 3,279 1/2 feet!

999.6 meters from the bottom to the top – that’s 3,279 1/2 feet!

Nedbergo is a mountain I grew up looking at in photos and paintings done by Myrtle’s sister Stella. Their visits to Undredal connected me to this place through her art and through countless stories. I was very close to seeing this mountain when in Gudvangen in 2009 filming for Season One of Alt for Norge (tvnorge). But the producers would not let me visit. It was painful to be so close to the real mountain of my childhood dreams and not be able to see it. When my mother and I visited in 2011 I finally got to see the mountain from Undredal but still, I could not go there. Knut Nedberg assured me it was far too dangerous due to the heavy rains and avalanche earlier in the summer. My heart was broken once again but my will was not!

Last summer, 2014, I had the trip of a life time. I was a week in Finland with my little goddaughter and friends who were celebrating their wedding. Then I was a week in Skotselv singing with my good friend Sonja Lidsheim and preparing for the Viking Market in Gudvangen. Then I was a week camping in Gudvangen with the viking re-enactors there. It was all wonderful fun. But the highlight of my trip was upon me. Finally I was able to come to come “home” to Undredal. There were many reasons for my return to Undredal. One was to celebrate the plaque that would honor that mountain and those who left the mountain farms and came to America. My mother worked very hard in America and Norway to get this plaque created, hung, and celebrated. Another reason I wanted to be in Undredal is my love of the goats. I wanted so much to help milk them and learn more about the process of making the beautiful and world famous cheeses. But the most important goal was to finally climb to the “home farm” and sing on the mountain that Oline left behind.

I got to Undredal on Sunday night and Leif Inge put me up in Oyestein’s house, the one I heard so much about – what with Queen Sonja making surprise visits. It was so sad to me that I couldn’t meet Oyestein. He was the center of so many wonderful stories. I felt at home there, protective of the house and its history. The next day found Leif Inge in his usual “Summer Frenzy.” So I pitched in and helped box up some cheese, shelf the vegetables, and sweep the front steps of the Bui. Suddenly Leif Inge asked, “can you run the cash register?” Minding the Bui

So just like that, I am really truly family. It was so fun to be behind the cash register and surprise everyone whom I had met a few summers before! Everyone was very helpful and we laughed about it quite a lot. {photo one}

The next day I helped out in the store again but got away in time to help Brita and Anna Karina with the milking! This was a pure joy. We brought the goats up to their new pasture with gjeitlokk and a very energetic but not-to-useful puppy. I felt like a real budiene. I helped Anna Karina fill the cheese order and she even let me sign my initials on the paperwork.

A monument to 4,000 years of Gjeitøst

A monument to 4,000 years of Gjeitøst

Next time I come, I would like to see the archeological finds from the Bronzealderen mentioned in the Undredal book. It is amazing to think that this cheese has been being made in the same way in the same valley for 4,000 years. This is what I call the “soul food of my people!”{photo two}

Each day, I patiently waited. Staring at the little dot on top of Nedbergo and waiting for Knut Nedberg to take me up the mountain. Finally, that Thursday morning, I made the journey of my dreams and climbed up to the mountain farm of my mother’s mother’s mothers. I borrowed some hiking boots and sat waiting with mat pakke and my new seljefløyte, eagerly watching for Knut in his motor boat to come and get me. I met Knut in 2011 but only briefly and I wasn’t sure if he even knew who I was exactly. When he arrived in his beautiful little boat my whole body was tingling. Now it was for real! (photo of Knut and Kari at top).

I took photos and notes all the way up. Knut showed me the wires used to haul things up and down the mountain. It is impressive to think that so many people lived up there year round and made it work. He gave me the names of all the rest stops, Applan, Seljegrov, Seljehaug (just after the last turn in the road). He showed me where he found his grandfather’s pipe when he was a boy.

I wanted to make sure he knew that I wasn’t just a tourist, that my Mother root lies in the heart of this mountain. In previous visits my mother commented that Oline’s line goes back a ways and she wondered if anyone really remembered her. She always felt a little sad to think that Oline might be forgotten as the only one who went to America. So I began to tell Knut how we were related and that I was through Oline. I told him how my mother thought they might not remember Oline.

Knut stopped in his tracks and looked confused and almost sad and said to me, “Oh Kari, everyone remembers Oline. They always told stories about her and where the two mountains at vosseter meet they named Olineskaret. There is water called Oline water. You can get there. Olinevatna is a little round pond.”

I couldn’t speak and began to cry a little. I didn’t know! My mother and grandmother didn’t know! Everyone remembers my great great grandmother, Oline. I asked Knut if we could hike there on that very day but he said no, there was not enough time and it was a far hike.

“But next Summer when you come back the stabur will be ready and you can sleep there and hike up the next day!”

The main farm Nedberg.

The main farm Nedberg.

Being in the house was amazing. Seeing the spinning wheel and cheese molds, the weaving and the three hearth fires, and all the photos in my mother’s books hanging on the wall. I loved being there and feeling the generations of hard working ancestors. But now I have a new dream. A very important dream. I must go to Olinevatna, put my feet in the waters there. I must sleep on the mountain and stay there until the music of my mothers comes clear in my ears. I have so many un-answered questions and have not heard all the stories I want to hear. I sat for a little while on the hill beneath the farm house and played my new seljefløyte, just a little tune, to let the mountain know I will be coming back.

The rest of my time in Undredal was wonderful fun, seeing all of my favorite cousins, learning Sognespringar and singing with Dag and Jarle.

Singing with Dag and Jarle, Nedbergo in the distance.

Singing with Dag and Jarle, Nedbergo in the distance.

My mother, aunt, and many relations came to dedicate a plaque to the descendants of the mountain farms. But as you can imagine, my mind was just a little distracted. My eyes continued to trail upwards and my heart was both full and missing a piece. I think I left a small part of myself up on Nedbergo.

My Mother Mountain

My Mother Mountain

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