Tip on the tight rope

High above the chimney tops – that’s where you’ll find me. Haha! Definitely not me. Still relegated to a more grounded perspective due to recent surgical ankle relocation. But, rather, my wee peeps. Up in the trees. Swinging from the branches. Maneuvering obstacles. Crawling over old tires and logs and beer crates and shipping palettes and shopping carts – even through an old car – all strung up in the trees, way over my head behind the Carlsberg Brewery complex in the Vesterbro neighborhood of Copenhagen. Klatreskoven is a high ropes course for all ages, a playground in the trees.


We first found Klatreskoven in the winter time, on a weekendly family discovery drive around town. Everyone drives down the famous Elephanten Gate at the historic Carlsberg Brewery. Those cement larger than life elephants are something to behold, even if you don’t drink Carl’s beer. Hang the second right past the elephants and follow the huge red brick building with the gold circles down to the right. You can’t miss it. At first it looks like a possible art installation – upcycling sorted garbage in a criss-crossing web through the branches. Wait – what does that sign say? Google translating as fast as my thumbs can type, we realize that it is a playground, a climbing course. Holy cats. Seriously – they let people up there? THAT IS WAY UP THERE! The childrens’ collective eyes grew and excitement mounted – “Can we do it? Can we do it!?” Er. Uh. (EEK) Alas it doesn’t open until spring.

Spring forward. Maj Day weekend. We’ve already celebrated our Danish solidarity on our free Friday off. The following Søndag was a beautiful spring day – sunny skies, mild weather – you might say – a blue bird day. Klatreskoven has pushed itself into the forefront of our littles’ subconscious again. “Can we do the ropes course? Please?” Umm. Uh. Ask Dad? For me… two things. First – I can’t do it with them for obvious reasons. Second – it kind of terrifies me. I had done some research online and translated that participants do wear helmets and harnesses and must have a safety orientation before beginning. There are also varying “levels” depending on one’s age, ability and height (most importantly). The top, highest, most precariously terrifying course is the Black course. Egad. Please no. Not that one. Ok.

As it turns out – our eldest wasn’t interested in scaling the ropes – so we did the most teenager-y of things – he and I went shopping. Dad took the subsequent two littles on their bikes cross-town to Frederiksberg and Klatreskoven. It was perfect. By the time I crutched my way from the bus stop there – my son and daughter had confidently maneuvered the first path of the course and any insecurity on their part that I may have perceived as a safety issue had been worked through. They were having a ball. It was impressive watching them unhook and re-hook the double safety system between each obstacle. My husband reassured me that they are never unattached preventing any potential plummeting to the ground. Are you sure? Yes. I’m sure. Sure?! Sure.

At one point, my wee lass had followed big brother (of course, why wouldn’t she?) onto a course above her level. In the original orientation, she had been relegated to the “blue” course and suddenly realized while waiting on the platform about 20’ up that this was the harder “red” course from the red ties around the trees. Unfortunately the paths move in one consistent direction and people were continuing to progress behind her – there was no turning around. Dad assured her (and me) after a quick assessment where this new path would take her, that she could proceed forward. Her slow, calculated, determined progression was a sight to behold, especially for the nervous mother neck straining looking up from below. Watching her carefully work through where the next step would be, how she would not tangle herself from the harness, how to reach that slightly higher ring. I had to let go. She had to do it. I could not help. Neither could Dad. It was freedom. For her and for me. (I’m a little verklempt actually writing about it actually.)

Copenhagen has afforded my children much freedom. And I feel so very fortunate that for a city this large and this European and this cosmopolitan – it is so very ok to let them have it. It is safe here. Leave your babies sleeping outside in the enormous pram on the sidewalk while you sip, eat, shop. Yes. I am not naive that things can happen. Believe me. It has been a process to afford them the same opportunities allowed Danish children, the same freedom. I blame a little bit of it on my American bred fear-based conditioning. We put our children in bubbles for fear of what might happen. But when the nightly news shows you images of your worst fears occurring time and again, it is no wonder why we are all “nervous Nellies.” But why aren’t the Danes?

Yesterday was the 4th of Maj. In our house this date always conjures Star Wars references – May the 4th be with you and a possible showing of one of the franchise movies. Take him to you I will (Oh sorry, that’s my favorite.) But here in Denmark – this day has a much different connotation. It is a day of freedom – an end to the 5-year occupation of Nazi Germany during World War II. A day when blackout shades were torn down and thrown out and windows all over the city slowly lit up with candles showing the light again. It was over. They were free. Queen Margrethe celebrated the 70th anniversary of the occasion at Mindenlunden i Ryvangen (Ryvangen Memorial Park) – the historic site where Danish resistance members were executed and buried so many years ago. There were candle lit parades around town filled with generations of people who may not have even been alive in 1945, but the stories from FarMor and MorFar (grandparents) have had lasting impact. Never forget. Light your candles. Remember our freedom.

Maj 4th
Maj 4th

It made me wonder, as my daughter lit every candle we have in every window of our 5th floor flat (nearing fire-hazard levels, despite the excellent hygge up in there) how was it that Danes remember the light, but have been able to let go of the dark. They had to know fear. I cannot begin to pretend to know what it was like to live under an oppressive occupying force in my own country.

As an American, I know that our fear during that time was somewhat different – sending our young men into the fray and worrying about their safe return. My paternal Grandpa was one of those forces. A pilot, based in England, flying B-17 bombers over Germany. He did return. Thankfully for our family. My Grandma, in her inability to celebrate him as one of the “Greatest Generation,” passed on her fear – not directly expressed, but translated clearly. His experience was not to be discussed, talked about, lauded over. That was a terrible time and it was past. Maybe that is how the Danes have moved on. I can only guess.

What living in Denmark in 2015 has definitely taught me, in six short months, is that there is freedom in letting go. See the light. See it in your children’s faces as they confront their own challenges and have chances to succeed. Now I’m all verklempt again. It isn’t easy. It is pushing me as well – outside of my comfort zone. This is not the bubble. Being mobility impaired has proved an unlikely catalyst – I simply can’t do as much for them. But they were ready to step up. Ready to tip on the tightrope. Ready for the challenge. For this we are all expanding. Freedom.




Me? I’m a Royals fan. Sure. First Major League Baseball game I ever attended was watching the Kansas City Royals at Royals Stadium with cousins in the 1980’s. I was born in Kansas City. Does it get any more royal than that? It was the 80’s – George Brett was king – how could you not love them?

Oh – you mean ROYALTY. Like Queens and Kings and princes and princesses and such? Hunh. Yeah, I’ve heard of them. I will admit that I WAS devastated when I heard of Lady Di passing away. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I had just gotten married and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. I still have the newspaper. It was devastating. (isk – that’s Danish for ish) Since then (1997) I have paid little attention. It’s not exactly pertinent to a middle class domestic engineer with three children in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon.

Swan Lake in Østerbro, København

BUT – I don’t live in Portland, Oregon anymore. I live in Copenhagen, Denmark now. The land of Hans Christian Andersen, Swan Lake in my backyard (literally there are lots and lots of swans on the lakes only a block from my home here), Tivoli and yes… ROYALS. And I don’t think they play baseball. Maybe they do? I’m guessing no. So not knowing a TON about the current Danish Royal Family, I will admit that I am impressed with the amount of castles or “slots” around here that are still active. Like Royal people still live there and are active there, as evidenced by the very official guard type people in fancy hats that stand watch at their fronts. They might look like they are 18, but they are capital O-fficial. And they have guns. As an American where guns are such a hotbed issue ALL THE TIME, this makes me uncomfortable, but that is another debate. Today we saw the Queen. The Queen of Denmark. And she was lovely and waved – not the elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist I was expecting… but a lovely sweet demure wave.

I have to thank Your Danish Life, The Expat Magazine for highlighting the event on my Copenhagen Expats Facebook page. I pulled my 8-year old daughter out of school (she missed music and Danish class ironically) for an adjunct education in Danish culture full of music and fancy costumes and impressive heel-clicking. It was awesome. Why? I don’t know exactly, besides a “when in Copenhagen?” kind of answer. A Danish journalist stopped the wee lass and I at the Amalienborg after the show and asked us precisely that. You can read our response here. I can only relate the level of pomp and circumstance to an American Veteran’s Day parade or funereal procession of U.S. military precision. Having multiple family members (including my late dad who we called Colonel) in the U.S. Army and other branches, it is what I know and am familiar with. Today was similar, but different. Like almost everything here of course.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark – January 7, 2015 Copenhagen Denmark

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Gardehussarregimentets Hesteeksadron also known as the mounted Hussar Squadron of the Gard Hussar Regiment leading the Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

I would say though, that today was a home run with the wee lass. The home team performed well, pitched a perfect game and we loved the song for the 7th inning stretch. Translation – a band atop fancy horses playing famous tunes while clopping along cobblestone streets leading a gold coach straight out of Cinderella holding the QUEEN. The REAL QUEEN. Of a COUNTRY. Wauw. (wow.) Just Wauw.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
The mounted Hussar Squadron of the Gard Hussar Regiment at the Amalienborg Palace – January 7, 2015