Stop and Listen

I read recently that creative-minded people may have a propensity for heightened irritation when listening to extraneous sounds, like people chewing. More so than the average person. I am no genius, but I do consider myself a creative person. I like to create. I like to make. I like to explore. See. Feel. Do. Hear. Too much sometimes. As a creative person, I am open to stimuli that may not spark inspiration in others. Truth ink, everyone is moved by different things. As a photographer, I am stopped in my tracks by perfect contrasts in color. Lines that intersect and create interest. Textures that define a space and must be captured. My eye is constantly seeing and composing and compositing. (Not composting, that’s different. Compositing.) It drives my kids crazy sometimes. Mom – you do not need to take a picture of that. Yes. I do. It is compulsory. An internal pull that drives me. Draws me. Must. Capture. Must. Create.

Creative stimulus can come in many forms – not always visual either. Sound can be a formidable muse. Have you listened to First Aid Kit yet? (Click here for just one of their lovely songs.) Or exactly the opposite, it can cause creativity to come to a screeching halt. In my early expatriation, when I was a wee more mute due to less social connectivity (real live face to face social connectivity), I listened a lot. Tried to glean one tiny word of comprehension listening to the Danes in the shop. Tak! Hej! Hej! I could pick that up quickly – but everything else was too quick and roll-y. I could pick up inflections and tone, but no vocabulary. But listening to everything, more than simply the new language, I found that the everyday sounds that surround you here are different. To me.

Think about a place you have traveled to that is dissimilar from your normal everyday. Close your eyes. Turn off any stimulus. Now think about the sounds you may encounter there and how they can be unlike your normal. Is it a day trip to the mountains? Can you hear the sound of your feet crunching on the snow. The sound as the wind blows through the tall and swaying fir trees as chunks of wintery precipitation fall in clumps to the ground. You may live where there is snow regularly, so could be your normal. (Not now hopefully in mid-May, unless you live in Colorado apparently.) Or your different may be traveling to a tropical beach and hearing the soft rustle of the palm fronds push against each other while the gentle (or not so gentle) waves pull in and out. Occasionally a coconut plunks to the ground with a thud. But it sounds different. Do you know what I mean? You notice it. More so than the symphonic background track to your ritual everyday that we tend to tune out for the regularity of it.

Things definitely sound different here. Certain things so much so, that I noticed it straight away. And it defines my sense of space. My new sense of space. My new stimuli. I have been collecting along the way (which also makes my kids groan) tidbits of sound since I arrived. Do you have a “Voice Memos” app? Very handy for grabbing quick bits of sound and archiving for later enjoyment or sharing with you. Conjuring memories and stimulus from that moment. I collect bits of sound that made me stop and listen. How about that? That sounds different. Different from where I am “from.” I particularly love hearing the bells of the cathedrals. To me this is a very European sound. It helps define the specificity of a place. It sounds like my here. Listen below to more sounds that define Copenhagen for me:

Have a listen:

Or this one:

Like the background in a Bourne Identity movie – emergency vehicles do not sound like that in Oregon. Or anywhere I’ve lived in the States (Kansas, California, Washington, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Texas). It sounds like here. It sounds like Copenhagen. It sounds like Denmark. It sounds like Europe to me.

Click on and listen to this.

If you live in Copenhagen, you will easily recognize this sound. This is how you check in and check ud (out) of the public transportation with your Rejsekort (Travel card.) Don’t forget to check out or you’ll be charged the maximum amount next time you use your kort! This sound has already become familiar and regular and no longer registers as unique, so part of our everyday it has been rendered.

This one may seem easy – but listen carefully:

Every day the Royal Guard march between the Amalienborg Slot and the Rosenborg Slot (Palaces). If you are lucky enough to be cruising around the old town near noon, you too will get treated to their pompous symphonic stylings. This was crazy to me at first. There isn’t some grand event occuring? They do this regularly? Hver dag (every day) in fact? Wow. That’s different. But having Royals in your everyday is different, as I shared earlier. What may not be as easy to detect in the audio is the clacking sound of me hurriedly changing the tiles on the now-gone “Happy Wall” to read this.


Very difficult to change them all before someone comes along and starts changing them behind you. Clack, clack, clack. I will remember that sound. And that memory. I’m sad that the wall was taken down. But new art will fill its space.

Even something familiar, like the sounds of the fun 5K – The Color Run – sound different in Denmark. Obviously because they are speaking another language – but I was surprised to be surprised listening as they counted down each new wave of runners to the popular songs pumping on the radio here – that the countdown was in Danish. Of course it was. Here – listen in:

I will leave you on the Metro to the Copenhagen Lufthavn (airport) with its distinct sounds and Danish voice announcing the stops. I might have to record all the stops so as to practice how to say them correctly. What sounds are unique where you are? What sounds define your space. Please share!

Cheers from Denmark.

Man what a dag.

Some days, life has a funny way of reminding you of important lessons. Things we should know, but often our requisite daily minutiae occludes access to the personal database. Today was one of those days.

It’s Monday. Mandag in Danish. Mandags are beginnings – love them or hate them. For our family, the beginning of this week was a wee lethargic after staying up late (Copenhagen local time) to watch the Seattle Seahawks clinch the NFC Championship sending them on to Super Bowl XLIX. (From hereto forward known as Super Bowl “CLICKS”.) GO HAWKS! Watching NFL with Danish commentators is always interesting. At least they don’t translate “TOUCHDOWN!”

I decided to take the beginning of this week by the proverbial horns. Got up, rallied kids, got myself dressed, actually put on gloss, made lunches, found socks, found shoes, found backpacks… found car (no parkering ticket!), deposited them at school and was on my way. I was going to get my kunst on today. That’s right peeps. Kunst. It’s ART in Danish. Those who know me, know that this is my happy place. If you don’t know me – two second background… studied Art History at University of Washington and more currently: was part of a team running the Art Literacy program at our elementary school back in Oregon, recent former member of public art committee in my “home” town. 2 seconds. I would love to become more involved in an art community here in Copenhagen, but for now – I will enjoy playing the student again.

Today’s lesson was to be in modern art. In Louisiana. WAIT. Record skips. Louisiana? The state? Oh no you sillies. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in Humlebæk, Denmark. I had read about it – it looked amazing. Why hadn’t I been there yet? It isn’t exactly IN Copenhagen proper. It’s 35 km north of the city. They have an Alexander Calder sculpture that overlooks Øresund (where we went fishing). I am dying to compare it to his Eagle that stands bright red in the Olympic Sculpture Park overlooking Puget Sound (also known as “the sound” by locals) in Seattle, Washington. So. It’s Mandag. I am beginning my week with Danish modern art. Or so I think.

Lesson reminder #1. When venturing afield, remember to check the opening hours AND opening DAYS. I knew that Louisiana opened at 11 am. I had no problem with the 90-minute gap between repositing the children at their skole and finding my way north to the museet. I found a cute coffee shop in Helsignør, got my handcrafted double latté and enjoyed the wait. Watching rain turn into snain and then almost into snow from the window of the café; inside warm with candles and people and wafting coffee (dare I say – hygge?), it was difficult to leave. But – I’ve got art to see.

Parkering was easy. And FREE?!? Did I miss a sign? Nope. All good. Why isn’t anyone here? One of the largest modern art collections in EUROPE people… come see it! Oh. It’s lukket. Just my luck – it is closed on Mandag. What a beginning. Somewhat deflated, I debate returning to home and battling Fran or the parkering meter or the grocery store, all still requisite minutiae for today. But no. I came out to see something. I don’t have a sick child at home. My requisite minutiae is actually not too troubling today, and I’m already out here. I put gloss on, for Pete’s sake. I want to see something. How about that slot that I saw a sign for driving up here – that didn’t seem too far back. Yes. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll go visit a slot. In my head already making checklist for slots that I can physically check off as I visit them. Yes. That is what I will do.

Meander through Danish countryside (which I can relate feels somewhat like rolling Hillsboro sans Evergreen trees); albeit the Danes are very nice at labeling all direct intersections – fairly easy to find my way to Fredensborg Palace (slot). I will admit that as an American, the Royals are still a baseball team to me. We ditched our king hundreds of years ago. Happy 4th of July. We’re independent. Sort of. Politics aside, I am beginning to understand the fascination with these Royals here. They have very lovely and very fancy houses with very gorgeous gardens and tons of sculpture. KUNST. Oh happy girl. So the palace is only open in July and August because apparently they use this one a lot. A lot. As I roll up, the Royal Guard is changing again. How many of these guys are there? A lot. Lucky for me – the Palace Gardens are open to the public alle dage. Every day. Sure, why not. Let’s take a stroll.

Fredensborg Slot, Denmark
Fredensborg Slot, Denmark

IT IS BEAUTIFUL. And seeing as it is the middle of winter truly might have made it all the more amazing. Really? I can hear you. Across the interweb. A garden in the middle of winter? Nothing alive, nothing blooming, no leaves on the trees? I feel your scrunched nose and questioning eyes. I’m telling you … it was BEAUTIFUL. Did you hear me? Like 300 acres of my own private baroque frenchy garden beautiful. I literally saw 4 people in the 2 hours that I wandered. FOUR PEOPLE. I could get behind this. I see why these Royals like to be royals and use this slot a lot.

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So… this is Esrum Sø

It’s on a lake. Esrum Sø. Sø means lake. So there. The snain had stopped and I made my way down to the Sø. (After watching another changing of the guards on the back porch of the slot. As if just for me. But don’t get too close. You aren’t allowed EVERYWHERE here. You aren’t ROYAL.) But the rest of the grounds – where you are allowed – are lovely. And quiet. And contemplative. Best to be experienced in the quiet I think. Solo. It was surreal. Like a movie set. Like a twilight zone movie set. 300 acres by yourself. Birds. Snain melting from the trees … dryp, dryp, dryp. Feet crunching on the path. Just me. (And the birds, oh and those random other 4 people.) Luckily I took a picture of the map at the beginning because I did have a destination for my wandering.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset“The Valley of the Norsemen.” Sounds epic doesn’t it? It’s about as far away on the map as I’ve started from. Good thing the snain has stopped, cuz I’ve also got a camera with the big lens, no umbrella and my new (vintage) fur on. (Remember I was going to a Kunst Museet to begin with.) After serene views of the Sø and a charming path along the lake, I find the path to the Norsemen. Nordmandsdalen is home to 70 sandstone sculptures of Norwegian and Faroese working class people – fisherman, bakers, teachers, mothers, shop keepers, farmers. You and I. Ok, I don’t know you per se – but I related to these life size (isk) peeps. More so than the palatial property up top with the furry-hatted-gun-toting-heel-clicking guards on watch. Norwegian though – did you read my last post? Norwegian Vikings were the enemy I thought? But this was commissioned by King Frederick V and Queen Juliane Marie between 1764-1784 when Norway and Denmark were a common territory. Hunh. Who knew? Not me. What I know is that I was really taken with this valley. Of common Norse men AND WOMEN. Not just a few women either. Every other sculpture was a woman. And with child some. Very progressive. And not nudes. This wasn’t idealizing beautiful female figures with art. This was real valid appreciation of their roles in the Norse everyday. I appreciate that. I appreciate that now. In my everyday.

And so I come to the second lesson (that I already knew, but needed to be gently reminded by the universe every once and awhile)… more than “one door closes, another opens”… But … be ready. Be open. Be willing. One says no. Another says – try this. And you do. And it is good. And valid. And worthy. Happy Mandag. Man, what a dag.

Enjoy the dag’s galleri (click on the first pic and a slideshow will pop up) – it was epic. Even though not as planned. Skål from Denmark.


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

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Queen Margrethe II of Denmark – January 7, 2015 Copenhagen Denmark
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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.

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The mounted Hussar Squadron of the Gard Hussar Regiment at the Amalienborg Palace – January 7, 2015