As you may have already guessed, I don’t have a car here. If I need to get from A to B, my feet are going to get me there. Fortunately, this town favors walking. Even the much larger Oslo has whole streets dedicated to foot traffic only. I can get to school, several groceries stores, the mall, or Dominoes in 10 minutes or less. When you’re used to driving everywhere, walking–even a short distance–at first feels like a chore.
But walking here isn’t like walking at home. The city is made for people to inhabit it, not to merely drive through. The cobblestone streets are quaint and cars drive slower on them, rumbling past with caution. The buildings are a mix of historical restoration and clean modern design, and all the older buildings pop with bright colors. Rows of buildings in red, blue, and yellow line the water. I think if I were driving, I might not appreciate these details. It’s easy to become disconnected when you’re cooped up in your car-office-home all the time.
When I leave my apartment in the morning, I’m not just rushing out to my car. I’m ready for a stroll, and I have time to take in the weather. Sometimes there’s a heavy fog and I can hear the boats blow their horns from the waterfront; sometimes there’s a light dusting of snow covering the cobblestones and rooftops white. When I walk downtown, I marvel at how lovely the buildings are. Towns this size at home don’t work so hard to be beautiful. And it’s not just the buildings and the streets, but people tend to adorn their windows –a fur with a few trinkets or candles and lights. There seems to be a collective sense of appreciation for appearance. I don’t mean that in a superficial way, but in a way that says, we understand that our environment impacts our well-being, and we feel better when we’re surrounded by beautiful things.
Since arriving here, I’ve felt a gentle sense of peace whenever I’m out and about. I attribute this to the beauty that’s everywhere I look. There’s something to be said for beauty. It’s a very human thing to seek out things that are beautiful–to surround ourselves with things that we find precious. It’s a fact of human nature: we need art. We need lovely words. We need kindness. We need comfort. Those things are too often sloughed off as not necessary and therefore expendable. But beauty is necessary.
Be beautiful. Make your world beautiful. It matters.