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  • When we were young we would summer on Auesoya, a small island off the southeast coast of Norway. While Norway has been an oil-rich country for some time, it always had an air of post-war Lutheran frugality to it; our boat was not something with a motor, not something that we would tow behind the car; we kept it on the island itself, some two hundred yards from the mainland. There was a small house on the island, without plumbing: we would draw water from the well, and the smell of the nearby outhouse haunts me to this day. But the place was magical, and we’d scale cliffs that now seem small, and wake before dawn to catch no fish, and eat mussels we had found, and sit around the fire pit telling stories.

    On occasion we would arrive at the shore long after dark, too late to ask a neighbour for a ride out to the island, so my father would strip down to his shorts and wade out into the fjord to begin the swim across to the boathouse. Slipping under the inky waves, the sea bed fell away quickly; it was black even in daylight, covered in a thick blanket of seaweed; but at night, the possibility of what could be down there boiled over in my mind. As the sound of his splashing arms receded into the darkness, I was struck by the impossibility of what he was doing. But every time, some fifteen minutes later, he would return in the rowboat, cold and wet, to carry us safely across the fjord.

    I now know that my father is a complex, flawed person, but moments like these, when he was perfect, will stay with me forever.
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