There are several parks where we live, but the finest was an old garden right across the street. Overgrown and scruffy and surrounded by a tall wall.
It was not a golf garden or pride of the neighbourhood, just a treasure for animals searching for a home or children searching for play. This is where Doris made her first steps outside – and learned to be an outdoor cat.
I would have wanted to know what they know
the leaves hanging there in all their splendour
do they know they soon have to let go
how they are turned to dust in the next chapter?
“Always loved autumn” by Kari Bremnes
Doris came to us when she was three. Fat and idle, the ad described her. Likes to play with hair bands.
She had a few pounds extra, but was not lazy at all. She loved to catch hair bands like a football keeper. She came to us because her former owners were afraid of their new Persian rugs.
She was not very socialized. She did not meow much, never held her tail in the air when she was happy, and she had never been outdoor in her life.
With a collar around her belly and neck I took her to the attic. A big attic, fit for a cat that was about to discover the world. Doris loved the attic from the first moment.
Soon she was ready for something bigger, the old garden. We let her out of the cat carrier, and for the first time she could feel spring beneath her paws.
Doris jumped. She had never before heard the sound of leaves.
The old garden was the perfect place for her. It was a safe haven to explore the world.
But she was not alone in exploring the garden.
One day we stumbled upon five small hedgehogs sleeping in the tall grass. This was one of the hottest summers in Oslo and so we put water in a bowl for them.
The blackbird was singing from the top of the tallest trees in the old garden. Already in February or March its melancholy tune could be heard at dawn.
Turdus merula is its name in latin, and the name itself is like a song.
Magpies also lived in the garden. Always noisy, they chased competitors away and raided the songbirds’ nest. They were also part of the garden.
In the summer when it was time for the juvenile magpies to leave the nest, they sometimes landed on the wrong side of the wall.
From my kitchen window I could see a juvenile magpie standing between the parked cars on its way towards the road. I fetched my umbrella and headed out.
I grabbed the little magpie and ran towards the garden holding the umbrella over my head in case the magpie mother would disapprove. Then I placed the bird on the other side of the wall, next to the garden, hoping for the best.
For years the old garden stood there. Scruffy and loved.
One day men with machines entered the garden. They removed all weed, but worst of all. They started cutting down the old trees.
The old garden with the old municipal building was going to be kindergarten.
The weed was replaced by lawn and play equipment. Luckily the old apple tree and two of the songtrees were saved.
But of the other trees there were only remains left. For more than a week the magpies sat next to the remains, mourning what was left of their home.
I do not know what happened to the hedgehogs. If they managed. If they found a new green patch to call their home. But since that time I have not seen hedgehogs in the neighbourhood.
Kindergarten kids moved into the garden. And we had a kid. A boy who loved the garden, one of several playgrounds in our neighbourhood.
The garden was also stomping ground for me, a place to photograph. It was particularly the apple tree that haunted me – a giant old apple tree holding all the apples of the world.
One late autumn evening Doris and I went foraging in the old garden. Our mission was to make apple trifle with the most locally produced apples we could find. Origin: Right across the street.
I did not know then that the hours and days with Doris this year were the best moments of my life.
Autumn turned into early winter, and the apple tree had completed its duty. This was the last autumn with Doris.
Spring is again upon us, and the apple tree is blossoming.
I wish my son could have shared more moments with Doris. I wish their encounter could have been longer.
But I tell him the stories about her. How she went for walks in a leash. How she went to a coffee shop with us. How she would have loved him taking her for a walk.
I tell him that mommy and Doris, we were here picking apples. And we had to shake the trees for the apples to fall. And there were lots of apples.
– Fall down, he says. Doris eat apples.
– Yes, I reply, Doris is eating apples.
Pasta salad with slow-roasted tomatoes and aubergines
This is one of my lunch salads, photographed in the old garden. The best part about the pasta salad is the tomatoes. They taste like sun-dried tomatoes, only better. You slow-roast or dry the tomatoes in the oven for about 4 hours, and the result is magical. I also bake the aubergines until they are creamy and tender.
About 8 big tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
100 g / 3,5 oz pasta (e.g. fusilli)
½ red onion
1 piece of feta cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice (or red or white vine vinegar)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
a pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 125C/250F/Gas1/2 and line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
2. Slice the tomatoes. They should be about 1 cm thick (0,4 inches). Place in the tray and season a little bit with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 3-4 hours. Have a look at them towards the end, so they do not turn into chips.
3. Cut the eggplant in squares and place in the other baking tray. Add olive oil and seasoning and blend well. Turn on convection and bake in the oven together with the tomatoes for the last hour.
4. Shake all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a little box (or stir in a glass).
5. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain well and place in a bowl with the vinaigrette. Blend well.
6. Slice the red onion and cut the cucumber and feta cheese in pieces.
7. Toss everything (except the tomatoes) together in a bowl with the vinaigrette. Serve with the tomatoes on top.