Good will walking
Seigkællane is about more than you think
When you think of Seigkællane, what comes to mind? Those sticky little jellybean men made by Nidar in Norway? Or a Norwegian alternative rock band? Well, on a recent trip to Norway, I met a completely different class of seigkællær. Our host, Helge Skånlund, invited me to join him and his senior men’s walking club for their weekly outing.
This Seigkællane group comprises men in the Fredrikstad-Sarpsborg area and from all walks of life who meet on Monday mornings in all types of weather to walk. It began 12 years ago as a group of eight, all retired, who wanted to get together once a week for fellowship and exercise. The group now numbers about 55 men from age 62 to the mid-90s. They are a testament to vitality, although a few have retired from hiking and now reserve their participation for the holiday parties and other social gatherings.
The air was brisk the day I joined them, but spirits were high as 26 members and a stranger from Minnesota set out on a four- to five-mile walk through the woods, mostly, and along the North Sea near Bjørnvågkilen south of Fredrikstad. We paused a few times along the way to hear a mini-presentation about local history, nature, mythology, or some other topic of interest. Also, at the halfway or turnaround point, the boys stopped for lunch. It was then that Seigkællane inducted an honorary member: me. I was surprised and also honored by that gesture of friendship and inclusion made official in a brief ceremony. Norwegians may protest that Viking helmets didn’t have horns, but club president, Olav Imrik, wore just such a helmet during the induction ceremony.
Seigkællane doesn’t translate well into English, at least not by the sources I consulted. Seig is defined as sticky, and one source added dogged or tenacious. An internet search for kæll returned photos and drawings of Norwegian men who appear, let’s say, a little lacking in sophistication. Helge, who is fluent in English, told me that “The Slow Boys” would be a good translation, but tenacious they are.
That self-deprecating humor, however, belies the group’s good work and commitment to others. At an average age when many would retire to their easy chairs and perhaps expect others to do for them, Seigkællane’s members are active and doing for others. The group is affiliated with the Methodist church in Fredrikstad and has, for example, participated in local volunteer crews to clean up or repair churches or other social benefit organizations. It also picks up bags and other trash along the seashore, makes vis-its to shut-ins, has made a pilgrimage from Fredrikstad to the Nidaros Cathedral for an Olsok service, and performed other selfless acts of giving. Moreover, their activity, social contact and other commitments are the foundation for a long and rewarding life.
So now I am a Seigkæll with all the rights and responsibilities that confers upon me. And I definitely look forward to another opportunity to hike with them. Perhaps we Norwegian-American retired men should seriously consider forming such groups in our own communities.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 22, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.