After experiencing a lengthy delay on my flight I arrived in at Heathrow yesterday, much later than expected. Mum and dad also jetted in from their time away exploring Malta. We rendezvoused at the hotel and shared an enjoyable meal as we traded stories of our very unique experiences, from the Scandinavian to the Mediterranean. On my last morning in Olso, I took the opportunity offered by the crisp Norwegian sunrise to take a final morning jog back to the favorite place I discovered while visiting here, Frognerparken (Frogner Park). I had first visited this beautiful mark the afternoon before the conference when I had hired a motor scooter to zip around and get my bearings.
Frogner Park contains the very famous Vigeland Sculpture Arrangement containing 212 bronze and granite statues in the human form – each uniquely depicting aspects of life from death, relationships and humanity. The sculptures are set in and amongst rolling green lawns, aromatic rose gardens, pebbled pathways and beautifully manicured gardens covering a land area of 45 hectares. The statues themselves are breathtaking in the way each one individually so aptly captures the vulnerability and diversity of human existence. This short 3 minute video depicts the beauty of these works much better than I can explain with words – do yourself a favour and take a look.
Being there so early on a chilly Norwegian morning, I had the rare opportunity to climb the steps to the central monument and enjoy the park all to myself. I think the thing that makes me love the place all the more is the philosophy of the man behind the sculptures, Gustav Vigeland. I read that Vigeland made a deal with the leaders of the city – that he would sculpt for them for free if the city would provide him with the materials he needed. He had one condition – that the sculptures be put on display in the park and that the gates would remain open, at all times, so that any member of the public could see them and enjoy them any time of the day or night. The city obliged and, thus, the park remains open and free all day, every day.
The huge wrought iron central gates of Frogner Park are flanked by two smaller gates on either side, which sit open, whereby members of the public can gain access. As I sat amongst the sculptures yesterday morning, practicing a few of the mindfulness techniques I’d learnt, I couldn’t help but think about the term ‘Gatekeeper’ which had been mentioned so many times in the past few days. I had to smile at the lovely metaphorical connection linking the conference to the park. Gustav Vigeland’s true gift, combined with his striking technical skill as a sculpture, was his ability to mirror the truth of human nature. More important to him than anything else, was sharing his vision of humanity with as many people as possible – he opened the gates and gifted the world wantonly with his noteworthy creations – inviting new understandings and a deeper sense of connectedness regarding the common experience of what it means to be human.
We as Gatekeepers are charged with the responsibility to do what Vigeland did. To keep the gates open and connect the young people in our care with the support and help they need – perhaps to see things from a different perspective, perhaps to gain deeper insights and understandings about themselves, perhaps to feel validated, respected, listened to and valued as an integral member of the human race. We need to ensure that, like Frogner Park, the gates are never, ever locked to anyone who may want or need to step inside. That is our true responsibility when working with youth – to keep the gates open and encourage them to step inside to appreciate the park.
This morning we awoke early. Being a Sunday over here we took the opportunity to do some sightseeing as we made our way from Heathrow to Brighton. We stopped in at Oxford University, Bath and Stonehenge. We were captivated by the majestic nature of these beautiful places. For me, Oxford was a real highlight. The stone walls, solid chunky timber gates, majestic turreted buildings – combined with the knowledge of those academic greats who had walked those same cobbled streets as I was walking (C.S Lewis, John Donne, T.S. Eliot, Percy Bysshe Shelley – just to name a few of my faves)… I was in a little bit of literary heaven!
We have now safely arrived in Brighton. Tomorrow marks the first day of the International Youth Mental Health Conference. The link to the conference website is here for anyone who is keen to take a look. I start my program with a pre-conference workshop, amusingly entitled ‘Twitter Ain’t Just for Twits: Using Technology to Improve the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Young People’. Needless to say I’m really excited about it! Of course I’ll share my learnings with you in my next blog entry.
Goodnight from seaside Brighton.