Updated: Jul 11
We understand that 2020 has been a challenging year for a lot of people but for us it has been quite the opposite. Actually, I’d say that it has been one of our best ones so far. This year included the erection of our long awaited tripod and the first suspensions held at our place, facilitated both by us and others, our website launch with the great visual profiling from Trine + Kim, followed by getting our first members. Even though we started talking about CoP years ago and officially registered it as an organization in 2018, 2020 has been the year when it became real.
The year started with our good friends Trine + Kim delivering the logo and visual profile that they created for us. Although they are famous for their album and book covers, they were very excited about getting to create a symbol for our religion. We feel that the logo really captures the essence of our spiritual understanding. The inspiration behind it came from our suspension tripod and the trees it is made of—anchored in the earth and reaching to the sky, with a line denoting the intersection of the natural and supernatural. Its symmetry describes the understanding that the natural and supernatural are not independent from each other but, rather, like two sides of a balanced equation. It is a simple but profound statement of our belief.
Tripod and hanging points
Because we had less than the usual amount of snow this winter, we were able to start working outside much earlier than usual. We had been eyeing the area behind our house and garden for a while and, at the end of January, we ended up clearing a fair amount of trees right up to the property line. This made us look at the area—which we named Froskerud (Frogfirth)—with new eyes and we realized that the cozy copse of trees that we left standing would be an excellent place to make a suspension point.
Since we were going to turn all of the trees into firewood but we’re not very fond of the plastic nets people use to store their wood for drying, Alan wanted to test using a tripod/teepee instead. This provided us with a great opportunity to try different approaches on how to connect and erect a tripod, which gave us valuable experience for the real deal: our suspension tripod.
Our beast of a suspension tripod had been in the works for a long time. The three 12-meter-long poles made out of pine trees from our own property had been cut down, barked, and left to dry two years earlier. Alan prototyped different methods of raising it for a long time and we finally got to put several of them to the test this summer. One of the things that made it jump to the top of our work priority list was the fact that the Wings of Desire (WoD) crew collectively decided to cancel Oslo SusCon (OSC) this year due to the ongoing pandemic. Instead, we wanted to do a smaller retreat here at Vestrønningen around the same time the OSC would have been held at the end of July.
Alan wanted to test a few different theories on how to get our tripod into the air. So, for two days we tested three main approaches to try to lift a little over a ton with just the two of us, our pickup truck Blakken, and our tractor Tor. With the supervision and support of Lillepus, of course. Our main challenge was the fact that the ground that we picked for its location is just symbolically covered with turf. Right underneath you’ll find bedrock which is not so easy to drive anchors into if you don’t own the right gear.
We unsuccessfully tried a couple of different ways to raise the middle pole first, then we tried a direct pull using Blakken, but it wasn’t until we built a gin pole that we managed to see it move the way we wanted and get it the first crucial degrees off the ground. By using Tor as an anchor for one of the legs, and Blakken as the anchor for our pulley system, first a 6–1, then a 12–1, and finally a 24–1, we pulled it up. Damn that thing is heavy! And tall! But after finding the right approach, I have to say it went up with relative ease, especially after we grunted through the first part.
It has to be said that we took care not to place ourselves under the logs while we were lifting them and made sure to do every step as safely as possible. If you want to see some of the images and videos from the lift, we saved some of them in our instagram highlight Erection!
Once the tripod was up and standing the “only” thing left was to remove the gear still attached to the tripod from the lift, space the legs properly, and to prepare the top rigging by adding more metal wire as a backup for the first, replacing the sling we used to lift it with a new one, and set up a single pulley for the top suspension rigging.
This turned out to be quite the challenge, especially since we had to juggle the task with a summer filled with friends and family stopping by to visit, and trying to prepare the grounds, the food, and the Froskerud point for the summer retreat coming up. This, in addition to our usual uprooting of trees, clearing brush around the property, tending to our garden and vegetables, foraging, making new flowerbeds, splitting wood for the winter of 2021, etc. We usually keep ourselves quite busy…
The tripod was erected on the 2nd of July and we managed after three attempts (the last one with a bit of motivational weather) to finish the top rigging—ready for suspension—on the 21st, three days before the event started. It would have been easier if one of our visitors during the time we were working on it had been a lithe rock climber or rope access tech. Lifting Alan’s super-heavyweight-class butt to the top of a 10-meter tripod was no easy task and getting into the tiny space at the top was something of a challenge.
The WoD summer retreat was a real highlight of the year. Over the weekend, we had 16 guests camping in our fields, eating our home cooked meals, and walking around the property with the same grin I find myself wearing when breathing in the silence and good vibes of this place. From the very moment I started dreaming about owning my own piece of land somewhere, it was always the idea to share it with my friends and be part of a community of people who have the same feelings towards nature as I do. That weekend, we both felt this strongly and it made us eager for more.
Ever since we bought Vestrønningen in 2017, we had wanted to suspend here, but we just hadn’t found the time or place to do it. Now, with our great tripod in place, we had the perfect place to do so. The tripod and Froskerud point got tested and approved over the weekend with a total of 14 different suspensions (one of them being a successfully executed 8p labia suspension!) and two pullings. The church was officially opened!
Following the retreat, we had two private suspensions during the month of August. It was interesting to see the difference between the suspensions made at the event and the private ones, mostly because of the ritual aspect of them. We had mentioned to Heidi and Tal that, if they wanted to, they could have a walk around the property and find a small tree to ask if it wanted to be used as a rig for their suspension. They both did and in addition brought their own ceremonial aspect to the experience, which was very lovely. Both rituals ended up being wonderful examples of what we had pictured when thinking about what we can offer to the people coming to suspend here.
Another interesting observation of the summer suspensions was the role nature plays in a suspension at our place. Our suspension experience is, for the most part, based on suspensions inside a room with (occasionally too loud) music in the background. At Church of Pain, you are exposed to the different elements of nature and can’t always count on it being warm and sunny. Personally I’m not a big fan of being cold when suspending, but the lesson learned this summer was that a cover of clouds, a brisk wind, and even a little rain didn’t lessen the experience, it enhanced it and made it even easier to commune with the nature flowing around and through us.
Website and members
You’d think that, after such an eventful summer, it was time to slow down a bit, but after getting our logo earlier this year, having worked hard all year to complete the written content, and now after having facilitated suspensions and getting great pictures from Helene Fjell and Katarsis foto, we were ready to finalize our web page. We thought Samhain was an appropriate day to publish it and were amazed and humbled by the great response we received from the launch. Seeing that so many people wanted to become members of our church right away exceeded our expectations and fueled our dreams for the future.
The last exciting thing to come out of this year from the church’s perspective was to welcome Kristen onto our Board of Directors. With him on the team, adding his insight and wit, we are excited for what the future will bring. In the near term, we hope that the pandemic will get under control so that we can hang out with our friends again and see more rituals being facilitated at our lovely place. Right now, we are very close to the winter solstice and turning back toward the sun (seeing the sun a few more minutes each day is, of course, a huge thing this far north) and, after a well-deserved Christmas break at home, we will continue working on receiving full recognition from the state, building out facilitator information, and preparing ourselves for things to come!
Thank you 2020 for being such a kick ass year in so many ways!
Wishing you good health, peace, and love from Vestrønningen and hoping to meet old and new friends in the year to come!