March 2, 2012
On becoming a Viking - 4
The heart of an Explorer
I've been studying viking-age history in preparation for participating in a viking-age reenactment camp at the end of June. I have patterns for and plan to make my own period-authentic clothes, shoes, tent, bedding, weapons, armor, shield, woodworking, furniture, and hand-crafted items to sell and trade.
So in the last few weeks I've been mostly researching, studying and reading. I am becoming fascinated by Archeology! I am amazed that they can even determine what some of the 1000+ year-old items are, let alone determine it's age and origin. For instance, in an excavation of an ancient sod long-house in Iceland, they lifted out and sifted the entire floor of the house one little section at a time, and found gold and glass beads that the ancient residents had dropped and couldn't find in their own dirt floor! And, it is reported that some of those glass beads were created in China! We know that the northern people were primarily farmers, fishermen, and traders, using their versatile ships to fish and transport goods. We know that they had established trade routes and towns via the sea and their boats well before what we call the beginning of the Viking age (when the pillaging started) It's also been dawning on me that exploration was well under way for the Northern Germanic people prior to and during what we call the viking age.
I've been researching the development of the Norsk people's ship-building, fishing, trading expeditions, and exploration. They wanted to know and see. It started by sailing around their own coastlines and seeing what they could see. It started by younger men and their boats moving up the coastline to find better fishing and fertile farmland, and then plopping down their roots.
I ask the question, how did they start expanding their trade? I can only imagine the scenarios. A lot of it has to do with migration of Germanic people. But a lot has to do with the heart of an explorer. We know the Vikings assimilated great knowledge from other people into their culture and made it their own. The only way they could do that is to boldly go out, with a great self-confidence and learn from observation and from other people. What is evident, according to the Authors of 'Viking Art,' David M. Wilson and Ole Klindt-Jensen, is that traders in the Viking age knew what they liked and what their customers liked and many foreign objects became study pieces to assimilate into their own style. And they were hungry to understand the outside world, and to gain more of their goods.
At a time when the known world was small, and the Romans had advanced as far north as they were going to go, the Vikings were busy charting the unknown and communicating that through their network of ships and trade. Their only boundaries were their own safety as they traveled, traded and fought off people who would plunder their wares. In some places like Novgorod and Kiev, they established strongholds, fortresses, to protect their storehouses and trade goods, and keep the trade route itself open for their own use.
There are also stories, or sagas passed down verbally of vikings who sailed out just to explore and see what was beyond. They had a confidence in their sailing abilities and were not afraid of going beyond their knowledge. It's evident in their stories they were cautious of attack from hostile tribes, but that's more an indication of what life was like for everyone in the early Viking age.
Jumping forward to now, thousands of years later, I acknowledge that my own life is more fulfilling when I'm learning and exploring. I got to know the Geography of the entire Twin Cities on my bicycle. And I brought back memories, such as the Fox on the edge of the Fort Snelling State Park, watching me bike by one foggy morning. And frequently when my wife and I are driving somewhere obscure, I'll say something like, "Oh, turn here, I know where we are!" because it turns out, I've biked there. Everywhere from Blaine to Hastings, from Stillwater to Hopkins and Eden Prairie. Bicycling changed my attitude and my life. I met a lot of people on bicycles who have the heart of an explorer. People who want to see and experience life around them and beyond their own house, family, and jobs. Last year I took a long bike ride from the Farm up North of Hinckley, about 90 miles and I learned some very interesting things.
So, In my quest to become a Viking, I'm re-instituting my bicycle exploration and I'm taking notes. A bicycle is a great way to explore, and like the ancient vikings, be out in the elements and really see the natural world around me. Just like seeing that Fox on the edge of the park, watching me.
I'm planning on making my own rope from the inner bark of a tree, like people in the Viking age did. The heart of an explorer is learning and experiencing new and foreign things. Even if they are ancient technology, lost in Modern times. Thor Heyerdahl taught me something about experiential archeology. He built a straw boat of the ancient world to prove that it could have happened and to experience it happening. By experiencing he also shed light on what it must have been like and what those ancient people went through to accomplish what they did. "Thor Heyerdahl (October 6, 1914, Larvik, Norway - April 18, 2002, Colla Micheri, Italy) was a Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer with a background in zoology and geography. He became notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition, in which he sailed 8,000 km (5,000 mi) across the Pacific Ocean in a self-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands in 1947." - Wikipedia.
My first expedition by bicycle this year was to the library to check out a book called the Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne. "Byrne's choice was initially made out of convenience rather than political motivation, but the more cities he saw from his bicycle, the more he became hooked on this mode of transport and the sense of liberation, exhilaration, and connection it provided. This point of view, from his bike seat, became his panoramic window on urban life, a magical way of opening one's eyes to the inner workings and rhythms of a city's geography and population." - from his book.
I hope to learn from Byrne's heart of exploration, and develop and record my own version of experiential archeology, and feel part of what life was like in the Viking age and experience life which I do not yet see, right now.
Category "Journal in a Jar"
February 14, 2010
How did your father support your family?
This is an interesting question for me, since once again I have the hindsight of growing up with my father and of having been a father myself supporting a family. And the question for me really should read more like, "What did you do to survive while trying to pay your bills and still strive for some meaningful career and life?" One of my favorite quotes is from John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Without actually asking my father to recount his life story here, I may leave out some important endeavor in his life, but here is the general idea. Before I was born, my father was in the Air Force, stationed in Hawaii and worked as an Airplane mechanic. I believe that set the stage for future work. He's very mechanically inclined. After active duty in the Air-Force, he was a mechanic with a small airline company in southern MN. I also remember stories of operating an automobile service station with his brother in St. Paul. And when I was very young, before elementary school, he also drove milk truck in our rural farming community. At some point he joined the Air National Guard and became a sheet-metal mechanic, which is basically airplane bodywork. My dad successfully retired from the Guards after more than 20-some years. But that's not the whole story as I knew it while growing up.
My father also had an eclectic entrepreneurial spirit to try to get ahead and pay for his five children. He had a taxi-cab service, was an over-the road truck driver, was a household product salesman, a real estate agent, a volunteer fireman, policeman, and even a local politician. And my mom and dad even owned their own craft and hobby shop. Now I'm almost sure I'm leaving something out. My father was into a lot of things, and it is not surprising to me that I inherited some of that from him. Because basically my father believes in his own two hands and hard work and that he is capable of doing anything, given the opportunity. He's definately smart enough and mechanically inclined enough. And he's a problem solver; a fixer.
As I got older, moving through my school years I heard more of the discussions that took place behind the scenes, between him and my mom and others. My dad had dreams and goals, many of which panned out enough to make a life of it and have some fun along the way. A stock-car racer? He also took opportunities that came up, because that was all that was available for work. And that is how I answer this question when looking at how my father managed to survive a lifetime of paying for kids, mortgages, automobiles, insurance and all that food we consumed. "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Looking back at my career, trying to raise a family I see a lot of similarities. Circumstances play a big part of a persons life and how it proceeds. I think a key for young people just starting out would be to set themselves up as soon as possible with a good education and the ability to learn. So then there are more possibilities open to them as life situations play their tricks.
I had big plans for my future, all of which detoured and morphed into something else, due to circumstances, availability of funds, or my ability to follow through with something at the time. I did have one key turning point in my life and career that took me down a path that has been very rewarding and challenging for me. It fully consumed and engaged my problem solving genes.
Like my father I also served on active duty military right after high school. Unlike my father, when I came off active duty I attended the U of M to study business. I also had a new-born son who was born on the military base that same year. I made it just about two years in college, as I saw my grades deteriorate and the pressures of earning income to support my family increased. My wife also had to work, as most people do now. After finally dropping out of college I had to find full-time work. And I did not have any marketable skills. Luckily for me, my wife's best friend and her husband worked for a manufacturing company that was hiring production workers. This actually helped in more ways than one. It gave me a year of steady work and income while I tried to figure out what I would do with my life. That production job also made me realize that I needed an education of some kind for more opportunities to open up in the future. More importantly, I needed to find an occupation that engaged my mind. Something that had meaning for me personally. I was busy making other plans.
I think I saw an ad on TV for a local technical school that focused on Architectural drafting and design. I had taken drafting in high school and remembered how much fun that was. That one idea became the spark. I could do that. When I started that school the next Fall, I was further stimulated by hand-drawing Frank Loyd Wright designs on paper. At that time in the mid 80's we had one class in computer-aided drafting. That was a spark that ignited a full-time career for me for the next twenty plus years. And I have found it continuously changing and growing with technology advances.
I've attended the U of M a couple of times, and part time while working full-time. The last time to study linguistics and the Korean language. Language is the other thread of passion woven through the fabric of my entire life. And this really has nothing to do with supporting a family, but has everything to do with being engaged in life and having a passion for something. I hope my father's life was as engaging and fulfilling as mine while raising children. It was certainly stressful at times and challenging. My father did some interesting things in life and is one of the most well-rounded, do-it-all problem solvers I know. And in my humble opinion, it's a good life to make plans while life happens.
March 28, 2008
For all of the voices that are heard, there are so many that are not. Thoughts that go unrecognized, creative energy that seemingly vaporizes without a trace. But energy like that cannot just vaporize, it's bound to flow. And into the pool of unconcious existance it goes. A voice unheard becomes my inspiration. It is your voice, your thoughts that inspire the world!