My Life, how I found courage

I have decided to share a story with you, but it isn’t a new project or even a part of an old one. It is my own story, me, my life. See, unlike a good novel my memory has what you could call plot holes. I can’t promise hard facts, only share what I remember. But almost dying tends to burn those memories into your mind forever.

I guess I have always seen the world a little differently compared to my fellow friends, family, or classmates. For as long as I can remember I have had visions of a woman with raven black hair in a plain white dress. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I figured out who she actually was or why I keep seeing her before my mind’s eye, but by the time I was six I knew that she was an embodiment of death, but also life. She is death herself, as well as Gaia. Suffice it to say that I haven’t exactly had what you could call a normal life.

But that’s not really the story I wanted to share, but it is connected. When I was six my family and I visited Africa, and during a safari I was attacked by an elephant who made an honest effort of demolishing the car I was sitting in. Over the course of my life this hasn’t been my only close encounter with death but it is one of those I recall with complete clarity. As you can tell I survived, or I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.

It is peculiar what your mind latches on to when it goes into shock. It seeks an anchor, or at least mine did. We stopped to observe a mother elephant with her calf after visiting a gas station swarming with monkies. I remember looking at the elephant for a moment and then turning my attention elsewhere. I was leaning forward for some reason. When I looked up again the elephant stood in fronting the cat and flapped her ears, shaking her head and kicking grovel at the hood of the car. I don’t remember the movement as clearly as the sound of tiny stones hitting the car.

At this point it becomes a bit of a blur, a moment passes and then there’s confusion. I remember leaning forward as if by instinct, perhaps it was my aunt’s guiding hand where she was sitting on my right. At this point I my eyes shut down and I can’t see anything. But I can still hear the sound of breaking glass and the rocking movement of the car as the elephant charged into it, one of her tusks crashing through the window just above my head. If I hadn’t leaned forward I might not have been writing this today, some nineteen years later.

I remember indistinct shouting, panicked voices. I didn’t speak English at the time but I got the just of it, fear is a universal language. The person who was driving managed to get the engine started again (we had turned it off when we stopped to watch the elephant), and the four wheel drive enabled just as the elephant came back for a second attack. The back window this time, more shards of glass raining down on us. One of the elephants tusks even went trough the roof of the car. With the 4×4 enabled we managed to get away from the elephant before she flipped the car over.

Throughout all of this, my mind latched onto one particular detail. My aunt had had a bag of raw eggs we had bought at the gas station(I think) I mentioned earlier. Not a single egg was broken, and to my six-year-old mind that became my anchor. I obsessed over those eggs. Oddly enough, I don’t recall if we ate them or not.

Going to Africa was a life changing experience, I have many memories from that time. The vast majority of them good. That elephant has followed me, though, through my entire life. It was only recently when I went back to Africa and confronted my fear that carrying the elephant with me no longer felt like a burden. If I had a choice to change any if this, I would not. No heart is without its scars, they’re the marks of life engraved on our souls – and I feel like I can finally truly share one of mine.

We never know what the transforming moments of our lives are going to be, or when they will happen. We can’t know what form they’ll take or how we carry them with us. Sometimes the most insignificant detail is what gives you the courage to go on. Sometimes courage is a fragile bag of unbroken eggs in the lap of someone you love, and sometimes… It’s going back to where it began.

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Here is a photo I took last time I visited Africa. I was sitting on the roof of our car, taking a picture of some the more curious elephants of the Masai mara. I’m amazed my camera didn’t shake as much as I thought it would.

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Scandinavia, my home (part 2)

First I would like to share this video filmed by Alex Berger, whose work and blog  VirtualWayfarer can be found here, he is also on Vimeo. He’s got some pretty cool vidoes, and I would encourage you to check out his stuff. : )

The Scandinavians

When people think of Scandinavia they often envision a very cold and distant land, perhaps largely thanks to us who live here. For those used to different social climates, Scandinavians tend to come off as appearing very rude. Most of us aren’t out to annoy or purposefully antagonise visitors, Scandinavians are just adapted to negative politeness. Although not making eye contact or talking with strangers, especially on public transport, may seem strange to many it is considered the polite thing to do here. If you leave people alone they will extend the same courtesy to you (This drastically changes once alcohol is involved, but that is another blog post altogether).

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Most of us Scandinavians have an intimate relationship with mother nature, we’re relatively keen on thinking green. The countries in Scandinavia (and the Nordic region too) are actually rather small countries comparatively. Sweden boasts only a population of around 9.5 million, Norway a pop. at around 5.1 million, Denmark 5.6 million, and Iceland only 300 thousand. 20 million people spread across three countries (excluding Iceland’s 300k) – if we compare that to cities like London and New York, both of which having a populous at around 8 million each that should give you some indication.

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We’re not that used to crowded environments, which is probably why our culture has taken a form where what foreigners consider polite conduct hasn’t been necessary due to very spacious living conditions. I’d like to think that we’re a meditative bunch, us Scandinavians – I know that many of us are not, but we live in a place that nurtures introspection rather than extroversion. People tend to think of us as a single people where everyone is more or less the same, and perhaps with good reason. But It is important to realise that each country in the Nordic region has its own people with its own personality and quirks – just look at how often we’ve been at each others throats over the course of our common history. We’re a lot like siblings, quarrelling brothers or sisters arguing over who’s the eldest and should therefore get the biggest piece of cake.

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When we’re met and interacted with on our own terms you’ll find the majority of us friendly and outgoing (in the privacy of our circle of friends at least), and anything but prude when it comes to sharing details about our lives – be it about sex, work, or where the good fishing spots are. We are big fans of peace and quiet, unless its Friday. On Fridays we’re a different people altogether.

If you want to get an idea of just how much of Scandinavia is left to its own try this on for size. In the example of Sweden alone there is for ever single Swede three football fields’ (or soccer for you Americans) worth of forest.

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Scandinavia, my home (part 1)

There are places that have a heartbeat of their own, voices speaking in the south-bound winds. Along with the chill of the north they speak of things reverberating with your very being, if you only know how to listen. Forest, river, and mountain, roots run deep in the land I call home. Scandinavian is what I am, and I ask only that you take my hand join me for a walk. I’ll let Gaia do the talking.

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Set yourself free, breathe the cold air and allow it to wash over your skin. Leave behind the troubles of the daily grind, disconnect from Facebook, Twitter, and phone. Take a breath and reconnect, with the Earthmother once more. Close your eyes and hear your name, whispered by the south-bound winds.

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As the seasons shift and the world transforms, so do we change. Take in the scent of moss and pine, and listen to the dancing trees. Take a swim in their sea of green, and rejuvenate your soul.

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So come with me for a stroll…

(all photoes taken by me at various locations in Sweden and Norway.)

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Valkyrja: using music

As I mentioned in my previous post, I use music to tap into my creativity. I’ve always felt an affinity with colder seasons, which is why I love doing this in the autumn and winter. (I got the awesome hat I’m wearing by my grandmother, who knitted it recently :> She’s also the one who gave me the painting.)

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But what music do I actually listen to? A number of instrumental tracks generally, but for Valkyrja I often opt for Trevor Morris and Wardruna because they capture a lot of the tension and themes I’m aiming for.


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Valkyrja: Meta update

I got around to my finishing the backbone of my timeline, yay. Got the major scenes down, now I’m going to get into the details and fill the gaps.

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My process is relatively simple, open window, I like my room cold (10’C), inspirational music in the background, and mapping the shite out of the story.

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Valkyrja: Aftermath

Hreidar was holding up the cracked bear skull before his face, staring at it with a calm gaze that showed no indication whatsoever of having been bereft of control. Eadlin wasn’t sure whether she should feel relief or be terrified. She had never seen a bear skull before, but she was fairly certain this particular skull wasn’t of the common variety. There was no mistaking the ominous aura it emitted. There was also the markings to consider. They reminded her of the runes covering portions of Hreidar’s body.

“I am sure you have realised by now, brother,” Hreidar was saying without taking his eyes off of the skull. “That I was never lost in the red haze. My rage is of the frosty variety.”

“What are you saying?” Gunnar rumbled in response, forcing his voice to carry over the crowing of countless ravens.

“I know that we have been apart for most of our lives but the brother I remember was smarter than that. You know full well what I am saying.”

“So what would you have me do?” Gunnar demanded. “Kill you? Is that what you want? Death?”

“What I want is no longer of any consequence. Eadlin,” Hreidar addressed her and tore his eyes away from the cranium. “Your nobles should fall in line with your neighbours thoroughly crushed. They won’t be invading your territories again anytime soon.”

She didn’t care for Hreidar’s tone one bit. The finality in his voice sounded too much like a bid farewell. A panicked thought rushed to the forefront of her consciousness, he’s leaving!

“What is eating away at your heart, brother?”

One of Eadlin’s eyebrows arched upward in surprise, hearing tender concern in Gunnar’s voice was not something she had expected.

“That is a story better suited for the warm fires of our family’s great hall, a mead-filled horn in your hand and the raging razor-winds of winter outside,” Hreidar replied. “It is high time I came home.”

She had known, she realised, for a long time that this day would come eventually. However, having it sprung on her like this made her blood boil. She deserved better.

“So that’s it?” She all but yelled. “Not even a word of warning? Not a single farewell? You are just going to take up and leave?”

“You know I cannot return home empty handed,” Gunnar joined in.

“That’s a non-issue,” Hreidar responded to his brother.

Eadlin could feel her blood churning in her veins. She would have hurled some carefully chosen abuse his way if only her jaw hadn’t been strained shut by her own muscles. His habit of ignoring her had really gone too far.

She was about to pry her jaws open and speak when Hreidar suddenly continued, “and why would I bid you farewell, Eadlin? That would imply that I’m leaving you. Brother, you were promised land, you’ll have it. Eadlin is a woman of her word, which is why she is coming with us.”

Both she and Gunnar simply stared at Hreidar for a good long moment. The anger she had felt calmed down to a mere simmer. A myriad of questions formed in her mind but it was Gunnar who broke the daze first.

“I understand, and I suppose it will have to do. However,” he said and raised a finger at his brother. “We are not going anywhere until you and I have a good, long talk. Before that though, you will have to destroy that skull.”

“As you wish,” Hreidar said and tossed the thing over to Gunnar, who immediately dropped it to the ground and crushed it under his heel. Sparks flew as the magic inherit within it dispersed.

“Now then,” Gunnar began after brushing off the palms of his hands against one another. “Queen Eadlin, would you please join my brother and I so that we may speak of the future over something to drink?”

There was a subtle shift in manner that did not slip past her unnoticed. She wondered at the sudden change and cursed the cryptic way in which the two Norsemen so often spoke. At any rate, this would be an opportunity to finally get some answers and she meant to get them. If they finally wanted to talk, well, she would indulge them. Both of them had more than an earful of carefully chosen words coming their way.

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Valkyrja: When Ravens Sing

Out of all the things Eadlin had witnessed in her life, there had been nothing that could have prepared her for this. She had always known that there was magic in the world, but to think it might take such monstrous form was anathema. Magic was something of the Goddess, not this profane abomination Hreidar had turned into. Hreidar would never have tried to kill her, she had to believe that. This thing that attacked them was not him. It couldn’t be.

“Listen to me, brother!” Gunnar roared as he fended off the skull-clad creature best he could. “You have to snap out of it!”

Gunnar was pressed hard to keep up with Hreidar’s onslaught. The larger man was steadily giving his smaller brother ground. Eadlin had no other choice than taking several steps back and almost stumbled over a corpse because of it.

“You have gained much honour,” she called out to her battle-crazed champion. “There is no need to fight, the battle is won!”

Hreidar suddenly took a few dancing steps to the side, breaking away from Gunnar. The latter seized the moment to secure his footing and assumed a defensive stance.

“Honour,” Hreidar laughed in a voice that was not his own. “How appropriately human, hollow currency for those dealing in death.”

Red eyes aglow with the same taint as the runes on his body stared at her through the bear skull’s empty eye sockets. A prayer resonated in Eadlin’s mind, she instinctively sought the Goddess’s protection against the cold pull in the pit of her stomach. Fear was a panicked doe caught in the hunter’s noose that was her throat.

“Tell me,” Hreidar continued. “Will honour keep you from drowning in the river of blood flowing through your lands? Will honour silence the screams when you try to sleep at night?”

“The darkness in your heart is clouding your thoughts, brother,” Gunnar growled. “This is not you.”

Hreidar simply laughed and began to pace as if probing for an opening to attack.

“Eadlin,” Gunnar said with his voice lowered. “There is only one creature that laughs that way. Pull your troops back.”

“What kind of creature? What do you mean?”

“They are not equipped for dealing with a Troll,” Gunnar hissed. “Pull them back.”

“It seems we have been found out again,” Hreidar called out to them. “What will they do I wonder? Attack? Kill? It would be the Human thing to do.”

Again rumbling laugher like stone grinding against stone reverberated around them. Eadlin shuddered.

“No,” Gunnar proclaimed. “I will not kill the only brother I have left. But make no mistake, if you pursue as we retreat I will crush you.”

“Spoil sport,” Hrediar grumbled when suddenly a tremor coursed through the man.

He dropped his sword and grabbed the bear skull with both hands and thrashed about as if trying to pull it off. Stunned, Eadlin watched in bewilderment. Hreidar growled, roared, and howled. The glow of the runes intensified and she heard a loud crack as Hreidar tore the bear skull off.

The glow of the runes dissipated, and slowly his eyes returned to their normal mossy green. Silence fell between them, and the song of two hundred ravens rose to a crescendo as they descend to feast upon the dead and the dying. The Valkyries would soon come.

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