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Mittwoch, 21. März 2018

On the bench: A new dangler sheath for my little sica

 Yesterday I mustered some resolve and got to work on a sheath for a knife that had been lying around in my workshop-turned-attic-turned-home-turned workshop ;-). The knife, a nearly accurate replica inspired by several finds from the Daco-Getian iron age ( and, just to name a few) had to help in making the sheath, and its performance in leatherworking was a big surprise to me. The dangler is handforged out of mild steel, and yes, the stitching DID see some rework... ;-)
 The sickle shape with the tiny, but pronounced tip makes for a very effective cutter. It gathers up the material like a claw and also makes for a very precise cut when cutting small curves. To make a sheath which was not overly huge but big enough to accomodate the shape was a pain in the arse, but turned out well enough considering my lack of practice.
 I must admit I am quite irrationally fascinated by this type of knife. It has a history as a peaceful farming tool and a herbalist´s knife and was an insign of the Mithraic mysteries and therefore of Roman state religion as well as a deadly weapon of the same back-alley cut-throats the Roman empire was so afraid of. In Romania, the sica continues to have a prominent symbolism in the stories of the Strígoi, the fairies of the land, and it was a Sica used to combat the vampires of of Transsylvanian local legends. In Stoker´s "Dracula" it became a Khukhuri that ended the vampire prince´s life, but the differences are marginal.

 It models the shape of the hunter´s moon´s crescent and all the spiritual aspects of its mythology as well as being a most formidable everyday tool. I daresay it is this ambivalence that adds to its fascination. It tells stories in itself, and I like that.
The blade, then is made from a stainless material I found in the woods, under a crescent moon, of course ;-). It is rich with Cobalt, and after a very conservative selective quench and temper came out so hard that it carves a Roselli UHC Wootz blade while retaining an astonishing degree of flexibility. I estimate it at about 62-63HRC. It does not take that fine an edge (yet), and I am still figuring out what the best edge angle might be. At the moment it shaves, but I feel there can be still more performance gotten out of it... we´ll see. It worked the leather well enough, better than most tools I bought for that task, and I could not ask for more! It seems to be some HSS steel or something along the lines, and there seems to be quite a fair amount of Chromium in the steel. It came out stainless out of the ground and takes no patina even after 72 hours in a salt-vinegar-citric acid solution that stains even 440B after 24 hours. Fact is, I don´t know what it is, and the culprit is, I need not know what it is. I did all the tempering intuitively, and it turned out well enough.

I am currently writing a local mythology and, doing some research, found that a sickle played a prominent role in local fairy legend as well. One could easily say that it is a fairy knife... and this, adding to the fact that I found the steel in the woods, adds to the mystique of the atmosphere... ;-)

This, originally was what I wanted to express with my knifemaking; the gift of the other world made flesh. The wonder that waits in the ordinary, for there are few things more profane than a rotten, rusty piece of scrap metal... and yet, from the most mundane, and in the most profane situation lurks a world that is deeper, darker and most profound. It is the realm of legends and fairy tales, of myth ad wonder and awe... there life and death are not antagonists, but aspects of the same coin.  It is the realm of intuition, and I loe to wader there for no reason but my amazement how beautiful this creation and all its creatures are- all of them.

Mittwoch, 14. März 2018

An early spring foraging hike

 These days I am not overly fond of my "fellow" human beings, to be frank. I did a lot of work for others, and of course charity bears its reward in itself, but if you ALWAYS get mobbed and deadbashed and sabotaged in the process, you get some different ideas how you want to spend your life, or rather, what you´d rather not want. I would gladly work for free for someone or something worth it... but alas-those few that would be worth it, are spread thin.But then ...alas... I do not care that much any more :-). having a bout of the flu and not feeling like doing a 85k ride with some 1500 vertical metres at all, but still feeling the need to get WWWAAAAAAYYY out there, I hitched the bus to the mountains... more the foothills of the Sauerland, but still. Arriving at the trailhead and climbing the first 100 m of rather steep incline I realized I should have rather taken it a bit slower ;-). But, not that much harm done, I did my huffing and puffing while enjoying the scenerey...
Then I climbed on at a more flu-compatible pace...

Through the thicket I scrambled, quite literally, sometimes on all fours. The Sauerland mountains might not be that huge, but steep they are well enough... ;-). I relished in the silence and solitude, with the ruckus of the valley subsiding with every step I made. You might know this feeling; I always thought there is a subtle threshold, not necessarily a geographical one, while geographics matter in this, but something more subtle. There is not anything huge that will happen, no dramatic light effects or a bombastic portal standing there.
But still, at that point, the world changes, and you change. Your mind gets another perspective, and the vibrations of your soul thrum louder than they do in the everyday mayhem, hum in harmony with the rustling of leaves and the sound of the oncoming breeze.
Then I came to a fireroad, broad, but solitary, and I followed it for  awhile.
The hills in the distance summoned me on... I must admit i followed a trail I did not know. I did not know where the trail might lead me, but everything is better than the city and its madness on som days. This was one of those days, where even lying in bed curing a flu was less of an alternative.
Even better yet: There was a cure waiting for me just by the roadside: Balsamic fir resin.
I harvested some of it. At home I took three peanut-sized grains resin with a tablespoon of coconut oil and three tablespoons honey, heated the coconut oil (you can also take whatever is at hand, but coconut oil is slightly antiseptic in itself) and dissolved the resin in it, put the honey in and per three teaspoons of the stuff took three finger´s breadth of cheap whiskey (I am talking whiskey still, not glass cleaner, mind you ... ;-) ) in a pint and filled up with boiling water, constantly stirring. Don´t overdo this, you might get stomach problems if you drink too much of the unprocessed resin!
Anyway, I climbed on, and still the vistas became more wonderful... somehow my spirit always lifts at that place, and it is as if a heavy load is taken from my shoulders. The air was fresh, but not cold, and felt clean and refreshing to me.

On the top of things, I met this not so little fella. I really like this guy and I must admit I have developed sort of a bromance with him.

I like his cloak... and the owl...
And the way he looks...

And Mr. Fluffkins at his feet... ;-)
Quite spontaneously I decided to visit the villag, Nachrodt-Wiblingwerde. This village is how a village should be, in my opinion. You can simply tell it works by how the inhabitants greet each other, and kids and elderly people interact on the street. It always warms my heart. Of course, there might be  a lot going on behind the scenes that does not necessarily looks so pretty in broad daylight, but having sat in the café at the marketplace and having involuntarily overheard one or a hundred conversations ;-) I would guess life is a bit better on the heights, at least than it is in the city.  
It started to rain, and when the cold drizzle subsided...
I was rewarded with this beautiful rainbow...
And could not resist shooting this photo... :-P
At first I had contemplated taking the bus, but then it would have meant waiting for two hours in the cold, so I decided to walk.
And, of course, I was rewarded again with murky woods.

...and mist rising from the dale.

I like walking like this. When twilight falls and embraces you like a harsh, unforgiving blanket, and still, you feel snug and huddled in the dark.
When the owls cry and foxes bark and deer are shying in the distance, then my lifeblood becomes warm and strong.
Then stars come out you cannot see in the valley, and the moon is a haunted spectre hunting in the woods, setting beings dancing around rotten stumps...
And while I might be ostracized in the world of man, still I walk trails at moonlight they would not dare walk in broad daylight.
The hooting of owls and the fighting and hunting and living of little and large critter and predator and the badger bear no terror for me... not as much as the ugly nocturnal predators that have designed the world of man...and if you fear not the twilight, the twilight will become you, it will never be your friend, but you will not need for anything else.
And then, suddenly, it was over. In stealth I trod on an empty road.
But, waiting for the bus, a car just stopped. I was a bit alerted, for you never know in the city of Hagen, but there was someone with a smile and a good face OFFERING me a ride to the centre of Hohenlimburg, if I agreed (!).

Maybe all´s not lost... and knowharramean? :-P

Mittwoch, 28. Februar 2018

So feicin´what

 I have tried to be a decent member of our society. Indeed, I have. I have tried hard, so hard, that I suffered from it. I did a lot of things for others that I denied myself. For lack of time. For lack of opportunity, or so I was made to believe. For friends and institutions, for a friendly exchange, for social communities, for clubs and to save what could be saved. I have long since realized that I would quite certainly not save this bedlam of a world; and I thought, well,care for your friends and family and create comunities that care for each other.  I believed in friendship, even love, or, at least mutual benefit.

Advice: Don´t. There is no such thing as friendship. There is only an exchange in the best case, a deal, but exploit in most cases. Noone will give you anything out of free will, and nothing is for free. This is the brutal fact about modern man. There is no such thing as morality, either. People will lie to you, if they see any profit in it, would even kill you without remorse if they were not punished for it. If they could go unpunished, they would so, with no second thought or remorse, if only the profit is high enough . Even children are not innocent and are just the same as the adults. This is an utterly monstrous world we have created, and it will become ever worse.

But most of my faithful readers know this already, and suffered from it, and this post is not about whining. I will not bore you with the details of how I crashed again while just meaning well, just as it always happens. I will spare you the whining about how I am mobbed again on all frontiers. The deal with this blog is that you read this blog and you enjoy it, maybe some, at least, and at least some. You do not enjoy reading about how the world´s a shitty place. I daresay you all know it well enough without me contributing to all the bad feelings. You would not browse the internet for something as weird as this, were it otherwise. This post is about "So feicing what".

So feicing what am I obliged to play this silly game?

Recently Moritz called me. Now Moritz once was a kid whom I tutored to do the bunny hop way back in 2001 and whom I showed the way from the neighbourhood to the local trails. He always seemed to stick around, no matter what happened. Now he has moved to the South of Germany. ´Course he invited me along to "shred the local trails". He does not do much more than riding and works in the bike industry now on top. As I was declining the offer, he got a bit mad at me, and he made a fair point. I have been riding progressively less in the last years. I spent a lot of energy trying to fight for ruined smithies and funny people, and of course it is rewarding to forge something with your own hands, and to build up  a group that even stood together for some time, caring for each other and blah and blah and blah.

But when the turnaround is getting mobbed by the very same people you put together, you question what you have done. All of it. And it sucks, of course. What Moritz told me in somewhat drastic words was: What would they do for YOU?

The answer is: Naught. Never. Now it´s not that you do it for to get something back. You do it because it feels right, and it felt right and still does. But if you not only don´t get anything back, but get hit in the face for everything you do while meaning well, the logical consequence is that you do less. Equals even more getting punched in the face.

But, hey.... SO FEICIN´WHAT?

For there´s a new bike in my attic-turned-home. I got it courtesy of (that much advertisement needs to be ;-) ), and the crazy folks on over just welcomed me and helped me a lot by building it the way they did. And when I strode into the shop, I got this feeling I missed while not knowing I missed it. Being part of the mountainbiking scene, and a vibrant part of it, for sure. I have been riding hard for some some 33 years now, and hard means hard. ;-) I rode down the Dalco trail at lake Garda at a time when a suspension fork meant 35mm of rubber pogo stick and fully sussed was not invented yet. Again I will not bore you with my dubious achievements of that time, how I filed my own cantilever brakes from aluminum that was way too soft so that they bent on the Kaprun downhill run of 1992 and how I bunnyhopped the bed in the appartment we had rented and how we devastated our rented rooms... we were younger then, and wilder, and the world belonged to us and our worries were petty. A lot has changed since these day. I am a bit proud that I might be even a faster and better rider in spite of my beer belly and aching joints. I am proud to have ridden with the best, and the best were not bored, in spite of my dubious cardiovascular fitness or riding finesse. It was about having fun, and we had fun.

And still my bike was standing somewhat neglected in my hallway, and I did not even bother to lube the chain or change the worn-out brake pads.

For the fuckers and morons were bashing me dead-or at least they tried. But there it was, standing in my hallway. My bike. You might know this phenomenon. There is something that is so much a part of your everyday life that you forget it is there. Sometimes you need someone to make you aware of it again. I certainly did, and Moritz applied for the job.       

Fact is, noone will ever accept me as a decent member of society at all. I got mobbed out of every institution, school, group or club I was in, even clubs I founded were not enthused to have me after a period of time. At the university, they tried, but I was one of the best and you cannot possibly bash someone who is having a teatime chat about academical issues with his mentors. I have tried to change the way I was, tried to be someone else, tried to be cooperative and beneficial even. Fact is, it does not work. What works, however, is getting in the saddle and get in some hard riding. Or some gliding along or toodling around. And the woods have never left me. 
 And this is what this post is about. It is about the woods. It is about wanting the light of a winter sun and cursing the raw ice on the trails. It´s about throwing raving insults at a puddle on the trail and laughing your head off on the way down. It´s about burning muscles and lungs and the feeling of flow and oneness on the trail. Call it as you like, but it is way bigger than the petty ways of mankind. That bike is just some eleven tubes welded together, a chain, some cogs, some rubber, pedals and a saddle. Nothing more, nothing less. And it´s not about the this and that of a label on your down tube.
 This is what it´s all about. This is why I can still say: So feicin´what! Drive me from the smithy as you wish, or leave it be. I am far more than just that. And I am far less than that. I have ridden mountainbikes for most of my life, I have carved wood for most of my life, collected herbs, tailored, worked with leather, tiled roofs, lay floor tiles, worked as a mason and a carpenter, as a scholar, in business promotion and city marketing as well as a gardener, a smith, a teacher. I have made knives, swords, tools, mead, food, have offered counsil and comfort to a lot of people. I have quite arguably saved at least some 100 lives in my life, in a most concrete manner. But the ten I could not save weigh far more heavily, and when I am out in the woods all this ranting and gibberish counts nothing.
 Still, I can get out there. And still, the hills convey meaning to me that ca not be easily put into words. 

And the bike, humble as it may be, is one way to get there. One means to escape for me. I cannot change this monstrous world of man. But I can change the way I think.

 I can ride down trails in the outback, feeling the icy wind in my face. I can scream into the wind and laugh my head off, and simply give a runny shit about what so - called friends jibber and jabber behind my back. Out there, it is about me, and the woods, and the wind. And thsi is what really counts. It´s about the soul, but more than that: It´s about your soul making friends with your body. Even if it is just a fading carcass, and my aching joints after a ride like this in the icy cold remind of this all too good, the soul can drive it to heights and abilities not easily accessed and not easily experienced. I am glad and grateful to have had the opportunity in my life to feel my body... and, by feeling it, getting to know my soul. The morons out there are moronss because they deny these feelings. They are zombies, undead creatures trying to prey on your soul, sucking on your life force while unable to even process it. I beg to differ.
 In these woods the path is shallow, but simple. Make silly mistakes, stack up big time. Go light on your brakes or go arse over teacup over the bars. Life is as simple as that. It is a brutal fact, and a brutal law you have to abide. Morality and love amongst fellow humans would make life easier, and were established to do so. But if these are not wanted anymore... I know the lay of fox and hare well, better than most. Being polite or even nice to others would make life easier for all-if all abide by this appointment. 
 Being out in the woods the way I have practiced now for a long time, as a spiritual practice, that is, changes what you are. And you are changed for good.Oh, no, I am not the best survivalist there is. I still like a warm room and a cozy armchair, agood book and a hot cuppa tea. But there is also something transgressing these feelings. It is hard to describe. And while the lay of fox and hare and the flight of the raptuous owl are part of it, so is the spring blossom and wintertime´s frost. I call it Skóggángr, but the word is meaningless compared to what it means. This is paradox, of course, and you can only understand it if you can´t understand it any more. 
 Seeing things like the ice crystals fills me with beauty and tranquility I miss in the world of man. Even careening down a steep singletrail fills my soul with tranquility. It is a feeling far removed from the "actual", from what is counting in the "actual world, and it derives not from a corporeal source, but from a soul.
 Riding across a river of ice might seem impossible or a silly idea even. But it´s not as silly as the stunted behaviour I lived last year. I lived it because I rejected one thought. It is a thought of severe consequences, and I did not dare to think it.
 It is the thought that occurs to me logically: In this world, I am the bad guy. I am the outcast who does not belong at all. i am the one thinking funny thoughts and being incapable of social behaviour. I am the one deviant, not the morons.


 They want me to be the same as I was. They want me to take responsibility for their silly actions. They want me to help them in their useless endeavours. They want me to live their futile life. They want me to join the throng and to be a good chap. But fact is, there are trails to be ridden and fun to be had. There is foraging to be done and dreams to be lived. There are songs to be sung and dances to dance and screams to be screamed on lonely mountaintops. There is craziness to be lived, animals to be befriended and eaten ;-). I now ride  a lot more and do a lot less forging, at least for others. There is nothing to be gained for me amongst people who just think in categories of gain and profit.They did not want my gentleness or politeness, nor my help. Now they must live with a wolf amongst their herd, or better, a wolf that does not try to befriend the sheep. For a wolf is a wolf, and sheep are sheep. I have realized this, finally.

 And the sinking sun greets me, and grants me light.

Lop the mistletoe,

 chop the golden bough...
 eat from the fruit of the forest.

So feicin´what? Off with me to another ride.

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