Who You Callin’ Crazy?

“This horse is crazy, be careful!”

“You need the curb bit or she’ll never listen!”

“Yes, and don’t hesitate to correct her! She’s strong but not real bright!”

“Can’t trust this one. She’ll go bonkers without warning! Threw someone just last week, for no reason!”

Do you ever get this weird feeling of disconnect, when part of you realizes people are you oktalking to you, but what they’re saying seems so unrelated to what is happening that the rest of you is convinced they’re speaking to someone behind you? Rather like walking down the street in jeans and a shirt, and someone looks you dead in the eye and says “Nice dress”?

I turned around. There was no one there. I turned back, and there were the gentleman and the two ladies with concerned expressions, and yes, the little pinto mare standing right where I’d left her, loosely tied to the fence post. Eyeing the saddle and bridle I was carrying with mild interest, her ears swiveling lazily.

“This horse?”

Three nods.

I looked down at the saddle – a nice, well maintained all-purpose English saddle. Nothing fancy, no great brand name, just sturdy and functional. Over my shoulder hung the bridle. Equally no-nonsense. Soft black leather, snaffle bit. I rather liked it. Yes, I had seen the bridle with the curb bit hanging next to it – nice quality, with a few playful rhinestones on the headpiece. But I’m no dressage rider to handle a curb bit with ease, nor did I have any ambitions beyond a nice spin across the hills that day. I looked back up.

This little horse.”

A chuckle. “If you want to call 16 hands and then some ‘little’.”

More nods.

Look down. Saddle. Bridle. Look up. Horse. People.

Yes, her owner’s friend had told me she was a former show-jumper and an eager girl who loved trail rides. Yes, I knew she was neither short nor tiny. But how would I explain to these well meaning people that my Icelandic redhead would have this much taller horse for breakfast, and not even break a sweat? That hands and inches and centimeters mean squat in the face of sheer gigantic Viking personality?

Saddle. Horse. People.

“She thinks she’s little,” I offered.

The humans traded bemused glances.

“Well, just be careful!”

“The owner really should have told you about the curb bit!”

“And the unpredictable crazy episodes!”

Saddle. Horse. People.

“Okay.”

How To Feel Stupid

By now, my Viking would have either practiced her Spanish Walk, pawed a hole halfway to Australia, and/or made a fair attempt to gnaw through the rope out of sheer annoyance. One does not tie up a fierce warrior and then abandon her to stand around while humans make silly noises.

Little Bailey for her part had cocked a leg and watched a bumblebee bounce from one dandelion to the next. Boing, boing… I bet that grass over there tastes nice… boing… are the humans done yet… boing… should I tell them the goat got into their food box… boing… 

“Sorry about the wait, darling,” I hoisted the saddle onto the fence and gave the little mare another quick once-over. An hour or so of groundwork had done us both some good, not only to properly introduce myself to her, but to warm up and stretch. Check for soundness. Learn her little quirks, such as her yielding her hindquarters like a champ, but getting befuddled when I asked for her forehand to move. Such as her willingness to please, coupled with bouts of insecurity (Am I doing this right? Human? Did I get it right? I did? Cool!). She was relaxed, but alert. Loose-limbed and warmed up, but not sweaty. Exactly what any rider hopes for.

I saddled up. Still no sign of impatience, only a soft nibble at my shirt (Why do you smell like watermelon? – It’s my favorite gum – Can I have some? – Nope. But I have carrots for later – Awww bummer. Wait, what? Carrots?) and a friendly nicker to greet a pasture buddy coming back from the trail (Haaayy! I’m over heeere! – Haaay girl! I’m baack!)

‘This horse is crazy!’ – the woman’s words echoed in the back of my head. I wish people would stop doing that, even if they probably meant well. Crazy. What does this evengiraffe mean? The horse who experimentally licked my hand when I held out the bit for her seemed the farthest thing from insane, nutty, berserk, bonkers. Compared to my redhead (who by turns loves to play giraffe, Swan Lake without tutu but with hooves, or ‘steal and then eat the reins’ when it comes time to put on the “Stupid leather on my face thingy”), Bailey was a model of decorum. One nibble on the snaffle, one exchange of glances (Yea? – Sure. Watch the ear, please – Will do) – aaand done.

Crazy. This horse is crazy. You can’t trust her. I wanted to kick myself for letting those thoughts run circles in my mind. Could I be that far off? Was I that bad at judging horsey vibes when there was no one I trusted there to give me feedback? Was I missing something important? What if the signs were there, but I just wanted to like this horse and didn’t look for them? What if… a soft nose whuffling the hair at my ear jolted me out of it.

“Yea. Stupid human, right?” – we going now? – “Yes girl. We going.”

I walked off, long legged Bailey ambling companionably beside me. If there is one lesson I never quite managed to unlearn, throughout all my issues, it’s that you don’t get in the saddle when your head’s a mess. It’s unfair to the horse, it’s bound to drive you both batty, and it can be flat out dangerous. So we walked. A human kicking at rocks and scowling at her boots, and a tall mare with deep, dark eyes contemplating the fresh spring grass, the wheeling birds, the soft breeze, the funny human.

Walk it off. Move on. Such a deceptively simple technique if taken literally. Move. Onward. Onward.

‘You can’t trust this horse.’ Wasn’t those people’s fault that they’d unwittingly poked at the trust in myself, in my gut feeling, in my hard won faith that my old abilities weren’t gone, just buried under a heap of bullshit. Wasn’t the little mare’s fault that suddenly my shoulders were bunched, my chest an anvil, my movements jerky and wooden. Crazy. Was I crazy, to not see what was obvious to everyone else? Why was that curb bit there, if not because…

Human? – Yea, sweetheart? – Grass! Look! Fresh, green, juicy, tender, sweet smelling grass! –  Ah. I am kinda walking you through a candy store here, aren’t I?

Her eyes held all the gentle patience of animals throughout the ages, waiting for the daft self-declared Master of the Universe to figure out the obvious. Opposable thumbs and space rockets, but manure for brains. “Right you are. Dig in, boo.” I plopped down, earning myself a ‘you’re sitting in my salad’ look from Bailey who didn’t need to be told twice. It did smell sweet. The first spring grass, bright and fresh, reaching for the sunlight.

Crazy. I’ve been called crazy, too. Many times. Sometimes in awe, more often in the “nuttier than squirrel poo” sense. Sometimes in the “Poor thing, it’s the … well, you know. Air dummyJust let her sit with her back to the wall, and make no loud noises” sense. Bailey didn’t care. What’s one more weird human? Bailey didn’t bother obsessing over “Why did she saddle me and now we don’t ride? Did I do something? Did something bad happen? Will something bad happen? Oh My Horse, will a Terrible Tractor come and eat us?!” Bailey had grass. Bailey had company, even if it was just a friend of a friend of her human, come to help out and look after her for the week. Bailey had … I really can’t have no watermelon? – bugger off, precious – Your hair smells funny, too, you know! Grapefruit? – UNH! Look, darling. I’m trying to brood here! – Why?  … Bailey had fun.

Can’t trust this horse. Well, she trusted me, after knowing me for just about three hours. Unless I was wrong about that, too, and if I was that far gone I might as well check into Hotel Loony right now. She had trusted me enough to let me brush her, pet her, check her hooves; to waltz around the arena while I was asking silly stuff she’d never done before but that she was game to try for the giggles. Trusted me enough to walk out into the big wide world with me, where you never know if there will be sweet grass or mean tractors. No hesitation. Wait, hold on, there had been those few moments when …

“I’m stupid, sweetheart” – Well, you are sitting on perfectly good food and talking out loud when you know I don’t speak human – “Not that. You’re just a bit insecure, aren’t you?” – What’s that mean? Mind moving your boot, there’s a juicy bit under there – “Strong but not real bright my fine ass! You’re smart. You were watching me, looking for confirmation when you were unsure what was happening, or what I wanted. And. I don’t know how long you’ve been at this barn, but my friend said her buddy just got you a little while ago. So. A smart horse is cautious around stuff she doesn’t know. And if you don’t get the ‘all clear’ from your human, you react. I’ll bet that same fine hind end I mentioned! Literally, if I end up in a shrub with torn jeans.” – Humans sure make a lot of noise when they get excited about something – “Yeah, I know. Wanna test a hypothesis with me, boo?” – Is that a fancy carrot? – “Funny little horse. I meant I’m done brooding” – We go? – “Yes. We go.” – Awesome.

The Art of Keeping The Horse Between You And The Ground

If any other humans had been nearby when I swung my much mentioned derriere into the saddle, there would have been little doubt to whom the ‘crazy’ label should havewhat if you fly been affixed. No, not the tall mare with the beautiful brown and white patches watching inexplicable human antics with bewildered patience. The gigglesnorting woman who bounced around on one leg with the other in a stirrup, after remembering that 16 hands is taller than 14, and that a certain other horse would have given her the third degree by now.

What do they know? The longer this sweet little horse stood perfectly still with a stupid human hopping like a deranged one-legged bunny and laughing tears, the more I had to laugh. The more I had to laugh … well, let’s say I made it up there. Eventually.

What do they know? No more anvil, no more doubt. It wasn’t just the hilarity of a spectacularly inept display on my part, though sniggering at myself is enormously therapeutic. Not to mention I’m a bottomless well of folly, so I never run out of reasons to laugh. It was the ‘Crazy Horse’ behaving exactly as my poor battered confidence had predicted, it was the relief of having come full circle and being back in the ‘zone’ when I didn’t need to see her pretty ears swivel to know she’d heard a bird in the trees. That she was paying careful attention to our surroundings until the silly human got done being daft.

I got you. I got us. – Thank you, sweetheart. You’re a good pal, looking out for me like that. But I think I’ll take it from here – You sure? I hear better, you know. See better, too. – Aye. But I’m the big bad predator with claws and an attitude. I’ll be your Simba, you be my Timon. You tell me what scares you, and I’ll eat it. Or give it a mean Look. – I can do that! I can! – I know, boo. I know now. We go? – We gooooo! 

May my fierce little Viking forgive me, but it was magical. There is something about a tall horse stretching her legs that makes you feel like flying. Bailey’s walk was like being rocked in a cradle high upon a tower. Bailey’s trot catapulted me upwards with half startled, half delighted “Mwah!” sounds until I got my bearings and adjusted to the rhythm. Bailey’s canter … barely touched the ground. Imagine being used to a racecar – low center of gravity, hugging the road, able to turn on a dime. Then someone puts you in the seat of a biplane. A Bailey plane.

Indeed there were some wobbles. A massive pile of lumber, stacked haphazardly near the path, caused some sidestepping and anxious breathing. This wasn’t here last time! It’s biiig – Yep, and slow. Want me to tell it off? – Would you mind? – Bad logs! Stay right there and mind your own business or you’re gonna get it! – It worked? It did! Ha! That’s right, how you like them bananas, stupid logs! There was also a Huge Tractor of Death, but we just stared at that one meaningfully and then gave it a respectful berth because Bailey’s predator pal wasn’t in the mood to eat it (all that steel gives me gas). Bailey didn’t mind. She was more interested in showing me how she can jump a creek, and how neatly she can gather her haunches and tuck her hooves. Cool, right? I can do bigger ones, too! – Holy shitballs! I mean, awesome, sweetheart! – Wanna do a fence next? I know a good one! – Erm. Fence. Right. You see, I’ve never actually … oh look, a nice flat stretch for cantering. Flat being the ticket! – That’s going back to the barn. Where the carrots are. – Carrots it is. Giddyup, darling! – Giddying, funny human!

Owning Your Crazy

By the time we rounded the pond where the frogs had started their early evening concert, and Bailey strolled onto the dirt path leading to the carrots, only one of the concerned humans was still around. I couldn’t resist. I gave her a little royal wave. No queen, no empress, no victorious general riding ahead of their troops has ever waved so graciously. Nor returned in such triumph.

It wasn’t just that my jeans were mercifully untorn, and that I was riding a happy little horse with naught but my knees to steer at this point, because she was so relaxed I’d dropped the reins without thinking. It wasn’t just that by that time I was feeling more than a little cocky (keeping your seat while a professional jumper shows off her skill will do that), and that this particular lady had first dubbed the little mare “Crazy”. It was all of the above, and then some.

Damn right we’re crazy. Little Bailey, for trusting a human she barely knew. Trusting so hard, she’d put all her insecurities right into my hands and faced the big wide world. Lethal Logs and Terrible Tractors and Moving Shrubs of Imminent Death and all. For a horse, that goes against all common sense. And me? Well, I’m peculiar on a good day. But the only truly nutty thing I’d done was to let random strangers mess with my head. Let them knock loose my poor battered screws, and almost deprived sweet Bailey of a fun afternoon in the process. Stupid human.

Cowgirl

 


Human? – Yes, darling? – I distinctly remember you mentioning carrots! – So I did. But wouldn’t you prefer I get that saddle off you first? – Ooooh yes, and brush that spot there please! It’s itching! – Yea, we both worked up a nice, pleasant sweat, huh? – Har, but not as much as that stupid tractor. He ran away from us so fast, he must be halfway to Russia now. Human? – Yes? – We were awesome, weren’t we? – We were marvelous, boo. And Bailey? – Yea? – Thank you.

Bailey (3)
Is this a carrot which I see before me, The top toward my nose? Come, let me eat thee.

 

Bailey (1)
What is this human fascination with little flat boxes anyways?

 

Bailey (15)
Cuddle bug? I never met a bug who wanted to cuddle. I’m a cuddle horse, thank you!

Winter Has Come

(I do apologize for the blatant GoT reference while simultaneously stating that I do not own any rights to the trademark or franchise, nor, sadly, a Direwolf.) 

 

Winter. Once upon a time that season was greeted with dread. Winter meant a struggle to survive. A slow and agonizing death for those who did not have enough food put away during the time of plenty, or who did not ration wisely, or were simply unlucky. For some, a quicker death if you got caught in a storm, or an avalanche, trying to supplement your dwindling rations by hunting. And if the snow and the cold didn’t get you, disease and exhaustion and malnutrition were just waiting their turn.

Since the advent of central heating and supermarkets, with airplanes flying in fresh apples from New Zealand and 18-wheelers carting guacamole even deep into the Great White North, “Winter Is Coming” has lost its terror. It is even anticipated with joy – at least it always was by me, perhaps not so much by my dad, who every year dragged the snowblower out of the shed while mumbling astonishingly creative bad words (under his breath of course, so I would not hear. And of course I did, and marveled at his artistry).

DEFCON cucumber, aka “throw on another layer and the BIG hat!”

Winter meant pond hockey, hot chocolate, and a magical forest covered in glittering white.

Maybe that’s why ‘Snowflake’ is deemed such a cute insult. Who fears Winter? Well, maybe Texas does, considering the “The End is Nigh!” panic on social media and every single Interstate as soon as an errant cloud accidentally drops some deadly crystals.

Anatomy of a Snowflake

This particular insult has puzzled me since the first time I heard it, and in the beginning I only derived from the context that it was, in fact, meant as a slight. I mean, they’re pretty, right? Awww you think I’m exquisite, and intricate, and I refract light in tantalizing ways, and I look awesome in closeup pictures? Why, thank you!

A short while ago a young man decided to vent his frustration with the world at large and the female population in particular in the direction of my older daughter. What started as clumsy attempts to get her attention and assert his masculinity by wolf-whistling and strutting around like a rooster with to basketballs pressed to his chest (the latter earned him a “Ru would be proud” comment from the target’s younger sister), quickly deteriorated into becoming an all out nuisance. The unholy trinity of familiar bullshit, from mocking the very physical traits he had glorified earlier (aka “If I can’t touch this radiantly magnificent bosom, I shall now declare I never liked it in the first place”), to questioning the attached young woman’s character (aka “Only a mean and stupid woman would reject me!”), to the carpet bombing of blaming everything and everyone other than himself (aka “If not for evil Feminazis and Liberals my crude advances would be enthusiastically reciprocated!”)

Well, no. Like her mother, the young lady with the Mae West figure and the brains to match the cleavage, does not respond well to rudeness. Unlike her mother, she remained serene in her responses. And was declared a “Snowflake” for telling the young man that he was being vulgar and hurtful.

It got me thinking.

pucksmiley

A 17 year old military brat (and if you’re not familiar with the slang, ‘brat’ in this context is a tender endearment), a hockey-playing, horseback-riding cowgirl who could shoot the wings off a gnat at 300 yards but cries when a dog dies in a movie, a soul so gentle she lets her mother win at Monopoly every damn time, who bakes Christmas cookies for soldiers who are away from their families and unable to get home for the Holidays, who could have planted this rude boy on his hind end with one good shove but chose to politely point out that he was being an equus asinus … is a snowflake.

Well. Alright.

To be sure, this one’s a Northern Snowflake (“You better get your scarf and mittens, dude, where I come from the snow don’t play” – sic) . The kind that rides a blizzard down from the Arctic and delivers a few Canadian pines to your doorstep before settling on your roof along with a few billion buddies. Best get shoveling before the cousins show up. They look fluffy and harmless and very pretty, but only until that roof caves in. Do trust me on that one.

A Tale of Ice and Fire 

Now, my stalwart teenager may not have solved her ‘persistent bully problem’, but her wintry cool response allowed me to look at the situation from a different angle.

Here I was, ready to cover my baby’s six at her “Need backup!” call and breathe fire and doom upon that hapless lad smaugwho felt entitled to her attention, and resorted to increasingly crude and abusive tactics when it did not materialize (cue Smaug: “I am FIRE! I am DEATH!”). Here was my younger daughter, channeling her Norse ancestry (95 lbs of Viking fury sounds funny – until it comes straight at you). Here were the high school teachers poised to intervene and chastise the luckless suitor turned bully, and last but far from least, my daughter’s friends and teammates, ready to unleash a blizzard that would warrant a state of emergency in 47 States (and at least an annoyed “Eh!” in Canada).

It was not needed.

Because there is something terribly sad about the “Suck it up, Buttercup!” and “Fuck your feelings!” crowd. About the raging and ranting and the “I’m just blunt and you can’t deal with it!” cries. There is a hurt in there somewhere, a helplessness, and – so my daughter mused when I expressed my marvel at her composure – perhaps a fear of those feelings we’re supposed to ‘suck up’. A fear that allowing yourself to feel, to have empathy, to show but a flicker of insecurity, would instantly deflate the carefully constructed facade of strength. And then one would see the boy who simply doesn’t know how to talk to the adored young lady, who’s terrified of rejection, and whom noone has ever taught about honey and vinegar. About the courage to show your softer side, and the strength one finds at the heart of vulnerability.

Image result for elsa frozen
Perfectly harmless Snowflake

It’s so much easier to double down on the bluster and the anger than to deal with the feelings of “I wanted her to like me but I’ve hurt her”. So much easier to shift the blame to the perceived ‘snowflake’ for not being able to handle a strong, masculine personality. So much harder to admit “I was being an ass to her, and that’s why she doesn’t want anything to do with me”.

I might not be able to summon the same compassion as my Snowflake for this angry, rude young man. I still think he would greatly benefit from a right ding behind the ear, preferably administered by the collected works of Lord Byron. But I can see where she’s coming from. Or rather, where she stands. On her frozen plain, being a lovely, glittering bit of frozen water, and quite content with it. Just don’t insult her on the other ice. The one where pucks fly. That’s when all bets are off and she will surpass her grandsire’s creativity in unleashing utterly majestic expletives. In three languages.

Let it Snow!

It’s -14ºC in Germany today, or about 6ºF. For three ladies hailing from the Adirondacks, that means one extra layer of flannel, and the good boots when walking the fluffy dog.

A fine, crisp cold that nonetheless creeps into your bones and reminds you why our ancestors didn’t mess around with Winter. That even with our sturdy walls and readily available fuel to heat them, even with our internal combustion engines that tirelessly bring food and supplies, even with mighty power plants, we are not quite so safe as we like to think. When the sap freezes in the trees and only the bitter wind breaks the deadly silence of the forest, that bright white blanket of snowflakes is still beautiful. But you don’t feel inclined to call it harmless.

Said the youngest of the ladies, her breath forming small clouds in the crystal clear air: “This ain’t no joke, brother. Yegawds. You two keep going if you want, the dog and I have enough brains to go home and hide under the furs. Auf Wiedersehen!”

February 2018 - Snowlflakes

 

 

 

The Ballad of the Valkyries ~ The Denmark Saga, Verse II

Find Verse I of the Saga here

 

“Have you no shame, woman?”

“This is Denmark. Keep your shirt on.”

I am wearing one. Which is the issue, as it were.”

“You’re such an American!”

Thus I awoke, on our first morning on the magical island of Rømø, to a friendly squabble between obviously well rested teenagers. Teenagers frolicking in the morning sun, out on the patio. Wait – we have a patio?

Denmark I
The things one discovers at dawn’s first light…

Picture it: Denmark, 2016. A midsummer morning dawns over a charmed little island in the Wadden Sea. Skinfaxi of the Shining Mane has only just gotten underway, but the sunlight is already trickling into the cozy little room where an American mother of two lively teens blinks with bemusement at the unfamiliar sheets of a large and fluffy bed. Very fluffy. One could bury a horse in here and never find it again. Through the open backdoor the sounds of other early risers filter towards her ears. Seagulls, mostly, apparently protesting the teens chasing one another across the grass. Once again there is a smell of roses, and the nearby ocean. Still feeling the past day’s long journey in her bones but ready to seek adventure and coffee (not necessarily in that order), Mother of the Fiery Mane rolls out of bed and lands with a soft little thud.

They had expected a hotel room, the three scions of proud Scandinavian warriors and sailors. What they got was a little apartment with kitchen and bathroom and living room and two bedrooms – one with a solid wood bunk bed right out of a Danish Dream – , spacious yet cozy. The place is past its glory days, that much one can tell. Yet what makes the fine German couple next door frown and harangue the amiable staff, is precisely what the three ladies love. That “Je ne sais quoi”. That elusive magic between nostalgia and rustic charm, between Scandinavian simplicity and playful whimsy. The wood panels, the patio with untended, scrappy rose bushes. The creaky but criminally comfortable couch. The complimentary coffee in the cabinets!

Coffee!

Mother has a mission. While older daughter (She with the fine stature and stopping power of a Shieldmaiden) consents at last to cease frolicking in her shorts and bra to appease younger daughter (92.3 pounds of distilled Viking energy), an aging appliance coughs and gurgles its way towards producing a heavenly brew. Books and covers. Judge not.

There is a breakfast buffet already available, but the ladies have not yet discovered the marvels it offers. Far, far from Continental horrors, the sunlit room with tongue-in-cheek overdone maritime decor holds Denmark’s most prized firstmeal treasures. The traditional round breakfast rolls of course, with assorted jams, jellies, and local honey. Local is the cheese as well, and so is the wienerbrød. Cereals, assorted fresh fruit, ymer. Tiny, piping hot sausages. One might think the kindly staff is expecting the Æsir to pop by for a spell. With a couple of hungry giants in tow.

Since they do not yet know of the feast awaiting in wood-paneled Nóatún, the caffeine-fortified graces go exploring. Their curiosity and the never ending call of new horizons will not let them linger any more. What lies hidden behind the screen of shrubs that protects the little island of grass behind their rooms from the eternal wind? Well, what but the sea?

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A smattering of red and white cottages to the right, a little pasture to the left. Hello, Mr Donkey, was it you who serenaded us to sleep last night? (“I shall call him Eeyore!” – “Because he looked as if he was going to say ‘Thanks for noticing me’ any moment?” – “Ah, you noticed, too!”) A little further down the sandy path they stumble across an assortment of travel trailers – that bright yellow teardrop one is without a doubt the literal highlight – and some fellow tourists wave sleepy “Good morning” greetings.

Then after scarcely 400 yards, beyond more wild rose shrubs and patches of sweetbriar, a riot of blossoms in dozens of shades of pink draped over lush greens, the hardy grass gives way to white sand and black mud. Very clingy black mud. What in Hel’s name is this stuff?

(Denmark Lesson the First: Thou shalt not look for seashells striding barefoot through unknown mud! It may smell better than Gorilla Glue, yet surpasses the latter’s adhesive powers by an order of magnitude!)

It’s a merry little trio that walks back towards the hotel. Bathed in mid-morning sunlight, clutching their pretty oyster shells and resembling friendly Mud Monsters, or at least escapees from an unconventional spa. Their growling stomachs would suggest Monsters. Yet there’s nothing for it, a shower is in order lest they want to practice saying Undskyld! for the rest of the day for leaving squishy onyx-colored decorations wherever they go.

Well scrubbed and positively ravenous, they enter the hallowed halls of Rømø breakfast battles, and though they be late for the party, there is hardly a dent in the abundance. This, of course, must be rectified immediately.

(Denmark Lesson the Second: Thou shalt go easy on the spicy little sausages if you’ve a 2 hour trail ride planned that afternoon. That, or bring a pack horse with waterskins)

“They keep feeding us like this, we’ll need a freighter instead of a ferry to get us back over.”

“So be it. You’re still going to eat that …whatever it is?”

“Yes. Hands off. Say, weren’t there little black bicycles outside? Can you rent those?”

“Sister mine, I like the way you think. Wonder how expensive it is. Mother, you should inquire. Ow! Fine, I’ll get my own food. Hello? No don’t take that away yet. I mean, hvis du vil være så … not take. Jeg sulten… yesthankyou. Tak. Tusind.”

(from this day forth a young Danish man shall be so utterly enamored with the tiny Viking cousin from afar, he will staunchly defend the buffet tables from being cleared until the fair maiden signals she is fit to burst. Either that, or he cannot believe it is possible to eat one’s own weight in ymerdrys every morning). 

Denmark II
“Sancho”, faithful metal mount, survivor of many a battle and carrier of cookies

A pittance. That’s how expensive it is to rent three bicycles in Denmark for a week. A “one loaf of bread and a carton of milk” pittance. Of course, they’re the Volvo of the two-wheeled world: sturdy, reliable, no pointless shenanigans. A big basket for shopping, though. Which leaves a small dilemma: Until it is time to saddle up, shall the three graces soak up the sun and frolic in the pool, or shall they descend upon the nearby supermarket for an impromptu raid? Shall they explore? It is getting rather hot again …

Once more, the call of the horizon wins. Must be something in their DNA.

Onward, faithful two-wheeled Rocinante! (yes, mother has drawn the bicycle farthest past its prime). Gosh, I hope that supermarket takes American credit cards, I’m perishing of thirst.

Picture it…

Two stunningly lovely young ladies, riding dusty black bicycles down a dirt path towards the sea. Laughing and trading amiable insults. At a slight distance behind them pedals a third lady, muttering savagely elegant curses under her breath. Her sweat soaked auburn hair is plastered to her temples, her vehicle squeaks and groans in protest. If the young graces are shining Valkyries seeming to float above the path in the bright summer light, mother Valkyrie resembles a disheveled fox freshly pulled from Allfather Óðinn’s mead barrel.

The baskets on their bicycles are stuffed to the brim with essentials – water, cookies, milk and bread, apples and pastries, some exotic Danish delicacies. They have decided to take a small detour on the way home, to pass by the horses and scout the place they mean to honor with their presence a little over an hour from now. Behind a row of the ever present wild rose shrubs and hedges, two donkeys eye mother Valkyrie with skeptical expressions. Wise old creatures, they know this will not end well. As the mumbled foreign curses move beyond the shrubs, and Rocinante emerges along the fence, they sagely nod to one another and waggle their long ears. Wait for it…

There are potholes, and there are potholes. Then there are badly disguised portals to Jǫtunheimr. It is one of the latter which mother fox enters unwittingly. Just as the young Valkyries have effortlessly evaded the yawning crater, their dam effortlessly finds the spot of maximum calamity (what can I say, it’s a talent).

Only a perplexed “HNFF!!!!” followed by a suspicious thud alerts the young graces that something is amiss – that, and the lone wheel bouncing towards them, free and unfettered, unburdened of the rest of the bicycle. Or unicycle now, as it were.

Less than glorious mother Valkyrie may be, but she’s a wily fox. One who has fallen on her face and every other body part, literally and figuratively, so many times it has become second nature. So she’s quite fine as she sits in the dust, mumbling and surveying the wreckage of her unicycle. The bread hasn’t fared quite so well, having been landed on, and a few of the apples have sailed far enough for the taller donkey to make a bid for them through the fence.

The young Valkyries come coasting back, suppressed laughter on their faces as they contemplate the carnage and make certain mother is truly and well unharmed beyond her dented pride. “Dearly beloved,” intones the younger “we are gathered here today to bid farewell to Rocinante…” – “I seriously thought you were going to go with the spilled milk!” declares the elder. – “Naw. Too obvious. But really, mother. That one was at least a nine point four.” – “Thank you, daughter mine. Now would someone get the apples before … never mind. Velbekomme, Mr. Donkey.”

 

Fully prepared to pay for the damage, mother was informed by kind Therese that this “happens all the time” and insurance is included in the rental. But watch out for potholes, they’re everywhere. Now she tells me. 

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“The eleventh is Noatun; | there has Njorth
For himself a dwelling set;
The sinless ruler | of men there sits
In his temple timbered high.”

 

The Saga continues here as the Valkyries finally are introduced to their noble steeds and boldly ride towards new adventures. Inclement Weather Warning: Some adventures may come without pictures due to non-submersible phones/camera equipment.