Donnerstag, 30. Oktober 2014

A hike to the Zee Aylienz annual season´s out - party

 This year again Zee Aylienz had invited to the annual season´s out BBQ, and smiths and vikings listened. We listened carefully and grinned. And met for a hike to the wonderful site of the BBQ. No looting and pillaging was allowed, so we offered help instead, to help Karo, who organized the whole thing a bit to get things running smoothly. Nick and Kathrin, and Michael and myself also met beforehand for a little bimble beforehand to smell the roses, so I packed my gear, and off I was to take the bus into the green, green woods. At the railway station I nearly bounced into Michael, whom I nearly missed... But no harm done, we arrived at the rendezvous point together and had a bit of strange conversation during the ride. The thugs on the rear bench nearly fell arse over tit when he took out his Mora to show me he´d sharpened it;-) made my day. Anyway, we met with Nick and Kathrin, and off we were.
 Into the rocks....
 Kids will be kids, I guess...;-).
 There are eagle owls nesting in the rocks, so we tread carefully and were relatively silent, except for the ruckus;-).
 Turns out Michael missed his rock climbing a lot....
 But soon we had other things to do... the terrain became a bit demanding.
 "You sure that´s the way?" "If you could tell me the way?"
 On top of the hill we had a cuppa coffee (thanks, bro!) and a cuppa tea, and a chat, basked in the sun and simply enjoyed great company.
 Then the road went ever on, we had some time to make, for rendezvous time was 1 pm at the Ranger´s station.
 Ever seen something like this at the end of October?
 Then we hit a piece of road, and, crossing it, went down into the woods to get to the forest ranger´s station. Now I know Mr. Knaup, who runs the site, which is more of a sustainability centre these days, since I was a kid living in the woods, and I was looking forward to meeting him. When we were on top of things, my bloody cellphone ringed. It was Karo, who was a bit desperate for the firewood was soaking wet and she could not get a fire started. I reassured her we would be there in no time, and we arrived well early still.
 And, I can tell you what, it was hell of an effort to get the damn fire this far! The wood was soaking wet, the tinder did not work at all, and, even if we first wanted to make a challenge out of lighting the fire with flint and stone, we simply gave in and took the cigarette lighter instead. We had little time left, before the goofs would arrive, and hungry nerds are not a good sight;-). But it was a great experience, since we worked together like a good team. Soon it was roaring wildly, and noone could complain there was no fire hot enough to roast sausages on. We will learn, however, that this is not an insurance against Aylienz complaining.;-)
 Martin is Karo´s man, and we gave him a short tutoring on how to whittle a stick. Some of you might laugh and make fun out of someone not knowing how to whittle a stick, but let´s keep things straight: It´s not commonplace anymore to know this. You have to know how to use a computer and a cellphone, not how to cook on open fire. We hope we have kindled some interest towards the topic, and I personally find it great if someone who did not know the how-do beforehand goes home content in knowing he had learned something adventurous. I hope the knowledge serves him well!
 Karo and Stevie. Stevie brought his little one, and both of them enjoyed themselves.
 This is wet timber, see?

 Then Nele arrived with a tray of beer and the goodies...
 And the goofs and Jan came in one by one after a hard ride. Jan relaxing in the sun and enjoying and "altogether too hot fire".

 No kidding, they complained the fire was too hot!;-)
 Nele having fun with a pumpkin.
 The guys and gals getting nice an toasty;-).
 Everyone was having a nice chat and sharing some tall tales.

 We got on with some cooking, and made steaks, pumpkin slices, potatoes, pumpkin stew, stuffed mushrooms and mushroom soup from the forage we brought with us, one sorry boletus and some nettles and yarrow.;-)
 The others enjoyed sausage and home-made salads.
Suddenly the mountainbikers were off towards home, but some few remaining, but in a steady trickle the were off, too. Then Olaf, Burkhardt, Tim, and the absolutely pain-resistant blacksmith hound Marie came by. We had a good time, and shared a lot of stories, both hilarious and sad, we had a beer and shared great food. The stars came out, and Nick played on his didgeridoo for us. Suddenly the world was an enchanted place, and everything made perfect sense.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye, and under the stars the last embers burned down. NIck, Kathrin and myself made for the hike down into the valley and towards home, since the last bus was gone. In the next village I simply took a taxi,  and when I was home, I went to bed with a warm feeling in my belly and my heart.

Thank you, folks, it was a great meeting!

Cubicle-nosed Mohawk pig hiking staff completed;-)

 Here´s my most recent hiking staff completed and close up. Top is a detail of the cubicle - nosed Mohawk pig that is intended to be a Celtic boar as a crown and handle-fitting. You can guide a length of paracord through the hole and make a loop that way to harvest apples and the like. The design makes the bristles also good for prying.
 The tip is tempered spring steel and makes a good choice when digging for roots.
I also fitted a leaf forged from bearing bronze.
The stick is made from fire-hardened blackthorn. It will get a jasper inlay into the gnarled part.

I personally like it;-).

Sheath for my new Hadseax

 So,  here we go... of course my new beast needed a garage, and here it is. Top grain naturally tanned leather, 3 mm, with a bit of modeling.
Apologies for the lousy photo..... but I guess the point is made;-). If you so will, inspired a tiny bit by the viking Mammen style of knotwork patterns, and I am not yet sure what story lies underneath, if you get me right;-) I know there is one, hidden in the pattern...:-).

Freitag, 17. Oktober 2014

Of ancient trees and rugged trails-and of the difference between joy and fun

 Some time ago I felt burned out again. Now most of the stuff I do is rewarding work and I don´t mind a bit of a fight, but it has been a long time since I last had a plain old ride into the old hills. It´s a simple case of "don´t know what you´ve got until it´s gone"itis. I maybe could manage to ride more often, what with a scheduled ride by my own club, but I have lost somewhat the contact to the "scene". Mountainbike riding has always been a case of technical fascination for me, but that was not all there was. Mountainbike riding also had been competitive for me, and I rode a share of races in my life, some of them very hard ones, most of them fun, but that wasn´t all there was either. I´d like to call it a trail I have been on for 29 years now. I have seen very unusual places and rode trails you cannot ride anymore, like the Passo Pasubio at Lago di Garda, or some that people now think of as challenging with a 6" freeride bike with a rigid bike and toeclips, like the Dalco trail. I rode down ski slopes in winter when there were no fatbikes in sight, I rode the 1992 Kaprun downhill worldcup race (did not qualify, to be true). But that was never all that was there. There always was something more to it. It was a bit like the VVA  poem, which influenced me quite a lot:

"Scream with force into the driving wind-
And listen to the echoes in your mind"

(Victor Vincente of America)

I could rant on endlessly about "flow experiences in forest environments" and have written long essays about the coherence between flow, ch´i, satori, eucharist and Awen, but that´s not my topic now. 

In the mountainbike scene, as everywhere else, it´s more often than not just about shiny parts and fancy clothing. Riding skills are an issue, but not as important, and if you hone your riding skills, you do it to be able to keep up in a culture of constantly pushing the envelope to an extreme degree. Now I am all for some big air and technical trails, but fact is, three out of five mountainbikers build illegal trails now. They can´t tell a spruce from an oak, and it is most disgusting to see they do not even care. They want their fun. Now. They don´t want to go the extra length to fight for legal trails (and I can even understand why that is so, with the authorities just doing nothing but prohibiting an otherwise ecologically sensible activity). Those who already have legal trails carelessly endanger it by careless behaviour or let others run wild with a spade on their legal courses. 

The woods is what counts to me, and having the privilege to be out there. A tree is a living thing, and while you might have a reason to cut down one or two, you´d better have a good one in my book. Trees assure our survival. No trees or green life, no life at all. This equation is dead simple, and without considering it, mankind will be simply dead. I personally am one of those crazy head-in-the-clouds tree huggers. Ah yes, I cut a stick from a blackthorn hedge or the like. But I know where and when and what to do so that the tree does not die and even profits by it. I am not enfuriated because illegal trail building is against the law of human society. I detest it because most of them do not know what they do, and their understanding is superficial at best, and I hate their utter ignorance of their lack of understanding and their aggressive stand towards remaining ignorant. 

Now I love a good jump as much as anyone else, and love to ride trails I cannot ride in the first. Why can´t I then just embrace their endeavour and forsake that treehugger blahblah (this is a quote)?

Because there are trails in abundance. Lots of trails in the periphery of my home are so challenging, that even with a modern all - mountain fullsuspended bike, few would ride them first-time. There are switchbacks with stairs so ragged, roots and stones so gnarly, that even a modern bike can be put to its limits. The culprit is, they do not start in your quarter, you have to venture beyond suburbia to find them. To do that, you have to take time and power to get out there. Few want this. They are accustomed to get everything, NOW! CHEAP! And they are many, and they are weak, but there is strength in ignorance and numbers, alas, the story of my life.
And thusly, for a long time now, I have admitted defeat. I have long forsaken reading their shiny magazines and take part in their craze of novelty mania where nothing´s as old as the bike of last month, and last year´s models are the ones you can buy this year in summer. And when I last took part in the club ride, I noticed two things: I could no longer partake in their conversations, and their communication was strange for me, for they are cyborg zombies in that they are always in a frenzy to communicate at the same time on facebook, what´s app, twitter and personally (in this priority order). And, when I partook, they gladly refused their responsibility and put it on my shoulders. As much I love to work with kids, try guiding a tour with but one kid constantly using his smartphone whith one hand while trying to speed down a gnarly downhill, and having not enough skill for two hands, and you know there´s a problem.

So, I dimissed riding with others altogether, and, wanting to be left alone, left my bike at home also, because it´s a bummer if you want to watch wildstock and have to tread carefully through the thicket and carry a bike on your back. And riding off trails is not an option for me.

But the memories of times gone by keep coming, and while many of them circle around great rides with friends I have lost now to the grey maggot machine, more memories circle around mountains I had seen and trails I´d ridden. Not all of them fond, but many. Most revolve around the feeling of flow, of feeling with the heart of the buzzard gliding beside the trail when I flew down the hill, just 2 m away. This were the most exilarating moments to me, when I felt one with the law of the universe, when I felt there is a deity and I was part of it. And my bike was a vehicle to it. It enabled me to feel the flight of the buzzard beside me, and it took me places I had never seen were it not for those 11 tubes of metal, rubber and chains.

I realized that this is a good thing and a good reason to ride. It helps me strive to be a better and more whole human being. It helps me keep my sanity in an insane world. I know I am relatively slow at the moment, with my profound lack of training, but it does not matter. There´s noone to compete with, and noone to pass my skill on. Noone will understand these feelings, but that does not matter either. I will write about them no less. 

Those were my thoughts just when I got out of my flat. And the trail called with mighty voices never to be heard.
 Into the darken woods. To be true, my ride started with a long transit along a bike lane, but it is the most comfortable way to get to where I wanted, a beautiful valley leading up to the mountaintops I have so long forsaken. The weather forecastz had been quite awful, but that did not keep me out of the woods. When I heard the little creek murmur and sing, I simply had to stop and listen. Otherwise, all was silent, and not a soul was onm the way. But the creek sang its song silently.
 And I recognized how trees sink their roots into the rich, dark soil, with the odour of autumn rising up. And a thought occurred to me. How come, so did I contemplate, that in the season of decay the earth smells rich and strong and nourishing as if you could feed on the scent alone? It was as if the green life grows stronger in the autumn, as if the light we humans cannot see anymore, ver-iugos, the power that is above the yoke, thrives in the decay, but not in sickness and rotting, but in the cycles of life and death, of hunt and feast.
 Thus sang the creek and the fallen trees,
 thus sang the mist arising.
 I set down my trusty bike, and climbed down to the water.
 And listened to the song of spirits in the glistening trickle, eerie, but still loud enough for ears that can listen.

 Gently, leaves rustled, and still the trees stood green and thriving, but in a gentle breeze they fell and danced.

 Then it was time to rise, and mount my bike. I was pleased with the new tires I recently bought, for my old ones were bald as baby heads. For those interested in things like that, I now ride Maxxis Minions, and I am very content with the traction they provide in muddy conditions. You can slam into a berm full-tilt and still don´t kiss the dirt, and that´s a thing. I have to do some thorough bike service soon (when I can afford it), but overall, I am very pleased with the bike I build a good year ago. It´s something when you ride a lot in foul conditions and the cables and drivetrain and bearings don´t falter a bit. So, no reason to buy anything new, eh? If it were not for those nagging wishes at the back of my brain and the thought of trying to go for it once again. At least there are decent races with proper courses now, like the Enduro series and the like. But then I am 42 now and everyone, so they say, has to suffer his midlife crisis at that age. I am tempted to not have one, just to prove them wrong, but then, where´s the harm? Perhaps I´ll get me one, just for the experience;-). Does anyone know where to get ´em cheap?

Then it was quite a bit of climbing for me, but before I noticed, I was on top of the hill.
 And looked across some scenic vistas
 It sometimes pays off to have your head in the clouds and many bitter and sweet and weird thoughts in your head. That way you don´t realize you have to climb and the hurting in your legs;-). I took no pictures of the singletrails I rode. Nothing to brag about, but flowing enough, and it´s funny-if all runs great and you feel great, you have little to tell, and I had few thoughts descending, just feelings, and feelings I cannot tell anyone intelligently of. It is a kind of windshield-wiper effect as I like to call it. Your mind just goes blank, and to me, this is a sort of kathartic effect, for, hey, someone who writes stuff like this post, certainly thinks too much.;-).
 I then rode the trail down to the river Volme, and it was unchanged, even if the last time I was here was years ago, constantly flowing and never the same;-).
 On the singletrail I came across this oak, which presumeably was struck by lightning, and soot-blackened was its stem. And yet, there they sprouted, violently, fresh green leaves, yes, still green in spite of the late time in this year, where everything seems to have gone mad. And I daresay it will become stronger by the damage the fire had done, straining its roots ever stronger into the rocky soil, maybe ravaged by the storm, maybe struck by lightning, but standing still with its branches and stem dancing with the wind.
 My trail led on, and I daresay my trail leads on, a trail I have ridden countless times in my life, ever changing, never the same, often fiercely uphill and smoothly, flowingly, inspite of gnarled rocks and roots, down.
 Over hills and far away, as I did countless times before, and yet, it was still different.
 And I came by my old friend, the Priorlinde, an ancient (1000+ years old) linden tree. Often have I spent hours of starlit nights under its mighty branches, in winter, spring and summer. I have kissed girls under it and grieved for them under its branches, I have laughed and cried and hugged it and danced under the stars and the moon under it. It maybe old, but I am very glad it still sprouts.
 On and on the trail led me, up a steep incline I had never managed to ride the years before, and down a hill with more memories still, but I rode it in the present. It started to rain, a light drizzle, and I was feeling exhausted, but there were some miles still to come. Then, suddenly, or so it seemed, I came across this hut beside the fireroad, and since the rain went from drizzle to downpour, I just used the opportunity to just do some more stumpsitting and have a cuppa tea.

 So many things are there I could tell you. How I sat there in silence, listening to the jewel - like raindrops fall from the roof, how the solitude and silence soothed my heart, until it was time to get on the long ride home. How the solemn feeling of the sombre woods in the rain was a bit countercorrected by the feeling of cold and wet sneaking up your arse;-) to be precise.
But all this will not hit the nail on its head, so to say. I think there is a difference in experiences like this to the plain old fun ride. And one might argue it has something to do with me being depressive, and in some cases, this would be right. But I have long thought about it. A ride like this is not cool or extreme and does not kick anyone´s ass, and certainly not mine. It was just a leisurely ride in silence and solitude, with deep experiences. I have taken friends on leisurely rides like this, by the way, and it was not five hours into the ride that they cried for home, but that´s not the culprit either. There were just so many things to see, wonderful things, weird things and wild impressions, that I had to think about it. Why do I like rides like this? They  are not what I´d call fun. Funrides are rides where you laugh your head off after chasing your buddies down a trail that could kill you. That´s fun. This ride wasn´t a fun ride, and it has been quite some time that I went on a fun ride.

But the simple pleasure of not only seeing all those wonderful things, but becoming a part of it, was a pleasure that far transcends the concept of fun. I see the necessity of fun rides, too, and I have to do some more in the future. But even more important to me would be to try to integrate both. They say a man can´t have both, but why not? "If the farmer can´t swim, it´s always the bathing trunks" is not an option.


The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
(J.R.R Tolkien: The Road Goes Ever On, in: Lord Of the Rings)
With eager tires, I might add. It´s not the bike, nor its components, but a chance that´s far bigger than just the next stupefaction by adrenaline. Adrenaline and endorphine are great to experience, but if you just serve them, there´s something wrong. They are your hormons after all, and they have to serve you, not the other way round. The same goes for your bike. If it serves you, great, you might even give it a name, in earnest or mockery. But if you are servant to your bike, or worse yet, the industry, you will never ride onwards on the path.

But of course I have found a resolve, for if you have no fun in life, it´s entirely your own fault. And I know this full well, even if I have ranted about the effect the behaviour of others had on my life, but this was meant to be purely descriptive, and my decisions have been made by me long ago.

I have found out on this ride that I just need this trail. It is a part of my spirituality, and has made me what I am, and to reach the next crossroads, I must RIDE on. Not just walk, or talk, that much rhyme shall be allowed;-). So have to pay a bit more attention to my bike, that- alas!- has been a bit neglected in the past, and have a bit more rides like this and to find out more about that delicate line between joy and fun. And I want to put a bit of blacksmithing into my mountainbike riding. I have some ideas, but they are not ripe enough to spill them yet. Quite certainly there´s a jig and a TIG-welder involved;-).

And so I see new hills with new uphills and more downhills ahead, and I look forward to them.

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