The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Archive for May, 2018

Rolling Thunder 2018

In the center of the village we call America, there stands a Smithy.  In it, there are several blacksmiths of varying skill and experience.  Most are employed making the tools of trades: plows, craftsmen tools, etc.

But in a corner of the shop, there works a Master Blacksmith.  He speaks very little.  But his hammer rings with a clear peel that is recognized by all.  And his work is different than the others.  He forges the weapons of war.

His work is grim.  He makes things he himself hopes need never be used.  The village works in the daylight, using their tools for life and prosperity in the several occupations we employ as Free Men.  But the Thief and the Marauders are always waiting, to steal from us our freedom, and shackle us for their own gain.  So he works – shaping and heating, purifying, and tempering the weapons of war.  His hammer works iron into the strongest steel.  The very structure of the metal is forever changed.  The Sword, the Axe, and the War-hammer all are forged on his anvil to the highest quality.  

And when the clouds of war loom, the distant storm sending thunder and lightning, his hammer answers with a thunder of its own.  The weapons are imbued with it, they will echo it to the battlefield, and to the watch posts.  They will answer and defend us.

When the battle is over, those of us who remain return to our homes and families, but the unique hardness to which we’ve been shaped will fit poorly in everyday life.  And so the sword will be sheathed, and the hammer fitted with leather pads, and the axe masked.  The echoes of the forge, the thunder of the master’s hammer and anvil is muted, and sometimes nearly forgotten.

But the thief and the marauder don’t sleep.  Their strength comes in waiting for signs of weakness.

They wait for us to forget.

And so, on this weekend, we come together.  We come in from the mountains, and from the Plains.  We ride from the high country, the Deltas, from out of the cities and fields – from every part of this country, those of us who are still able will gather on this field, in this place, to remember.  We remember our fallen.  Their sacrifice – to become forged weapons, to stand to die while fighting for life for others, reminds us of what makes this country strong.  It reminds us to carry the watchfulness onward. 

It must be remembered.

When we meet here, we unsheathed the sword,  unclasp the padded hammer, and the axe is freed from its mask.  In the open air, the thunder of the forge they were born in rings out again. We ride together so that all may remember.

On this day, we let the thunder roll.

 

 

Tonight’s Viking Sacrifice:  the gods of our own making.

In the center you can see the right side of the horned helmet of what we assume is a god of fire.  Some of us would serve him, and create a mythology to fit.  It is comforting to be able to create around you a storyline that matches our desires, that compliments the things we think we’re best at, and punishes those things that irritate us.

But these gods are born of falsehood.  A higher power than ourselves inherently comes from beyond us, from a place where we sacrifice of ourself, not those things we consider expendable.  We do not choose our sacrifice.  We simply choose to sacrifice it when it is required of us.

A True God focuses on an ultimate standard, universal truths, and requires of us that we mold to it, not to our whims and fancies.  

A true God commands a certain sense of humility from us, not through the thoroughly human trait of thirst for dominance, but simply because of his reminder to us that the Standard simply IS, and that we’ve got some work to do.

An invented god of human origin plays to the catch-phrases of the day, the fads of thought, of ego, and of fear.  

We create scary gods when we wish to control and manipulate others.  We create kind gods when we wish to please ourselves.  And because the True God is a God of silence, of the quiet, innate Truth with no motive but love of His Creation, we fill the silence with our own ambition.

We can see this process at work watching children play together.  They invent games – and often you hear them adding rules to the game that help them win.  It is only when a parent steps in, whose interest is in the longer view of well-balanced children than the outcome of today’s game, that rules get set right.

And so we sacrifice our little god of fire, with his horned, helmeted, cloaked fearsomeness.  And the god of Worldly knowledge – the knowledge of how to be cool, of street creed, and hipness, the suave swagger.  And the god of wealth.  And the god of Social Consciousness.  And the god of other people’s business, and the god of independence, of self-sufficiency.  We have many gods to sacrifice.  And holding them close is exactly what stands in the path of Truth.

All we need is a God of Truth.  Truth compels us without malice, or prejudice, Truth has no mechanism for taunting us.  Truth does all the things Love does.  There is no need to fear it.  There is no need to placate or patronize it.

And more importantly, it has no need to placate us.

The Curse

I remember well the day my mother cursed me.

It was in the early 70s, as I recall.  It may have actually happened more than once, but this one moment stands out in my mind.  I was working my boyish shenanigans, on a typical day, paying no mind to anyone or anything except that which caught my attention.  And very little could catch it.  Attention-catchers in that time of my life had to be bold, and curious, and the best ones were forbidden.  It was the Way of Things.

I can’t recall what the Thing was, but I do remember my mother, in an exasperated voice, issuing me a Vexation:

“I hope you have children just like you”

And in a rare moment of focus, my young mind was stopped short, and found itself wandering into an imaginary world where my most recent escapades were committed by those I was responsible for.  A horror struck my heart.  It tore an entry wound, wallowed around making room for itself, and set up an operations office.

But, being a boy, I walked it off and I doubt it was more than a couple hours before I was back at it again.

Fast forward a few years.  The raw material my brain received to do its work had changed.  My shenanigans were focused on different subjects.

I had found a girl.

And the next thing you know, I was sitting in a hospital nursery holding a wee child.

And I remembered my mother’s tormented declaration.  “Surely not this innocent bundle of sweetness”, I thought to myself.  “Ha!”  And I smugly settles in and cuddled my wee child with my wife recovering nearby.

And then two more came at once.  But still, what could go wrong?  And then another came.

And then they started coming in through the door instead of the delivery room.  The odds were greatly improved, and they were growing.  My confidence in avoiding my doom dwindled by the day.

And then… on a clear day with blue sky, green grass, and a group of unnaturally muddy children, it happened.  It took me totally unaware.  I was vexed, but what came from my lips stopped me short.

“I hope you all have children just like you.”

I knew instantly what I’d done.  My wife did too, and she short-circuited the moment by sending the horde off to the wash station for cleanup operations.  She had a plan for this.  It was rehearsed.  And her capacity for patience was greater than mine that day.

And so I did the only thing I could think of to do.  I burst out in laughter, much to the confusion and dismay of the dirty little urchins departing the scene.

Bodies were washed, clothes changed, and it wasn’t long before I was sipping lemonade and basking in the summer sun again.  And I found myself basking as well in reflection.  In introspection, I came across that walled off chamber of horror in my heart.  And there, sitting at the service desk, was the smiling visage of my mother.  

At the time, I thought my mother had wished a curse upon me.  But in this moment, I recognized it for what it was.  She wished for me the empathy to see both childhood and parenthood for what they were, together, in the same moment.  She wished for me to see that kids will be kids, and that eventually, with the kind of love only a mother can give, they will outgrow most of their shenanigans.  She wished for me to be able to see past the trouble, and the mess, and sometimes the pain, and see instead the small person in front of me as an adult, and to understand that while the mess will be forgotten, it is the moments of love or hate that will be remembered, and that this is, as a parent, the one thing I can control.  I choose whether my children remember love, or hate.

I don’t really recall what I did on that impish day of childhood.  I don’t remember the consequence of whatever it was.  And for years, I remembered the entire affair not at all.  But in the waning hours of that summer day, hearing the laughter of kids getting in trouble, and my wife dealing with the minor details with the particular kind of strong grace it takes, I remembered my mother’s words in a new way.  I remember her wishing for me to have a full life, and to understand how to be human to the fullest, to be able to see and experience the love of a mother from a man’s point of view.  And in my wife, on that day it was projected perfectly.

I remember my mother’s blessing.

Dog’s Watch

Living Room, late on a Sunday evening.

Charlie gurgles a low growl, and gets up from his spot beside me to pace uneasily.  His direction is vague, he’s not sure what troubles him.  But if something in the night troubles him, it troubles me.

I open the door to let him out, and realize the neighbor dogs a quarter mile away are barking their fool heads off.  I douse the lights, and we slide out the front doorway sideways.  I take up a stand to the side of the door on the porch while Charlie tests the air, and we listen to the progression of barking.  When I lean against one of the posts to acclimate my sight and senses to the dark night, he instinctively drops into a defensive position lying in front of me, facing out.  Somewhere in his DNA, despite his daytime habits, he is a guard dog at heart.  He remains mostly silent, watching, listening, communicating with me occasionally with low, intimate growls.

I listen to the earnestness of the individual voices, and imagine the size, and shape, and personality of each of the distant dogs.  I wonder at what sort of disturbance would make them persist – usually the local fauna passing through gives them a chance to exercise a bit, but tonight, after 10 minutes, with different dogs chiming in and dropping off, whatever lurks seems to be real enough to them to warrant honest attention.  

One of the dogs has been a constant while others come and go – and he has a strong voice.  I figure him to be perhaps a Pit Bull or something similar, a bold beast.  Another has a quicker, higher voice like a herding dog – Border Collie perhaps.  The third I peg to be a mutt among mutts, I can’t really define him any other way.

We watch together, Charlie and I.  I think while I listen, and begin to acclimate to the night, of the stories from the books I read in childhood, of hunters and their dogs charging headlong into the night chasing coons, and bears, and sometimes men.   Men following the dogs’ voices with lantern held aloft against the pitch black of the forest.  I know I”m not going to see through this murky night, despite the stars visible through the canopy above.  I turn to my other senses and feel across the expanse to the fence, onto the gravel road beyond that passes our property, straining for any indication of the nature of the Hunted.  

In the midst of this watch-stander’s reverie, a hound from the next house further away bursts out.  Even the other dogs stop for a moment – they had been merely barking, but this – the solid full-throated bell of this baritone hound – it is a thing of beauty on this crisp night, a beautiful symphony of intent that fills the night air.  

Indeed, it changes the night air.  

Charlie lifts his head.  Yes, he feels it too, the urge to carom through the woods towards danger, the age-old instinct between a man and a dog, and quarry.  

The other voices fade.  The hound’s bugle call eventually falls silent.  Charlie and I patrol the fence line – partly to make sure our place is secure, and partly to wade deeper into this night’s Mystery, to test our mettle against its dark sorcery.

Until no other sound but the whisper of wind through the Pines remains, until Charlie’s growls subside, until our slow, silent steps unconsciously circle back to the porch, we remain a part of this night, vibrant in its intimate awareness.  The intruder has passed beyond threat, our work is done, and the sharp wooden echo of the porch’s planks beneath my feet ripples the still pool of sound around us.  The soft whoosh of the door’s weatherstrip whooshes across the slate floor inside, the insulated buzz of the indoors envelopes us again.  

Our watch is over. It’s rack time.