Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

With winter coming at us fast

The mind turns to skiing (of course)

That would be cross country skiing here in West Michigan.

The only thing wrong with this State (besides the economy) is the lack of mountains. (They claim to have mountains here, but they look more like what happens when you get gophers in your yard, just little bumps on the landscape). Given the vertically challenged nature of the terrain, Nordic skiing is the obvious choice for winter exercise.

I have to admit though I have always enjoyed Nordic over Alpine skiing anyway. I like the fact that I can use skiing as part of a larger set of activities such as winter camping or hunting rather than just going to a commercial ski area and sliding down a hill. Also, I have to admit I am a cheapskate. Nordic equipment is a lot less costly than equivalent Alpine equipment. Then there is the fact that I can throw my skis and poles on a pack and walk to a convenient trail-head where I can ski all day for free rather than traveling for hours by car/train/plane to a ski area where I pay a premium for lift tickets and such.

I suspect that skiing also helps keep me in touch with my Scandinavian side.

Here is a recreation of Nordic skiing back in the 1860's. Notice the use of the "lurk", the single long pole as an aid. In earlier times this might have been a boar spear.



I think it quite likely that the Saami people were the first skiers, it has certainly been a part of their culture for as long as we can tell.

Here is a bit of Skiing history from the Montreal Mirror:

"Skiing is prehistoric. Remnants of ancient wooden skis have been carbon-dated to 2000 B.C., though cave drawings discovered above the Arctic Circle suggest that long animal bones served as the very first skis. Several countries claim to be the birthplace of skiing, from Sweden to Iran. But Norway has a particularly strong case.

Sondre Norheim is known as the father of modern skiing for having invented birch bindings and shorter, curved skis to facilitate turns—he was born in Norway’s Telemark region, namesake of a hybrid alpine/Nordic style in which the skier can use XC gear on a slope, descending slowly in wide S formations.

The word “ski” is derived from skith (stick of wood), from the Old Norse language. Skis were everyday tools for Northern Europe’s migratory indigenous people, the Sami, a culture primarily associated with Norway, though their territory extended into Sweden, Finland and even Russia. The Sami used skis for reindeer hunting and exploration, and their snow-faring ways were eventually adopted by the Vikings, whose monarchs embraced the activity as recreation, and whose armies employed it in warfare.

In 1206, skiing played a crucial role in an event that resonates in cross-country culture to this day, in the form of annual “Birkebeiner” races and marathons in Norway, the U.S. and Canada. Birkebeiner was an upstart political party that came to power during Norway’s civil war—they took their name, “birch legs,” from the opposition, who mocked the poor rebels’ makeshift shoes. After the deaths of two of their sitting kings, the Birkebeiners became vulnerable to their nemeses, the Baglers, and travelled a long, treacherous ski trail, somehow trudging through forests and over mountains while engaged in battle, to deliver the two-year-old heir to the throne to safety. And as King Haakon Haakonsson IV, that child went on to expand Norway’s boundaries and end the civil war. So, hail to the ski."

Of course things have progressed quite a bit since the 1800's. Here is a clip of a modern Telemarker from Norway. Personally I find this method quite aesthetically pleasing.


Of course what would a post like this be without proper theme music? so here is Angelin Tytöt (the girls form angelin village, AKA Angelit) Joiking "Garkit"


The Joik is a very old Saami tradition that was almost lost because of the attempts by the various Scandinavian governments to assimilate the Saami.

I was introduced to the joik by Saami friends when I lived in Sweden and I loved the music right off.

As it turns out, the Saami have a traditional temporary dwelling called a Lavvu or Kota which is basically a tepee (though they would say that a tepee is basically a lavvu)

I have several fond memories sitting around in a lavvu with my friends and swapping Round Dance and Peyote songs for joiks. The joik was accompanied by a Troll Drum, which is a sort of frame drum covered in reindeer skin and decorated with traditional symbols.

My Saami friends reminded me so much of hanging out on the Rez it was at times somewhat disconcerting. I have noticed in my travels that there is a sort of underling connectedness between First Peoples. I found it in Australia with the Aboriginal peoples I met there and in Africa with the Maasai as well as with the Saami in Sweden and Norway. They all seemed to face similar challenges and problems, and have a very familiar feel to them.

Saami Laavu or Kota

When I'm out by myself on the snow, I like to fill my mp3 player with Saami joiks and the oldest Swedish and other Scandinavian music I can find as well as the modern musicians and groups that pull from their Nordic roots like Gjallarhorn, Eivør Pálsdóttir and Garmarna. I suspect that the music helps keep me warm.


Salma said...

Dear Mushtaq,
What can a person do when, after 47 years of living someone else's culture, speaking someone else's language, and eating someone else's food, they suddenly find out that they belong to a culture in a land far away that they know nothing about, that has been kept secret from them? Does that person laugh in happiness, cry for homesickness, scream at injustice, or all of them at the same time? What if you had never told me about my people? Would I ever have found out? I owe you an enormous debt for seeing the Saami in my face and helping me to see it too. I have so much to learn. Please tell us more. S

Mo'in said...

Dear Mushtaq,

Thank you for this most interesting post! I've learned a lot...especially for one so unfamiliar with skiing.

All good wishes,


Anonymous said...

Hey, quit hogging the lefsa!