“Fill your days with life, not your life with days.” This was written on a sign I saw in a hunting cabin here in the woods. In the peaceful forest, filled with birds and mammals, large and small, sitting near a lazy fire, the words had a special impact on me.
Although I’m not sure I set a stunning example of this quote, the days have been quite full lately. Last month Fredrik, his brother Tobbe, and myself visited our friend Simon, a blacksmith who lives in Switzerland. The character of the landscape was frighteningly dramatic, with razor mountains set against soft Hobbiton hills. We ate an excess of good cheese, visited some incredible smithies, and met many nice new people.
Two weeks ago was the celebration of Valborg, where Swedes light bonfires to honor the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It was maybe a little optimistic, as there has been intermittent snow and consistent cold for most of May! Still, a little green is showing itself on the deciduous trees and in the brown fields, and the light is coming back in leaps and bounds.
I have been helping a friend who is working at an organic dairy near here, enjoying the change of pace and learning about the cows. The work is always changing, and some unexpected jobs tend to appear: According to European law, all herd animals must be kept with at least one companion animal. So when a neighbour of the farmer bought a horse, he asked if he could borrow a cow for the summer as a companion. So we took an old cow who is retired from milking, put her on a lead, and walked around the lake to the neighbour’s land. Lucky that this breed of cow, the Swedish fjällko, is very friendly and personable!
In the forge I have had a variety of projects, both helping Fredrik and on my own. Together we completed another chandelier for a customer, this one quite large.
Fredrik showed me the process again for making a tvåflikig skäggyxa, or at least his version of this old viking design. It was an exercise in extreme patience, fighting the urge to forge any single part too thin or too long before the other was completed. It was quite a challenge for me, so all the more satisfying when completed!
There is an old tradition among journeyman blacksmiths. They traveled from master to master, learning and spreading knowledge about forging. When they left a forge that they liked, they would make a nail and hammer it into a beam. Thus was born the “nail tree,” a place in each smithy where different nails from journeymen were stuck. If you arrived at a smithy where there were many nails, of good quality, it was a sign that this was a good master to learn from. If there were not many, or of poor workmanship, then maybe the journeyman would move on quickly.
Fredrik is starting a nail tree in his smithy, so we can keep this tradition alive. So he asked me to make a nail for him, something personal and symbolic of myself or where I am in life. A fun project!
Experimenting with new ideas is also important for me, finding the balance between form and function:
Lastly, some picture from a visit to a woman who competes with Siberian Huskies in international dogsled competitions. Always good to be around energetic dogs!