Haithabu

When you are a historical reenactor at a camp everything slows down.
Everything becomes deeper.
The simple act of fetching water (at a modern tap, where it’s drink water, mind you. It’s not even the river or a well 500m away) brings all your way of living into perspective.

I was in Haithabu, Germany (but it was Denmark during the viking age) for one week, living with a bunch of friends in one of the thatched, wattle-and-daub viking houses of this ancient viking trading city that was destroyed during the 11th century and abandoned. The houses were built by the museum, based on archaeological finds and every year, a viking market is held in the field for the visitors and modern-time vikings to enjoy.

To begin with, when you are a reenactor and you want to cook, you need to prepare a fire. And when I say « prepare », I’m serious. One doesn’t just « make » fire. You need embers, not flames, to cook on. And in adequate quantity. If you want to cook both a broth and some flatcakes on a griddle, you’ll need *two* seperate fires, or a long one, to hang your cauldron over, and rest your pan or griddle on a tripod. And you do not moderate the heat by means of turning a button, so you really have to watch your cooking. You mind must not ramble.
A requirement from the museum for being allowed to stay in a house was that two persons were to stay inside at all time, watching the fire. A flying flaming piece of grit caught by a gale can turn your house into a blazing inferno within minutes…

Every single thing requires attention, every single thing requires time.
Everything is a little event, everything is rich. Everything requires that you be PRESENT.

This is why this « vacation » at Haithabu was so beneficial for me : I was completely present. I was there only for what was there. Everything hypothetical or distant (including the random ramblings of the mind) were left for my spare time : when I was in bed (sheep skins over a thin and irregular layer of heather covered by a cow’s skin) or the moments when I had nothing to do (visitors gone, food cooked, water fetched…)

But in general, I didn’t really want to be in my mind. I was too engrossed on absorbing the life that was around me. Absorbing the swallows’ song (three different nests in the house… just so you know, swallows get up at dawn -which took place at 4 o’clock in the morning- just like the rooster), absorbing the lovely colour of the sun on the wild oregano flowers (they grew anywhere they could in the village), absorbing the texture of the earth under my shoes’ soles, absorbing the distant chatter or music from the other reenactors…

This camp was physically tiring for me, but extremely nurturing at soul level.
I found a peace I think I never experienced previously in my life, or maybe when I was a carefree child, and yet, without the wisdom my life experience brought me.

Slowing down and living simply are not vain, hollow words.
They’re not marketed.
They have nothing to sell you, quite the opposite.
We always think « I’ll be unhappy without X, Y, Z… [insert any object or thing] ».
The truth is, having time and emotionnal space FOR YOURSELF, peaceful human connexions, being surrounded by Nature’s beauty is far more nourishing than « having things ».
These « things » can only be appreciated when we are all right on the inside, anyway. Everything is bland and pointless when we feel bad or lost.

So, my advice for you today is : slow down.
Get lost in what you do, as you would stroll in a forest, at your own rythm, for the pleasure of discovery.
Let yourself get engrossed by existence, let it unfold and wrapp around you like a long beautiful green scarf. Be a piece of the Whole, of the All, listen to everything around.
You are part of an ecosystem. Your role is not to command and be restless, but to dance with the other dancers…