Thursday, June 19, 2014

Walking with mosquitoes

It's not so easy to behave like a nomadic reindeer herder when all the mosquitoes in Northern Sweden have decided you are today's life source for them.

I  landed yesterday at Skelleftea airport en route to a storytelling conference in the Vasterbotten region of northern Sweden.

Today, I am deep in a forest studying the way of the Sami people with local guides.

So too are millions of flying tormentors, sent by the ancient gods to drive men insane.

Sami nomads followed their reindeer herds across
Northern Europe
as a way of life. Many of the modern Sami are wonderful storytellers; many still mind reindeer.

Mosquitoes do not seem to bother them as much as they do us Europeans from further south.

But no more than our own midges, mosquitoes do not like smoke, so a smoking fire is left smouldering all day

The Sami inhabit an Arctic area, covering parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway Their portable dwellings were covered with the skins of their charges.
Modern Sami are recreating the old way of life, notably at Koppsele, an area newly won back for restoration.

We walk through the woods with a guide who points at protruding stones and says here was a home.

Sometimes you take these things on faith.

All I see are random rocks breaking the surface of the path; but no doubt they were someone's  pride and joy at one time.

Meanwhile, our blood is being sucked from us.

We cross a wooden bridge over a mountain stream.

We drink together, my friends and I with cupped hands.

Returning through the woods later we re-cross the same stream.

The woods look different now.

Something has happened.

Mystical day.

Storytelling here


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