No, really, there is. In a recent forecast from the Farmer’s Almanac, it seems that we’re in for a stout winter this year, at least in the United States. As they state it, they predict “a “Polar Coaster Winter” that will make for plenty of freezing temperatures and snowfall in most of the country this season.”
Well, of course, we’re talking about winter, right? It gets cold and harsh for somebody, certainly, but what the Almanac is referring to is a full two-thirds of the nation seeing intense cold, more snow, and more rain. Personally, that’s fine by me, as I enjoy the cold. For me, a cold, gray day, wandering through the wilderness is one of my favorite modes. It’s always played to my sense of ruggedness and peace in the world, and I often have my most profound insights in such an environment.
Definitely, it touches the Viking wandering my heart during the more pedestrian days.
For the old Danes, I wonder what confronted them in their age, and how they coped and thrived in the midst of a deep cold day in and day out. In their time, they were building civilization, not benefiting from centuries of development that built the one we enjoy today. They had no incandescent light to push back the night, no electric blankets to snuggle within, and their entertainments weren’t so ubiquitous as television and video games. And the weather was a capricious spirit in their experience, delivering good fishing and rains for growing food, then unpredictably bringing a thundering wind and deluge, and freezing times that threaten to never end. I am sure that most people would find it harrowing today.
In pondering the climatic consequences of Viking life, I came across a fascinating article from Phys.org on this very subject. The researchers from Columbia University describe early Danish life as being dominated by a desire and significant success in farming and hunting from the land, punctuated by occasional forays to the sea to survive. By the eighth century A.D., occasional became frequent, as the Vikings entered the “plunder and pillage” period that most people associate with their popular history. The Columbia research team aimed to see how the climate of the time affected this pivotal moment in the Viking path, and embraced it deeply as they were repeatedly confronted with difficult and abortive attempts to set their small boat into the local waters of Borg, Norway. Finally, they were able to get under way and do some plundering of their own – a core sample of mud from the floor of the waterway.
The technical goal of their research was to delve into the composition of that mud and study it from a climatological perspective. What I find more interesting is the continuing affect of simple weather from antiquity unto today – it still stymies us, the cold and wind. Bringing a little Viking spirit along can’t hurt a bit when bracing for the storm.