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THE EVIL EYE

This is my award winning entry in the Short Story contest of the Icelandic Festival 2018 in Gimli, Manitoba

THE EVIL EYE,   by Afiena Kamminga    __________________________________________________________________________

(Landnamabok)

…a country which some call Ireland the Great. It lies west in the sea near Vinland the Good.

“No! I will not have you come near the lambing shed,” said Hallgerda, Thorstein’s new wife. She sent her stepdaughter, Sigrid, a withering glance. You caused the demise of your mother and newborn brother. You have the evil eye.”

She folded her hands across her bulging midriff. “When I give birth I don’t want you around.” Sigrid went to her bed and pulled the horsehide rug over her head. Nothing seemed to go right for her and her family since they had sailed from Iceland to farm a new landholding in Eirik Rauda’s Greenland.

When her mother died shortly after birthing, Sigrid had worked day and night to keep her newborn brother alive, feeding him goat’s milk from a soaked wad of sheep’s wool. But the little one refused to suck and one night his thin, pitiful crying fell silent.

(Graenlendinga Saga)

This land must be named for what it has to offer, and we will call it Markland (Forestland)

All winter there had been talk in the Greenland settlements of another new land across the western sea, a treed land almost certain to be the source of the driftwood washing up on Greenland beaches. A trade ship coming from Iceland was blown off course the previous summer, failing to arrive in Greenland. Before they turned back after the storm, they happened to sight an unknown coast, a new land with white beaches and high cliffs with dense tree growth on top.

When the ice left the fjord Thorstein decided to sail west, hoping to find the forestland and bring back a shipload of precious timber.

“And should you find any Timberland natives,” Hallgerda said, “try to capture a few. We need more slaves in Greenland to work our new farms.”

Thorstein assembled a crew, loaded his trade ship with supplies for two weeks at sea, and sacrificed a young bull to the god, Njord, to be granted a calm sea and safe journey.

Hallgerda, left in charge of both household and farm, led the carls and maids back to the farm after waving the others goodbye. With a protective hand on her belly, she turned to old Herdis. I’ll send the evil eyed girl to live in the mountains with Thordis, the seeress.”

She scanned the pastureland. “Speaking of which…where is the wicked girl? She never bothered to wave her father farewell.”

Thorstein handed over the steering oar and made his way to the bow to catch some sleep. Moments later he heard his daughter, Sigrid, whispering in the dark. “I’m coming with you, Father. Hallgerda doesn’t want me around. She says I have the evil eye.”

Thorstein sat up, bellowing, “Who allowed you on board of my ship?” He lifted her chin. There was no escaping his icy gaze. “You, Sigrid Thorsteinsdottir, are a disagreeable, willful girl. You will do chores to earn your passage to Timberland and back.”

(Graenlendinga Saga)

…they thought the land fine and well-forested, with white beaches and it was not far between the forest and the sea.

Twelve days later they sighted a coastline with steep cliffs crowned with spindly trees. They followed the treacherous coast until it turned sandy and low with shoals and lagoons and a forested ridge behind. Grani, the lookout, shouted, “Look! There’s a channel leading to that lagoon behind the big sandbar.”

They rode in on the tide and beached the ship among shoals of smelt ready to spawn. The men spilled out with nets and scoops to catch a fresh smelt meal. Thorstein pointed Sigrid to the wooded hills. “Go and find us some greens to go with our fish.”

(Graenlendinga Saga)

A shadow fell across the doorway and a woman entered, of short stature, wearing a fitted tunic …she walked up to Gudrid …”My name is Gudrid and your name is?” The other woman said, “My name is Gudrid.”

Uneasy among the dark needle trees, Sigrid returns to the lagoon. She follows its shore, looking for salty edible greens. Alerted by a distant cry, she scans the saltmarsh beyond the lagoon. What is that moving black spot down there? She narrows her eyes. Is there someone, or something, waving arms at the saltmarsh – at what? At another dark spot… someone caught in the marsh? Not one of the ship’s crew. The men are all close to the ship, fishing.

She picks up a fallen branch and runs to the marsh, astonished to find a small boy, and a woman up to her hips in the marsh – too far for her pole to reach. Sigrid takes a step forward, sinking in ankle-deep. Back on firm ground, she knows. Quicksand!

The boy runs off to hide between bundles of eelgrass tied with braided cord. Rope!

She throws the rope – one end of the rope attached to her pole, the other end coiled in her hand –- as far as she can. Too short. After the third try the rope falls close enough for the woman to grab. Sigrid hauls back slowly. Her legs freed, the woman pushes with elbows and knees, scurrying to safety. The boy runs over to her for a lengthy hug.

Sigrid marvels at their outlandish features, the faces dark tan with broad cheeks, the hair thick and shiny black like the mane of her father’s favourite stallion back home.

And they’re alive, thanks to me!

She is overcome with joy, and filled with a fierce sense of vindication. I saved a life. Hallgerda was wrong to say that I carry the evil eye. Or if I did, it never followed me to this land, because it couldn’t, no more than evil spirits can cross the sea.

The woman looks up. They exchange uncertain smiles.

Sigrid says, “My name is Sigrid. What’s yours?’

The woman places her hand on her heart and echoes the words, “My name Siglid, wat youls?”

She says a few words to the boy, words so strange to Icelandic ears, they could be mistaken for birds’ talk.

The woman ties the eelgrass into a single bundle, loops the towline around her forehead and heads for a trail into the forest, dragging the bundle. She beckons Sigrid to follow.

Sigrid glances across the lagoon at the ship, now afloat, kept in place by the men working their oars. One man is still out, up to his knees in the water, shading his eyes to scan the sun-drenched scape of land and water. Father, looking for me.

Faintly she hears him calling her name. He wants her back on the ship. To sail home with him later, with a load of timber, back to Hallgerda – a woman intent on steering more bad luck my way. It could be she, Hallgerda, who carries the evil eye. But Thorstein will believe his wife, not his daughter.

      With sudden resolve Sigrid turns away from the ship and the life she has known. She jogs to the woods, catches up with the boy and the woman, reaches for the rope and helps to pull. In the shelter of the forest it dawns on her how wrong she was to think of these woods as a hostile place. The thick wall of trees protects all who dwell in the shadowy forest from those who intend to take any captives they can, and sail them away to sell as slaves in a treeless land oversea.

Bo and Booster part TWO

 

We saw lots of other things along the Tortuguero water ways: brown pelicans diving, stilts in the shallows, scores of other fish eating birdsherons and egrets, bitterns, anhingas and cormorants. Nothing with spots – not even a spotted bird.

At day’s end we docked at the riverside jungle resort and sat by the swimming pool after sundown watching monstrous toads quietly squatting under the spotlights waiting for fat flying insects to flutter within reach. Behind us a Calypso band in the restaurant hammered out a lively beat. The toads, perhaps taking it personal, responded with a defiant and deep-voiced ‘ro-ro-ro.’

These epic-sized toads, twice as large as a bearlet, put an end to my desire to sneak out to the pool after dark to test my wings in solitude without being exposed to anyone’s ridicule.  That night Booster and I slept curled into little furry balls, nothing a toad could possibly wish to eat.

Next morning we were boom-boomed awake shortly before dawn by a resident troop of howler monkeys tearing across the roofs of the guest cabins. A noisy sight-seeing plane took off from the airstrip behind the village across the river. The noise seemed to rile the burly howler chief. Surrounded by half a dozen attentive females, he gave it his best, booming full force in an effort to drown out the roar of the plane. Back in the boats we drifted all day through a maze of canals spying for spotted cats and other wildlife.

We saw spider monkeys frolicking in leafless tree tops, lots more howler monkeys, and thoughtful looking capuchins.  Here and there we were peeked at through curtains of leaves by the smiley face of a two-toed sloth. We watched a family of energetic river otters and too many birds to count. Once I nearly fell out of my net bag, stretching tall for a closer look at a curious neon-green reptile”basilisk,” He said, checking his list of local wildlife. Frightened by our boat, the lizard rose up on its hind legs and bounced like a marathon runner on long green shanks across the canal, barely touching the water. Our guide grinned. “Jesus lizard.”

He pointed up to a tree and clapped his hands. “Tucan.”

Two sets of mega-mandibles took to the air, propelled by two undersized feathered bodies flapping short but sturdy wings – like my own…

And so there were three of us that day having a wonderful boat trip, and one who came home thoroughly discouraged.  Still no tigre for Booster…

Concerned for our pal’s mental health, He/She decided to make one last effort before we headed for a town named Alajuela right next by the airport to stay the night before flying home. A local bus dropped us off at a small wildlife rehab zoo out of town – Booster’s last chance to find an ancestor.

We learned that the zoo had no resident jaguar on the premises – to my relief. Imagine Booster insisting we take a picture of him with the big cat and demanding we call him ‘El Tigre’ from then on.

The zoo, it turned out, did have the next best thing, an ocelot of medium size waiting to be returned to the wild. Booster settled for having his picture taken with her, a genuine spotted cat if not the size he had hoped for. The spots on her face though, he pointed out, were patterned exactly like his – a perfect mirror-image. He now remembered, he said, that he was born and raised as a svelte ocelot, until he got into a tiff with an evil witch doctor. “Brujo, I think is the word,” She said looking up from her Spanish textbook. “A vengeful brujo I suppose, who used down-sizing magic to shrink poor Booster to the size of a bearlet.”

“Ocelot-let,” I whispered into Booster’s ear. 

“Right,” said He, patting the little spotted head. “Why don’t we call you ‘Ocelito’ from now on? You okay with that?” Booster turned to me with a smug grin, mouthing ‘o-ce-li-to’. He raised a spotted paw and beat his chest in standard bearlet fashion, not like an ocelot in the least…

Still, what more can I say? ‘Ocelito’ is one word, easier on the tongue than ‘El Tigre.’

We’re nearly home, both of us gazing through the steamy train window at the sparkling splendor of Canada’s icy winter land. Not a speck of snow has melted here in our absence.  Somebody’s pulling my wings. “Your turn, Bo,” says the new-fangled Ocelito. “Let’s go find your roots next.”

     Oh boy. Haven’t we traveled enough for a while? Besides, our local black bears (my own humble ancestors, I have a hunch) are still asleep, tucked away in smelly dens.  That leaves me off the hook for a while. Though, come to think of it, aren’t there white bears somewhere in the rainforest by our Canadian west coast? “Spirit Bears, I believe they’re called” She says – Kermode bears.”   

    I perk up my ears. “And do they have wings?”

“Oh please,” He says, “don’t YOU get started next!”

 

little hiking buddies, Bo and Booster part ONE

this is for my hiking friends on the east coast trails I used to hike, and on the west coast trails where I now hike with friends, who may have wondered about the little faces peering at them from my back pack 

above,

BOOSTER and BO

below, BO, bearlet author

 

Searching for our Roots , by Bo Bearlet and Afiena Kamminga

Hi!

My name is Bo, and I’m a backpack bearlet – you know, one of those little guys who make a career out of traveling in people’s backpacks to see the world. My pal, Booster – another backpack bearlet, to my mind – likes to think he isn’t a bearlet at all.

Because, you see, Booster has spots. And that, he says, is how you can tell he’s really a jaguar shrunk to bearlet size after a voodoo-sorcerer took a dislike to him.

Our human companions, He and She, tend to snicker when Booster comes up with this tale. They think (and so do I) that Booster is a common bearlet, who happens to have spots. Still, She (who reads books on wildlife as well as domestic bearlets) suggests there might’ve been a spotted rainforest cat of some sort, a small one, involved with Booster’s genetic blueprint – no jaguar of course, but a margay perhaps, she thinks, or an ocelot.

In any case, the three of us – me, He and She – decided to take Booster to Costa Rica to find out about his exotic roots, or, in case we found no proof of it, to make him face the truth – that he’s just a bearlet, be it a nice looking one – with spots.

And so, late February a few years ago, in the thick of another bi-weekly snowstorm, the four of us drove away from our home in eastern Canada. We waved goodbye to our two horses standing beside the barn stoically waiting to get buried in snow. I thought the horses looked anxious – judging from those little worry wrinkles under the fur around their eyes. Perhaps they wondered if anyone would come by after this snowstorm to dig a passage for them through the drifts into the riding ring, and clear in there the circles and serpentines needed by horses to practice daily free style Dressage routines. Well, never mind them – the four of us were headed for Costa Rican sunshine.

It took some doing to find our town’s tiny rail station obscured by blowing snow. Good thing we hadn`t decided to fly to Montreal from our local airport, closed all day on account of the snow.

After an arduous train journey – crawling till well after dark behind the plow struggling to push four feet of snow off the track ahead of us – we arrived at Montreal’s Gare Central.

“Where’s the plane, where’s our plane?” shouted Booster hopping up and down in our travel home, a netted bearlet den that keeps us safely attached to the daypack She uses to carry us in.

She hollered at him (reaching behind to push him back into the net), “Calm down! Sit! Be patient!”

We used the next few hours to make our way to the airport hotel (He nor She believe in using cabs if they can help it). I suffered a sleepless night because Booster, too excited to sleep, kept scratching and kicking my unmentionable body parts – don’t tell anyone, but I have a pair of fleshy wings growing from my back. Few people know this because She folds them kindly out of sight to save me embarrassment. I mean…a bearlet with wings, ugly wings too, so shapeless that no one is able to tell me what they’re supposed to resemble – not angel wings, for sure; bat wings perhaps?

Next morning we took to the air soaring across land and sea to Costa Rica, all without touching ground on US soil, because, He said, “It takes only one US border official with a thing against bearlets with spots – not to mention one fitted with wings– to get us all arrested.”

They forgot to take us out of our nets before stuffing the pack overhead, and so we sat in the dark sobbing through the entire flight – we had so looked forward to She holding us up in front of the window to watch the clouds drifting way down below our feet!

After dinner She read out the message in her fortune cookie. “You’ll see amazing things soon,” it said. That buoyed up our spirits.

Back on earth, in San Jose, we boarded a taxi. “We’ve no other choice,” He said, “in a place where we don’t know our way around.” Sure enough, we suffered a tour of the entire city, taxi meter ticking, before we got to the pre-booked hotel.  Booster, soaking up the local lingo, (‘Tico Spanish,’) demanded that we refer to him as ‘El Tigre,’ the name he was given at birth, he claims, in what he believes to be his ancestral homeland. I laughed so hard, I almost tumbled out of the net – for once grateful to have those awkward wings helping me to stay put.   We saw no jaguars, nor any ocelots or margays in San Jose.

“Perhaps your spotted relatives are hiding out in the rain forest,” we tried to comfort Booster, and the next day we moved on.

All through that day our spotted pal stared out the bus window looking for rain forest. First we visited a coffee plantation and next a banana packing plant. Clusters of bananas destined for the processing floor kept chugging by, shrouded in people sized blue plastic bags suspended from zip lines. There were plenty of snakes living in these plantations, the workers said, but no jaguars.

The day after, Booster got a chance to pursue his quest in a real cloud forest on the slopes of a volcano named Arenal. We made our way across the forest canopy in a suspended tram car towed by means of steel cables above the tree tops. For once it felt good to have wings tucked against my back, ready to deploy in an emergency. So much to see! Even Booster forgot for a while his obsessive search.

There were scary looking bullet ants on the prowl, monstrous mandibles raised to tackle anything straying into their path, and there were cute little leaf cutter ants in orderly columns carrying green umbrellas home.

We saw many birds, a few orchids, lots of bromeliads and other epiphytes (She helped me to spell this – any spelling mistakes are hers!). Twisted cables of moss-covered vines called ‘monkey ladders’ ran every which way. So much to see! But no spotted cats, big or small!

Sick of Booster’s whining, He/ She decided to head for Costa Rica’s ‘mini Amazone.’

Tortuguero National Park is a maze of waterways and rain forest on the Caribbean coast. No better place than here, She said, to find some sort of spotted cat for Booster’s peace of mind.

My bearlet pal was beside himself with excitement. We traveled by fast motorboat on waterways lined with lush looking raffia palms. Booster, on his hind legs, ears flattened in the wind, swiveled his head from side to side, sure to spot a jaguar any moment. We didn’t.

/Part Two will follow next week  Till then

‘The Storks came Back,’ review of my latest book on Amazon by Giselle Roeder, (author of, ‘We Don’t Talk about That’)

 

 

Amazon Customer Review of my novel, The Storks came Back, by Giselle Roeder, author of We don’t Talk about That

________________________________________________________________

Giselle Roeder

March 11, 2018

A Boy’s Idea how to use a Stork’s Nest

 A book for ‘young adults?’ I am a ‘senior adult’ and I very much enjoyed this book. Afiena has a way with words, and occasionally it was hard for me to imagine that English is NOT her first language. I grew up during the Nazi time in Germany, and to read about the Nazi invasion in Denmark was interesting. The boy Morten and his dog, his sister, mother and father are characters well developed in this fictional story, loosely based on Afiena Kamminga’s husband’s life. As you get deeper into the story, you feel as if you are part of their life and their community. It is amazing how much resistance to the Nazis there was. I know there was lots of it in Germany too but people were too frightened of ‘informers’ that we did not talk about it. Different in Denmark. Funny experiences of Morten and his big dog could easily have turned deadly. The big old dog was later replaced with a smaller one, and the relationship between boy and pet makes you smile, even cheer for them. Morten’s first love is heartwarming, and I was happy when I came to the end to learn that despite escape and displacement the family and the friends found each other again. Amazing how sneaky little boys found ways to hurt the German occupiers but did great service for the resistance, despite the fact that the parents tried to keep them away from it all. It makes you wonder how fast children during WW II had to grow up. I was waiting to find out what the storks had to do with the war, the occupation, and the resistance. I shook my wise old head, I was a kid again, I was in with the smart boy who used the storks’ nest for an incredible feat. I was relieved that the storks came back, repaired their nest and never knew what happened to it for a brief period of time. I do not want to give away too much, but this book, intended to entertain and educate young adults is opening the eyes for the perils of war – even if you don’t live in an active fighting zone. Yes, I would recommend anyone interested in European war history to read it.

On the path taken by Thora Thorvinnsdottir and friends — deduction, dear Watson

of course! 

Codroy and Miramichi

When, around the birth of this new millennium, I first decided to send Thora out voyaging, I looked at the map of the North Atlantic, prevailing ocean currents and winds, and at the info and photos collected on trips around coastal Atlantic Canada, to help me chart the most likely course a knorr would take on a western voyage, departing from southern Greenland.

They would, I thought, presumably steer into the Belle Isle Strait and continue south, skirting Newfoundland’s west coast and stick into the fjord leading to the Codroy valley, to put up their winter logging camp somewhere on wooded shores.

I described it all in The Sun Road, and felt quite smug, I admit, when last year, the press reported on the discovery of a Norse campsite at Codroy!  Here is the link to an early article on the subject; it includes more background than the later press updates. I don’t believe Norse explorers would settle on the exposed cape mentioned in later press updates. They would want to build their winter quarters farther inland in a tree-sheltered spot near the wate

http://www.saltscapes.com/roots-folks/2601-second-viking-settlement.html

Long before recent archeological reports appeared in the press, confirming my expectations, I felt a crew of Norse skirting the coast for a place to stay the winter and cut timber could hardly do better than settling in the Codroy Valley — ‘deduction, my dear Watson.’

Imagine my delight when I saw reports on another discovery of traces left by Norse travelers in Atlantic Canada, this time around the Bay of St. Lawrence! (link below) on the

Inviting shores of the Bay of Chaleur in present day New Brunswick!

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/vikings-canada-settlement-north-america-europeans-birgitta-wallace-archaeologists-discovery-a8247161.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/nb-vikings-miramichi-chaleur-bay-summer-camps-birgitta-wallace-1.4569590

Needless to say, I’m more than pleased to have placed Thora and company at the end of The Sun Road in the middle of the Bay of St L, and left them marooned in the Magdalen Islands.

In another year or so I hope to tell in the sequel I’m writing, how they get away from the island to make their way back east to Elkimu’s home in the land of the Ellenu (Unamakik) — and on to new adventures.

 

 

winter horses

2018, another year opening up; time to do some research to prepare for the writing of Unamakik, the sequel to The Sun Road (2014).  I plan to share some of the things I come across that may be of interest to all of you. To start with, I found this delightful nugget about winter-hardy horse breeds (such as Thora Thorvinnsdottir’s rugged equine companions to Westland):

Meet 2 Amazing Horse Breeds That Are Designed To Survive In Subzero Climates

enjoy!

Piet Hein began writing during the Nazi occupation of Denmark

During the Nazi occupation of Denmark Piet Hein, well-known Danish designer and inventor, began writing what he called ‘gruks’ (later translated and published in English as ‘Grooks’), short aphoristic poems that became effective weapons of resistance against the German occupiers. By quoting from his work Danes could communicate freely among themselves any  ‘subversive’ political opinions they held, without getting arrested by the occupying regime.  After the war Piet Hein continued to create Gruks for the Copenhagen daily, Politiken.  Feel like reading some meaningful, brief and quirky statements that make you think and chuckle?

Try googling:

http://www.archimedes-lab.org/grooks.html

 

peace on earth

more than ever before at this time of year we need to wish each other Happy Holidays of whichever signature they may be; next, of course, we always, wish each other a Happy New Year in health and peace…and here, making wishes is not enough; we need to DO all we can to secure that peace be kept between people and nations around our precious blue globe; by doing so we may also return some hope to depressed house elves such as the one living in our household, pictured below

 

Flash Encounter — too fast to capture on camera

So we hiked yesterday for hours through the moss woods along both sides of the Cowichan River, when six feathered spirits sped by silently downstream following the raging river high above the water through the ravine — at eye level for us, humans, slugging upstream on top of the cliff —  six mergansers heading out to sea, only minutes away, for them…