Letter from Hanne: My Water Biography

I grew up near three lakes north of Copenhagen, Denmark. My childhood lakes, I call them. I would play there in my rubber boots, discovering the life of the peculiar red snails that made their trails on the path close to the water. Later I would go there for walks, clearing my head from reading and resting my arms from practicing my violin. In the spring and summer it was like a lush green wonderland, in the fall it turned golden, in the winter barren and white. When the winters got real cold the ice would get thick enough to skate on the lakes. I loved to skate – the speed, the feeling of free movements, almost like flying. My violin teacher Ludvig Gunder had told me not to skate because I could break my wrist and maybe never play again. So I would sneak down to the lake with my skates laced together across my shoulder, hoping that Ludvig Gunder and God wouldn’t see me. (When I finally broke my wrist it was many years later and had nothing to do with skating or the lakes. Luckily, it turned out not to inhibit me in playing my violin either. But that is a different story).

My life by the lakes suffered two incidents that affected my inner peace around waters. I was around 9 or 10 years old. We had a young woman living in our house to take care of my younger brother and me. My mother was working full time since my father died. I remember the young woman’s name was Yen, which was quite unusual in Denmark. Even though her name was modern, her pedagogic methods were ready for the graveyard of history. I really disliked the taste of celery and was not able to eat the pieces that would emerge from certain dinner dishes. When Yen saw the celery pieces left on my plate, she would threaten me: “I am going to throw you in the lake if you don’t eat the celery!” Next time we went for a walk together by the lake, I would walk as far away from the water as possible, ready to run if she came closer. To me words were still the truth and I believed she would do what she had said. To this day celery has not made it to my list of favorite foods.

The second incident took place around the same time in my life. With my mother and brother I went to visit Danish writer Thorkild Hansen and his family. Thorkild was a friend of my parents. After my father’s early death he was a valuable support for my mother struggling to piece life together again. In his writing he was greatly influenced by American icon Ernest Hemingway – Thorkild had even named his house after Hemingway’s boat Pilar. The house was located by the biggest of the three lakes. Thorkild kept a sailboat there. On the day of our visit he decided to take my brother and me out for a sail, despite the heavy winds. True to his idol he did a wild sail with us, the railing kissing the water. With panic I saw myself approaching the big waves, holding on to whatever I could find. Thorkild just laughed, he was having his Hemingway fun. I found out that I would rather be by the water than on it, let alone IN it.

Most of my grown up life I have lived in the water surrounded city of Copenhagen, still one of my homes on the planet. I love the canals, the harbors, the bridges and the multitude of waterfronts.

And now I am going to sail from Santa Fe to Key West! How did that happen you might ask.

Well, I met this high desert man on my destiny path. It was a meeting full of magic. I have written a story about it called My Mexican Odyssey. It turned out my high desert man was also a passionate sailor. He wanted me to come play my violin at the bow of his sailboat – kinda like a fiddling mermaid. Except this mermaid got seasick with the swells of the Pacific – check out my story Change of Course. Apparently the Viking blood had thinned out.

So here I am, learning how to dance with the elements. Maybe I will even meet the spirits of Yen and Thorkild Hansen as I go along. Maybe the waves will whisper into their ears that a 10 year old who has recently lost her dad doesn’t need more fear in her life.

So far I have made it to a fairly decent first mate. My training waters have been the beautiful Heron Lake in northern New Mexico, homeport of s/v Paradox. I look forward to keeping you posted on this new adventure with my captain Ross – sailing from Santa Fe to Key West.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Alison
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 10:56:36

    Your Denmark sounds much like my Canada! Have a fabulous journey, looking forward to all your stories.
    Alison and Rob


  2. s/v Paradox
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 11:12:12

    Thank you dear Alison and Rob – I will have to see your Canada one day!
    Many blessings to you both,


  3. John Lorenzen
    Dec 23, 2011 @ 14:58:39

    Hanne, what a great story….you are a fine writer and impart the adventures of your life well, John L. P.S. my father was a sailor too–I grew up in the Great Lakes


  4. s/v Paradox
    Dec 23, 2011 @ 16:50:24

    Thanks John. I look forward to telling more stories as our caravan takes off from Santa Fe around January 11th. Fair winds to you my friend from the Great Lakes.


  5. Tess
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 19:37:33

    just curious about your violin teacher-what was his age? Is he still living? My mother might know him. thanks


    • s/v Paradox
      Mar 07, 2012 @ 20:38:58

      Hej Tess, the name of the violin teacher in my story was Ludvig Gunder. He played viola in the Royal Danish Orchestra and died many years ago. I loved him dearly as a teacher and mentor. I still treasure and play the beautiful violin I got from him. Who is your mother, does she play the violin?


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