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Monday, December 30, 2013

#Vorms. By John von Daler

                 Grounded in #Narsarsuaq in #Greenland we spent our nights in the hotel and our days in the lonely airport. Our helicopter, the public conveyance that was to fly us to #Nuuk, sat in plain sight on the runway some one hundred meters from the picture window in the waiting room. This plane sight did not comfort us in any way, as we could clearly see the mechanic climb a small ladder up to the motor, raise the lid, peer inside, his left hand scratching his head as his right tinkered with the gadgets behind the thin, metal sheeting. Every once in a while he would close the lid, climb down the ladder, enter the cockpit and start the engine. He would coax the sputtering machine into the air, its lowest support reaching about as high as the head of the average man and then he would put it down again and retrace his steps up the ladder to the motor and resume scratching his head.
                We had allied us with a cardplaying passenger who had offered to teach us the national card game of Greenland, Vorms, a very complicated pastime. I only really learned enough about it to realize that the Kings and Queens were lousy cards to have (except for the king of hearts). My old, reliable symbol interpretation system immediately saw the rules as a tongue in cheek little stab at the kingdom of Denmark and I started to enjoy the smaller cards taking the larger ones as a reflection of a new and more just world order seen from the Greenlandic point of view.
                Our new friend played our cards for us in a kind of merry-go-round marathon and we whooped and hollered as the royal heads rolled and the jacks took over all power in our little world. Every evening when we had received the news that again today our plane would not fly us to Nuuk, we reluctantly left our game and returned for an unneeded shower and an evening at the hotel.
                Every morning we would return to the airport, our faces washed, our bags packed only to sit for hours playing Vorms and watching our puzzled mechanic.
                On about the third day as our friend was making his rounds to play our cards, I remembered sitting with some other children with cards in our outstretched hands on a summer night in Oklahoma. The woman who had been assigned as our babysitter had for some reason decided that we small children were to play strip poker and she played our cards one and all with gusto and then ordered us to remove this and that. I remember getting a feeling of trepidation as I was told to take off some article of clothing; after a moment of thought I fled into the night shouting, "Mommy! Mommy!" The game came to an abrupt end, the lady was fired and my tiny modesty remained intact.
                Here in the icy cold of Greenland, a hotel with saunas only a few hundred meters away, I remembered the event and my little turning of the tables. As my kings and queens went on unhindered to their certain death, I pondered on the eccentricities of a world in which planes are down, kings are powerless and a little child upholds the world order until he chooses to find another that suits him better.

                What did I learn? That you only play the cards you are dealt as well as you can by the rules of the game - or until your plane finally alights and flies away.

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