Archives for posts with tag: Norseland

“God created March in Minnesota so that those of us who don’t drink would know what a hangover is like.”   Garrison Keillor.

Here we are more than half-way through March, and we still have over two feet of snow in our yard, and the windchill this morning is  -8.  March has been a weather month we’d just as soon forget, but we’ll be talking about the snow, sleet, frizzle, snow, snow, drizzle, snow for years.  It seems that we have returned to the winters of my childhood.  Not long ago my brothers and I were remembering the Saint Patrick’s Day Blizzard of ’65.  The three of us looked at each other suddenly, as if we were becoming our grandfather Martin, who remembered almost everything from the day he was born at Norseland in 1882.  Grandpa would often put perspective on our young lives by telling us vignettes of history in his deep voice with Norwegian accent, “Well, you know, in the old days we used to have to dig out of the snow drifts with horses.”  Or, he would say, “You know, in the old days, before Marney, Estelle, and Pearl walked to school, we used to tie a rope around their waist so they wouldn’t get lost if the blizzard came up before they got to school.” Or, “We’d have to use dynamite to plant potatoes in the garden on Good Friday.”  Name any subject, any season of the year, and he would give a short insight into the “old days.”  We loved hearing about winter.

And that Saint Patrick’s Day Blizzard of ’65 is worth remembering.  Snow started falling heavily on Sunday, March 17th, and fell all day Monday.  School was cancelled three days in a row that week.  And then another early spring blizzard on the 22nd when school was cancelled another three days.  My brothers and I were 15, 11, and 9 at the time. We had so much fun playing games, reading, resting, and realizing that we were pretty lucky to live in such a cozy farm house with people who loved us and cared about us.  The whole world stopped for a few days, and there wasn’t much else we could do.

It has been a returned real winter this year.   There were some January mornings this year when we’d look at the forecast on our smartphone weather apps and see that the temperature should warm up to 12 below.  Ah yes, like in the old days.  There are beautiful memories to carry us through.  We could be done with winter soon, though.  We hope.

Remembrance lights, Stadtkirche, Wittenberg November 6, 2011

All Saints Day, one of the great holy days in Scandinavia, is observed in most  Lutheran churches in our country on the first Sunday in November–this year November 4th.  I love this holy day because of the deep connection it brings to all the people who have walked their journey ahead of mine, and for the journey that we share together.

In Norway and Sweden, the first day of November is a public holiday, one of dignity and reflection. Late in the afternoon, families visit the cemetery of their family graves, and on each grave they place a lit candle in a jar–one that will last 24 hours, perhaps a small spray of autumn flowers.  In the evening the families return to see the entire cemetery aglow with lights.  Just imagine the sacred scene.

My own tradition on this day is to visit the graves of my family at Norseland.  With the refrains of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ hymn For All the Saints ringing through my ears, I walk through the small rural cemeteries where members of my family rest from their labors–the oldest of them born in Norway in 1825.  And I visit the graves of the people whose lives still influence mine–my beloved parents and grandparents, Sunday School teachers, pastors, 4-H leaders, family friends and neighbors.  I bring nothing but my thanks.

“This is the time to give thanks and wave to one’s balcony people”, the preacher Carlyle Marney once said of All Saints Day.  Balcony people, he said, are those individuals who cheer us on and who have changed our lives. Our lives would be forever different without those people who helped us along the way.