It all started, I guess, with something I read…from Our Daily Bread, a devotional reading I use most everyday…with the happenings around the world and even here in America…we worry about what can happen…Oh, I know the old bromide: “What you worry about hardly ever happens.”…but there is a palpable fear in many, concerning terrorists killing innocents…it’s easy to become overly concerned about the criminal acts over which we have no control…Psalm 37:1 says: “Do not fret because of those who are evil.”…Our Daily Bread

So that’s where it started…instead of worrying over such large and uncontrollable possible happenings…maybe we should lower our concerns to things we can control…that will bring us comfort, peace and calm…starting with Psalm 37:1, is a good start…

I heard a story on the radio the other morning about an 84 year old black lady in Mississippi, who had wanted to go to college when she was young but couldn’t afford it…she worked all her life cleaning houses, took in ironing and did other household duties…she lived very frugally and when she was 84…she gave tens of thousands of dollars to a college for a scholarship to be given to black students who would otherwise not be able to go to college…she was asked by a reporter why she had not spent some of that money on herself…her answer, “I did spend it on myself.”…it was a simple thing…a simple gift…couldn’t give to everyone, but someone every year would benefit…it brought her fulfillment, contentment…so I guess she did spend it on herself…

Yesterday, the idea of little things popped up again…I took my vehicle in for some service and was sitting in the waiting room…they just added a whole front to their dealership, so the area I was in is brand new…the waiting room is large, well-lit and has a few cubicles for people to use their laptops as they wait…as I sat in a chair looking in that direction…I noticed that someone had spilled coffee while they were working at the cubicle, the desk was cleaned off but I noticed it had run down the wall, and over the baseboard…it was an old spill, cleaned off the desk but whoever cleaned it up didn’t check further, to see if they got it all…I reported it to someone with the thought…small things make a business flourish…as it is with business, so it is with a life…small things make us flourish…simple things, things we can do something about…

Simple Things in LifeIts been on my desk for a few days, the topic of simple gifts, little things, and what we can’t change…I guess I have always been a simple man, not wanting too much…wanting to be like my Grandfather, who was a simple man, but a great man in my mind…and like him, not trying to be something I was not…taking care of my family, loving those around me…trying to take care of those things which I could do something about, at home, work and out and about…being a good man…and “…not fret because of those who are evil”, but take care of the simple things in life…the things I can do something about…instead of turning myself in knots about things I can’t control…

“Simple Gifts”, it is a Shaker hymn and dance…you may have heard the melody in “Lord of the Dance”, written relatively recently…but let’s stay with “Simple Gifts”, which was written by Shakers over a hundred years ago…let’s see if I can give you a taste…

No doubt this is purely American music, a hymn written by a religious group established here in America during the 1800’s…their group though certainly uncommon in some of its tennets, they where certainly part of American history…basically believing that living simply is living godly…I’m not so sure they didn’t have something there…rising during the 19th century at the time of the Great Awakening…when there was soul-searching in this county…we live in a time where a good soul-searching would do us some good…but it must start with simple things, simple gifts lived out by simple people who know who they are in God’s eyes and decide to live that out…like the woman in Mississippi did…she lived her whole life to give that simple gift…

Aaron Copland, a composer of what I call “American Music”…certainly different from European composers of past centuries…and though I love much of that music, I really love what Copland wrote…and one of the best and most well known is his “Appalachian Spring”…according to Copland himself, the music had nothing to do with Appalachia or Spring…it was just a name suggested, there is a little more to the story but let’s leave it there…regardless, he used the Shaker “Simple Gifts” in his “Appalachian Spring”…you will immediately hear the melody…I will add it here and you will enjoy it all…powerful and emotional…and I’m sure you will say, with me, the name “Appalachian Spring” fits his music…simple, powerful, emotional…just wonderful…we need, today, to find those things which lift us up and give us hope… 

This is the Christmas season…a simple story really, with such power, the power of the Almighty God, sending His Son to this earth as a babe…a Nativity scenesimple gift but a gift of hope for a people who are certainly needy…I am one of those needy who claimed that simple gift for my own…I have tried to pass on the gift to those around me…that Jesus came to save this sinful world…a simple thing, this simple message…a simple gift, to give hope in a time of things we can’t control…but we know with Him, in the end, things will “come ’round right”…

Lutefisk, Lefse And Ring-A-Ding-Ding…”Uff da”, I Said…

Here is another Christmas post from the past…it will hearken back to Minnesota culture…but you will live through it…just sit back and enjoy the Scandinavian humor and culinary delights of Christmas…Merry Christmas…

Oh, yes it is Christmas time in America…and what comes to mind to a Minnesotan…even a transplanted Minnesotan???…it is all the Christmas traditions of childhood and beyond…and it happens to me…even here in Arkansas…we still have Azalea flowers on our bushes…and it seemed a bit strange for me to be putting Christmas lights on bushes that still are flowering…so it is red, green, blue, yellow lights blinking with pink flowers underneath…quite a sight…and all the while Minnesota has snow and cold…but we do have our “White Christmas” CD playing in the background…maybe that will help…

Christmas traditions…part of ours is to make lefse…every year we make lefse…we learned to make it many years ago in Minnesota…it is wonderful…it is a simple recipe…not simple to make but once you get the “hang of it”, it is…we did it with the whole family…in fact that is the joy of it…the whole crew gets involved…someone mixing the dough…it is made of boiled potatoes (riced potatoes, put through a ricer), flour, melted butter and cream…mixed to the right consistency…someone to roll it out very thin, almost like what a crepe ends up like…and then someone to put on a lefse grill (yes, they have grills just for this, Target, etc. have them)…using “lefse sticks” (yes, there are sticks made just for lefse) you turn it over and then stack it to cool…of course everyone must try some warm…butter, sugar, cinnamon or brown sugar…whatever…it is so good…it is like a flat bread…most cultures have that kind of bread…this one is just a little better than the rest…and everyone gets in on the act…

We have been making lefse for most of 40 years…and it is as loved today as it was years ago…you can eat anything rolled up in it…not only butter and sugar but meat, cheese, just anything you would use bread for…so very soon we will be getting together with the kids and  grandkids and making a huge pile of lefse to be used over the holidays…Christmas Eve with a little pickled herring…and how about Swedish Sausage…Oh wait, that’s another story…ignore my mention of Swedish Sausage…more about that later…But thinking about that…we bought some Swedish sausage and Swedish meatballs when we were in Minnesota last summer…we have already had one “ring” of Swedish sausage and will have more at Christmas…but also Christmas Eve we will serve lefse and Swedish meatballs…with gravy…so good…all this is traditional food from years gone by…and still served in Minnesota and all over the Upper Midwest…as well as the Pacific Northwest…

But one of the foods we will not be serving (mostly we can’t get it here) is Lutefisk…it is a “lye” cured cod or whitefish from Norway…served with melted butter and cream sauce…I won’t go into “how” it is fixed but let’s say it is important…it is served with lefse, mashed potatoes, white gravy, Swedish meatballs, rutabaga, etc…lutefisk is also served in the Upper Midwest and in the Pacific Northwest, much like lefse…but tastes and smells a whole lot different…Madison, Minnesota claims the dubious title of Lutefisk Capital of the World…they serve and eat more there than anywhere in the world…you can look that up online if you would like and see the huge gatherings of people who come there for their lutefisk suppers during this time of year…

Lutefisk has been on the receiving end of all kinds of jokes…Ole and Lena jokes: We tried the lutefisk trick, putting it under our porch, to get rid of the raccoons living there…but now we’ve got a family of Norwegians living under our house!!!…humorist Garrison Keillor: Lutefisk is a repulsive gelatinous fish-like dish that tastes like soap with an odor that would gag a goat…and it looks like the world’s largest chunk of phlegm…encouraged to eat “just a little” was like vomiting a little, it’s just as bad as a lot…

The jokes and stories go on and on…I have tried lutefisk myself a time or two…probably to say I ate it once…and the next time or so, because good Scandinavians “should” eat it…like it???…nothing ever was mentioned or came to mind that we were suppose to like it!!!…enough cream sauce and melted butter covers a multitude of sins, it was told to me…but for many years WCCO AM radio (in Minneapolis) had a couple of personalities…Boone and Erickson who were very talented…and they did one of their Christmas traditions called “Lutefisk Lament”…I have saved it for the last…it is a poem, of a sort…along with their Scandinavian accent and humor…I hope you will hang on to the end…since some of you are not from the Upper Midwest…the humor may escape you…but open your mind…and think like a Swedish or Norwegian farm kid from rural Minnesota…get in character now…get ready to go on stage…let’s go…click on the link and enjoy Boone and Erickson’s “Lutefisk Lament”…(I will add the words to follow along…not all will be in this version…but you will be able to follow)…Merry Christmas…(click on the link)…

Boone and Erickson – Lutefisk Lament

Lutefisk Lament

Charlie Boone & Roger Erickson

‘Twas the night before Christmas with things all a bustle
As Mama got set for the Christmas Eve tussle.
Aunts, uncles and cousins would soon be arriving
With stomachs all ready for Christmas Eve dining.
While I sat alone with a feeling of dread,
As visions of lutefisk danced in my head.
The thought of the smell made my eyeballs start burning.
The thought of the taste set my stomach to churning.
For I’m one of those who good Swedes rebuff:
A Scandahoovian boy who can’t stand the stuff.

Each year, however, I played at the game
to spare mama and papa the undying shame.
I must bear up bravely, I can’t take the risk of relatives knowing I hate lutefisk.
I know they would spurn me, my presents withhold,
if the unthinkable, unspeakable truth they were told.
Then out in the yard I heard such a clatter,
I jumped up to see what was the matter.
There in the snow, all in a jumble,
three of my uncles had taken a tumble.

My aunts, as usual, gave them “what for”,
and soon they were up and through the door.
Then with talk, and more cheer,
an hour was passed as Mama finished the Christmas repast.
From out in the kitchen an odor came stealing,
that fairly set my senses to reeling.
The smell of lutefisk creeped down the hall
and wilted a plant in a pot on the wall.
The others reacted as though they were smitten,
while the aroma laid low my small helpless kitten.
Uncles Oscar and Lars said, “Oh, that smells yummy,”
and Kermit’s eyes glittered while he patted his tummy.

The scent skipped off the ceiling and bounced off the door,
and the bird in the cuckoo clock fell on the floor.
Mama announced dinner by ringing a bell.
They pushed to the table with a yump and a yell.
I lifted my eyes to heaven and sighed,
and a rose on the wallpaper withered and died.
With wooden legs I found my chair
and sat in silence with an unseeing stare.
Most of the food was already in place;
there remained only to fill the lutefisks space.
Then Mama came proudly with a bowl on a trivet.
You would have thought the crown jewels were in it.

She placed it carefully down and took her seat,
and Papa said Grace before we could eat.
It seemed to me, with my whirling head,
the shortest prayer he ever had said.
Then Mama lifted the cover on the steaming dish,
and I was face to face with the quivering fish.
“Me first,” I heard Uncle Kermit call,
while I watched the paint peel off the wall.

The plates were passed for Papa to fill.
I waited in agony between fever and chill.
He would dip in the spoon and hold it up high.
As it oozed on the plates, I thought I would die.
Then came my plate, and to my feverish brain
there seemed enough lutefisk to derail a train.
It looked like a mountain of congealing glue:
oddly transparent, yet discolored, the hue.
With butter and cream sauce I tried to conceal it;
I salted and peppered, but the smell still revealed it.
I drummed up my courage, I tried to be bold.
Mama reminds me, “Eat, before it gets cold.”

I decided to face it, “Uff da,” I sighed.
“Uff da, indeed,” my stomach replied.
Then I summoned that resolve for which every breed is known.
My hand took the fork as with a mind of its own.
And with reckless abandon that lutefisk I ate,
within twenty seconds I’d cleaned my plate.
Uncle Kermit flashed me an ear-to-ear grin,
as butter and cream sauce dripped from his chin.
Then to my great shock, he whispered in my ear:
“I’m sure glad this is over for another year!”

It was then I learned a great and wonderful truth,
that Swedes and Norwegians, from old men to youth,
must each pay their dues to have the great joy
of being known as a good Scandahoovian boy.

And so to you all, as you face the great test:
Happy Christmas to you, and to you all the best.

Posted by: Jim E | December 20, 2016

Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake…A Gift To You…

Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake…A Gift To You…

 

I wrote this about 1995, give or take a few years, I really can’t pinpoint the year…I think I have shared this every year since then in some form or another…with some audience or another…read it to the students at school over the intercom…gave it as a Christmas letter…Oh, all kinds of ways…I always thought it was about my Grandma and her fruitcake she always made…but in the end it became something more…I don’t really know what it will be for you…but enjoy Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake and all the love that always came with it…

There are all kinds of jokes and stories about fruitcakes…there is one that says…there are only so many fruitcakes that have ever been made in the world and they are the same ones being given away every year…or the one that fruitcakes are good for something, like a doorstop…and another, that the post office this time of year puts out a warning…if you get a package with no return address, it is over 5 pounds and it smells funny, be careful, it may be a fruitcake…and it goes on and on…

But I can tell a story about fruitcake and about a woman who made them…it was my grandmother…Grandma Reggin, my mom’s mother…she is the only one I know who made fruitcake and did what is suppose to be done with them…gave them away…

Grandma was born in 1896…in fact she would have been 114 years old last July…she lived a little over 72 years…and she could cook and bake…and she made fruitcake…every year, I always ate a little fruitcake but never cared much for it…the candied fruit was a little much for me…but my Grandpa Reggin, he loved it…he loved the candied fruit, the nuts, the spices and the dark cake, full of flavor…he loved everything about fruitcake…and because he was a hero to me…I tried to eat it…but just couldn’t get into it…

My Grandma, at Christmas time, when people visited, would put out ample slices of fruitcake, and I would watch while the Hungry Boy cookies, the decorated sugar cookies and the date-filled cookies, that my Grandma was famous for, would disappear…but much of the fruitcake was still on the plate…

My Grandfather, as I said, loved fruitcake…and he really liked it with a real cup of coffee…(Grandpa was a coffee roaster for McGarvey Coffee Company in Minneapolis…I use to go and watch him roast those green beans that had no smell…into those dark beans we know as coffee beans…full of aroma)…and by a real cup of coffee, I mean he wanted one that, as he put it, “That I can stand a spoon up in.”…and maybe a little cream…and he would savor that fruitcake with that “real cup” of coffee…I can see that picture in my mind, and “I savor” that time with him…

So Grandma would make fruitcake…I mean she made fruitcake!…we lived next door to my grandparents and I went over there everyday…and close to Christmas every year she would begin to bake in earnest…she made pounds of fruitcake…wrapped them in waxed paper, “tin foil” and ribbon…and put them on the unheated covered back porch to keep fresh until she gave them away…she also made Hungry Boy cookies by the hundreds and other cookies to give away…she would give them to the paperboy, milkman, mailman, at the gas station, the meter reader…just anyone who provided service to her during the year…and off they would go with some cookies and of course a fruitcake to share at home…it was her gift of love at Christmas…

No doubt I loved Grandma very much…her modeling this love at Christmas…her unselfishness and devotion to others came out often…when anyone would criticize someone…she would say, “You just don’t understand.”…the idea was, if you only understood, you would not criticize…never an unkind word came out of her mouth, at least in my presence…she was without peer in that area of life…

I remember getting in the car with her and going down to pick up my Grandpa after work…I would go with her often when I was quite young…and especially the day or so before Christmas, when she and I would load up the old Plymouth with all the precious cargo she had made…go down to McGarvey’s and take the bounty into the office area and the giving would begin…

It was an large open office area…with all the desks in a row…and down at the far end, behind glass walls, were the offices of the president and other officers…and in we walked…Grandma in front and me trailing behind carrying my share…as we passed each desk, she would place some cookies, all wrapped up…and of course, a fruitcake at each desk…they all thanked her and talked to her as we went on with our Christmas giving…

And as we inched toward the president’s office, I was apprehensive…but my Grandmother was not…she was a simple woman…as people would look at her today and even then…but not to me and to those who knew her…she was kind, generous and loving…and did not hold a negative thought about anyone…nor that they would ever think anything negative about her…that was her attitude and it was disarming then as it is today…it didn’t really matter what the president or those in the other offices were doing, she would stand there patiently…and they would always stop what they were doing and come out to wish her “Merry Christmas”…talk for a while…thank her for her gifts and we would leave…I don’t know if anyone else could have got away with that…but she did…

So this wonderful woman, who spent some of her growing up years in an orphanage, because her mother could not take care of her…had four children…all raised in a house 20 feet by 40 feet…and out of that kitchen in that house came a legacy which I share with you today…one of giving and love…it was Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake…

And at the end of her life…I sat on the hospital bed next to what had become a frail body of this marvelous woman…and leaned over and took her beautiful face in my hands…kissed her and told her again, the wonderful gospel story of Jesus…who came as a babe, who lived and died for her…who was waiting for her…to escort her home…and for the last time told her I loved her…and let her go…

I wish you Joy, Peace…and wonderful memories…Merry Christmas…

Posted by: Jim E | December 17, 2016

A Christmas Story…Well, Make It Two…

A Christmas Story…Well, Make It Two…

I wrote this in 2012, a Christmas story, well, two of them really…they take me back to Minnesota and my childhood…with a dear neighbor…and then a story from a teacher I worked with for years…both very important to me…and I hope will make you think of your life and memories you have…Merry Christmas…

At Christmastime, I reach back to memories of the past…and my childhood…when you get my age, most people that I meet everyday are much, much younger than I am…it gives you Christmas tree snow coveredpause…Oh, it is not a negative thing…it’s positive…I love the fact that I can remember so much more than most around me…that I actually experienced the history that most people talk about…and you know, I remember talking to people who were born just after the Civil War…who fought in WWI…who fought in WWII…these were actual people, who were there…and, of course, with my age comes the passing of most of those people…almost all of them have died…and just yesterday, Judie’s Mom died…she was 92, almost 93…so much history she experienced…and of course, all of that personal history is now gone…only what we remember of her wonderful life is still with us…all of us who knew her will try and keep that alive…

Age is a funny thing…it comes upon us while we are awake or asleep…it comes with or without our permission…and Christmas upon Christmas comes and goes…I remember so many…but in my 70 plus years, they all seem to run together…it is hard to remember each and every one…in fact what happens is we layer them, one upon the other, so we view them as a stack of slides…viewing them as a whole rather than separating them…only special circumstances make one memorable from the others…let me tell you of two memories…one that is many stories, stacked upon the others…and one that someone told me and experiences it over and over every year…these two stories are the same kind of thing, only different…stay with me here…

When I was born on February 3, 1942, Jim Burton was about 70…about my age now…and 26 pendulum clock Jim Burtonyears later, I officiated at his funeral…now that may not seem strange to you…but it does to me…he and his wife, Mary, were great friends of our family…Mr. and Mrs. Burton (as I respectfully called them growing up) were our neighbors…they lived next door to my grandparents on the south, separated by two lots and we lived next to my grandparents on the north…that neighborhood was two generations old when I was born…Jim Burton was the real estate agent who sold those small lots to people like my grandparents…all during my youth, because Mary was blind and they were aging, my mom took care of them and their needs all the years I can remember…this was a close neighborhood and everyone knew Jim and Mary Burton 1everyone…

On Christmas Eve my mom and we three boys walked over to Burton’s (many times on the way home from Christmas Eve services at church)…to spend some of the evening with them…I wish you could have seen the inside of that small house…Jim had been in the jewelry business and the house was filled with clocks (in fact I attached a picture of the clock he gave Judie and I for our wedding, almost 50 years ago)…to a young child they were beyond counting…10 or so grandfather clocks, wall clocks, mantel clocks, “Regulator” clocks…just all kinds…large and small…and it certainly fascinated a young child…inside, it was reminiscent of a “Charles Dickens” scene…dark but welcoming…the furniture was from another century it seemed…overstuffed, worn and it had that “old” look and smell…and there on the table was their Christmas tree…lights and decorations and a fewChristmas lights in dark presents…and we would relax there with a cup of tea and goodies…settle back and listen again to the stories they told…the stories of other Christmas’ in other countries (she from Norway, he from England)…and stories of their time in America…there in the dim light…dancing over our faces…this couple, whom we loved and had become such an important part of our lives…weaved the stories of a lifetime into our lives on those Christmas Eve nights…

On the way home in the darkness, with the snow crunching under our feet…we asked mom questions and rehearsed things we heard…so much of which I have now forgotten…I miss the stories of Jim and Mary…from another age…from another time…

Christmas Tree at nightAnd so with that story of Jim and Mary Burton…in reality, many stories stacked upon each other year after year…I go to a story of someone who grew up on the plains of North Dakota…we worked together in my former life…a friend and a great teacher, who sent me this after I told one of my Christmas stories to the staff…it is a keeper…you will understand after you read it…he virtually re-lives this every year…

“That takes me back to my youth on the plains of North Dakota, when on Christmas Eve afternoon, my mother packed a shoebox of items to give to an old bachelor neighbor who lived by the river a mile south of us…I can still see the box and its contents: cookies, a Christmas napkin, a new handkerchief and a tin of Prince Albert pipe tobacco…About four o’clock, my dad and I walked to his place and gave it to him…It was a Hallmark scene and I can still see the snow falling and hear and feel the wind as it made small drifts on the path in the pasture…That was a long time ago, but I still take a walk on Christmas Eve afternoon around four o’clock…Even though my father has been gone for seventeen years, he still goes along just like he did on that special trip so long ago”…

With that I wish you Joy and Peace…and wonderful memories…Merry Christmas…

Posted by: Jim E | December 6, 2016

Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941…

This is something I wrote December 7th, 2010…I will share it again this year, for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day…

Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941…Christmas Eve 1941…

It was only 17 days between the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7th, 1941 and Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1941…even for someone who loves history, it becomes difficult to comprehend how close those two dates were…and to think about how people in the United States were feeling about that time, it was so close to Christmas…I was born February 3, 1942…that was a little over a month later…my brother had been born in 1939…(here is a picture of our family taken in 1944)…my Mom and Dad were very young parents, struggling through the depression that still held a tight grip on this country…in fact the world…so it was a hard time anyway, and then comes the attack on Pearl Harbor and over night this country was in the middle of the Second World War, and so was our family…not only at war with Japan but Germany also declared war on America…this country was not ready to defend itself, let alone attack our enemies…it was a dark time…

I don’t know how to put it so we might have a perspective of how Americans felt at the time…the closest thing that comes to it would be “9/11″…if you remember how numb you were and how we didn’t really know what was going to happen…I remember that night, after all planes where ordered out of the skies over America…and a number of military helicopters flew over our house…I really wondered where things were and if we would be attacked again…it was a helpless feeling…one full of possible danger and questions…

If that was our feeling, how must it felt for those living in 1941…many people didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was…and thought our oceans that surrounded us would keep us out of war…it was a very difficult, frightening and dark time…

Today is December 7th…it is always a time for me to remember as well as do many other Americans…it is one date that we should remember and be thankful for those who served in that war…and it is because of them that we are still free…

About two months ago I found a book that connects those two dates…it is really a Christmas book…but it is also about two songs of that time as well as our time…”O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”…the book is, “In The Dark Streets Shineth”…it is written by David McCullough, who wrote “Truman”…”John Adams” and many others…he is one of my favorites…because of what he writes about and how he writes…his books are compelling…this one is no different…it comes with a DVD which shows McCullough with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at their Christmas concert…I will add a portion of his presentation of his book on YouTube…the rest you will have to get the book to see the rest of the DVD…the book is only a little over 50 pages but it is very good…it also has pictures of people of that time…both at home and also overseas…the book is unusual because the DVD and the book are the same…when you see the DVD you are hearing the book in its entirety…the book has many more pictures and it has the speeches of both Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt…both are worth the read…

Churchill came, as McCullough says, “at considerable personal risk”…across the Atlantic “in great secrecy” to meet with Roosevelt…and then he would speak to the combined Congress before he returned to England…but before that would happen, they appeared together at the White House, Christmas Eve, to light the Christmas tree…both would speak…before 20,000 people gathered there…it would have been an unusual night…the world at war, raging all over the world, with no end in sight…with things going very badly for both Britain and America…and it would be that way for a couple of years yet…no victories on the battle field or at sea for a long time…everyday bad news…

But their messages both referred to the idea of “light”…our faith, our freedom…and as Churchill said, “amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart…Here, then, for one night only, each home…should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.”…the next day, Christmas Day, Churchill and Roosevelt went to church…”where with the congregation they joined in singing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ which Churchill had never heard before.”…this American Christmas carol written in the late 1800’s has a line in the first stanza “Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.”…McCullough then tells how that line in particular must have stood out to Churchill and Roosevelt…after his comments the night before of every home being a “brightly lighted island” in the dark…here I will add part of the DVD…it is only about 3 minutes of the over 10 minutes…but will give you a feeling of the rest of the book…

McCullough then goes to the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”…written in 1943 by two New Yorkers…by 1942 there were one million Americans serving overseas…and that would grow…”when recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, the song became the most popular song of the era, even more than ‘White Christmas’…”…this song expressed the longing for home and a light in the darkness felt by so many of those away from home for so long… click here for the song…06 – I’ll Be Home for Christmas …and who can now listen to this without understanding the longing for home by our troops who are overseas right now…the feeling is palpable…

So please, as you enjoy your Christmas season with family and friends…don’t forget how “History can be a great source of strength and affirmation, and especially in difficult, dangerous times.”…and the music we love can give us more than just something to listen to…

And how about this Christmas photo nostalgia…two young kids, oh, about 1949 or 1950…that’s me and my younger brother…just after WWII…seeing Santa…Jerry looks a little wary…me?…just as good-looking as usual…

Okay, okay…but let me wish you a Merry Christmas…we all need to remember…because that’s when life really begins…and will give us strength to bear whatever comes…memories are powerful reminders and give us courage to go on…remember our troops and do some good things for people you don’t know this Christmas…it will leave memories for you to remember…

And as this book does and as the two leaders of that day did…they “delivered a powerful message of hope that still resonates today.”…lets do the same…may joy, hope and peace be a part of your Christmas season…

Posted by: Jim E | November 26, 2016

Growing Up…An Adult…Or…Pajama Boy…

I wrote this almost 3 years ago…seems to apply today too…I heard this song again this year, just yesterday…it has become a Christmas song…one I have always liked…the song is “Toyland”, from an operetta by Victor Herbert…written in 1904…I will send along one of my blogs from February 2014…it talks about “growing up”, with references to “Field of Dreams”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Toyland” and other things…and it holds most of the “bones” of what I believe about the cold, hard facts about “growing up”…and the joy of that transformation…and where it leads…

Growing Up…An Adult…Or…Pajama Boy…

Now in my 72nd year, it seems odd that I can still see me as I was growing up…Oh, not everything but many things…the people around me, my parents, my grandparents, other relatives, neighbors and friends…they are still at the age that they were the last time I saw them…many have died and others drifted into their own lives, as I have…but growing up was a wonderful time, many uncertainties of course, many sorrows…but mostly good memories…as I have said many times, “life is hard but life is good”…and it is that…img027

But as I remember those years, I realize that my memories are only snippets, pieces of a puzzle that we all toil over, as we grow into who it is we will become…I do remember though, I always wanted to be an adult…to make decisions that adults got to make…go places, do things…but mostly to be a man, have a job, have a family…heavens, I wanted to be like my Grandpa…he was a man’s man, he had a job and worked hard…he was talented, he could build…he built his own house…he knew about plumbing and electricity…he fixed his own car…he was faithful to my Grandma, to his family, to his neighbors, to his friends…he was responsible, was in control of his life…did not want to depend on anyone…he was a free man…he lived in that kind of world…

The world has changed a lot since those days, I know…but even today, the right and chance to be free…to be in charge of our own lives without interference from the government or anyone else for that matter…we see that kind of desire from many in our society…when I saw our own government come out with a “sales pitch” really, about Obamacare…with the picture of what some detractors havePajama Boy described as “Pajama Boy”…living at home, with his parents…a 27 year old in a “onesie”, drinking hot chocolate…it was disquieting to me…I thought, “Are there adult age “kids” like that?”…and I guess there are…but it runs against everything I believe and my Grandfather would wonder, like me, what is happening to this country?…

And though there are things which are disconcerting to me…I somehow still believe in America…I still hold on to the beliefs that established this country…based on freedom, liberty and self-reliance…I still think it is there, though there are forces which are trying to undermine it day by day…the desire to get a job, to be on your own, setting up goals and working over years to reach those goals…I believe that is still within the heart of most Americans…to move on, not be dependent on parents or the government to reach those dreams…

It’s funny, thinking about growing up…I think I remember when “it” happened…now I don’t know if it was that moment in time…but a “happening” made me believe I was on my way…and maybe you can remember the same kind of thing…it was one particular Christmas, I describe it this way, “the year I grew up”…that Christmas came and it was just not the same, we had the same kind of Christmas, the tree, presents, the meal, friends and relatives…but something was missing, I didn’t know what it was for sure…it was somehow less fun, though I still loved it…then I realized what many have said since then, Christmas is for kids…the magic of being a child at Christmas is wonderful…and even as an adult there is a certain magic about that season…but for a child, it is more, and that is what happened…there was a changeover, I didn’t necessarily like it…but knew it was good…it was what I always wanted…to become more Babes in Toylandlike the adults that were around me…and so I left childhood behind…

There is a song, from the Christmas season even…I heard it again this year…”Toyland”, written by Victor Herbert, in 1904, one of the songs in his operetta “Babes in Toyland”…in the song which is the theme of the operetta tells the story of what I am talking about…happy in childhood, that toyland, but once you pass its borders, you may never return again…I think you will remember the melody of the song…

Toyland, toyland
Little girl and boy land
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy there

Childhood’s joy land
Mystic merry toyland
Once you pass its borders
You can ne’er return again

When you’ve grown up, my dears
And are as old as I
You’ll laugh and ponder on the years
That roll so swiftly by, my dears
That roll so swiftly by

Childhood’s joy land
Mystic merry toyland
Once you pass its borders
You can ne’er return again  

And so, we who’ve passed its borders, though we may not have wanted to let it go at the time…once we have, we can never return again…and those who wish to, or try to, or remain beyond the years allotted to childhood, are in for a “rude awaking”, as my Mom used to say…life passes by with astounding speed, with experiences we must have to make it successfully through the gauntlet that lies ahead…

It reminds me a bit of the film “Field of Dreams”…at the end of the film, Ray Kinsella, having brought Archibald “Moonlight” Graham to play baseball on his field in Iowa…his brother-in-law urges him to sell the farm…The next morning Mark implores Ray to sell the farm. Karin says that they won’t need to because people will pay to watch the ball games. Terence agrees that “people will come” to relive their childhood innocence, and Ray refuses to sell. Frustrated, Mark scuffles Field of Dreamswith Ray, accidentally knocking Karin off the top of the bleachers. Archie runs to help and, stepping off the field, becomes the old “Doc” Graham. After he saves Karin from choking, Ray realizes that Graham cannot return to the field as a young man. After reassuring Ray that his true calling was medicine, the players shake his hand and he leaves. Suddenly able to see the players, Mark urges Ray not to sell the farm.

Given the chance to stay young and play baseball, “young Doc Graham” decides to cross “that line” between staying forever young and becoming the “Doc” Graham he was always meant to be…it is always the choice we all have to make…I know people who never have decided to “grow up”…they always stayed immature and dependent…thinking this was a choice they could make and things would remain as they were…but it never works that way…the ends are difficult and most of the time disastrous to all involved…an immature person is ineffective in life, making little impact in their own lives or the lives of others…

My Grandpa was forced at an early age to chose…he was sent by his father from Canada to Minneapolis to friends who said they would take responsibility for him and his two brothers…it did not go well, it was an abusive situation and at about 13 he ran away to make his way…it was a difficult time…spent some time in an orphanage, went West and worked as a cowboy and in the end fell in love, married, had a family, and grandkids…one of them, me…he was my hero, my Saving Pvt. Ryan whispersidol…I wanted to be like him…responsible, be a leader, be loyal, and all that he was…and like at the end of the film “Saving Private Ryan”…Private Ryan, now an old man, stands at the grave of Captain Miller…he remembered the words of Captain Miller, “James, earn this… earn it.”…this follows:

Old James Ryan: [addressing Capt. Miller’s grave] My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.

Ryan’s Wife: James?…

[looking at headstone]

Ryan’s Wife: Captain John H Miller.

Old James Ryan: Tell me I have led a good life.

Ryan’s Wife: What?

Old James Ryan: Tell me I’m a good man.

Ryan’s Wife: You are.

[walks away]

Old James Ryan: [stands back and salutes]

That’s really all my Grandfather ever wanted…to be a good man…it’s all I have ever wanted…

Posted by: Jim E | November 19, 2016

Thanksgiving 1987…Oh, I Remember That Year…

 

Thanksgiving 1987…Oh, I Remember That Year…

This is a post from last Thanksgiving, 2010…but I enjoyed reading it again…maybe you will too…memories are a wonderful thing…hope you enjoy the story…Jim E

Most memories of special days kind of “run together” if you know what I mean…we can’t just “pull up” let’s say, Christmas 1990 for instance…or July 4th 2005…you get what I mean…unless something specific and of great import happened on that day, they just “run together”…for me Christmas has always been special…since I was a kid, I remember how important it was…we had all the traditions and what mom fixed for Christmas dinner…and all the rest…it was true for Thanksgiving too…we always had a traditional Thanksgiving feast…and leading up to those special days of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we did special things…and Judie and I have continued many of those traditions right up to the present, added a few and passed them on to our kids…so, for as long as I can remember we have carried on in a very similar way…

Is it any wonder then, that I can’t “pull” any one particular holiday out of the vast array of those special days…they just stack on top of each other, year after year…and if you asked me to tell you what the 1972 Christmas was like, I couldn’t tell you, except to say it was a lot like all the rest…so when we talk about Thanksgiving or Christmas, since they are traditional, I would be telling you about lots of Christmases or Thanksgivings, not just one…not that they are boring mind you…each one is special and celebrated as though it would be our last…but they do tend to “run together”…like glass slides stacked on top of one another, and looking down through them into our past…

So how can I remember Thanksgiving 1987???…let me tell you…it was a day to remember, one of the last that all of our kids were home for Thanksgiving…Jay, Jared, Marisa and Jess were all in college (Jared and Marisa had married in August of 1987)…Jeremy was still in high school…it was one of the warmest Thanksgivings we could remember…the sun was shining and we had to drop the blinds in the dining room because it was so hot (in Minnesota the angle of the sun is so low that time of year, it poured in the South windows)…it was in the high 50′s I suppose…and we had our traditional meal…Turkey, Swedish sausage, Down South dressing, Oyster stuffing (Sidebar…it is stuffing if you put it “in the bird”, it is dressing if you do it in a side dish…end Sidebar)…mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, green bean hot dish (Sidebar…hot dish is “Minnesotan” for casserole…end Sidebar)…some other veggies, squash, pickles, relishes, rolls, a special raspberry jello/w sour cream and marshmallow topping (Sidebar…not a desert but used like a sorbet, a “palate cleanser”, just wonderful…end Sidebar), pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, maybe cherry or blueberry or custard to make it four and whipped cream…

But you know, none of that was the reason I remember Thanksgiving 1987…this is the reason remember Thanksgiving 1987…his name was Muffin…Muffin was Jeremy’s Christmas gift the year before in 1986 (this is his picture in 1986)…he was a Shih Tzu…Jeremy wanted a dog and Judie thought it would be good for him to have a companion…thus…along came Muffin…it was an early Christmas gift that year…Jeremy and Muffin became inseparable…he slept with him and every waking moment the two of them were together…as with most family dogs, he became part of our family…and he was a special dog…even after many years being gone, he still holds a place in our home…let’s say when he had to be put down…there were many tears over that loss…but memories linger on…

But what about Thanksgiving 1987???…Oh my, the day before Thanksgiving, disaster struck…Judie had put Muffin outside while she did some things…she was busy and had to run to the store…when she got back she remembered Muffin…but as hard as she searched and yelled his name…no Muffin…when I got home and Jeremy got home we went about making up fliers with Muffin’s picture on them…we put them all over the area…frankly, I thought we had lost him for good…but drove around looking for him…and after all that effort we decided we had done all we could do…all of us, Judie, Jeremy and myself were at a loss…upset at losing such a good friend…we were heartbroken…all we could think of is that someone had picked him up and taken him…Shih Tzu’s are a desirable dog for many people…

We got up the next day…it was Thanksgiving Day…spent the morning fixing the meal of the day…but keeping an eye out for Muffin…no luck…the meal time came and all around the table were a bit down…all of us felt sorry for Jeremy, he was miserable…we were part way through the meal…everyone around the table…I went to the kitchen for something…I was at the sink looking out the window…our back yard wasn’t big, but it butted up against a large empty field…all grass and used then for grazing horses…it was lined with furrows from when it used to be farmed…as I gazed across the field on that beautiful day…my eyes caught a glimpse, way out in the field, of a little black and white animal jumping over the furrows in the field, you know how I felt…that feeling just billowed up inside me…I yelled, “There’s Muffin!!!”…everyone at the table jumped up…they raised the shades at the windows and looked out…Jess ran out the door in his stocking feet…onto the deck, out on the lawn, jumped the fence and out into the field…and that quick too…

By the time Jess got back to the yard with Muffin, everyone was out on the deck and in the yard…my mom took this picture of Jeremy, in bare feet, with Muffin…what a homecoming…everyone was laughing/crying…you know how that happens…it was a powerful moment of relief, for he was found…and emotional release, Jeremy’s dog was home…Jeremy is a special child…to all of us…and all of us were thankful…it is what we prayed for…Jeremy’s dog was found…Muffin had been gone for a little over a day…he was dirty, grass and straw was stuck in his hair but he was home…you may not be able to read the emotion on Jeremy’s face in the picture but then, maybe you can…let’s just say he was happy…no, elated and thankful, on that Thanksgiving 1987…

So we will celebrate this Thanksgiving…2010…with the same expectation…well, maybe not exactly the same but with the same thanks we had that day…so many years ago…and we will talk of that day again, as part of our Thanksgiving 2010…part of the tradition of this family, blessed beyond what we deserve…but thankful for all the blessings…

I hope you have enjoyed the story…really a Thanksgiving feast of thankfulness…pie anyone???…

No doubt, we have been busy…I always heard that retirement was suppose to be lots of long hours wondering what to do with ones self…we have not found that to be so…(I think it was a lie anyway, never did believe it)…anyway, it has not been that way for us…and we are happy to say so…

Our weeks lately have been wrapped up with getting Jeremy back on his feet, so to speak…he has had a few small strokes and with those strokes has come two hospitalizations and changes…new meds…physical and occupational therapy appointments…speech therapy…doctors appointments…changed his bed, making it lower…just lots of related stuff…we also changed some of his bathroom so it would be easier for him to use…the chance of falling would not be good, and he has fallen a few times already…so those changes were necessary…a new higher toilet, which Jared, our number two son put in, along with a few grab bars…all have worked out well, though Jeremy has had to relearn a number of things, we are all working together to make it better…so we said goodbye to the old toilet, in our own way…toliet-old-but-pretty-at-that

The garbage haulers, thought it was pretty nice…at least they smiled as we waved the old thing goodbye, and sent it off…(yes, they did think it was a bit weird but we enjoyed something a bit upbeat in a rather serious time)…so Jeremy is doing better…as most of you know, strokes, if taken seriously, people do respond fairly well to treatment…and Jeremy, though not back to his previous self, and probably will never be…is doing well…

Even in the best of days, we find our pleasures are simple…that doesn’t mean they are not meaningful or satisfying…they are that, but just different than what most people our age enjoy…and that is fine with me…I enjoyed one of the satisfying things just the other day…let me give you the picture and then the explanation…lipton-tea-and-storage

Now I would not be surprised if you could not find something in this picture to enjoy (other than if you like a cup of tea, which I enjoy every morning)…but notice the box of 104 Lipton tea bags, it is empty…and notice the Tupperware container beside it, it is full…notice also the way the bags are place in said container…yup, you would be right, each of the three levels is going the opposite way, placed smartly…and notice that the container seems to hold all of the 104 Lipton tea bags…and if you said that, you would be right…all of the 104 Lipton tea bags fit perfectly in the Tupperware container…does that not bring you a certain joy to see that???…well, to me, it somehow makes me happy all that happened…in a world that is constantly in conflict and turmoil…somehow, all 104 Lipton tea bags fitting perfectly…somehow, it becomes a thrilling thing…Ah, yes, you say, “Jim needs to get out more.”…but you know, I look for things that bring joy, and satisfaction with it…and this is without a doubt a wonderful thing…who would have guessed…

But of course it doesn’t end there…I’m going to tell you a secret and you are not to tell anyone else about it…just between me and you, or is it, you and me, Oh well…we, (Judie, Jeremy and I) have a Sweet Spot…let me show you a picture from the Sweet Spot and see what you see…you will have to look hard to see it…no, no, not the Sweet Spot, but what is in the picture…there on that wonderful summer morning, the sun was shining, the wind lightly blowing in the trees, just a beautiful day in Little Rock…and there we were with a cup of coffee and seeing the beauty of God’s creation…sweet-spot-and-spider-web-on-a-beautiful-day

There, right there in the middle of the picture (yes, forgive the sign, but look to the right) and there is a silver thread, see it…yup, a spider web…this time of year, just think back to “Charlotte’s Web”…spiders send off their offspring on windy days…they send them off for long distances in the wind…think how light they are, we had a brisk wind that day so hundreds of tiny spiders started their new life…right there across from our Sweet Spot…what a pleasure to watch it wave in the breeze that morning…a strong enough web to take the movement of the trees it was attached to, the wind and still be there for us to see, some 30 feet long or so…to the left of us was Chenal Parkway, behind us was two of our friends restaurant, Mac & Don’s…as we parked in a bank parking lot, over looking all this magnificent beauty and wonder…eating a McMuffin, Jeremy’s Biscuit & Gravy, and coffee…we sat in awe of all that is around us…this is our Sweet Spot…everyday that we can go, it brings pleasure to the senses…and the realization, in Whose Hands we are…

Psalm 117

O praise the Lord, all you nations! Praise Him, all you people!

For His mercy and loving-kindness are great toward us, and the truth and faithfulness of the Lord endure forever. Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)

 

It was just a while ago, I read words like these: “Come on in and sit a spell”…it was a way of telling people to make yourselves comfortable, stay a while and talk, “catch up” with each other…that conversation would be a more “Southern” expression, I suppose…but my Mom had one about the same and coming from the heart of a Minnesota Mom…when a friend or relative came to the door, she would always say, “Got time for a cup of coffee?”…now that was about the same as the former greeting, just different words…

I remember when a neighbor came by and Mom would invite her in…the coffee pot was Coffee vacuum coffee potalways on…she always had a vacuum coffee pot…water in the bottom pot…and on top was a open container that kind of looked like a funnel…a long spout that went down into the water…there was a rubber stopper that fit into the lower pot…it would seal the top to the bottom…so no air could get into the lower pot…in the open top, in went the ground coffee…there was stopper inside so the grounds wouldn’t fall in the lower pot…then on the stove it would go…because it was sealed the water would never boil (atmospheric pressure and all that, check your science book)…and she and my Grandpa always said the best coffee is never boiled…they were right…the water would get very hot and though not boiling, because of the uneven atmospheric pressure, the water would rise into the upper chamber and you would wait until the water churned around and mixed with the coffee, then turned off the flame…let it sit for a few minutes and when it cooled a bit, the pressure would equalize and the coffee, now brewed, would be sucked back down into the lower pot…now you could take the top off and you have a perfect cup of coffee to share…I still love just writing about it…and I loved to watch it happen…

Judie and I used a vacuum coffee pot for years…(they used to be all glass, even the stopper was glass…only the rubber seal was not glass)…we still have one…my Grandpa worked for McGarvey Coffee Company for many years…he was, in the last years, a McGarvey Flame Room Coffeeroaster…and he knew his coffee…some of you Minnesotans may still buy McGarvey “Flame Room” coffee…it was famous, and this goes back many years, but at the old Radisson Hotel in downtown Minneapolis…it had a restaurant called “The Flame Room”…famous for its entertainment, food and of course “Flame Room” coffee…it is good…if it is still being made and sold…up to ten years ago it was…we have been gone that long so who knows…things change, and disappear over the years…like our vacuum pot…in a cupboard somewhere…we now have a Keurig coffee maker, things change…

Oh, things do change…I am getting close to three quarters of a century old…now that seems older than 75, but on the other hand, both sound pretty old…but I really don’tMinneapolis Millers, Nicollet Park care…in fact it gives me a certain joy to have all that history behind me…I have so many memories that most around me don’t have…hey, most don’t even know about Flame Room Coffee…or how a vacuum coffee pot works…they aren’t able to remember about the “old” Radisson hotel or the old Nicollet Baseball Park, on Nicollet Avenue in south Minnapolis…I remember going there by streetcar many times…with my Dad a few times but by myself many times…baseball in those days was America’s Pastime…Minneapolis’ team was called the Millers…you know wheat, flour mills…home of Pillsbury Flour, Gold Medal Flour…St. Paul’s team was the Saints…the Millers were a triple A team of the Giants…the Saints, the Dodgers…quite a competitive twin cities…I was there one day when Willie Mays played the outfield, he was amazing, “shoestring catch” and all…I think it was on July 4th that they had a double header…one played a Nicollet field and the other in St. Paul…all reached easily by streetcar…what a wonderful time to live…didn’t have the fear we have today of letting our kids go like that…

But things change as I said…both the culture (it’s in the pits) and hotels, coffee makers, ballparks and houses where I lived…it is something that not only is the old Nicollet park gone, its replacement is gone too, Met Stadium was built to house the Minnesota Twins…but it is gone too…in fact the replacement of that park, the Metrodome is now history too…in its place is the new Twins ball park near the Target Center…and in the Metrodome site is now the new Viking stadium…things change…

And all the homes that I grew up in are gone…the first one I remember is 515 Meadow house 515 Meadow LaneLane, in Golden Valley, Minnesota…it was the house we rented after Dad returned from WWII in the Navy…my first memories were there…we went there a few years ago and got this picture and when we went back some time later it was an empty lot…I had lots of good memories there…I remember my Mom doing laundry on the back porch, listening and singing to WCCO…playing in the swamp behind the house…it was a tiny house…but the only one I knew…I really didn’t know it was tiny…well, hey…I was tiny…the next house I lived in was what we called “the basement house”…it was a basement that was to become a full house but never happened…it was next door to my Grandparents, my Mom’s folks…small lot, small basement, but it was all I knew…the only time it became an issue was when I realized the kids I went to school with had Elmquist shed, BB hoop, cottonwood trees in snowhuge houses, some with swimming pools in their backyard, one with a pool in the basement…but you know, it was home…no running water, well, we had a pipe underground from Grandparents, so we had cold water, heated water on the stove…no bathroom…though we used my Grandparents often but we had an outhouse…the sink in the kitchen ran into a pail under the sink…and emptied it behind the shed, with the img019basketball hoop, what time we used to have with neighbor kids playing basketball even in the dead of winter…shoveled off the court and played until we couldn’t feel our hands anymore…that basement house has been gone for decades by now…replaced by high rise business towers…we lived there until I left when Judie and I got married…you may feel sorry for me…but you know I had great growing up years…I loved all the memories I had from those years…built rafts in the swamp behind our house…played all the games kids played…skied, sledding, adventures of all kinds…

Even my Grandparent house is gone…in fact the whole neighborhood…my Mom was Reggin house burning 1979 1there when they burned down my Grandparents house…it was the house where she was raised…in fact Judie, I and the kids lived there for about 9 months and she and Dad lived there until she sold it..she watched it burn, got a picture, not very clear…she said she was crying so hard that she shook the camera…all this could be very sad I guess…but my life is made up of all these things…things no one else has in their memories…but on the other hand, everyone has a story…not just like my story, but a lot like it…things change, as I said…but I have rich memories and though life is hard, life is so good…

And if you really look hard at the picture of the basement house…and see my Mom reaching for the door, and if you really listen closely…she is asking you, “Got time for a cup of coffee?”…and you would say to that wonderful woman…why sure, why don’t we “Come on in and sit a spell”…and she would put the coffee pot on…Oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful…I would sit and watch it brew…

Somehow when I read something, really anything, my mind goes over the last 70 years or so…and comes up with a variety of experiences and memories…not all of them good, not all bad…just lots of them…last week I got my July/August issue of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer…it covers lots of topics, all having to do with Minnesota Minnesota Conservation Volunteerconservation and management of the state’s resources…includes hunting and fishing as well as recreational opportunities like hiking, biking and the like…and the sustainable use of natural resources…it’s a wonderful magazine and one I sit down almost immediately and read…great photographs and articles written by people committed to those same goals…

Of all the great articles, I really liked the one called “Cabin Talk”…a fun, informativeListening Point cabin Sigurd Olson article…and one that made me think a bit…the author was at a luncheon held by the Listening Point Foundation, “which honors the late writer and naturalist Sigurd Olson.”…they want to preserve his legacy…to educate others about wilderness…the name Listening Point is the name of his cabin on Burntside Lake in Northern Minnesota…where he wrote and lived…

I loved the name Listening Point…the wilderness or any quiet place is certainly a place to listen…in our culture there are few places we have to sit quietly and listen…and think…seems everyone is busy doing “other” things…the ubiquitous cell phone…music…video…all destroy time to sit quietly and listen…to see nature and all it holds, really time to meditate…I remember when I was 15, going to Jefferson Jefferson Junior High School, Minneapolis, MNJunior High school in Minneapolis, I was involved with Boy Scouts, with a friend of mine…we both were working on our Eagle Scout Award…and also waiting  with anticipation for our new high school, Golden Valley High School to be completed…I don’t think any of us who were “bused” into Minneapolis from Golden Valley especially liked Jefferson, as we called it…

I really don’t remember how it happened, nor why it happened, nor why my Mom and Dad allowed me to do it…but that summer I applied to be a counselor in training (CIT) at Many Point Scout Camp in Northern Minnesota…near Ponsford and Detroit Lakes Many Point Scout CampMinnesota…we were assigned to various places for a week over the 5 or 6 weeks of the summer…we worked 6 days a week and had one day off…that day we could go into DL (Detroit Lakes) or could stay at Many Point…I went to DL a couple of times, but most times I spent at the area I was assigned…I remember reading the book “Through Gates of Splendor” by Elizabeth Elliot, sitting on a huge beaver dam just off an old logging road…I just happened upon it…going down a small hill and up another…little did I know it was the front of a beaver dam…when I got to the top of the small hill and expanse of water was in front of me…and beaver doing what beavers do…I was able to spend hours there over the summer…and it was an easy place to think, meditate and plan…my life changed on that beaver dam…

I learned then to enjoy quiet, to hear things that I never paid attention to before…and to learn to be alone and observant of things around me…I’ve never forgotten it…it was years later I read a memoir of a classmate who wrote about the summer between Jefferson and Golden Valley High School…as I read, over 50 years later, I found what happened during that summer when I was a CIT at Many Point, but my classmates had a whole different summer…I guess as I read, I was happy I had the experience that I did…

One of the places I “served” at Many Point, was at the Gate Lodge…it was 2 miles or so outside the main camp…it was a log cabin, as such, and we had to check in anyone who was coming to camp, a long pole gate we had to lift up and down…there were two of us assigned there, I don’t think there was electricity, plumbing, etc…it would seem that I would remember that, but I don’t…we had a hand pump to get water and Coleman lanterns for light…and I suppose an outhouse, but again I don’t remember that for sure…but I do remember being alone and at night, it really got dark and quiet…Old truck like at Many Point

Our meals were delivered in what they called “hotpacks”…I think we got three meals a day…we could hear those old trucks coming out to us for a long distance…they were old WWII trucks, no doors, rusted out…no mufflers…they were great…we loved them so did the drivers…but where we stayed was a cabin, for sure, maybe 10 x 10…bunk-beds made out of pole pine, a sink…mice by the hundreds…Oh, it might have been the thousands…we would stay quiet for a few seconds and out they would come…we broke a few brooms killing those varmints…I don’t think we ever thought about those mice at night, no doubt they were all over everything, including us…so much for cabin life in Northern Minnesota…

Cabins, like Listening Point, are still around and other cabins of all sizes and shapes…from Lake house to shacks, those with amenities of all kinds and those without…but all in all it is the place we make it…is it just another home like we left or is it a place where we energize our lives, to look at nature in a new way, to see the God who made all this in a new and real way…that is what we all should want…the swimming, fishing, meditating, the sitting and looking out at all that wonder…

The article that started all this had a story that all of us fit into,Minnesota Backyard one way or another…the author sat near a 10 year old boy and his Dad at the luncheon…he asked the boy if they had a cabin…”‘We have a place on a lake up by Ely,’ he said. I pressed him for the name of the lake and when he offered it, told him of my adventures near there.”…his Dad was listening in, smiling…”‘I wouldn’t call it a cabin,’ the boy said reluctantly. ‘It’s pretty big.'”…he had already at his young age picked up on what a “cabin” was suppose to be…the author went on to say, it is not the “cabin” that matters most…it’s the natural world surrounding the cabin…the final exchange between the Dad and Son was great…”‘It doesn’t matter how big it is,’ his Dad said. ‘We can call it a cabin if we want to.’…’Dad, we can’t call it a cabin,’ his son objected. ‘It has air conditioning!'”

So enjoy your cabin, deck, porch, back yard, lake house, whatever…it’s the natural world surrounding the cabin that is important…

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