Monthly Archives: October 2016

Mending the Past 9: A Daughter is Born

A woman who gives birth can never imagine What she is rocking her daughter for: A man with his own cottage Or a man without a dwelling A man with plenty of bread Or a man of no means. –A Finnish lullaby, from Sorrow and Bitterness, a review of Nordic women’s oral literature in 19th […]

Mending the Past 8: The Father

And when next his bow he drew, It was forest birds that flew it was pair on pair that danced with lovers’ joy–oh my Then up the daughter sprung, On the stranger’s neck she clung And a pretty maiden’s kisses gave the fiddler his reply. –The Misjudged Fiddler, Erik Axel Karlfeldt, Translated by Charles Wharton […]

Mending the Past 7: Paying with Body and Soul

“Nevertheless, the village formed a landscape where people knew their ways and whereabouts. There were norms and rules implicitly known by everybody on how the village life was to be lived.” –Stig Welinder, The Ethnoarchaeology of a Swedish Village When I was young my parents took us to the Episcopal church on Sundays. I loved the […]

Mending the past 6: Prison

In the cell close by sat a child’s murderess. I saw her only through the little glass in the door. She had had heard our footsteps; heard us speak; but she sat still, squeezed up into the corner by the door, as if she would hide herself as much as possible: her back was bent, […]

Mending the Past 5: Sorrow and Evil

Now my mind is filled with sorrow, Wanders though the bog and stubble, Wanders weary through the brambles, Roams throughout the dismal forest, Till my life is filled with darkness, And my spirit white with anguish. —-Kalevala Rune 1V (Crawford translation) What happened next to our ancestor, in brief but brutal detail, was recorded in […]

Mending History 4: The Secret Whore

Kanske har inte det gamla bondesamhället blivit mer romantiserat än någon annan försvunnen värld. Men effekterna därav har haft enormt genomslag i vår kultur. The old peasant society has become perhaps more romanticized than any other lost world. Never the less, its effects have an enormous impact on our culture. –Jonas Frykman, Om Kvinnors Ondska […]

Mending History 3: Living in the Past

Will you search through the lonely earth for me? Climb through the briar and bramble? I’ll be your treasure. I felt the touch of the kings and the breath of the wind. I knew the call of all the song birds. They sang all the wrong words. I’m waiting for you. I’m waiting for you. […]

Mending History 2: Translating Difficult Things

This history is not only ours and not only history Denna historia ar inte bara var ej heller bara historia –from a sign at the Swedish Prison Museum in Gävle In the spring of 2015 we were working to piece together who our mystery ancestor was. My dad wrote to the pastor of Bethel Covenant […]

Mending History 1: Old Photos

On my dad’s side of the family, both of my grandparents were Swedish-Americans, one born in Sweden, the other born in Wisconsin. They both grew up speaking Swedish, eating pickled fish and boiled potatoes and attending Swedish Lutheran or Mission churches. When I was a child I spent a lot of time with them at […]