Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Visit to artist colony--hand-made items, YAY!

After a Seattle-weather day, which allowed Eva and Staffan to catch up on gardening and lawn mowing and gave me even more time to continue writing, today arrived with sunshine, short showers, and breezy wind. Eva, Stina, and I drove to a nearby artist collective, Not Quite, in nearby Fengersfors (I LOVE Swedish!). The collective inhabits an old paper mill which closed in the late 1970s; one buIlding retains vintage machinery, accompanied by explanations, photographs, and paper samples. We walked among the machinery, imagining people working long hours in hot and humid conditions. Stina, the photographer, borrowed my camera; I look forward to enjoying her artistic pics! Of course we enjoyed fika, a Swedish tradition of afternoon high-quality snack of pastries and coffee (tea for me)--an unbelievably delicious chocolate tort (spellchecker first corrected my typo to "devious"--SMART spellchecking!). 
Hurra, hurra, hurra, hurra!!!! Elin and Lisa arrive from Noway tomorrow. The whole family will gather to celebrate their arrival; all will benefit from being together. Weather patterns forecast the return of sunshine and warm temperatures.


At torpet, just after completing a poem for them, 
Ingrid and Anna's voices sang Swedish folk songs
Into the rear window, offering a tray of frukost fare.

During a boat trip on Lake Vänern, after a refreshing 
Swim, we bask on huge boulders in the  late afternoon sun.
Eva offers tea and coffee. Where? Rock service, please.

As I exited the little stugan where I sleep, I found
Eva and Staffan at the small, umbrella-shaded table,
Quietly eating breakfast and motioning me to join in.

Evening meals on the front porch with a variety of
Relatives, a different composition gathers every night.
Wonderful, delicious food trolskt/magically appears.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 31, 2012


The woodsy summer home (ett torp, torpet, torpet, torparna), owned by five siblings and their families, has many clever accommodations, while preserving rustic and earthy authenticity. These innovative solutions tickle the mind while streamlining daily tasks. Unique and functional hand-crafted items grace shelves and walls. The decorative goal is rustic and beautifully artistic, rather than castoffs from their winter homes. They've thought of everything; they've anticipated needs and wants; they're many steps ahead of the curve.

The concept of "step ladder" is personified (forgive the human metaphor) by innovative access between the first and second floors. Judiciously located at one end of a narrow entrance room, three steps lead to a landing, then seven more steps to the sleeping loft, the angle exactly like a steeply-tilted ladder. The "ladder rungs" are actual stairs--similar to an indoor metal step ladder--except narrower both  in depth and in the space between the steps. To navigate upward requires holding tightly to trim boards and then to higher steps. Returning to the first floor is best accomplished backwards, like coming down a ladder. Just for fun, the final three steps can be accomplished by placing feet in a perpendicular position on each step. The wooden structure is ecological in function and beautiful in construction, incorporating decorative Swedish-red trim as well as safety strips along the front edges.

At the top of the stairs is a window with an accompanying fire escape rope--echoed at the other end of the room. Also near the top landing is a hand-crafted protective fence to prevent children from falling down the staircase. This clever contraption accordions down to floor level, a fully-functioning child barrier. When collapsed again, the fencing angles up into a narrow panel that is out of the way of access to the sleeping loft. 

Although no modern plumbing, the outhouse has a complex yet straight-forward pump and hose system which yields lake water to the outhouse sink as well as to the outdoor shower and the kitchen sink. After each usage and after returning the handle from angled (yielding water) to vertical position, several pulls on the pump handle replace the water used. Wondering where to place my towel when showering, I rounded the corner to find a basket strategically attached to the wall next to the shower. The outhouse door has a clear communication format: a two-sided wooden heart hangs from a nail; green side signals vacancy, red side signals occupied.

The latch on the gas refrigerator is augmented by a tight metal coil stretched toward a screw, guaranteeing a tight closure. The hand-made stucco kitchen stove includes an overhang, a vintage metal wood-burning stove, storage for wood, and, around the corner, a small waist-high fireplace.

Ubiquitous cushions on all seating surfaces attest that the five siblings have arrived at their fifth and sixth decades. Multitudes of candles in a wide range of decorative holders offer a soft glow when night finally falls during Swedish summers. Even during the day, candles are often lit while eating. Meals, which are organized several times during the day, can be eaten in a variety of settings: two outside tables, a long table in the sun porch, or a small dining table in the living room. Variety of venue is valued and accessed.

The main building, the torp, has an addition in the back: a large, well-organized storage shed with necessary tools, dry wood, a variety of fishing and boating gear, and a reservoir for pumped water for kitchen usage. In addition to torpet, two free-standing smaller cabins (en stuga, stuga, stugor, stugorna) offer additional sleeping space. One stuga is the private space for the siblings' mother, who freshly painted the white trim this summer. The second stugan, with two beds, provides additional and private sleeping space--and easier/closer access for mid-night trips to the outhouse.

I spent three days in this idyllic environment, involved in marvelous conversations, introspective contemplation, and reflective writing. 

Heaven on earth! Himlen på jorden.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 31, 2013


Elisa(beth) lies in Tössekyrkan kyrkogård,
At rest for 137 years, matriarch atop the
Annotated genogram with photographs.
We pause each visit to reflect, pay homage,
Give thanks, and  lay fresh wild flowers.

Lars Magnus Karlsson/Carlsson/Carlson,
Who immigrated to USA in 1879, lies at rest 
In North Hibbing graveyard, accompanied by
A small gravestone of an unknown child:
Baby Carlson. Who is this child?

Who are her/his parents? By proximity,
The child might have been Lars' baby.
Dim memory of a photo of Lars and
An an unidentified woman. Information
Decays as quickly as bodies in graves.

Also in the old graveyard are Lars and
Elisa' daughter, Britta Carolina Ingeborg,
And grandson John H. Lawrence, 
Always called Lawrence, for whom my
Youngest brother Larry is named.

In the 50s, our stillborn sister, Terry
Jeanne, was buried near an old tree.
When our father, Edmond, was buried
In the newer cemetary, I asked that 
Our little sister be moved near Dad.

In the new cemetary, Dad, Terry, and 
Grandparents Blake rest together, 
With 2 extra plots. Mom's ashes are
Scattered on all graves and in other places,
Including on Elisa's grave in Tösse.

As US and Swedish relatives traverse ocean and
Continents to visit home towns in both countries, 
We honor our forebearers' graves, noticing the
Closed circle of gamla mormor Elisa in Tösse, 
Dalsland and gamla morfar Lars in Hibbing, MN.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 31, 2012

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Slide show of El Camino pictures

See top left where Jen compiled, configured, and loaded a slide show of the pictures I took during my eight days on the El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Thanks, Jen!
If I hadn't been so exhausted, I would have taken more pictures. The slide show is representative of the beauty of the Path. 
Shout out to Karin who continues to walk and who is nearing Santiago. Karin will complete her Camino on August 2, just 3 days from now. Keep on walking, Karin. You are doing a fabulous job! Jag älskar dig!




Four years after his wife, Elisa(beth) Charlotta Anderson,
Died the day after giving birth to their 5th child, Anna,
Lars Magnus Karlsson and eldest son, Mattias Fridhof,
Left Tösse and Åmål, Sweden, in 1879, to cross the Atlantic,
Eventually living in Hibbing, Minnesota, my home town.

Anna died at five years of age, in unknown circumstances.
Of three remaining siblings, Lars Gustaf left Sweden in 1888;
My great grandmother Britta left in 1892, at 20 years of age.
Only Anders Hjalmar stayed in their homeland, generating 10 children,
Whose descendants I first visited 128 years after the initial departure.

The Mattias Fridhof's' Line and Anders Hjalmar's Line had many chidren,
Lars Gustaf's Line, six, and Britta Carolina Ingeborg's Line, only three.
Six generations later, Lars and Elisa's progeny have formed renewed 
Connections, traveling and visiting to and from Homeland and New Land.
Blood is indeed thick; when bloodlines gel, wonderment bubbles.

Ginny, from the Mattias Fridhof's Line, visited Sweden in her twenties.
In the late 1990s, she organized two Karlsson/Carlson reunions,
Inviting our Swedish cousins to also attend; ten Swedes visited.
Since the reunions, 11 more Swedes traveled to visit us in the US;
One worked in US for almost 2 years; 2 others are earning degrees.

Studying the family map/genogram, other patterns leapt from the page.
Original siblings named children after their parents and siblings.
Anders Hjalmer, staying in Sweden, named a daughter after his
Departed sister, my great grandmother, Britta Carolina Ingeborg.
Versions of my name, Anna, Anne, and Ann, skitter across the page.

Some names repeat and continue to transform down the generations.
Six women in my direct line share versions of great-great and great grandmothers' 
Christian names: Elisa(beth) Charlotta, Britta Carolina Ingeborg, 
Helen Elizabeth, Betty Helen and Jeanne Carolyn, and, me, Ann Beth. 
Because of this repetitive naming, I feel specifically connected.

Twins, twins, twins run rampant trough this family, genes in both
Direct descendant lines and those who join us via partnerships.
In one Swedish family, the grandmother's father is a twin, 
She is one of a set, and a set in children and grandchildren.
A US pair of female identical twins served in WWII armed forces.

My grandmother's brother Bill encouraged his twin granddaughters
To retain contact with a Swedish pair of similar age, which resulted
In enduring relationships including visits to homes in both countries.
Family reunion booklets include a large, special section for pictures 
And narratives of twin lore. We expect more pairs in the future.

Occupations also flow among and along the Karlsson/Carlson lines,
Again in direct descendants' as well as partners' vocational  lives.
On both sides of the Atlantic, spreading from MN thru the US,
The family lives near lakes, settling in similar topography, generating 
Skilled sailors, seamen, ship captains, sea rescue volunteers.

Family members contribute at all levels of educational settings:
Au pair, pre-school, elementary, high school, and college, 
Transmitting valuable information, experience, and expertise.
In addition to many nurses, other medical specialties are represented,
Such as doctors, dentists, energy workers, and x-ray technicians.

My grandfather was a police officer in Hibbing; two contemporary
Swedish men also protect and serve members of their communities.
Both women and men served in armed forces, in war and peace.
Many volunteer for community and international causes: Ethiopian
Orphanage and clinic, sea rescue, Save the Children, Shelter Box.

The head of this migrating family sent letters and wrote poems.
Others, both past and present, write academically, creatively, 
humorously, and, of course, offer collections of recipes and menus.
Icons on my imaginary family shield: Innovation, service, good humor.
Our motto: "Offer service to family, community, and the world."
My conclusion: I am immensely proud and happy to be related.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 30, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

In another little cabin/stuga

I am currently staying in a little cabin in the backyard of the parents of the young woman who was an au pair in Seattle, another part of this marvelous extended family in Sweden. This family visited in Seattle last summer, so we know each other well and now even better. Two teens still at home; the other two are off in Norway because jobs are plentiful, salaries are higher, and Norwegians appreciate Swedish people's work ethic. Yesterday afternoon, we went for an afternoon boat trip, including a typical Swedish summer snack: syll (pickled herring, which I love), dill potatoes (which I love), cucumbers, tomatoes, and knäcka bröd (which my grandmother called hard tack--thick, flat, cracker-like bread--which I love), and a sauce similar to tartar sauce, except with added caviar. Snack was followed by a swim. Although Lake Vänern is Sweden's largest lake (and third largest in Europe), it is fairly shallow and, therefore, warm enough for swimming. I paused to make certain Staffan and Eva didn't scream bloody murder as they dove in. Thankfully, after several minutes of psyching myself up for cold water, I jumped in. AAAAHHHH!!! I grew up swimming in lakes--just nothing like it. The water was fabulous.The sun peeked in and out from behind white puffy clouds, we laughed and paddled like children. Just one fabulous moment in a day filled with many such moments.

For example, teens Per and Stina tutored me in Swedish vocabulary. Both speak fluent English and will take a third language before graduating gymnasium (high school) next year. Per is a history buff and regaled me with fascinating facts both historically and mythologically. He wants to be an engaging teacher. As his first pupil, I concur with his vocational choice. Stina is an accomplished shutter bug; she will pursue photography as a vocation. When they were in Seattle, Stina was most recognizable from behind her camera. Following their Swedish vocabulary quiz, the following words are now part of my Swedish lexicon, but can i work them into sentences?
    Hästsko = horse shoe
    Inlägg = orthotic
     Växthus = plant house/greenhouse

I am trying out more and more Swedish sentences, and Swedish words pop into my head. I truly adore this language.

Happy in Sweden! Hej då for now.


Ingrid called to relay her safe arrival home.
Called to the phone, I was pleasantly surprised
By a land line, with cord attached to wall!
Staffan mentioned being tethered by the telephone,
Being unable to move more than several meters.
After a laugh, phone memories came in a flood.

While staying with her aunt in Wheaton, MN,
Toward the end of WWII, my mother met my 
Adoptive father when she operated a switchboard,
Taking his calls from atop telephone poles.
Dad worked for Northwest Bell his whole adult life.
After school, we sometimes received a call from poletop.

My grandmother in Wheaton had a wall phone with
Ear piece connected by cord. When we heard voices 
We were supposed to hang up to give privacy 
To other people already talking on the party line.
When silent, we turned the handle to get the operator's 
Help to use 3-digit numbers to call family members.

Before long distance was commonly used, when I went 
Back to college, for example, I called collect, 
Asking for myself as evidence of safe arrival. 
When long distance first became universal, NW Bell
Invited employees and families to test the system
By talking for three-minute intervals with distant family.

Calling a roommate inside for a phone call, she rolled
Her eyes, motioning me to bring the cordless phone to her.
Playing telephone with a friend's four-year-old daughter,
She with pink plastic phone receiver, I with thumb and pinkie
Splayed from ear to mouth, she surprised me by saying, "Beep!"
As she hung up the phone, rather than my expected, "Click!"

Light-weighted phones fall from tabletops and from pockets.
Metallic ring tones seem disembodied and hard to locate.
Cell phones continue to require inquiry, "Are you still there?"
As social media invades almost all lives, the expectation
For rapid and instantaneous communication ratchets up.
Phoned e-mails and text messages bounce around the globe.

I appreciate intimate connection with others: 
Face-to-face, voice-to-voice, heart-to-heart. 
For me, machines interfere with real relating.
I like soulful conversations, looking in people's eyes,
Watching non-verbal communication for signals.
For my time and money, keep me tethered, please.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 29, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013


In the torp (former soldier's farm house from 1800s),
So very much like min mormor/morfars (my maternal 
grandparents') 1930-50s Side Lake, MN summer cabin,
Amenities are rustic, propelling me back to childhood
Memories of differences between town and lake.

Neither Sverige torpet nor the  Minnesota lake cabin 
Had indoor plumbing, resulting in outdoor toileting, 
as well as outdoor water pump linked to indoor 
Kitchen sink water. In contrast to torpet, I think
The MN cabin had electric lights, but I could be wrong.

The body WILL eliminate, often, these aging years,
Several times in the middle of the night. Although
Swedish days last several hours longer than in
Minnesota or Washington State, the middle of 
Swedish nights are almost completely dark. 

As I awakened several times during the nights to
Realize my need to walk, yet again, down the path,
I broke into repetitive and futile debate about whether,
Indeed, this specific trip was necessary. Of course 
I wasted valuable time in a debate I always lost.

As I made my way to the toilet several times prior 
To daybreak, the same images erupted about 
Hungry animals hellbent on having me for a
Midnight snack. I comforted myself with a 
Philosophical, "If it is my time, so be it," and a laugh.

Rustic life brought me back to ancient and recent
History, to the foundation of our family experience,
To our Swedish and Minnesota familial and earthy roots.
Rustic life lengthens and deepens our conversations,
Slows our steps, pauses our thinking, opens our hearts.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 28, 2013



In torpet/soldiers' old farm house amidst meadow and woods,
We three, complemented by their husbands, entered
Personal and existential conversations/connections.
Ingrid and Anna shared experiences as well as offered
Perceptions based on shared and individual history.

In the evening and next morning before she
Departed, Anna offered me healing energetic
Interventions, even from afar the next afternoon,
Addressing my heel, my upcoming surgery, and
A  mildly tweaked finger joint, all of which are on
My left side, my receiving side, for which I am
Grappling during my Sverige/Swedish pilgrimage.
Before she physically departed, Anna left 
Three pine cones on my pillow to remind me of 
The deep and broad connections among us.
Although physically absent, Anna remained
With us, as her travel trailer testified from the lane.

Deeply addressing the smallest and largest 
Areas of life and death and all crevices between,
Ingrid and I spoke directly to our Selves
And to our Souls and to the Connections.
As co-learners, we explored, excavated, and mined
Our lives and this universe we gently inhabit.

This connection was initially accidental.
When I inquired of Marie, who had met the 
Swedes at the Minnesota reunion, she
Incorrectly remembered the person whose
Daughter misplaced a necklace at their cabin.
When I wrote an initial tentative inquiry about
A visit, Ingrid immediately responded with a
"Carpe Diem" card, writing, "It is your DUTY to
Visit your homeland"--also enclosing several
Gold paper hearts that fell out upon opening.

This connection was immediate, enduring, and 
Sustaining, as though we had met previously.
During our long talks, I sensed others arriving at
Torpet to join, enjoy, and celebrate the communion.
During our interactions and conversations,
I expanded my thinking and perceptions.
Accidental connections, synchronicities, 
Coincidences, synergies, correlations, 
Cause and effect, past lives--all are possible
And probable, irrespective of reality or facts.

I know that Ingrid and Anna would say 
That my presence equally enriches them. 
But this is my poem about their gifts to me.

Äntligen, mirrors!!!

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 26, 2013


As I enter their presence,
Ingrid och Anna gently
Surge forward in verbal, 
Spiritual, and physical
Embraces, embodying
Warmth, affection, validation.

Their partners, certainly 
Chosen from above:
Smiles, welcomes, 
Offerings, invitations;
Humorous, generous
foundation for butterfly
and dragonfly spouses.

The four of them, angels all,
Unique yet fully connected in
All dyadic combinations during 
Twenty plus year of adult 
Relationships, preceded, 
Of course, by twenty plus
Years of close twinship.

Two partnerships based on
Loving respect, deeply valued
Collaboration, and ability for 
Truth telling. Each person
Brought solid ingredients 
From her/his family,
Nurtured and developed 
During decades of clear 
Commitment to self and other.

All four Jungian functions, 
Feeling (valuing), thinking (analyzing),
Sensing (orienting via tangibility),
And intuition (knowing beyond
Proof; swimming with possibilities),
Are well represented and generously 
Shared with and among the quartet.

All are avidly loving parents
To  now-grown children, 
Thriving via encouragement for
Intently listening to personal
And vocational internal voices.
In the world, all parents and 
All grown child significantly
Contribute to local and
Worldwide communities.

Almost unbelievably,the quality of
Connection increases with each
Moment in their presence. 
Inner and outer synchronicities
Flutter and shimmer within easy
Acceptance and delighted gratitude.
At ease, and I blossom in my core
As well as within our interactions.

Being in the presence of angels
Is fine, well, and good--really, it is.
Being held in the embrace of
Delightful and grounded angels,
Standing between twins, being
Invited to wish for my heart's desire,
Is simply and wondrously delicious.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 25, 2013


Ett barnbarn bad mig om jag kunde
Lägga en blomma i sjön Vänern för Morfar.
Det ville jag, förstås!

Upplärd att fråga blomman om lov,
Svarade den, "Javisst, äntligen någon
Som frågar!"

En annan blomma blev också tillfrågad.
Den hade tre blommor med många
Meningar och metaforer.

Två kvinnor visade sin tysta respekt
För släktningar och  naturen.

Ann Beth Blake och Monica Windqvist Sindsjö 
(c) July 26, 2013


Often, to give is easy and effortless: offering that which can be afforded, will not cost, will not hurt, or will not be missed. Inconsequential, uncomplicated, simple gifts of routine, daily items or services, tap only our largesse, unfettered talent, or excess abundance.

Accepting thanks for simple gifts seems difficult. Thank yous are frequently dismissed. Gratitude is shrugged off, ignored, diminished, or brushed aside with a backwards hand wave. "It's nothing," is the avid protest, "think nothing of it, no problem."

Yet to the receiver, the gift can be helpful, nurturing, thoughtful, orienting, directing, an important impact, just the right thing at the right time, or life-sustaining.

The opposite positions of giving and receiving are such different experiences, foreign territories that interfere with each person's understanding of the other's perspective.

As a child, in response to being left too much on my own and being left  in charge with insufficient guidance and support, I became pseudo independent. I anxiously decided to always do my share, be of assistance, and earn my keep.

When given so much, I sometimes experience confusion and anxiety about worthiness, equal participation, independence/dependance, laziness, deserving; sometimes, even diminishment, childlike uncertainty, and isolation.

For example, my injured left foot. The left side is often associated with receiving that which is offered. As expressed above, I am challenged to graciously receive. One of the consequences AND gifts of my painful heel is my being less self-sufficient: I am unable to rush; I should frequently apply ice to my foot; I cannot easily be as helpful as I would like to be. People offer to give me assistance, allow me time and space to rest my foot, and dissuade me from helping out.

My version of the El Camino is my being in Sweden. My loving, generous, and hospitable Swedish relatives offer me plenty of practice for my receiving from a response of accepting appreciation. Thank you for participating so naturally and actively in my experimental experience.

To authentically give and receive requires immediacy and presence. Achieved with congruent authenticity, both positions, giving and receiving, involve vulnerability and openness. Either position, done well, is humbling.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 25, 2013