Thursday, September 17, 2020

Morning Kitchen

 It's Friday, time for a little poetry. The poem below is all about sound. And coffee.  Do they go together? Of course!  

Favorite mug waits for that first cup of coffee

Morning Kitchen

Slippers shuffle on the hard surface
Like brooms whisking away the last wisps of sleep

Water whooshes on and off
Last drips plink, plink, plink in the sink

Coffee beans shudder into the hopper

Water splashed, lid stumbles into place
Firm SNAP of switch

Gurgle gurgle hiss... gurgle gurgle hiss... gurgle...
Drip, drip, drip

Slippers shuffle in anticipation
At last, the splish splash of coffee

Sip... hot, hot, hot! Wheeze into steaming mug
Chair creaks...I slurp... gulp...Aaaaaahhhh!

Slippers tap, tap, tapping
Coaxing rhythm into my day

© Karen Eastlund

It's Poetry Friday, so join the fun! Matt Forest Esenwine is hosting today at his blog, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme. I'll look for you there!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Finding Direction

 Welcome to the Spiritual Journey Thursday group. I'm hosting this month and I've chosen the theme of "Finding Direction" for this month's sharing. That said, writers in this group are welcome to post on any matter of spiritual life. I look forward to reading them. 

I recently saw a lovely hour-long Nature program about weasels. Someone in Great Britain has made his property into a weasel haven, complete with hidden tunnels, cameras, and various nooks and crannies for weasels to hide or raise a family. This Brit is fascinated with weasels! One of the enduring images from the program was of an orphaned least weasel. This creature's eyes were still closed, and it was indeed tiny in the hands of the Brit. The baby weasel was constantly wiggling, throwing it's head first this way and that, mouth open. The rooting behavior. Any nursing mother would recognize it instantly. The creature is hungry and is doing everything it can to find it.

Sometimes, in these last few months in particular, I have felt like that little weasel. Blind. Unsure where to go to get what I needed. Many of my usual places... church, library, etc., were not available. My usual activities were not considered safe. I was doing what I could, but at times it felt like I was throwing myself blindly one way and then another. 

I wish I could offer easy answers, but I can't. My process for finding direction is messy and wastes energy. I admit that I often try to find my own way instead of asking God for direction. Many verses encourage us to turn to God, but the one I have in front of me, recently and beautifully colored by one of my granddaughters, is Exodus 14:14.

The Lord will fight for you, 

you need only be still. - Exodus 14:14

Now... if I could just learn to be still... turned toward God... ears open.

My church had been approached by a developer regarding sale of some of our property. We deliberated and several church leaders encouraged us to take the deal, but the congregation expressed concerns. Instead, we put the idea on hold. Within months the local Habitat for Humanity organization approached us, offering to upgrade the house on our property and use it as their office. It was the best possible outcome. Had we not waited quietly, listening as best we could, we would have missed this opportunity. I believe God was fighting for us, leading us in the best direction.

My prayer today is that you and I and indeed the country and the whole world find a way to listen and be still...turned toward a way of peace and health, hope and love.

One day, when I least expected it, a little blessing came along to encourage me. I found these on my front step... I share them in the hope that you also will be blessed.

Please share your links in the comments below and I will round them up as best I can during the day.

My car self destructed a few weeks ago. My husband has been sharing his truck with me, and we have been hunting for a replacement. I should be picking up my new (slightly used) car just about the time you will be reading this.  Hooray!

Stop by Linda Mitchell's today as she honors the last days of a loved one.

Find Ramona as she shines a light into her prayers and pathway.

Visit Margaret for a poem of alchemy and direction.

Ruth's post tells us about her (sometimes scary) journey. 

Click this link to read Fran Haley's beautiful poem about an autumn journey.

Carol Varsalona posts here about a frustrating and overwhelming day.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Blue Homage

I am delighted to be taking some online poetry lessons with Georgia Heard. Her first prompt was to begin a poem with "Give me back..." My draft is below.  I would be happy for your constructive input.

Only once in my life have I seen water look as it did the night described, and I didn't get a photo of it. Frankly, I haven't seen any images as stunning as what I describe in my poem. The photo below approaches it in color and horizontal orientation so I decided to share it. I hope it works for you.

water waves and light

photo by Dean Hebert

Blue Homage


Give me back those few seconds

Just at dusk

In our battered old canoe

My hand dipping into the cool water

The paddle rough in my palm

You in the stern

Setting the rhythm


The very last beam of daylight

Hovered over the dark water

Sprinkling it with needles of

Brilliant neon blue

Millions of ripples

Like saints before an altar

Glimmering fervently 


A stunning sight

A fleeting homage to the day

A splendor I cannot forget


If only you had seen it… 


© Karen Eastlund

Poetry Friday is hosted by Carol Varsalona today. Please click in at Beyond Literacy Link and follow the links for many wonderful poetic offerings.

Also, I think you'll enjoy my recent post, the first in series of family stories about my Grandpa Otto's Cafe.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Velkommen til Otto Evenson's Cafe

 Meet my paternal grandparents, Otto Evenson & Henrietta Quinnell Evenson, both of Norwegian descent. Henrietta's parents emigrated from Norway to Iowa, and Henrietta was born in Iowa City in 1881.

Otto, his brothers, and their wives.  Otto and Henrietta are the couple in the middle.

Otto was born in 1870 on a farm near Toten, Norway. Several of his brothers had already come to the U.S., so at age 15 he left his home country, arriving in the U.S. in 1885. At first Otto tried farming or working in sawmills, but five years after he married Henrietta he started a restaurant in Spring Grove.

Otto married Henrietta in 1898

Spring Grove, Minnesota, was the first Norwegian settlement in Minnesota, located in the beautiful southeast corner of the state. Otto's establishment moved between several buildings over his 40+ years in business, the photo below pictures an early one. That's Otto in a bowler hat on the left. 

Below is a later picture, probably in a different building. You can see Henrietta in her apron, and Otto beside her. They sold candy and tobacco and other small items in the front, had a soda fountain in the middle, and tables farther back. Otto sold so much Wrigley's gum that he won two chairs and a cocoa set. 

The restaurant was open all day every day from 1904 until 1945. It became a home away from home, not just to Otto and family, but to many in the community.  Townsfolk would come in for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie, notice a loose button on a coat or shirt, and ask for a needle and thread to sew the button. And sometimes, having been supplied with needle and thread, the person might even complain that the needle was the wrong size for the task at hand.

Here's a blurb from Spring Grove: Minnesota's First Norwegian Settlement by Chad Muller:

My grandpa liked to be generous. During the depression, Otto wanted to serve a good meal for a little as possible. He offered a blue plate special of roast beef, potatoes and gravy, peas, and a scoop of ice cream for dessert. The charge was 5¢... over the years it went up to 25¢. 
Otto also had a sense of humor. When my dad, Emil, was a student at Luther College, in Decorah, IA, he would bring friends back to dinner at the restaurant. Otto would get out all the hats he could find (I assume both men's and women's) and put them on one after another, improvising a persona with each one and causing much hilarity.  The teachers in town often ate at Otto's, and he once got them laughing so hard that a teacher had to step outside and catch her breath before coming back to finish her meal. 
One of my brothers, being a small child at the time, was fascinated by a cigar lighter in the restaurant. If you bought a cigar, you could light it and smoke it right there! 
He remembers the Midland Jump Spark Cigar Lighter. The spark would be fascinating. 
I can't say the same for the cigar smoke.

My older siblings remember eating at the restaurant. It seems that grandparents were known for spoiling even then. Pies and ice creams were shared liberally, and jack knives were given to the boys, perhaps even before the boys were old enough for them.  

Grandpa was proud of his restaurant and the hospitality shown there. He and his family worked hard to provide good meals in a clean and inviting atmosphere. As his family grew up they all helped in the restaurant. Even when his own children got jobs of their own, he would call them at their jobs to say that he needed them at the restaurant. I don't know how that turned out, but I do know that these photos make me wish I could have seen it myself. 

I'll share more stories about Otto, Henrietta and the restaurant in days to come. Please stop back for more...

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Art and the Spirit

It's August, and time for our Spiritual Journey group to share thoughts. Our friend Margaret Simon has suggested we write about art and spirituality. This prompt came at just the right time for me, as I had wanted to work on some ekphrastic poems anyway, and the spiritual component came forward quite naturally. So... to remind those who are new to the idea, here is a description of ekphrasis:


“Description” in Greek. An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.

I chose a favorite N.C. Wyeth painting, Egrets in Summer, because I love its sense of calm and beauty. Once, while in NYC, I even peered inside the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building where it is held, in hopes of seeing it in person. Alas... no luck. Nonetheless, I have a nice double-page print in a book of Wyeth's work, and I relied upon that for my inspiration. 

Below is my attempt to marry the three strands: poetry, spirituality, and art. As I worked on my poem, I learned that all egrets are in the heron family, and that some herons have a white phase, so this work is sometimes called Herons in Summer, and sometimes Egrets in Summer. I chose to go with "herons" in my poem. 

Also, you may want to know that I did not originally think of this as a spiritual painting, but as mentioned in the description above, my reflections and attempt at amplification led me in that direction. So, without further ado...

Herons in Summer by N.C. Wyeth

Wherever Two or Three are Gathered

In the quiet of early morning

Heron takes wing

Like one of the faithful

Suddenly called to glory

White robes flapping

In earnest devotion


Sinuous necks turn and

Intent eyes follow as

The pond mirrors her crossing


It is a moment of holy beauty

A celebration of grace

Steeped with serenity

Lauded with lilies



Prayers of adoration

Rustle in the undulating reeds


   ©Karen Eastlund

Frederick Buechner writes about beauty this way:

Beauty is to the spirit what food is to the flesh. A glimpse of it in a young face, say, or an echo of it in a song fills an emptiness in you that nothing else under the sun can. Unlike food, however, it is something you never get your fill of. It leaves you always aching with longing not so much for more of the same as for whatever it is, deep within and far beyond both it and yourself, that makes it beautiful.

"The beauty of holiness" is how the Psalms name it (29:2), and "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee" (42:1) is the way they describe the ache and the longing.


~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words

Wyeth's original work is 83" by 159", and I wish we could see it in its full glory. You can see a larger, clearer copy here.

Many thanks to Margaret Simon for hosting today. Find our gathering on the spiritual journey thread at Reflections on the Teche.

I wish you beauty, serenity, grace and celebration.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Summer Shivers

We had a lovely visit with two of our grandkids recently. Lots of creative activities, games, movies, etc. The temperature was over 90 every day they were here, too hot to do much outside, but we did make a water slide on our back lawn, and we found some blasters to squirt water at each other. Tweenagers are good fun.

I loved their interesting and amusing conversations. One conversation in particular led me to write this poem. I hope it won't make you queasy.



I'm at the dinner table
in need of a reprieve
on my plate is cauliflower
and some peas, which make me heave.

I love to eat these french fries
(see the ketchup on my sleeve?)
but cauliflower gives me shivers
and the peas... just make me heave.

I'm quite a picky eater
many foods cause me to wheeze
but the worst is cauliflower...
unless it's peas. They make me heave.

    © Karen Eastlund


I hope you will enjoy the week ahead. The Poetry Friday roundup is at Catherine's today. Join the crowd for further poetry examples, ideas, insights and laughs.

Also, I recently posted another month of my grandmother's diary. August of 1928 gives a glimpse of her busy life on a farm in Iowa. My mother and father are mentioned, Doris & Emil, and my two oldest siblings, Margaret(te) and Marion. Check it out!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Grace Pierce's diary, August 1928

Here's a photo of my Grandma Grace with her siblings, the children of Henry and Margaret Masters:
From left to right in back - Guy and Frank Masters
Middle row - Jennie, Addie, Grace
Front - Iva

August 1, Wed.
Cloudy nearly all day, and sprinkled at times. We patched sacks in afternoon. Frank Sullivan came over and put brake bands in the car. We had a very hard storm in the eve and rained hard all night, about the hardest rain we have had.

August 2, Thurs.
Cloudy and rainy by spells all day. Elmer went to B.O. with John Reinsvold and came back with Phil Seelye who took two cows to a Courtney (?) that was here yesterday and bought them for $75 and $80. Eda and Jim came down for nut meats that Elmer got for them. The social tonight is postponed until Saturday night. Rained quite hard in eve, we went to bed early and I was awake for two or three hours in the night.

August 3, Fri.
Rainy as usual. Glen called quite early and wanted to know if I would come down if he came to Burr Oak so Elmer took me over. We left at 8:45 and the roads were very bad from here to B.O. Lillie had been quite bad for three days and had spit blood a little and it had scared her so, she almost went into spasms. Dr. Svebakken came after dinner and told her there was no reason to be alarmed as it didn’t come from her lungs. It rained hard again in afternoon.

August 4, Sat.
It cleared up about 9 and sun shone bright all day. Glen went to work in afternoon and I came home with Luella and Raymond, and Elmer came to Raymonds after me and we got stuck on the flats coming home. Anita and Luella got a bushel of peaches for $2.25. We went to ice cream social at church lawn in evening.

Fresh Peach Topping for Ice Cream

August 5, Sun.
Very nice day and warm. I picked cucumbers in morning and Anita mopped and we went to church with Jim and Eda and came back with Elmers car and he went to Highlandville to a ball game. In afternoon we went over to Gene Headingtons and stopped in at Luella’s on the way back and she had been here while we were gone. Raymonds brought Elmer home about 6.

August 6, Mon.
Very nice but quite warm & windy. We washed and had to borrow Violet’s boiler for ours leaked. We canned peaches the rest of the day. At noon Anita and Elmer were over to Raymonds after something he sent to Harmony for. Arthur Manning helped cut thistles in afternoon. We had a rain in evening.

August 7, Tues.
Oh such a hot day. I thought we would melt. We ironed all forenoon, and had some to do in the afternoon. Arthur Manning was helping cut thistles and was here to dinner. In afternoon Elmer went down to Merles and brought back some ice-cream which cooled us a little. Elmer went to B.O. in eve. Ethel called me and wanted me to help when they thresh.

August 8, Wed.
The hottest day we have had this summer. In morning I picked two dishpans of cucumbers before Anita went to Canton to have her hair cut and Marilyn and I went up to Herbs. After we got back we found out we would have threshers in afternoon so she had to go again after dinner for meat and things. Luella went to LaCrosse with Joe and Iona and after she got home she came over and helped at suppertime. I thought I would never get the dishes washed and wiped. The men were about cooked when they came to supper. It rained hard and hailed quite hard in eve.

August 9, Thurs.
Very hot again, especially in forenoon. We were so tired we didn’t do very much. Elmer took a grist to B.O. and wasn’t home at dinner. About 8 Anita, Marilyn and I went to Ladies Aid at Krumms with Jim and Eda, we got home at 6-30.

August 10, Fri.
Very nice day and cool. Anita and I and Marilyn went to Decorah in forenoon. We saw Lillie a few minutes. She has been sick since Tues. night and the nurse is there. Luella and Iona and Verlie went down in afternoon and Lillie had a baby girl, 7 ½ lbs, born at 2-10 and she and baby were getting along fine. Luella came over and told us she got home. Roy Wanless house caught fire and Anita and I went over and so did Luella but it was out before we got there. They finished threshing here just after dinner and threshed to Louie’s. LuVerne was here in afternoon and went home about 5.

August 11, Sat.
Another nice cool day. We washed and washed windows and cleaned up the house and picked and dressed two chickens and mowed the lawn in eve and ironed. We drove over to Luella’s and got some Whitney apples for pickles. Elmer threshed at Louie’s and got home about 2-30. He went to Burr Oak in eve. We had our first corn today.

August 12, Sun.
A lovely day. We had company: Add, Claude and Jim and Eda. In afternoon Glen, Florence and Mrs. Erickson drove up a few minutes. We went up to Howards in eve but they were gone. Elmer bought 4 lambs off Walter Rheuwinkle and he brought them over today, gave $35 for them.

August 13, Mon.
Very nice day. Alva came after me about 10 and I went over and helped Ethel with threshers. We didn’t have them until at supper time and only had 13 then. We got through with our work about 8 o-clock and I wrote to Doris after 10.

August 14, Tues.
Another beautiful day, but a little warmer. We had 14 men at dinner and thought we wouldn’t have them for supper but did. Anita came over after me to go down to Frank Bartle’s after blackberries so Ethel got Marion Nash to help at supper and I came home. She paid 25cts for blackberries. Elmer was threshing at Snells.

August 15, Wed.
Very warm day. Elmer went threshing, Anita and I took Marilyn down to Violets and weighed her. She weighed 16 lbs. About 2-30 we had a great surprise. Doris, Emil and kids drove in. They came to Spring Grove the night before. Emil went right back to S.G. and we all went over to Luella’s after choke-cherries and apples. In eve Anita went over to Luella’s while Elmer went to B.O. Margarette was very restless all night and so was Marion. A man stopped here about midnight and asked the way to Canton and I didn’t go to sleep for three hours.

August 16, Thurs.
Another scorcher. Anita, Marilyn and I went to Decorah early and went down to see Lillie and baby. They were getting along quite well. The baby has had jaundice but is better. The nurse went today noon and Lillie’s sister is there. She charged $60 for nine days. Olga McCabe and children and her sister Gladys and children and another girl from Lake City came about 2, we were going to stay to supper and it looked so stormy they went about 2-30. Elmer came home from threshing as it rained hard. We all slept good all night.

August 17, Fri.

Very cool but nice. Elmer went to the Fair about 11 o’clock. He took a grist to B.O. first. We got corn today and did our washing and Doris did hers, and we made pickles and Anita picked cucumbers and mopped. Emil came some time in the night.

Dill pickles from cucumbers and dill sprigs

August 18, Sat.
Cool in morning but warm in middle of day. Emil, Doris, kids and myself went to Decorah and went down to see Lillie and Doris bought a blanket for the baby. We stopped at Elsie’s on way home and Doris got a head of cauliflower for pickles. We got home about noon, Elmer came home from Leistikows threshing and went down to Vernie’s and threshed until after 7. Anita had 7 cows milked. Elmer went to B.O. Emil went to Spring Grove about 3. Gerald got kicked in the face by LuVerne’s pony and Luella and Joe took him to Mabel to Dr. Nass and had it sewed.

August 19, Sun.
Very warm day. We got things ready to go for a picnic at Decorah and Emil came about 11-30 and Anita, Doris, kids and myself went with him and there was so many at the Park we couldn’t eat there and we went over to Pulpit Rock and all the tables there were in use so we went up to the College and ate under a shade tree and the mosquitoes nearly chewed us up. We drove around for a while and came home and had a blow out before we got to Burr Oak. We were nearly cooked when we got home. Emil stopped to the ball game and we came on. Luella and Fern and kids came over a few minutes. It looked very rainy but didn’t here but hailed terrible at Joe Morans.

August 20, Mon.
Rainy in morning  and by spells all day. Emil went to S.G. in morning. Ed Arnold was here and fixed the steps to the granary. I paid him $2.00. We had so much to do today and Marilyn wouldn’t sleep hardly at all. We had a very hard storm about 6-30, terrible lightning and the hardest rain I ever saw.

August 21, Tues.
Very nice day. We did our washing and Doris did hers and we hung clothes out all day, as soon as one line-full dried we put out another. Afternoon Elmer and Anita and Marilyn went to Mabel to see Dr. Nass about Anita’s ear. He dug the wax out and she could hear a little better. I was about tired out and took Margarette to bed early. Marilyn was very fussy all forenoon but was good after she took a ride.
Got $3.21 from Yeomen

August 22, Wed.
Nice in forenoon but cloudy in afternoon. We did our ironing and I picked cucumbers. Elmer was threshing at Leistikows. About 3, Anita, Doris, kids and myself went over to Luella’s after apples. Margarette and I rode in the back of truck. Emil came about 7. It started to rain about 6-30 and kept it up all night and rained very hard and had terrible lightning and thunder. Rain came in every room and about ruined Anita’s sewing machine that was on the porch.

August 23, Thurs.
Cloudy nearly all day and much cooler. Doris, Emil and kids went to Spring Grove about 10. I peeled Whitney apples enough for two quarts and then washed a few clothes and ironed them about 4. Elmer went to B.O. in afternoon. Anita sold her chickens, about 45 of them, to Phil Seelye at 25cts per lb. They brought nearly $45. The water in Decorah is very high. The river is highest ever known and Dry Run is out of its banks too.

August 24, Fri.
A lovely day. I got a pail of corn and dried for Doris and picked cucumbers and we peeled and canned 6 qts of Whitney apples. After noon we went to Decorah. Elmer went to a ball game, we went down to Lillie’s and I took a hood and jacket for baby. I gave Anita $3 for her birthday and she got a camera by putting a little more with it. The game wasn’t out until nearly six, so it was late when we got home. LuVerne came over while they went to the dance and stayed all night. The water was quite high in Decorah today.

August 25, Sat.
A grand day but quite cool, Elmer was threshing at Leistikows after 9 o’clock. He and LuVerne took a grist to B.O. early in morning. I got two pails of corn today, one for Doris and one for Anita. I sewed on my apron all afternoon and could have finished it if I could have found one bunch of white braid. Elmer went to Burr Oak in eve after grist. There was a shower at Bakers for Lena tonight but Elmer and Anita didn’t go.

August 26, Sun.
Cloudy most of day. Elmer had to thresh at Leistikows until noon and it was too wet on other piece so they moved to Lews place. Emil, Doris and kids came about 10-15 and we all went over to Raymonds to dinner. Emil went home right after dinner and Elmer and Raymond went to Decorah to ball game. Luella brought us home and Merle, Elsie and Deane and Geo and Myra stopped here. Frank and Cora had been here while we were gone, and I was sorry we were gone. Elmer didn’t get here until 6:45. It rained again in night.

August 27, Mon.
A lovely day but quite windy. Doris did her washing but we only washed a few of ours. Doris ironed all of hers and so did we. Emil came down in eve but we were all in bed. He brought some ice-cream so we got up.

August 28, Tues.
Another nice day. Emil went home about 8. Elmer went threshing at Lyle’s on Lews place and got home at three. We made jell and apple butter and I made cookies and picked a dishpan of cucumbers. Elmer went to Burr Oak in eve. Anita took the three kids pictures and mine with them. I know it will be a scream.

August 29, Wed.
Rainy again for a change? I peeled and canned some duchess apples. The mail man slid in a ditch down by the school-house and Leistikows took a team down to pull him out. Elmer went to B.O. and was on the way to Howards and Arthur Morrison had a heavy truck and it slewed around and bent the axle in Elmer’s car so Rex Ward brought him home. Lyle and Sena Baker were married today and they chiveried them tonight. Emil came down and they are going home tomorrow.

August 30, Thurs.
A lovely day once more. I got up quite early and called Doris and Emil and they got things packed on the car and started from here about 7, but it took them quite a while to get up the hill east of the school house as they went by Raymonds to get apples. There was only one thing they left and I sent it in the mail today. We washed and ironed some and I canned 7 qt of apples. Elmer was to B.O. all day and brought the car home. It is very quiet around here today without Margarette and Marion. I got a letter from Hazel and Leslie has a job at Sidell, Ill. I hope he likes it and can keep it.

August 31, Fri.
A very nice day, but pretty cool in morning. Elmer went to Louie’s to thresh but they didn’t finish. Anita and Luella went to Lanesboro to a Club meeting at Bertha Nelson’s. LuVerne stayed here, they got home about 4-30.