Wednesday, March 31, 2021

All Things New


The chorus of songbirds has begun to echo each dawn.  Why do they sing? Scientists have theories, but to me it seems a chorus of joy, a spontaneous celebration of the new day. Their songs have a sense of life and hope about them. The robin says "chirry up!" The cardinal answers "What cheer, cheer, cheer." 

Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature's birth? Edward Giobbi

All kinds of buds are opening, the lawns greening, the trees showing some life. We find great joy, great hope in these signs. The cold death of winter loses its strength, warm days of promise are ahead, and new life, suddenly, is all around us. New life is at our door. It blesses us. We have been given the chance to start over, and start with a fresh slate. Anything is possible. 

Earth is crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The soft velvet of an infant's cheek brings tears to our eyes, reminds us of vulnerability and possibility, of the miracle of life. Nothing touches us so deeply. This is the promise we treasure, and we celebrate each new milestone: the first smile, the first word, the first step, the first day at school. 

The Christian tradition often speaks of newness, a new order, a clean slate. I rest in that promise, especially this year. 

1 Peter 1:3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...

So I share with you this prayer poem from Celtic Daily Prayer... from the Northumbria Community...

If my lips could sing as many songs
as there are waves in the sea:
if my tongue could sing as many hymns
as there are ocean billows:
if my mouth
filled the firmament with praise:
if my face
shone like the sun and moon together:
if my hands
were to hover in the sky like powerful eagles
and my feet
ran across mountains as swiftly as the deer:
all that would not be enough
to pay You fitting tribute,
O Lord my God.
                                              -Unknown author

Chopin's Spring Waltz

Many blessings to you for this spring season and this Holy Week. Please leave your links in the comments below and I will round them up throughout the day or days ahead.

Join Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town as she ponders redemption and shares a  John O'Donnell poem.

Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise reminds us of Christ's commandment.

Find Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche to read her artists prayer.

Don't miss Fran Haley's post at Lit Bits and Pieces as she shares her journey of hope.

A Golden Shovel poem digs deep into renewal at Ramona's  Pleasures from the Page.

Carol Varsalona shares delight at the end of an arduous journey at Beyond Literacy Link

Chris Margocs joins us today, with her post at Horizon 51.  Welcome, Chris!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Poetic Singing

 A new concept for me: the sounds in words can sing like notes on a scale. The idea comes from Gregory Orr's book, A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry, which I've been working my way through for a while now. The poem I will share with you today is my response to an exercise from the chapter entitled Singing. There are quite a few rules with this exercise which I found it challenging but interesting. So... here goes...

Write a poem using the following eight words:

  1. Willow (use as a noun)
  2. Swallow (use as either verb or noun)
  3. Lame (adjective)
  4. Disdain (use as either verb or noun)
  5.  Flame (use as either verb or noun)
  6. Green (adjective)
  7. Sway (verb)
  8. Gave (verb)


  • The poem must be ten to twelve lines long
  • You must use all the words
  • You can use them in whatever order you wish
  • You can't use more than one of the listed words in each line, i.e., you must space the designated words throughout the poem -- you can't jam several of them in the same line.
Hint: If you find yourself aware of the sound echoes and effects that these eight words suggest, feel free to use words of your own choosing that continue, or expand on, or play off the sounds you 're responding to in these eight words. Doing so will heighten and possibly alter the sonic texture of your poem.

When the world turns green with a passion

When it bursts into life like a flame

When daffodils sway

On the first balmy day

And the torments of winter grow lame

Then give thanks for the turn of the season

For the swallow designing her nest

For you'll hear no disdain

In a songbird's refrain

And the willow weaves shade for your rest

© Karen Eastlund

I'm interested in Orr's approach to poetry, emphasizing poetry's work of bringing order out of disorder.  I hope you find something of interest in this exercise. I admit that I wonder... would it "sing" more if I had freedom? What do you think?

Poetry Friday is hosted by Susan at Soul Blossom Living.  Be sure to check out everyone's plans for celebrating April as Poetry Month.  Thanks for hosting, Susan!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Vær Så God... Tusen Takk!

Curious about the words above? Here's a translation:

"Vær så god" literally means "be so good" as in "be so good as to join me." It is an idiom often used to call everyone to the table, and would mean "here you go" or "dig in." I'm using it somewhat liberally in this post, with the emphasis on "join me." 

"Tusen takk" means "a thousand thanks." I heard "tusen takk" or "mange takk" over and over as a child. If my parents visited at a friend's house, it was "tusen takk" as they left. "Mange takk" is "many thanks."

I'm sure that Otto and Henrietta used these words often in the restaurant. There was a certain pleasure and pride in offering hospitality, never mind the hard work. Otto spent most of his daylight hours at the restaurant. For a while, he even ran two restaurants on Main Street until a friend pointed out that Otto was competing with himself. Maybe that struck a chord because soon he was back to one restaurant.

Once her children were old enough, Henrietta went to help at the restaurant. I think everyone shared jobs there, but apparently she baked all the pies. In order to take care of household needs, she sometimes hired a woman to come to the house and sew for her. This beautiful quilt, passed down to me, is an example. 

I remember sleeping under this quilt as a child, especially when we had a full house. We think it was made by one of Grandma's seamstresses, perhaps a woman from the Fossum family.

This brings us to an early memory. My sister Marion remembers walking with Margaret, Emil Jr. and our cousin, Virginia Ike, from the restaurant to Otto and Henrietta's one evening when they were all quite young. They walked along the dirt alleyway, between big bushes and through scary shadows, and into Grandma and Grandpa's house. It was dark inside so they turned on a light, probably a single lightbulb in the ceiling, when they saw an old woman, unknown to them, come out of the pantry. Her hair was white, her gown was long and white, and she spoke a language they didn't understand. Maybe she was a ghost! The kids screamed and ran back to the restaurant.  Once they explained their fright and were calmed down, they found out that she was a seamstress, a friend to the family, hired to come and do some sewing for Grandma. Whew! Close call!!! 

Virginia Ike, Marion & Margaret play wedding.

My family had many reasons to say "mange takk" to Otto and Henrietta. During the depression, when my oldest siblings were small and my father was between jobs, our grandparents said "vær så god" and our family moved in with them. Several times my older siblings lived there, went to school in Spring Grove, ate at the restaurant, and slept in the upstairs of the big old house. They remember those days fondly, and surely we can't say "tusen takk" enough for the generous support of our family.

Three Brothers:
Jacob & Johanna...Otto & Henrietta... Edward & Ingen

Otto had three brothers who emigrated to the US, several seen in the photo above. Jacob and Johanna moved to North Dakota to pursue farming. Edward and Ingen lived in Spring Grove and raised ten children there. The tenth was a boy named Timan, which translates from Norwegian to "tenth man." I rather love that bit of the story, especially since our family had ten kids also. 

Hans Evenson

Otto's brother Hans went to prospect for gold in the Klondike and, like many others, he came back penniless and in poor health. Apparently Otto again said "vær så god" because Hans lived with Otto and Henrietta for a while, and would be seen in the restaurant.  When Hans died, Otto provided a gravestone by donating a portion of the marble countertop from the restaurant. 

You can still find it in the Trinity Cemetery in Spring Grove.

Mange tusen takk to Otto and Henrietta, for all their hard work and hospitality. And tusen takk to all who stop by to read about them. Much appreciated!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Early Days in Spring Grove

I've been writing off and on about my Grandpa Otto Evenson's restaurant in Spring Grove, MN. I don't remember the restaurant myself, but my older siblings do, and have told me about it. My brother Emil, who spent a good deal more time in Spring Grove than I did, wrote this poem:

Grandpa and Grandma's Town

There is a small Southeast Minnesota town
where the dogs all bark in Norwegian
and lift their hind legs to salute
lutefisk barrels lining store fronts.

My delight is center on Main,
Otto Evenson's Cafe, with its
blue plate special for 25 cents,
roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy,
peas and a scoop of Dolly Madison ice cream.

There was a fascinating cigar lighter
that sparked when the lever was pulled to
light the cigar. And then there was the bottle
of Spring Grove pop. My favorite,
Strawberry Soda.

What fun it was to call my aunt and hear at
the other end, "Hello, is that you, then?" as if
it would be another.

The church stood at one end of town,
the school at the other, like two bookends
guarding everyone between from all ignorance and
evil. They did their work well. Catechism and
Primer were heeded well by townsfolk.

Not that everything was a bed of roses.
Everyone knew their neighbor's business,
good or bad.

But at the same time they were supportive.
Cheered when home team won.
Mourned when there was a death,
pulled together when there was a cause.
They were part and parcel of the town's life.

They say you can't go home again but boyhood
memories come flooding in when I walk the streets
of Grandpa and Grandma's town.

© Emil W. Evenson, Jr.

Spring Grove Soda Pop is still made. If you are ever in town you must try some. According to the current website there are nine flavors: strawberry, rhu-berry, root beer, lemon sour, grape, creamy orange, orange, cream soda and black cherry. So so sweet!!! Read all about its history here.

Speaking of history, I came across a wonderful collection of historic photos from Spring Grove via the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center.  You can see the entire collection here.

Of course I looked for pictures of Otto's Restaurant or other images that related to my family. I was not disappointed.

Otto was a Totning, which means he was from the Toten region of Norway. This is a photo of the Totning Lag, or festival, when all those from Toten gathered to celebrate their heritage. Circa 1916. My dad would have been 9 that year, so it could be him sitting in the very front of the group.

Logging was not for the faint hearted. Note that this log is being pulled through town on runners, on unpaved streets, no doubt by a team of horses that we can't see. Otto and brothers worked this trade before he married and started the restaurant. You can see the restaurant behind these guys, the sign behind the man on the far right.

Check out the clothes... I'd say this is sometime in the 1920's. You can see that Otto had competition from Hanson's Restaurant, just a few doors down. Unpaved roads.

I don't recognize anyone in this photo, taken on a homecoming celebration, but this is the best close-up I've found of the restaurant's front. I wish I could enter this picture and walk into the restaurant.  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words... maybe one of these will inspire a poem by you.

More on Otto and his restaurant in coming days. 

Today is Poetry Friday. Thanks to Heidi Mordhorst for hosting... find her and links to other poetry at