All posts by cynthiainmahtowa

February Adventure

Today’s post comes from cynthiainmahtowa.

The First of February 2018 was a beautiful, sunny, crispy -10 F day. There was enough snow to snowshoe and I hadn’t been in the woods since I couldn’t remember when…years before my hip surgery. It was a Thursday, and Sunday afternoon our book club was meeting at my house to discuss “A River Runs Through It” by Norman McLean. As our group often does off- book things like skiing, hiking, canoeing, I thought it would be fun for people to ski or snowshoe down the Moose Horn River that meanders through my land.

But first to check it out.  Friend Daina and her Corgi, Jack, were willing to go through the woods, to the marsh and over the river with me. When we got to the marsh, however, Daina was afraid Jack would go through the ice and not be able to get out so she decided to take him home. I decided to travel on.

When I got to the river, I ventured on to the ice for about half a dozen steps when the ice gave out under me.  Suddenly, I was up to my armpits in ice-cold water. I don’t know how deep it was, my metal and rubber snowshoes wouldn’t let me get my feet under me.  Alas, I thought, “This is how I die.”

Though somehow I must not have believed that because I was hanging on to my Icelandic wool hat that I love and was NOT going to let it go! After a brief struggle, I floated myself over to the side of the river where there appeared to be a solid snow covered something. When I got to the embankment I saw a block of ice below me that I managed to get my snowshoes on.  With my one pole (I had hiking poles with me) I managed to pull myself back onto the ice, get standing up, pick up my other pole that I had left on top of the ice and headed back home.

Fortunately, I had on my polyester down parka and nylon ski pants. So I was not weighted down with water-soaked clothing. The worst was the water in my boots. I figured if I kept moving as fast as I could, I wouldn’t succumb to hypothermia. I was about 15 minutes through the woods and up the pasture from the house. At the power easement I considered going back on the road so someone would see me, but it was farther and open and the wind was bitter.

With some difficulty I got myself over the wire fencing and into the pasture. Halfway to the house, I saw Daina coming down to meet me. She, being brilliant in emergencies – and having experienced her husband’s hypothermia a few years ago – took over. She helped me into the house, out of my Sorel-like boots of man-made materials with frozen laces, my wet clothes and into the shower…then into bed with three or four layers of blankets, mugs of hot tea, chicken soup and liquid jello.

I never shivered, though in bed it felt like my deep core wanted to shake. But the adrenalin was coursing through my body the rest of the day and I was fully warmed up in time to feed my animals that evening…and before the day was over I cleaned and re-organized my cupboard of mugs.

I don’t know what the experience has done to my psyche, but looking back there seems to be a sense of appreciation and direction and confidence and generosity that I didn’t have before.

And when I got kicked in the thigh by Derby Horse the following Friday, the resulting hematoma didn’t seem like much of a big deal.

What was your scariest “adventure”?

Telling Tales

Today’s post comes to us from Cynthia.

Every April for the past 11 years I have gone to a weekend Norwegian language camp for adults at Concordia Language Camp near Bemidji MN.  Last year one of the attendees gave a presentation on the Norwegian poet Olav Hauge with several references to Robert Bly’s translations. So this past April I volunteered to do a little presentation about my friendship with Robert (and Ruth) and tell three fairy tales.

I met Ruth and Robert when they first moved to Moose Lake, MN, in 1980…a town just down the road from Mahtowa, where I live. Many of our first conversations were about fairy tales.  On Robert’s 63rd birthday, Ruth organized us to do an enactment of “Vasalissa the Beautiful” as a gift for him.  It is a Russian fairy tale that features Baba Yaga, a witch who lives in a house that revolves on a chicken leg. I played the witch. We had recently butchered chickens and I used rooster legs for my hands.  Robert fell asleep. When he woke up he asked to keep the legs.

In 1984 while traveling around Ireland on a tour with Robert, Ruth and Gioia Timpanelli, I was mesmerized by Gioia’s telling of the Irish legendof Diarmuid and Grania.

Sometime around 1986 or so, Robert began an annual Valentine’s Day free reading in Moose Lake. He read his poetry;, he read other poets’ poems. And he almost always told a fairy tale.

So started me on my love affair with fairy tales. But then Ruth and Robert moved to Minneapolis so I had to learn to tell the fairy tales myself.  I loved telling them to children when I taught day care, but this year I discovered that telling them to adults is equally fun. At Norwegian camp I told three of my favorite Asbjørnson and Moe tales: Askeladden (The Ash Lad), Lurvehette (Tatterhood), and Tre Bukkene Bruse.  I told the first two in English, the third in Norwegian.  For fun, I am sharing Tre Bukkene Bruse with you in the Norwegian, because it is such fun to tell it that way and I trust you will recognize the story from your childhood even if you don’t know norsk.

Tre Bukkene Bruse

Det var engang tre bukker som skulle gå til seters og gjøre seg fete, og alle tre så hette de Bukkene Bruse. På veien var det en bro over en foss, som de skulle over, og under den broen bodde et stort, fælt troll, med øyne som tinntallerkener, og nese så lang som et riveskaft.

Først så kom den yngste Bukkene Bruse og skulle over broen.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen.

“Hvem er det som tripper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Å, det er den minste Bukkene Bruse; jeg skal til seters og gjøre meg fet,” sa bukken, den var så fin i målet.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” sa trollet.

“Å nei, ta ikke meg, for jeg er så liten jeg; bi bare litt, så kommer den mellomste Bukkene Bruse, han er mye større.”

“Ja nok,” sa trollet.

Om en liten stund så kom den mellomste Bukkene Bruse og skulle over broen.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen.

“Hvem er det som tripper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Å, det er den mellomste Bukkene Bruse, som skal til seters og gjøre seg fet,” sa bukken; den var ikke fin i målet, den.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” sa trollet.

“Å nei, ta ikke meg, men bi litt, så kommer den store Bukkene Bruse, han er mye, mye større.”

“Ja nok da,” sa trollet.

Rett som det var, så kom den store Bukkene Bruse.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen; den var så tung at broen både knaket og braket under den!

“Hvem er det som tramper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Det er den store Bukkene Bruse,” sa bukken, den var så grov i målet.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” skrek trollet.

“Ja, kom du! Jeg har to spjut, med dem skal jeg stinge dine øyne ut! Jeg har to store kampestene, med dem skal jeg knuse både marg og bene!” sa bukken. Og så røk den på trollet og stakk ut øynene på ham, slo sund både marg og ben, og stanget ham utfor fossen; og så gikk den til seters. Der ble bukkene så fete, så fete at de nesten ikke orket å gå hjem igjen, og er ikke fettet gått av dem, så er de det ennå.

Og snipp snapp snute, her er det eventyret ute.

What was your favorite childhood fairy tale?  Do you have a favorite now?

 

 

 

Beautiful Lake Baikal

I have stacks of unread books on various horizontal surfaces in several rooms. Every once in a while I stop and pick one up and start reading. This weekend I did just that. I picked up “Sacred Sea” by Peter Thomson. I was checking it out before handing it on to a young friend. It is a fascinating account of Thomson (who is an environmental journalist, formerly of NPR’s Living on Earth) journey to Lake Baikal with his younger brother. Then, of course, I needed to listen to a Russian male chorus singing “Holy Sea, Lake Baikal.” It wasn’t the same recording as Dale and Jim Ed used to play, but it was beautiful. That led me to wondering what the lyrics were, so I googled and found a translation. I was very surprised to learn it is a poem written in 1848 devoted to fugitives from prisons, “Thoughts of a Fugitive on Baikal” by Dmitri Pavlovich Davydov. The music was composed by unknown prisoners working in the Nerchinsk mines.

Славное море – священный Байкал!
Славный корабль – омулёвая бочка!
Эй, баргузин, пошевеливай вал, –
Молодцу плыть недалечко. 
Долго я тяжкие цепи носил,
Долго бродил я в горах Акатуя.
Старый товарищ бежать подсобил,
Ожил я, волю почуя.
Шилка и Нерчинск не страшны теперь,
Горная стража меня не поймала,
В дебрях не тронул прожорливый зверь,
Пуля стрелка миновала.

Шел я и вночь, и средь белого дня,
Близ городов, озираяся зорко,
Хлебом кормили крестьянки меня,
Парни снабжали махоркой. 

Славное море – священный Байкал!
Славный мой парус – кафтан дыроватый!
Эй, баргузин, пошевеливай вал,
Слышатся грома раскаты.

Glorious sea the sacred Baikal!
Glorious ship – the omul fish barrel!
Hey, the Baikal wind, stir the billowing waves –
The lad doesn’t have far left to sail.
I’ve been wearing heavy chains for a long time
I’ve been  wandering in the mountains of Akatuy
An old pal helped me to escape,
And I returned to life, feeling the newly found freedom!
I’m not afraid of Shilka and Nerchinsk anymore –
The mountain guards didn’t manage to catch me,
The wild beasts didn’t touch me in the thickets,
And the shooter’s bullet passed me by…

I was going at night time and in the day time
Near the towns I was carefully looking around.
Country women fed me with their bread
And lads supplied me with tobacco.

Glorious sea the sacred Baikal!
My glorious sail – the caftan all in holes!
Hey, the Baikal wind stir the billowing waves –
The rumble of thunder can already be heard!

From http://www.lkharitonov.com/critical/glorious-sea-sacred-baikal-expanded-history/

Then the first comment below the lyrics:

Justus Naumann says:

August 5, 2011 at 10:16 am

Thank you, thank you. Finally the lyrics and a translation to this beautiful song I have listened to for nearly 30 years. A public radio program in Minneapolis, KSJN, had a “roots” and folk music show for many years. Every once in a while they would play Beautiful Lake Baikal by the Pyatnitsky chorus, and even without knowing the words it always brings tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Have you had any pleasant (or otherwise) surprises recently?

 

How to choose…Post Script

I received permission from Robert Bly’s wife Ruth to post the poems I had chosen for my book club, the ones Renee suggested we not post because of not having permission.  But with permission, she suggested I share them now.  So…here they are:

Or Robert’s The Dark Autumn Nights…?

Imagination is the door to the raven’s house, so we are

Already blessed! The one nail that fell from the shoe

Lit the way for Newton to get home from the Fair.

Last night I heard a thousand holy women

And a thousand holy men apologize at midnight

Because there was too much triumph in their voices.

Those lovers, skinny and badly dressed, hated

By parents, did the work; all through the Middle Ages,

It was the lovers who kept the door open to heaven.

Walking home, we become distracted whenever

We pass apple orchards. We are still eating fruit

Left on the ground the night Adam was born.

St. John of the Cross heard an Arab love poem

Through the bars and began his poem. In Nevada it was

Always the falling horse that discovered the mine.

Robert, you know well how much substance can be

Wasted by lovers, but I say, Blessings on those

Who go home through the dark autumn nights.

 

I love the tiny book, Four Ramages, with illustrations & graphics by Barbara LaRue King.

Grief lies close to the roots of laughter.

Both love the cabin open to the traveller,

the ocean apple wrapped in its own leaves.

How can I be close to you if I am not sad?

There is a gladness in the not-caring

of the bear’s cabin; and in the gravity

that makes the stone laugh down the mountain.

The animal pads where no one walks.

Meanwhile, I found my Yeats collection and further inspired by Barbara in Rivertown, I also found “Now We Are Six” by A A Milne…and decided to do “Down by the Sally Gardens” and “He Bids His Beloved Be At Peace” by Yeats; “Wheezles and Sneezles” by Milne. But I still love Bly’s poems…

 

PS…I just changed my mind again, well, added one (I hope), “King John Was Not A Good Man” by Milne because it is about Christmas.

Enough of my favorites, please share more of yours.

How to choose?

Our Library book club has a “sort-a” December tradition of reading aloud a favorite poem or two. In the past I have read a Lady Gregory, plus several by Louis Jenkins, Mary Oliver and Yeats. This year I am at a loss, having covered many favorites.

So far, these are the books I have pulled off the shelf…

Galway Kinnell’s Body Rags, Mortal Acts Mortal Words, Selected Poems

 Lawrence Durrell’s Selected Poems

Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems

Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf: A New Verse Translation

 Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Robert Bly

Robert Bly’s Four Ramages

Olav Hauge’s Trusting Your Life to Water and Eternity translated by Robert Bly

Tomas Tranströmer’s 20 Poems translated by Robert Bly

Robert Bly’s My Sentence Was A Thousand Years of Joy

 A Julius Berg Baumann poem from his Fra Vidderne translated by Josh Preston

I can’t find my book of collected Yeats poems. Or the ever-so-old copy of D.H. Lawrence poems. But perhaps I have enough to sort through – though I’m afraid we might be limited to only one or two.

My favorite Rilke poem?

I live my life in growing orbits

which move out over the things of the world

Perhaps I can never achieve the last,

but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,

and I have been circling for a thousand years

and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,

or a great song.

 

Or Robert Bly’s The Dark Autumn Nights…?

 

I love the tiny Bly book, Four Ramages, with illustrations & graphics by Barbara LaRue King.

 

Okay, my decision has been made…I’m going for all three Bly poems!

(plus the other 3 Ramages)

 

Who (or what) are your favorite poets (or poems)?

Am I Old Yet?

Yup, I am officially an Elder. It was announced in the last couple weeks. First a young waitress called me “Sweetie.” Then when handing me my annual fair gyros, the vendor said, “Here you are, My Dear.” And yesterday when I called to make a doctor’s appointment, the nurse ended the call with “Honey.”

No one (much less a stranger) in my previous life as an adult has ever used such endearments to address me. I can only attribute it to my being 75 and it’s “safe” (or is it patronizing?).

P.S. When I was in pre-op before hip surgery a nurse told me I was a “poor imitation of a 75 year old.” Have I aged that much since May?

How do you mark the various stages of your life?

Teaching a Toddler

Today’s post comes from Cynthiainmahtowa.

Joe asked his 2 ½ year-old son, Jack, if he would please take his empty coffee cup to the kitchen. Jack said no. Joe then explained to Jack that when he asked his father to help, Joe always did. So it was only right and proper that Jack should honor his father’s request and help him when asked. Jack thought about that for a while, picked up the coffee cup, held it up to Joe and said, “Help me.“

I’ve heard that smart dogs are not for everyone. Neither are smart children.

Have you ever been outsmarted by a toddler…or, any child (or, dog)?