Reflections on the Journey ....
Well, there has been a host of happenings along the way. This entire journey has been filled with hesitancies, then resolve, memories,
self-questioning, shyness, surprises and wonderfully, propulsion into completion of the "Stoft" project. Aah the creative process!
But through all of this, I continued to be drawn back to my grandfather's poetry, which, well, has changed me... for the better. I feel more alive than I have been in a long long time. I am amazed at the power of words, their ability to create pictures and visions of things never seen - only imagined. And the poetry has opened me to love again -love of everything ... it's actually remarkable.
I am amazed at the power of the spirit of human kind to filter into us from a time now gone and nearly forgotten ... to bloom once more the music, the yearnings and the hopes that beset a young man and now offers that gentleness and resolve to another aging generation, about to turn once more.
He is teaching me his culture - a culture that nearly evaporated through my fingers. Almost extinguished, and yet, in the turn of page in a foreign book, a quiet little wondering phrase began the 'flightpath' - "I wonder what these poems are saying?"
Even as the poems came to me through the ether as Ellen flipped them off, poem after poem after poem, I was still in wonderment.
What was 'morendo?' 'norns?' 'Mimer's well?' "Baldur the Good?' "Heimdall?' 'Asgaard?' 'Scylla and Charybdis?' 'Dies Irae?' What is he writing about?
Who were Charles Bruzell, Esse W. Ljungh, and Elisabet Björklund?
What was the 'thing' at Round Lake Saskatchewan in 1934?
Each question to be answered took me down another path ... back into the literature that I remember held fascination for me in University days, down down the path of Winnipeg's vibrant history into the immigrant districts, into the philosophical, visionary heads of thinkers of the time in heavy furnitured meeting rooms, out into the sunny dusty plains where Natives and settlers shared the same
bright blue sky and refreshingly cool lakes.
Time was changing for me. I felt the stretched out feeling of time as it had been described in the poems. In the quiet of that time, people had to fill the space with music, dancing, laughter, noise, sweat, and behaviour between individuals. I hear it all in Arthur's "Midsommardans". I could hear 'Lappe-Nisse', the little spirit-like being, playing his fiddle as the girls whirled around with their guys. But no, said Ellen. Lappe-Nisse was not a made-up being ... he was a real man. Really? Yes. Another learning. It will never stop. Here is what she said ...
If you are named Nils in Sweden, your common nickname will be Nisse.
Lapp-Nils or Lapp-Nisse, (Nils Jonsson) lived between 1804 and 1870. He was a very real man, but if your grandfather wrote about him the way he did, the poem depicts a period long before he was born. Lapp-Nils was a sami fiddler who was apparently an extraordinary musician and to this day he holds the bar for all other musicians.
His father was extremely religious and tried to prevent him from playing at dances and festivities, since they were places of sin. But Lapp-Nils snuck out anyway and learned the basics from the local fiddlers. It was soon clear that he was a prodigy.
His reputation as a fiddler was firmly established at a wedding in the town next door. Two well known fiddlers had been employed to play for the wedding party which lasted 7 days. At the end of the week Lapp-Nils was declared the champion player, despite his youth.
Legends about him will tell you how sick minds were healed, how enemies reconciled and how disharmony got turned into harmony.
He traveled a lot, played everywhere, and often traded fiddles with people, who considered his fiddles very valuable simply by having been played by Nils.
He composed and arranged a lot of music, but never seemed to name the tunes. They are always unique and he put his own peculiar character to each piece, making them recognizable. It has been said that he could play all night until sunrise and never repeat a tune.
Researching him shows that his music was handed down to other musicians, rather than written down. I found thousands of versions of his polskas, "as interpreted and written down by his students."