The Dust and Light of Lapland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     June 17th, 9:00 p.m. while flying into Gällivare, Norrbotten, Lapland, Sweden, through rain and grey, ascending above the clouds, I see shining golden … the midnight sun! We will land 63 kilometres above the Arctic Circle, in a dream.

 

Five kilometres north of Gällivare, is Malmberget – the Ore Mountain, prosperous for its’ landsmän, beginning in 1888 as thousands of Swedes were emigrating to escape poverty. Now LKAB, deep mines iron-ore for the world. However, twelve kilometers of underground channels have caused instability: a huge hole, “Kaptensgropen” necessitates relocating the town before it tumbles into the dark, dusty pit.

My grandfather, Artur Andersson, was born there in 1894, into a large family with mother Augusta and father Gustav - pioneers in the Hermelin section of Malmberget during the Swedish Klondike. Artur( poetry in his soul), left for Canada in 1924, with his wife and two young boys, settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba and began a remarkable life, despite a handicap and ensuing hardships.

 

Through many twists, I discovered my grandfather’s Swedish poetry from 1934, “Stoft”, marveled at its insightfulness, then saw to its translation into English, and had it republished in 2013, entitled “Stoft: Dust of Our Being.”

More tunneling led me to Lars Israelsson in Gällivare. Excited, he ordered copies of the new book.  A stranger, recognizing the poet on the cover, contacted me….  It was Carin Sundström.  Artur was her Uncle.  Brilliant! The new family, unearthed.

 

Then, I was invited to Malmberget to present Arthur’s poetry and life at a Festival whose purpose was rather unclear to me. But Grandpa’s words moved me … "what is brightly dreaming is still in soil hidden..”

 

The new family met and celebrated with reindeer steak, roe tarts, suovas, rhubarb pie, jordgubbar, aquavit and fired coffee with cheese; experienced the wondrous banquet at Glada Kocken,  car cruising, the Ice Hotel, Kiruna, Laponia, Stora Sjöfallet, Kirjaluokta, midsommar, the family graves, and more.

Dokumentera Malmberget at Sporthallen is a remarkable feat of research, model reconstruction and photo archivisim. Everything comes alive … my father’s house, grandpa’s “Vinkel”, the mine, Vassara, Dundret – the community.

 

In Kåkstan, rehearsing that rainy afternoon, a taped speech that cousin Lars had brought was revealed. In 1958, Artur, home again, had addressed the townspeople, speaking in Swedish, as Canada’s Consul, recalling those from Malmberget who had emigrated … where each had settled, the struggles, lonliness and yearnings that were with all.

That evening, Grandpa’s passion was shared with the audience.  Again, his words inspired … but now for those of the Leaving Festival - Malmberget’s new emigrants.

 

 “…you, are the same godly flame of future’s hope, as in the spring of time.”