undulate carelessly among
snowy mountain topped peaks
Have I disappointed my parents who took me to church on Sundays? Is it possible for spiritual devastation, if they reside in heaven, hear my questions and read my thoughts, God’s mighty hand striking my soul dead? Will I ever see them again?
My parents were not truly believers in the sense of commitment other than finding a pew to sit and listen. My dad’s eyes tilted downward, us kids squirming in our Sunday best, mom’s face, well I bet you can guess. Sitting there, trying to behave, I swear my tights had ants crawling around inside, looking for their home. Had I stepped on their nest, they hitching a ride to some where?
Reading the Bible, a verse clearly stands out regarding the mighty ant, much like an Aesop fable, informing the reader clearly to be diligent and proud as an ant. Be busy as the ants, we are called, marching orders from a voice, unclear from which direction. Perhaps it is my own voice pushing me on. To where I wonder. To where?
Viktor Frankl introduced a psychological spirit, a dimension beyond the physical body and mind. This innovative idea superseded Freud’s and Adler’s concept of physical desires and individual barriers. Frankl implemented Logotherapy as therapeutic, to bring meaning in life’s suffering and hopelessness. We can all agree suffering is a daily occurrence. Some one, some where is looking for answers. Frankl wanted to provide hope, in a super transcendence, mindful way. Super Meaning for all regardless of religious belief.
Viktor Frankl never publically acknowledged his (dis)belief in God to keep his theories free from chastising agnostics and atheists. I believe that was a good choice. How can you heal and not harm by dismissing a fellow human in need, especially if they do not believe in a higher power? Regardless, Frankl believed all people had a spirit, whether unconsciously or consciously aware of that presence. Souls are unseen, after all.
Right before my parents passed away they confessed a belief God existed. Was this a proclamation of just in case! A what if? You and I may never agree on a where but I believe humanity is capable of the why, of understanding our brothers and sisters. Why not?
The words rolled away
sounds of voices faded
left alone, one tall tree
a meadow of grasses to cover
roots digging deep to find water.
The earth was scorched in pain
no one could look away,
their eyes grew dim
then, mystery took hold of hearts.
From where does happiness arrive,
or sadness to drive
feelings of freedom
often mistaken for prison?
The cages barred
are only a mind looking too closely
torn without a cause.
The history of American families are comprised of many cultures. Today I highlight the Finnish people and the land where my great-grandparents immigrated from in 1904, through Ellis Island. Below is a letter required of immigrants, usually written by a church official. There are many of these letters hanging in the Ellis Island Museum. My families letter hangs in my house, lovingly framed as a Christmas gift given to me last year.
I have always had a fascination with my family background. Many of our Finnish traditions, language and food has been lost. This is often a result of becoming Americanized. In an effort to restore my heritage I research the internet, mostly to find traditional Christmas celebrations, as it is a favorite holiday. For several years I have adopted the Piggy cookie, made with Piparkakkuja dough (an adopted recipe). Everyone knows Christmas is coming when a plate of these are set out.
2 sticks plus 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp fresh finely ground black pepper*
3 tsp ginger powder
2 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
5 1/4 cup flour, or more
Preheat the oven to 350. Heat butter, sugar, molasses, spices, and orange zest over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cool to room temp. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, salt, and soda with the sugar and spice mix. Beat until combined. Slowly add flour, in increments, barely combining until the last of the flour is mixed in well. Dough should be sticky but manageable. Add more flour if dough is too wet. Cover with wax paper and chill for 8 hours or make ahead of time and freeze until ready to use.
When ready to roll, cut the chilled dough into quarters. Make sure your rolling surface, rolling pin, top and bottom of dough are sprinkled with flour. Roll out 1/16 -1/8th of an inch thick, turning one quarter circle after every 8 or so rolls. As you turn, spread some extra flour under the dough. By the time the dough is extra thin it will be well floured on the bottom, and will not stick, making cookies easier to cut. I also use a metal spatula on the last few turns to help move it.
1 egg white
sugar for decorating
Place shapes on a greased cookie sheet about 1/4 inch apart. Lightly beat 1 part egg white to 2 parts water with a fork to make a glaze, adding sheen to the cookies and to adhere the sprinkled sugar. Evenly and lightly glaze using a pastry brush. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will darken around the edges when ready. Let cool and decorate with icing if desired.
*Piparkakkuja means “pepper cookie” in Finnish. See a comment to explain this better since I am just a novice to a culture in my distant past.
My familiarity with other Finnish foods is limited. There is one recipe that has been passed down and that is Pastys. A simple dish of pie crust filled with ground meat and diced root vegetables; potato, carrot and rutabaga. My grandfather took this in his lunch everyday as he headed off to the mining fields of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. This is a rather bland dish so when I do make it my children slather it in ketchup. Doh!!
Here are some lovely Christmas articles about Finland. A traditional Christmas decoration is the Himmeli (just found this out). Here are directions, and here is where to find wheat straw. It would look prettier made with a natural product rather than the plastic tubing in the tutorial. Another traditional ornament is the Finnish Star, and here is a tutorial. Happy crafting!! (Do share some of your traditional Christmas ornaments in the comments. Would love to see them.)
There are always family stories to share and one I recall is the loom my great-grandmother brought with her, as large as my dining room. It must have been grand. She made rag rugs. Here is an article about Finnish weaving done in South Dakota, a past display of rag rugs in Minnesota, and information about Ryijy. Unfortunately the family loom was not kept. When she passed away it was given to the Lutheran Church.
Hazel Maki, a Finnish-American rag rug weaver, demonstrates her craft.
Photo by Terry McCrea (Wisconsin)
My great-grandparents and grandparents had a sauna. Winter nights were spent running back in forth from sauna to snow. I tried this once at a resort but never officially made a snow angel. Too cold. Not too many other stories, that I am aware of, exist to share. Our local gym has a sauna, so I think I will pack my bags and head out.
Be well, J
There is a battle for the soul and it begins in the mind.
She wrote with such vigor
erasing memories one word at a time.
Who knows how far she traveled
spanning many a moon.
Fate stood, a gleaming smile he wore
tossed into the sea,
she’s no longer seen anymore.
Her sorrow, she saw the day of her death
shared unequivocally* with the world,
her standing last breath.
*no strings attached
The merriment of Christmas
a mask worn,
sworn to keep peace among family.
She broke all the rules,
from the rooftop she spread the truth
as members shriveled from her salty tongue.
No one ever survives the brave who freely sprinkle their grievances. Shrouded in hyprocisy, she no longer could stand their air of freshness. She sought to preserve them, had they agreed to hear her out. They turned aside and soon found they smelled of pungent onions and rotting fruit.
am i that girl
on the street
avoiding sidewalk cracks?
muddled news stories
my power to disagree
ground coarsely with salt.
or perhaps not enough
seasoning, lacking soul
they tell me “It’s all it can be.”
am i that girl
instructed some way?
they tell me its not enough
I say it’s all I can be.
The wind barely caressed my cheek
I reached for the piano keys
tinged from yellow-aged days.
Folly, what folly.
For my transgressions
I wandered 40 days and 40 nights
the caved-in chest drew my breath
and the sands enveloped my feet.
Darling, you stole my innocence.
He, yes he gladly gave me fingers
I tenderly trotted across miles
of lust and fresh meadows.
The air a fragrant green.
My only sorrow, our music’s absence,
the silence more than two hearts can bare.
Remember me when the waves
wash ashore the black keys of death.
There was no way to polish what was left.