I Wouldn’t Have Missed it for the World

March 10, 2012 § 4 Comments

Among people my age the talk occasionally turns to bucket lists—those lists of things people want to accomplish before they die. The trouble is, when you have time or enough money to fulfill some long-held desires, you might be too tired to do them. It all starts to sound like too much trouble.

We live an ordinary life now, but, it hasn’t always been that way. I haven’t forgotten my patchwork years of living in far from ordinary places and the things I’m so grateful to have experienced.

Things I wouldn’t have missed for the world:

  • Things I’ve experienced with my friends … like the summer my girlfriends (Linda Bard before she was Linda Cockney, and Lois Violette) and I went swimming in the Canadian Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk, NWT with ice chunks floating past. Well, it wasn’t exactly swimming, more like galumphing in with clothes on, throwing ourselves down, gasping, shrieking and stumbling out. Still, it could qualify for anyone’s bucket list!
  • Lying in bed under a down blanket in our wall tent on Clifton Point at Tzartus Island and, with the tent flaps tied back, looking north up the Alberni Inlet as fishing boats and freighters passed close to the rocky shore. The coffee pot burbled on the tiny wood stove, the morning awaited and all was contentment. I’ve seldom had less and enjoyed it more.
  • Sitting on a little three-legged stool on a steep dirt ridge looking out over the highlands of Northern Thailand’s Golden Triangle. A young Mien woman had pulled me by the arm and brought me to her home and then sat next to me patting my arm and calling me Elder Sister in her language. We communicated in smiles and rarely have I had such a satisfying conversation.
  • Hanging on for dear life in Greenland as a passenger on an open sled pulled by nine purebred Greenlandic sleddogs in fan formation. Happy, rhythmic trotting of the dogs, frozen landscape, cold seeping in through my parka, cold air in my face. Alive.
  •  Returning to the 200-year-old cabin above a fjord in Einkanger, Norway where I was born on a sunny summer Sunday. And finding my great-grandparents’ house in Vikanes preserved just as if they had just walked out.
  • Carving a Christian camp out of the wilderness with my husband, and hosting and connecting with a generation of Native Canadian children and teens, some whom I am still in contact with.
  • Sipping caffe blanc and relishing real French pastries on a sun-drenched mother and daughter jaunt to the south of France.
  • Not staying home. Not staying put. Not valuing steady work and income more than saying yes to opportunities God sent my way. And ticking off my bucket list along the way.

ⓒ Inger Logelin 2012

The Christmas Truce

December 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Let me tell you a true story. It happened on a cold, rainy Christmas Eve. The year was 1914. The early months of the First World War had taken their toll with so many soldiers lost that both the German and British armies were hunkered down waiting for reinforcements.

In the French countryside around Flanders, weary and dispirited enemy soldiers faced each other in cold and muddy trenches … in some places no more than 70, 50 or even 30 yards away. Towards Christmas shooting had been sporadic, and on Christmas Eve it stopped entirely. The British army had been sent plum puddings and chocolates, butterscotch and tobacco from the king and food from home to boost morale. The German soldiers received meerschaum pipes and gifts of food as well. As the gifts came, and packages and letters were opened, men’s hearts turned to home, to their families, to Christmas.

Then a white flag was raised and a message came from the German side asking for a truce. While not officially sanctioned by the officers, in reality the captains in the trenches allowed the truce. That night small evergreen trees which had also been sent to the soldiers on the German front were lit with candles and propped up on the edge of the their trenches.

Out of the night came the strains of “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.” The British soldiers, recognizing the tune, began to sing “Silent Night, Holy Night.” The night was transformed by men harmonizing from their opposite camps as they sang together well-loved Christmas songs … songs that proclaim the old, old story of how Christ came to earth, was born as a babe, laid in a manger, come to save us from our sins.

Christmas Day men ventured out of their trenches into no man’s land. At first just a few, then more climbed up to shake hands and exchange gifts of rations and buttons. A German juggler gave a performance, a ragged soccer ball was kicked around. Family photos were passed around, addresses exchanged. Men who had been trying to kill each other days before were now shaking hands and posing for pictures. Bodies were retrieved for burial.

This celebration of Christ’s birth sprang up spontaneously and independently in each place along the battle line where it occurred. In some places the truce lasted until the new year, in others just that day. The incident was widely reported in the newspapers with pictures of the soldiers together.

Inevitably, hostilities began again. Captain J. C. Dunn, the medical officer of the Royal Welch Fusiliers told what happened on his section. He said, “At 8:30 I fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with ‘Merry Christmas’ on it. The German captain appeared on the parapet. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches and he fired two shots in the air and the war was on again.”

This Christmas truce has been called one of the most remarkable incidents of World War I, and perhaps of all military history.  Enemy soldiers on that Christmas Eve, now 96 years ago, called a truce and sang “Silent Night, Holy Night” because of Jesus. For a few hours on that Christmas Eve there was peace … because of Jesus … because of His birth.

In our frenetic society with our wars and rumors of wars, fractured family relationships, fractious politics, and an abundance of personal opinions, we often take opposing sides. Our hearts may be searching, divided, stressed.  Tonight … on this Christmas Eve … we can receive and embody the peace that Jesus gives. He is the Prince of Peace who brings peace to wounded hearts, divided families, and impossible situations.

May you know God’s peace tonight and tomorrow and the rest of your days.

ⓒ Inger Logelin 2011

She Who Reads the Most Books Wins?

October 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

I learned to speak and read English in the first grade after our family emigrated from Norway. My mother took me to the ancient Carnegie Library on Market Street in Ballard that first year. In the children’s section on the second floor I reached up the dark wood counter as the librarian handed me down my first library card. I loved the creaky floors, musty smells and hidden promise of that library, and when I was in high school I got a job there as a page, shelving books.

I wish I had kept a list of every book I have read. It would be a very long list. My life, interior landscape and intellectual curiosity have been shaped by these books. By junior high my “more is better” book habit was firmly in place and I would drag home a pile of books—and read them—every week. From Kristin Lavransdatter to the Heart of Darkness to War and Peace, I was taking in rich imagery and feeding my love of language with classics. I foraged in the stacks of the Seattle Public Library downtown and learned to recognize good writing from bad.

In my twenties while living in Sachs Harbour, N.W.T., Canada with no TV, or electricity or library and hours of long winter days of darkness I read paperback versions of The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy one after the other, with my feet propped on the open door of our oil stove, the only heat in our little one-bedroom house. I still mumble on appropriate occasions, “Sing hey for a bath at the close of the day that washes the cares of the world away.”

My parents gave me a little black King James Bible in 1952, when I was eight and in my teens I had completely read it through several times. Being on a Youth for Christ Quiz Team on the Book of Romans helped me memorize verses that are in my memory bank and can be drawn on now.

In my teens and twenties there wasn’t the proliferation of “Christian” fiction that there is now, and what there was, wasn’t very good. I still don’t read much in this genre (no Amish fiction, no chick-lit, no romance!), but do make exceptions. Right now I’m reading Ted Dekker’s Immanuel’s Veins and am stunned by the beauty and truth that is wrapped in this can’t-put-it-down story.

I’m drawn to true-life adventure, international mystery/spy, the best of the travel genre … like Dark Star Safari, biography and memoir. Books lie in wait at my bedside table and elsewhere and fill shelves both upstairs and down. The library is my spa of choice where worlds untapped await.  I keep a notebook where books I want to order from the library system are categorized.

Addicted?  Yes. And if I suddenly had no more access to any reading material, I’d be bereft, inconsolable and feeling the withdrawals.

Which reminds me … I’m out of books, have to finish this and go to the library.

How about you? What sorts of books are you drawn to?

ⓒ Inger Logelin 2011

Five Things I’m Glad I Did When I Was Young

October 13, 2011 § 4 Comments

Have you ever felt the angst of unrealized dreams? Is your “bucket list” overflowing with experiences you want to have … some day? The reality is that “some day” may never come as physical constraints and circumstances—or just plain tiredness—conspire against the completion of those longed-for adventures.

That’s why I’m grateful for the rich experiences and adventures I had while young. While my bucket list still contains things I would like to do, my memory bank is rich with what I have experienced in my earlier years.

Five Things I’m Glad I Did While I Was Young

1.  Get Married

Dave and I dated for two weeks when he asked the 18-year-old me to marry him. Or did I ask him? Definitely a mutual decision, it was accomplished four months from the first date. Marrying while still in my teens meant we would grow together, and grow up together, and experience life together in the security of knowing a forever love. Now, 48 years later, I look back at that leap of faith in wonder, but wouldn’t do it any differently. Our mutual memories plucked from these many years together are a treasure, and there’s no end to the topic that starts, “Remember when …?”

2.  Go North

We sold our newer Chrysler, and motorbike, packed our wedding gifts away in my parents’ attic and left for the Canadian Arctic when I was nearly 21 and Dave 22. I will never regret the life lessons learned on an arctic island where we had everything to learn about how to live and how to share our lives. The treasures of those years knocking around Canadian arctic communities are relationships, still intact and treasured.

3.  Have Kids

Our first daughter was born when I was 22, the second at 24. I was young enough to not worry too much whether I was raising my kids right, or whether I had the latest baby equipment. (What baby equipment?) The girls traveled as infants under tarps in freighter canoes on Canada’s Beaufort Sea, were strapped to snowmachines to cross frozen sea ice for a spring goose hunt, traveled hours by unheated airplane to go to the nearest store, played outside at many below zero. Their first playmates were Inuit, their first footwear mukluks and their playgrounds were snowbanks.

4.  Learn to Do New Things

In my twenties I ran a library in an arctic village, taught kindergarten, adult education and religious education, learned to embroider mukluks and sew parkas and bake bread, served on community committees, learned to speak, play the accordion and lead worship. What I didn’t know, I bumbled along until I learned. Being forced, by necessity, to become at least the “step-mother” of invention gave me rich experiences that I certainly wouldn’t have had if I had spent my twenties in an urban environment.

5.  Say “Yes” to God’s Plan

I believe that God has a wild, varied and wonderful plan for our lives. Many don’t step out into God’s plan for their lives when they are young because it seems risky. Financial considerations loom large and they choose the “safer” path. This often leads to regrets for what might have been. By saying “Yes” early to God’s plan I have learned experientially that my trust in Him, in His will for my life, is not misplaced.

If you have regrets for what you didn’t say “Yes” to when you were young, the door of opportunity is still open. While the adventures in our senior years may be more sedate (maybe!), they are all still there waiting for us.

What are some things you are glad you experienced when you were young? Or wish you had?

ⓒ Inger Logelin 2011

The Bed Faced North

May 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I think back on some of the places I’ve lived, the memories sharpen when I recall which direction the bed faced.

In a tar-papered one-room house in Aklavik, NT the bed faced west to the Richardson Mountains which bordered the Mackenzie River Delta. The distinctive feature of that house was the sani-can, a chemical toilet set in a pimple of an add-on two feet from the bed. Often an ill wind blowing down the vent pipe nearly drove us out.

In Sachs Harbour, NT the bed also faced west toward Point Barrow, which was south of our latitude of 72+ degrees.The constant winds howled down over our little house toward the Beaufort Sea outside our front door. On cold winter mornings–October through June–the down sleeping bag we used for a comforter would be frozen to the wall.

When we built a cabin on Adams Lake in central B.C. one spring and summer, we couldn’t afford to put windows in right away. But, after a black bear stuck his head inside one of the window openings, we scrambled to get the house buttoned up. The dry hot summer brought the bears out of the mountains and down to the lake. Constantly alert for bear sightings, we’d work with one eye toward where our girls were playing in case of a black bear visit. That bed was in the cool basement facing north.

In the year and a half we spent working at KJNP in North Pole, AK the bed faced west upstairs in the log cabin that Dave built. One night I heard the unlocked front door open, and slow steps cross the downstairs. “Dave, Dave,” I hissed in a loud whisper. “There’s somebody in the house.” When I heard footsteps start up the stairs to our bedroom, I shook him and said more frantically, “Dave, Dave, he’s coming up the stairs.” Exhausted from building, he finally woke up and intercepted a glazed-eyed druggie half way up to our bedroom. We began locking the door.

A favorite bed faced north up the Alberni Inlet from Copper Island (Tzartus). Our wall tent located just off the water on Clifton Point had a front deck, a small woodstove, chairs, and a small kitchen area. When the tide was high we couldn’t reach the tent via the beach, so canoed home from the main camp area we were developing. In fine weather we’d tie back the flaps and lie in bed with a clear view of boat traffic and eagles and an occasional orca.

Living in civilization with our warm, carpeted bedrooms and large, comfortable beds hasn’t built as many memories. What was sometimes difficult in those early years, now is treasured and can be recalled whenever I remember which way the bed faced.

ⓒ Inger Logelin 2011

The Writing-It-Down Stage

May 9, 2011 § 3 Comments

Trekking on Banks Island, N.W.T.

Introspection seems to come with age.

I’m there right now. In the writing-it-down, keeping-a-record, telling-the-story-stage. Is it just that I don’t want my history lost, my life undocumented? Or do I feel the world needs my words, my spin, my story?

I’m unearthing journals, diaries and letters written home in boxes and filing cabinet drawers and rearranging them into a chronological electronic record. And yes, I kept everything. My mother, my husband’s mother and my sister-in-law hoarded all our letters written home from the early years in the Arctic.

My newly married self, my first days in a different culture, my attempts to understand and describe my life are being cracked open.

I see a young woman arriving in the Arctic fresh from the hectic life of a university student, and several part-time jobs, wheels spinning, moving fast. Forced to slow down by the natural pace of isolated village life, I often chafed and sometimes mourned.

Accustomed to friends nearby that I could rehearse my thoughts, reactions and days with, I was desperately lonely. No distractions, such as television, or library books, shopping malls or telephone calls. Just life.

I see a 21-year old who looked at her husband with no blinders on and asked, “What am I doing in this place with this man?” The answer to that question is in my journals. I did find a purpose, and a deep friendship with “that man” that has enriched our nearly 48 years of marriage.

What do I hope to find by looking back? I’ll never know unless I do it.

copyright 2011

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