Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gratitude, Nordic style

Tuesday morning I attended the 30th Annual Nordic American Thanksgiving Breakfast. The event is sponsored by the Sons of Norway and is a charitable venture (donations were collected for Second Harvest Heartland and the Minnesota Military Family Foundation) loaded with local celebrities, politicians, and 963 guests. I sat at a table in the back dubbed The Johnson Table. Of ten at our table, seven of us were Johnsons. The event was, as 2014 Event Chair Bruce Karstadt observed, "Fika on steroids." (Fika is a Swedish tradition meaning to take a break, most often with coffee, with colleagues, friends, or family. It is both a verb and a noun.)

There were stories about freedom, family and friends, and faith, arched beneath a theme of gratitude. Don Shelby emceed, the Gustavus Adolphus College Choir sang, Kevin Kling brought down the house with his wild humor and gentle lessons in compassion and loss (the keys to freedom), and Chef Andrew Zimmern spoke of the simplicity and beauty of gratitude. There were members of the military, representatives from all five Nordic countries, and much singing. Prayers were prayers said and sung in Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, and English, and Reverend Ruth MacKenzie reminded us that we must slow down, savor silence, and embrace gratitude.

Whether ordained by luck or some sort of divine Nordic guidance, at the breakfast I was seated next to Lois, one of the (formerly) Johnsons at our table. Lois told me about her second career as a writer after spending years teaching and in libraries, "Always surrounded by words." After the event Lois was off to visit her friend, 103-year-old Marjorie Douglas. Lois met Marjorie years ago at a writers group. At that time Marjorie was in her 80s and having her memoirs published through the Minnesota Historical Society; "Barefoot on Crane Island" and "Eggs in the Coffee, Sheep in the Corn."

While I am appreciative of the life I have, of family and friends, food on the table, good health, I struggle with something I refer to as "2 AM moments." In fact, a few hours before the Nordic breakfast I was doing my usual tossing and turning, awake and wondering if the effort is worth it. If I curl up and quit, if i just stop writing, would it matter? I am not the only writer who fights bouts of insecurity. Yet, we are compelled to return, though often without a sense of thankfulness. Lois and Marjorie inspire me. I faced Thanksgiving with much gratitude for their proof that it is never too late.

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