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Olsen letter #1


[I’ve started a project of scanning a series of letters which I have in my care, so that I can send them to some relatives in Norway. These letters were written by my great-great-grandfather, Ole Olsen Kvalevaag, to my great-grandfather, John Walker (whose original name was Jan Olsen Kvalevaag). I translated them some years back. It was almost my first job of Norwegian translation. I found them fascinating, for more than family reasons, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading edited excerpts here from time to time.

Kvalevaag farm is located on a rocky island called Karmøy, in southwestern Norway. The picture above was taken by me on that farm, and shows three of my Norwegian cousins in front of a large stone (I think they had a name for it—the Church, I think, but I might be confused) in the valley called Tobteskarsdalen, which is mentioned in the letter. “Dalen” means valley, but this one is actually a valley in a rather high part of the farm.

The first letter is only a fragment. Its beginning pages have been lost. My guess is that it was written around 1889, a year after Jan had emigrated to America. See if you can identify the subtext. Bracketed notes in italics are mine. lw.]

…but so we believed it was from you, and we didn’t get your letter before Christmas Eve; and then 3 came at once, one to me and one to Marta and one to Lava [sisters]. And then I had written a letter to Iver and Helvik [sister], to ask them whether you had come to them or not, for we were afraid that you had gotten sick in Dakota before you set out. You can’t imagine how worried we were about you before we got the letter. Mother, mother, how she wept and wailed, “Now he’s lost too.” Oh yes, we certainly have our troubles, you may believe it. When Marta got to the post office and got all 3 letters, she didn’t send mine, but came home with it, because she knew it was from you.

Yes, you say that we will come to America too, ja, ja, but in God’s name it would be hell in America for us who are old. What in the world would we do there? No, we won’t do that, for our time remaining does not suffice to lay upon ourselves and others the burden of getting us to America. No, the time we have left in this world we will spend in our dear Norway. We have wanted for nothing here, for we are content here and at peace in soul and body, so that we couldn’t possibly have it much better. So I will ask you, for Jesus’ sake, never to mention it; then your mother gets to crying again so that it’s terrible to hear. “Is that the promise that Jan made before he left?” she says. You must keep your promise and come home again to us, for all your saws and tools are still hanging and lying at home just as when you left; for we have touched none of them before you come yourself. Continue reading Olsen letter #1

The face of St. Paul

The Vatican has made public the oldest known portrait of the Apostle Paul. It’s Fourth Century, so it’s not exactly contemporary, but it does conform to the traditional description.

Vatican archaeologists have uncovered what they say is the oldest known portrait of St Paul. The portrait, which was found two weeks ago but has been made public only after restoration, shows St Paul with a high domed forehead, deep-set eyes and a long pointed beard, confirming the image familiar from later depictions.

As I understand it, we do have (unlike in the case of Christ) a physical description of Paul which is very probably authentic. Not a photogenic fellow. Short, bow-legged, bald, with a prominent nose and thick lips.

It must be St. Paul week in Rome. They have also announced authenticating bones found under the Vatican as being Paul’s.

Tip for both stories: Archaeology in Europe.

The Proper Use of Pain

Frederick Buechner on “The Stewardship of Pain.”

Pain can become a treasure if we treasure it to the point where it can become compassion and healing, not just for ourselves, but also for other people. If you want to see that sort of thing in operation, the treasuring of pain, the using of pain to the healing of yourself and others, someday attend an open meeting of AA or any of the related groups. That is exactly what those people are doing, sharing their hurts, their experiences and their joys.

And remember the cross. It seems to me that the cross of Christ in a way speaks somewhat like this same word, saying that out of that greatest pain endured in love and faithfulness, comes the greatest beauty and our greatest hope.

Happy birthday, Sissel

Today is Sissel Kyrkjebo’s birthday.

Here’s a video of her doing a lovely Swedish hymn, “Bred Dina Vida Vingar,” (Spread Wide Thy Wings) during a concert tour in the Faeroe Islands. This was back in 1991, before she was spoiled by success and cut her hair short.

What If Broadway Challenged Liberal Ideology?

Michael Riedel writes on two politically conservative plays working the ropes to get produced in New York.

But wouldn’t it be novel if, every once in a while, a show did more than reaffirm what theater people know to be the absolute truth? . . .

“Reagan” is a one-man play that doesn’t portray the 40th president as a fascist. It’s by Lionel Chetwynd, whose scripts for television and film include “The Hanoi Hilton,” “Color of Justice,” “Kissinger and Nixon” and “DC 9/11: Time of Crisis.”

The other play is “Girls in Trouble (Formerly Three Abortions)” by Jonathan Reynolds, one of the few openly conservative members of the Dramatists Guild.

His play “Stonewall Jackson’s House,” a sharp attack on political correctness, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1998.

(via ArtsJournal)

Some Faults Are Worse for Certain People

George MacDonald writes, “He might have been unjust for the sake of his own–a small fault in the eyes of the world, but a great fault indeed in a nature like his, capable of being so much beyond it. For while the faults of a good man cannot be as evil as the faults of a bad man, they are more blameworthy, and greater faults than the same would be in a bad man.”