Wednesday, April 11, 2012

K is for Know

The Quote of the Day that inspired my A to Z Challenge theme -
A Word for the Day that takes on many meanings.

Quote of the Day: A writer lives in awe of words for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odors like butter in a refrigerator. John Steinbeck

Word of the Day: Know, Knowing, to Know
This post is more on the different forms of the word, and a guest post by my sister Nancy. She wrote about her name for last year's challenge that was very funny. She's not, yet, blogging. Maybe next year.

In my family, we had a great role model for what it means to seek knowledge. Our
grandfather, Arthur Siberg was the kind of man who was always learning, and every
bit of new knowledge would be a remarkable thing that he needed to share with… well,
pretty much everyone he would meet.

The one thing I remember the most about my grandfather is how he was always reading.
But it wasn’t the quiet sort of reading I do. No, when he would read, it was a very active
and engaging process that he undertook. I have a vivid memory of him pacing back
and forth in his stocking feet, reading a book with a black cover. Years later, I came to
find out that what he was reading was a book by the great Danish philosopher, Søren
Kierkegaard. All alone, this knowledge wouldn’t be jaw-dropping, but my grandfather
was a Swedish immigrant to America, and he only had a sixth-grade education. My
uncle told me Kirkegaard was so difficult for Grandpa to read in English, that he tracked
down a copy in the original Danish, (because that language was closer to Swedish), and
then would work his way, line-by-line, translating the Danish into Swedish and then into
English so he could share his newfound knowledge with other people.

When he was young, my grandfather’s father died, so Grandpa had to go into the forests
and work as a lumberjack to earn a living for himself and his mother. In his memoirs,
he said this about the experience: “Being alone in the big forest, far from any person,
is an experience by itself. It is so quiet and so dark in the deep woods. It would be no
place for someone who is scared in the dark.” For him, discovering knowledge…really
knowing something, was like coming out of the cold, dark woods and stepping into the
light. He was a remarkable man; I wish I could have known him now, when I’m finally
wise enough to truly appreciate him.

Mary and Grandpa Siberg
(I'm either eating or blowing kisses.)

I Didn't Know
     --For Arthur Sexton Siberg

                Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
                - Søren Kierkegaard

I didn't know why you read
Søren Kierkegaard in your stocking feet,
pacing back and forth across the living room floor,
Fear and Trembling in one hand, the other directing
the symphony of line and syntax that only you could hear.

I didn't know why you would pause in the doorway,
peering over your glasses at the words on the page,
one foot crossed over the other as if you were
in your blue Lazy-boy recliner that always
sat empty when you were reading the heavy books.

I wasn't sure why you would ask my grandmother
to define word after confusing foreign word,
or why you would read a book that was so hard to understand.

I didn't know what it really meant to have
a sixth-grade education or why you said you cried
when your friends went off to seventh-grade
without you.  I couldn't really know the kind of poverty
that could force a mother to send a child off to work
in the forests of Sweden when he was only twelve. 

When I was twelve, I couldn't imagine why the trees
could still haunt you, how the forest could have
been that cold, how being away from your mother
would have felt.  I couldn’t imagine you, my little
Grandpa, at thirteen, and fourteen, and fifteen,
dancing with death on the pine logs as they
floated down the Dalälven.

I like to remember you in your stocking feet,
blocking the doorway to the kitchen, working your
way, line by line, through a theology that was years
beyond you.  I like to remember the way you would
get it, really get it, pushing up your glasses,
grabbing my grandma, and spinning across the floor.
                -Nancy Aalgaard Hanson          

Thanks, Nancy, you offer more insight into our Grandpa Siberg. I've had the thought that if I could go back in time, I'd like to meet my parents and grandparents as kids and young adults.

Journaling Prompt:  Do you know any stories about your grandparents, or parents? Does it help explain how they, or you, respond to the world?     

Go. Create. Inspire!                     

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