How often, when we are admiring something, are we able to see beyond its two dimensions into the vault of time which holds its creation? And its creator?
At Elizabeth Eakins we do this as a matter of course. We know our weavers and the looms they use. We have created the designs they follow. Sometimes we know the sheep who are the source of the wool that has been spun and dyed, and we know the shearers.
This past week, one of our neighbors brought us this stone. We had thought it was from a pasture two miles north and east of our farm.
It was. And it was from the vault.
Ours is a community with a Scandinavian heritage, and the man who built our farmhouse — A. W. Nordeen — started life in Sweden, in 1840, or thereabouts, and his surname was Anderson. He served in the Swedish army and then moved to this country, to Minnesota, where he learned to be a mason. By the time he moved to Kansas, he changed his surname because there were too many Andersons. And in due course he bought three plots of ground, on each of which he built a farmhouse, perhaps as a means of perfecting his title to the land.
We know these things because the descendants of his kin have visited us, because neighbors remember stories, and because one of the gables of our house bears the legend
in formal carved lettering.
We thought that he had carved it and we took it at face value, not only for what it said, but for what it meant: an organized man following a methodical path, touching the base requiring Anno Domini and all that comes with it.
But the fellow who carved his name on this stone? He’s trying out the spelling of his new name. His artistic sense doesn’t require a horizontal treatment. He likes curlicues and designs. He’s marking his third farm. He wants us to see what he can do with hammer and chisel. And he is joyful.
And now, at this end of the vault, it is the farm which remains while the house is gone; and the farm has been sheltering his stone, back in the tree line, until its current owner — someone also of Scandinavian heritage — decided it would do better elsewhere. And so it comes to us, living in a house he built and farming another of his farms.
It is, of course, a message. We are grateful for it and for a community which delivers its messages.
© Jerry Wigglesworth, October 2020