May 9, 2011
As I walk this path,
what once is becomes concealed:
I have two old bricks on my bookshelves:
One – a yellow brick – comes from a farm located in southern Sweden in the province of Skåne. The farm is Näsbygård, part of the Näsbyholm Estate in Gärdslöv parish known for its disappearing and reappearing lake, its progressive farming techniques in the early 1900s, and its connection to the Danish writer Karin Blixen. When I traced my family heritage back in Sweden to the early 1600′s, I visited Gärdslöv parish to see the ancestral home of my grandmother (farmor) Anna Fredrika Fyhr. Anna worked on this farm and lived in the gulbygning “yellow building” named after the color of its bricks. When I arrived at the farm, Anna’s childhood home had recently been razed and all that remained was a large pile of bricks. It was from this home that my grandfather Nils courted Anna and from where she emigrated to America 100 years ago (April 18) three days after the Titanic sunk. I was given permisison to take home one of the bricks from the pile and now it rests on my bookshelf, a symbol of my heritage.
The second brick – a dark brown brick – is from one of the most historic buildings in Illinois, a part of Old Main at Knox College, a brick that saw Lincoln debate Douglas, a brick that heard for over a hundred and fifty years the bell in its belfry - inscribed with the words “Not just to live / but to live well” - calling classes to session. It was in this brown-bricked building that I discussed Chaucer and Shakespeare and Dickinson and Whitman, and just outside this building that I graduated on a sunny June afternoon. My wife bought me this brick one Christmas the year Old Main was being restored. It rests now on my bookshelf symbolizing my continued lifelong love of learning.
Seeing these bricks, one might not be too impressed; after all, they are just two old bricks. One, however, stands for my past; the other for my future. They are the bookends of my life.