In my book about Grandma Maja growing up in Sollefteå Sweden I reminisce about Swedish log drivers as brave Vikings with gritty guts, gumption and resilience.
The spirit of the timmerflotarre became an author’s metaphor to explain the essence of Maja’s Swedish GRIT. Maja had extraordinary deep down Swedish Viking grit. I discovered that a Swedish artist captured the same spirit in a ceramic mural. Quite a Ångermanland Norseland legendary story?
At the conclusion of my ancestral pilgrimage to Sollefteå Sweden in 2004 searching for my roots my relatives gave me several gifts to take home.
They presented me with the statue of legendary log drivers of Sollefteå admired for their grit. In addition, I took away a great spiritual gift of walking on the ground around Grandma Maja’s house which still stands.
I made the connection between the Sollefteå log drivers and Maja’s brave grit she used to handle logjams of life problems that stood in her way to accomplishing her Swedish American Dream.
The metaphor stuck and the memories of Maja reminiscing about the river and the log drives in Spring became a way to understand the essence of gritty guts and gumption it takes to attack obstacles that can block one’s way.
Log drivers were tough men who chose that dangerous line of earning a living taking great risks. I suspect many feared drowning but focused on the demand to provide for his family. Of all the discussions with Grandma Maja probing deep to ask her to explain her grit, I can derive now, although she NEVER said so, her motive, her SELFLESS motive was to provide for Dolores, Peter and Linnea. There was no option. Her culture, upbringing, ancestor heritage stories signaled, framatånda,..propelled onward with an unmistakable powerful life force propelling her beyond even her own perceived capacities.
Some background on the artist and mural:
“The challenge was to transform the scenario – the nature of Norrland, work and the history of Nämforsen – into 160 high-fired stoneware slabs that would be shaped and fired at 1300 degrees and then joined together in a giant puzzle.
There was no hurry; Tyra Lundgren began the heavy and patient work in 1947. The cover fell at the solemn inauguration in 1950.
Tyra Lundgren wanted to describe Nämforsen’s history “so that the people up there can also enjoy it”. And she has succeeded.
Here is the fairy tale time – Näcken plays in the rapids, a white elk bull looks up at the sky, the mysterious owl hoars under a pale new moon – parallel to antiquity and its Stone Age people, with a forest full of wolves, bears and moose, where the river abounds with white salmon and rapids foams undamaged.
At the beach, the fisherman is ready with his spear, the shaman conjures up hunting luck and the stonemason makes rock carvings that will arouse wonder after 5000 years.
Here is also a closer look yesterday – the floating era, where the timber dances on the river’s broad silver ridge and the blue-clad floating men in big boots are ready to tackle the reluctant timber breakers.
“I have made the rafts men quite authentic, partly because I like them, partly because it can be fun to preserve the very types who have last floated in these rapids,” says Tyra Lundgren.
The light blue gaze of one of the rafts is etched. He stands free, with one hand propped against his knee and a long stare in the other. He is relaxed but radiates both strength and confidence.
Tyra Lundgren was born in Stockholm in 1897 and studied art, sculpture and painting in Sweden, Austria and France. She was associated with, among other things, Sèvre’s manufactories in Paris and Arabia in Helsinki, Gustavsberg, Kosta and Rörstrand.”