All are welcome here

Soon I’ll be leaving all electronic devices in my comfortable home and making an hour and a half drive back in time to a one room log cabin 90 miles away.

I hope the young grandchildren I take with me do the same.

Originally constructed in 1868 on the Minnesota prairie, this simple cabin of hand-hewn logs and wooden pegs now rests in a park located in a nearby town of 200 people.

My great grandmother Christine lived inside her first winter in America along with family and the other Swedish immigrants who helped build it. In total, 11 people slept in a space no bigger than my 8 by 10 foot back porch.

In spite of brutal blizzards and negative zero wind chills, these immigrants survived and then thrived in the years that followed with dogged determination and dedication to hard work.

They toiled in the fields year after year growing wheat and raising cattle as did several generations after them.

Today immigrants from East Africa and other continents also live in the region surrounding the cabin, along with descendants of the earlier settlers.

Their tastes may lean towards lamb as opposed to beef or lutefisk, but they share my early ancestors’ determination and dedication to hard work.

I’m pretty sure when my grandchildren arrive to see the old cabin in the park they’ll also want to play on the shiny swing set now sitting on the playground in front of it.

I’m also confident they’ll want to share it with any new children in the area that they meet.

It seems parks and swing sets in America still speak a universal language.

And fortunately, so do our children.

On the horizon

I can hear the return of fall in the distance.

Cicadas are now serenading those who linger longer on their front porches at night.

I’m pretty sure I see it, too.

Right there on the faces of freckle faced children buzzing through brightly colored aisles of the drug store with their school supply lists.

I’m tasting it now in my first batch of homemade salsa after picking a bushel of ripe red tomatoes and green peppers from the garden.

And in the white and yellow corn kernels bathed in warm Land of Lakes butter, tasting sweeter than ever.

Did I feel a touch of fall this morning too, in that cool, crisp breeze brushing my shoulders while I walked the canine crew?

You betcha.

The pups and I refused to go back inside for breakfast.

Fairy dust in fall

Many here would say it was a magical morning.

And all rose early to take advantage of this beautiful autumn day.

In fact, our sidewalks were nearly full of life by 8am.

I’m now living in a kid friendly community and one kind to cats, corgis and chihuahuas.

Even chinchillas and chickens for that matter.

And the shopkeepers’ doors were open early to all.

So was the Farmer’s Market.

But I took a short detour before running my shopping errands.

Bright sunlight through blazing red maples illuminated the dusty path back to my destination.

I was in search of one old and hollow ash by the lake down the road.

But this is no ordinary tree.

It’s blessed with a little wooden door, right at the base, for all the children in town to see.

I was conducting preliminary research for a special birthday location for a soon to be three year old.

My own little grandson.

I wanted something memorable, and maybe mystical.

And this tree is both.

For years a kindly little elf has lived inside, or so the legend goes. Young children leave him notes and trinkets, and he always replies back in kind.

This day there were several of both, circling the big old tree.

I unfolded one note from Toby, scribbled on yellow lined paper.

“Hi, how ya doing today Mr. Elf?”

I folded it back up and neatly placed it by the others.

Some days the notes are asking for much more than a response.

Maybe a return to health of a loved one, or a recovery from an illness of their own.

I also noticed this morning the wooden door was locked, and there’s an inscription now hanging on a tag composed by the elf.

The elf’s written that he’s once again returned to the castle.

That’s where he travels when winter time in near.

I understand there’s a very lovely fairy who lives there with him.

Yet our elf still religiously returns to the ash tree each spring.

I’m happy to report he’s added a special feature this year for the chilly months ahead.

It’s a P.O. box, where the children can mail their winter correspondence.

I thought about picking up the letter from Toby, and the others resting below the tree that the elf had missed.

Yet I’m thinking our little guy will magically appear some morning before the first snow finally falls.

Suddenly I felt a chilly gust of wind from the north, and I turned to walk back towards the market.

I decided instead to wait until spring, when the wooden door is once again open, to properly knock and introduce my grandson to the elf.

When I met up with my birthday boy later, we conferred with the chinchilla in the bookstore on great recommendations for kid books on animals and other mystical kingdoms.

And we selected a couple for purchase.

My princely grandson is quite content tonight.

And so am I.

We’ll both sleep well in our own special castles, dreaming of one very special little elf.

Anticipating a magical springtime to come.