Winter Wonderland

As I sit here and look out at the 20″ of snow that fell recently I reflect on the visit my wife and I paid to the Rudi Memorial in the Minnesota River Valley this past Summer. I begin by admitting that I do wonder why people from this state flee to the South as Winter approaches since the countryside is positively breathtaking with the brilliant white set against the clearest of blue skies. The lower temperatures, which are rare in this part of the country at this time of the year, resulted in wet snow clinging to every twig of every branch of every tree in the entire region. It even makes the telephone poles look grand in the brilliant sunshine. The fields are white as far as the eye can see and the light is so bright from the reflected snow it almost hurts the eyes. The wind creates magnificent snow sculptures around the base of the trees and bushes and in the roadside ditches, every one different from the next and each a delight to behold. People leave this beauty for Florida with its pink flamingos on the lawns and the rooftops, pulling Santa’s sled. Seriously? Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get back to Rudi’s cabin.

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The web page set up to highlight the Minnesota River Valley’s “Scenic Byways” tells us about Lars Rudi’s cabin:

Rudi Memorial
Located on Renville Co. 12 south of Sacred Heart
The Rudi Memorial is a tribute to Lars Rudi and all pioneer families who settled in Renville County. The log cabin, built in 1868, illustrates the dovetail notching of logs typically used by Scandinavian settlers. The Rudi family lived in the cabin until 1913. It served as a place of community gathering, such as school and church for the pioneer families. The Rudi Cabin is listed on the National Registers of Historic Homes.

As I say, I was in the cabin this past Summer and it’s about 14′ by 15′ with a small loft above attached to a set of rickety stairs. When I think about Lars Rudy, his wife and his wife’s sister who all lived in the tiny cabin for all those years I cringe. And while I can readily imagine how they kept warm on cold winter nights . . . I cannot imagine what it would be like to be stuck in that cabin with nothing to read but the Bible and no one to talk to day in and day out but two other people whom I would be getting to know awfully well — perhaps too well!  The description above tells us that the cabin was a place for “community gatherings,” but that is a stretch: not much of a community could fit in a space that small! But those people somehow persevered and apparently developed a toughness that we can all envy.

We are told that many of the pioneers who farmed this region got discouraged and went back East because they couldn’t make it. Many more went mad, as the number of institutions on the Great Plains in that era demonstrate. But some, like the Rudis stuck it out with their unshakable faith and the grit and determination which set them apart.

But as I think back on that small cabin and look out at the beauty that surrounds me  today I do marvel that those hardy folks could have persevered for 45 years together through Minnesota winters that could last five months or more with only the freezing temperatures and relentless wind outside to keep them company. It tends to give one perspective.

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4 thoughts on “Winter Wonderland

  1. Years ago a friend wrote me and asked, ‘What’s wrong? You normally tell me the many shades of the sky and the direction of the wind and describe all that you see…” I laughed and assured her that I was very busy when I sent her a brief email from the outback of Costa Rica, but all was fine in my world!

    Reading your beautiful narrative about your winter wonderland reminded me of some of those email reports I sent over the years. Your love for the landscape, and your reaction to the beautiful scene in front of you inspired beautiful prose. I especially loved the fluid rhythm of ‘wet snow clinging to every twig of every branch of every tree in the entire region.’

    I wrote many of those reports, (Walden of the Tropics) while living in a studio about the size of the Rudi Cabin. I often pondered that sharing that space with another person would taint the experience; it was just big enough to be a perfect incubation chamber for writing, painting and soaking up the wildness of nature that surrounded me. On pretty days, I basically slept there and spent all of my times outdoors. During the rainy season, when 30 inches of rain fell in one month, I was often stuck inside for days and days. Heavy rain on a tin roof isn’t as idyllic as often thought when it crashes down for hours and hours! Headphones were the perfect retort, and I adapted and thrived! Time there made me a stronger person.

    I am one of those (rare?) people who thrives in a warm climate. When people around me are sweating profusely, I am cool and comfortable. My fingers usually turn blue in air-conditioned spaces, and I have to go outside and sit in the sun to get warm! Place me in temperatures below 50 degrees F, and you’ll see a bit of involuntary shaking of my skeletal system! Place me in temperatures that you’re experiencing now, and I all but rattle to stay warm!

    I have always loved the beauty that you describe, but my body protests. Thank you for sharing the beauty; I enjoyed the visit without having to pull out the thermals!

    Z

  2. I love what you said about pioneers. I love the Little House on the Prairie books not because they present a rosy life, but because they remind me of how hard it really would have been. Some of my ancestors settled Texas and after doing research on them, I am in such awe of their bravery and sacrifices.

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