by Rita Leydon ©2006
Ragna is my only sibling, a younger person than me by three and a half years. We're both in our fifties now. Parents gone. Two kids each. Grown and almost grown. Diametrically totally different—that's us. Always yearning to be closer, never really figuring out how. We work at it though and I feel happy when we manage to touch.
When Ragna met Richard she uncharacteristically started writing emails sharing with me the unchartered adventure she was cautiously embarking on. It was exciting. It was uncertain. It was thrilling and breathless. Most important, my sister was happy. One day at a time, week after week, month after month led to an agreement between the two to marry. No nonsense. Matter of fact. It was to be a Swedish Bahá’í wedding with music and dancing. Ragna asked us to play nyckelharpa and we were charged with the bridal march and a hambo. This was a huge honor and we were thrilled. We selected and practiced our tunes. A professional Swedish fiddler was engaged for the rest of the music. The wedding day came and went. But this story is not about that day. This story is about another day, some weeks later and 2000 miles away.
Chris and I ran the Colorado Grand road rally, start to finish, in our little 1934 MG-K3 race car. A thousand miles over four days. Then we fished and hiked with our son Lars, a transplant from the east coast who guided his Mom and Dad with gentle patience and then waved us off with his big toothy smile.
We headed due south, towards Fort Garland. In the coddled eastern comfort zone of suburban New Jersey where we grew up after immigrating from Sweden in 1960, such a place didn't exist. Such barren expanses and glorious mountain vistas and immense blue skies just didn't exist—were not on the charts and could not be conjured up. How our parents picked this place to retire to is a great mystery, although a serendipitous one. I don't know if Ragna has ever bonded with the place, but my own family has fallen head over heels bonkers in love with the whole shooting match!! Lost our hearts and scrambled our senses ... oops, I should speak for myself. Somewhere between Walsenburg and La Veta Pass it became crystal clear to me just why we were hauling truck and trailer over hill and dale to get to Fort Garland again. I announced to Chris that I wanted to play all the tunes from Ragna's wedding for Mom and Dad.
"I already knew that," he said. I looked over at Chris, startled.
"I didn't know it myself until just a moment ago." He just smiled.
Both Mom and Dad's ashes are sprinkled on the slopes of Mt. Lindsey and Blanca Peak. Dad sprinkled Mom from the belly of a WW II bomber and I sprinkled Dad from the same bomber several years later. So anyway, there they are on the slopes overlooking the home they built together with their own hands in the San Louis Valley.
It was very windy. It's always windy here. The sky was a perfect ice blue. Silhouettes of distant hills and mountains lined up along the horizon like old friends. Shapes etched in my psyche over time without any effort on my part. Maybe that's how birds migrate home over long distances—some sort of automatic imprinting of shapes and colors and light. Whenever I arrive at this place I feel at home. This is very strange for I've never lived here. Must be the knowledge that my parents are here.
We pulled off highway 160 between the mountains and the old homestead. Nothing but raw rugged southern Colorado as far as the eye can scan. Blue sky, the scent of sage, sand and wind. We mounted our instruments, faced into the wind and played our tunes—played for Mom and Dad so they could hear and be part of Ragna's wedding too. This marriage would have pleased them. Seeing their youngest child in an unhappy first marriage had long been a cause of distress. I was, of course, reduced to tears during a good portion of this exercise, while Chris was steady as a rock. He's a good guy.
As we were winding down, a car pulled up and stopped. How convenient, I thought, as two ladies emerged. I asked one of them to take our picture with the mountain so I could show it to my sister when I got home, explaining the gist of what we were doing there by the side of the road dressed in our odd instruments. They had never seen the likes of a nyckelharpa before. They were sisters on a swing through the west to get to know each other better after their own mother's passing. And, get this, they were Swedish! Second generation, but still .... That seemed fitting. Small world. Sisters. Passing. Reaching out. Yearning.
The deed done, Chris and I packed away our instruments and headed for the local coffee shop where I gave Ragna a call to tell her where we were and what we had done. She choked up at the other end and said she had to get back to work. We turned our rig around and faced the 2000 miles between us and home.