Monday, June 6, 2011


Welcome to my blog! I look forward to sharing my experiences and reflections with you as I travel and study in Norway for the next two months. Augustana College has given a true gift to my friend, Michael Seeley, and me as we study at the University of Oslo International Summer School. My studies will focus on Scandinavian government and politics, as well as peace and diplomacy with wonderful resources of the Peace Prize Center in Oslo. The culmination of our study will be an independent research project that we present to our immediate group, and bring back to our home campuses. Our learning and sharing will continue throughout next school year and at the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

The Sanskrit word tirtha (tee-ruk) means a pilgrimage site, a holy place, a crossing point. I give thanks to Dr. Sandra Looney and Dr. Janet Blank-Libra for guiding us on our own pilgrimage during the month of January and helping me to better understand what a pilgrimage means and how to reflect on it. Over the next two months, I will have the privilege to go on my own pilgrimage. Of course, the journey isn't my own, but one to be shared continuously throughout as well as beyond. On this journey, I'll travel back to my roots, establish crossing points with students from all corners of the globe, and look globally at the challenges that we face today and in the future. A pilgrimage requires self-reflection and assessment. What is my role as an individual to create and maintain peace in the world? How can I do this most effectively? How can I listen to others better? How can we all work to live in community and not just as individuals?

As I both look back to my roots and study the past, present, and future, I am reminded of these words from Stanley Kunitz:

The Layers
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written,
I am not done with my changes.

I'm grateful to be joined by my parents and sister for the first leg of my journey. We will travel to Bergen, Stavanger, and Oslo where we will be graciously hosted by friends and family at some points, and free to roam and explore at others. The land of my ancestors will be our holy ground, and connections with relatives will be our crossing points. Our pilgrimage is especially meaningful because of the strong Norwegian heritage that my Grandma Titze (or Gam, pronounced Gom, as I called her when I was little) proudly claimed and professed. She was the only one of her siblings born in the United States. Her parents and siblings emigrated to the United States in 1923. Their passport is pictured above which I thought helped set the tone for my first entry. Gam was extremely proud of her heritage and I think of her often as we prepare for our trip. We will meet some of our cousins in the Simonsen family in Stavanger.

Along the way I hope to update this frequently and not just use the blog as a journal to chronicle where we went and what we saw, but rather a thoughtful forum for my thoughts about what I learn and what is left unanswered.

You'll see quotes, passages, and poems from outside sources as I blog. Many references will be grounded in what I learned from Drs. Looney and Blank-Libra, Pastor Paul's recently published Pilgrims Guide, the Augustana Pilgrimage celebrating our first 150 years, and other texts and sources I have previously encountered or will encounter very soon.

I appreciate your interest and I hope you'll join me on the journey. I am excited beyond words for what I know will be a transformative, life-changing experience!

No comments:

Post a Comment