I live in “America’s Little Sweden.” Incorporated in 1894, Lindstrom was first settled by a man named Daniel Lindstrom — he left his homeland of Sweden for the prospect of a new start on American soil in 1853. The water tower is an enormous coffee pot, Dala horses abound, and the Swedish flag is flown with pride. People know how to make lefse, drink Glogg and some even enjoy eating Lutefisk. There is a sister city in Sweden: Tingsryd. You can almost feel the commitment to heritage and the deep bond that gets passed on through families in the air around here, which in modern culture is something that is no longer common. I am not Swedish, though my father’s side did come from Norway, so there’s a little Nordic blood running through me. At any rate, I can appreciate the sense of belonging to a place that keeps this community’s Nordic roots nourished.
Earlier this week I had an unexpected free morning, so I planted some lettuce and carrots in hopes of a fall harvest in a few months and laced up my trail running shoes. Usually when I want to run on trails, I head toward the St. Croix river valley and all of the interesting rocky outcroppings and winding trails that follow the waterways. But this time, for whatever reason, I decided to go to a park that is right in town. Allemanstratt Wilderness Park is situated within the city limits of Lindstrom, about a half mile from the main drag, and you can see the Swedish church steeple from its shoreline.
I parked the Jeep and jogged into the cooler air of the dense forest to the songs of the 100 different types of birds who call these woods home. There are huge basswood, maple and oak trees scattered throughout the preserve, which in its entirety is 100+ acres. Some of the trees are upwards of 150 years old and seem to keep watch over this sanctuary, this place that has been set aside to embody the concept of the park’s name sake. Allemanstratt, in Swedish, means “all men’s right”– in Scandinavia there’s a concept that we could all do well to embrace: Allowing people the freedom to roam. This concept takes the view that all people should be able to freely access wilderness and reap the benefits that come from doing so regularly, as long as it is done with respect for the land and others, without harming the natural environment.
Sometimes I wonder what it would take to get our culture to truly embrace values like the ones that got left behind when people crossed the ocean to the promised land — and the values that informed the indigenous people who already lived here; like being part of nature, rather than separate and living with the land, rather that considering it something to be owned and used for human gain. I can only hope that the silvers of heritage that came along and still embody old world values provide the little bits of space that create the energy the world needs to remember the beauty that is possible. If we can remember that living in a way that allows all creatures the freedom to roam is essential for life to thrive on this planet, maybe the beauty can shine through the scars of the age.
Photo credit: Rich Bachman