I sent out my winter newsletter earlier this week. If you aren’t a subscriber, you missed some recaps of the past year and comments about current projects. (It’s a busy season, so no worries.) In it I included a brief outtake from the last book in the trilogy, a passage related to the Jul season. At this stage, years into the German occupation, Norway’s circumstances were leaner and more challenging than ever, and yet Mari and her family and so many others held firmly to their hopes for the future, for a better life ahead.
I decided to share this snippet that couldn’t squeeze into the final word count for MARI’S HOPE. If you find yourself able to celebrate the holidays with an abundance of blessings, good for you. If you find yourself longing for better days, olden days, absent loved ones, or in any way feeling less than joyous, please hold on to hope. Draw on the strength of love, laughter, and family, past or present.
A Holiday OUTTAKE from the CUTTING ROOM FlOOR (MARI’S HOPE)
During her months in Bergen, Mari had managed, with a little help from Rolf, to barter several older items and a few keepsakes for one fine silk blouse. As the Jul season approached, she began working on her plan.
The weeks leading up to Jul night were stressful and exhausting as the outbreak of unexplained disease spread through Ytre Arna. Each night she collapsed on Bestemor’s sofa, but struggled to relax. Once the others were asleep, she used that perfect opportunity to work on her secret project.
With careful planning, that precious blouse yielded enough fabric for a dozen small handkerchiefs.
Mari pulled silk threads from the blouse remnants to hem the handkerchief edges. Then, all along the borders, she used single strands of red embroidery floss to repeat this pattern:
.- .-.. – / ..-. — .-. / -. — .-. –. .
While in Bergen, Mari had studied International Morse Code, again with Rolf’s help. Her pattern repeated Norway’s national slogan, ALT FOR NORGE, “All for Norway”. Once she was satisfied that her message was in place, Mari added leaves and vines with green floss threads. If those red threads were pointed out to someone who knew Morse Code, the message could be read easily. Otherwise, it that code was safely nestled into the border of a holiday hanky.
The design was not at all traditional, but it was expertly stitched, thanks to Mari’s scrupulous training with a needle and thread from Mama, Bestemor, and Doctor Olsen.
The weather resumed its mild patterns and Mari crisscrossed the mountainside, checking on patients and watching for signs of new illness or outbreaks. If nothing developed, school could reopen after the first of the year. She applied the bartering lessons she had developed during the first year of occupation. People she visited (and trusted) were thrilled to learn the code and were eager to carry a silent symbol of protest. Her clever trading and the affection felt for her by the villagers allowed Mari to acquire Jul gifts for everyone on her list.
May your holiday season and the year ahead be filled with good health, agreeable weather, and finding ways to calm and center yourself. May your thoughts and energy often turn to others and their needs.
And may you hold tight to your values and identity, surrounding yourself with people you can trust.