The Master Builders of Scandinavia

(or ‘How My Church Was Finally Built’) Part 2:

Mid-morning they took a break. My wife brought out coffee, their new favorite drink, and a muffin for them to share. Back home in Finland they drank nettle tea, which was a staple. Sometimes they added pine needles, or spruce in the proper season, when the needles are young and tender and sweet. And for the occasional pick-me-up they swore by birch-bark and peppermint which they ground up into a fine powder and sprinkled over the tea like we would do with cinnamon.

We sat down with them around the fire, and our dogs sat close beside us while warily watching our tiny visitors milling about. Aari Vitta, Analie’s older brother, tossed two morsels of bacon across the fire, one to Fritz and one to Rocco, and they devoured the little snacks eagerly. After that, our dogs viewed our new friends much more favorably. Where he got the bacon, I had no idea. I overheard Analie speaking with her mother about getting more eggs, they would need the yolks to mix with their pigments before they could begin work on the icons for the new church. She was the iconographer of the group, she and her mother who had originally taught her the craft. Though now, at the age of sixteen, Analie had already far exceeded her mother in ability. Her younger brother, Armas and their second-cousin Eero both chimed in excitedly, saying they knew where to get eggs, they had discovered chickens earlier in the morning, in a coop not far away, and they could show us where to find them! Their mother agreed, but reminded them that they aren’t thieves, and they’d leave something of value in return for the eggs they took.

So off we went in search of eggs: Analie, her mother, the two boys, and me with our two dogs. Patty, my wife, returned inside to clean up after the morning snack and to track down a plastic bag that someone requested to use as a tarp. At the mention of the word, ‘chickens’ both Fritz and Rocco grew very excited, and Fritz led the way, though he had no idea where he was going and needed to be called back to the correct direction on several occasions. The chickens were in a coop behind our neighbor’s house which wasn’t a long journey. As we entered the yard, Fritz caught the scent and ran barking excitedly after the chickens. Rocco, with much smaller legs, followed as best he could, with his tail held proudly in the air and waving back and forth behind him as he ran.

We gathered up two well-shaped eggs and Paivi, their mother, pulled from one of her many pockets a beautifully knit wool cap, which she lovingly placed beside the nest where we found the eggs. “We’ll leave that for them, it’s a fair trade, in truth they got the better of it. Back home this cap would be worth a half-dozen eggs.” And I believed her, as I peered down with interest at the finely crafted hat. Though I was hard-pressed to imagine how my neighbor might actually use the miniscule thing. Perhaps he could wear it as a finger-warmer, by pulling it over his pinky, or maybe his ring-finger, but certainly not his thumb. It would never fit, not without permanently stretching the little cap and ruining it.

When we arrived back in our yard the crew were all busy working. I was curious to see the progress so I walked up to one of the elders who clearly was running the show, and asked him how things were coming along. “Good. Good. Very good.” He replied while continuing to scrutinize the activities taking place all around us. I asked him how they all knew what to do, with no plans to follow. And I followed that question up with another, hoping to discover what my role was going to be in all of this. He told me to hold out my hands, and he inspected them both closely while laughing and shaking his head. “Not a callous to be seen! Those are the hands of a dreamer, not a worker. You’ll watch!” But, I protested. I let him clearly know I wanted to help. “Don’t you fret, be at ease my oversized friend. You have a very important part to play. We’re using your church design, don’t you know?!”

I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised. “But how did you know about that? I wanted to tell you, but hadn’t gotten around to it.”

“Your plans are hanging on the wall of your office. I made copies last night. See!” He pointed at a stack of tiny papers on a nearby rock. Peering closely I could see they were indeed my designs, but so tiny I could barely discern them. “I hand-drew them all myself last night,” he continued with a wave of his hand. Before I could reply he held his hand up, “Shush!” He said curtly. “Do you smell that? Wood preservative. Our secret recipe.” There was a pungent but pleasant smell filling the air; something like creosote but with a hint of pine. “Reminds me of pine-tar soap.” I remarked. “Mmmm,” he sniffed deeply. “I love the smell of wood preservative in the morning!”

He turned to me quickly and looked up into my eyes. I think. It is hard to tell what exactly he was gazing at from way down there; but I’m fairly certain he was staring me down, and about to make an important point. “And you should be happy! We’re using quarter-scale for this church. We never do that. We’re exclusively metric you should know; but it’s a concession to you. Your plans are all in imperial.” He rolled his tiny eyes and snorted derisively. He waved his hand dismissively, “It’s fine. You’re welcome. We’ll make do.”

However, I was disappointed. I had been of the impression that they would be building an actual full-scale church, and my life-long dream of creating a real church would come to fruition. Was this then to truly be the fulfillment of my dream, or only a partial, scaled fulfillment of it? I pondered this as we stood beside the fire, as very tiny men poured out glowing hot metal into forms, to create sections of a circular chandelier which would hang over the central crossing of the new church. I stared at the red, molten iron and considered this turn of events and what it meant for my dream. To my right, in the distance, sparks of brilliant white light showered the ground, while a little man welded two sections of the chandelier, which had cooled and were now ready for assembly. Where on earth did they find a MIG welder?! I was dumbfounded by, and admired their immense resourcefulness.

(to be continued)

The Podes have added circular icons to the central column structure, as well as the second level of columns, which will support a third level of stave columns, and then a dome of Christ Pantocrator, and finally everything enclosed by the roof structure:

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