Imagination In Place: An Author’s Perspective + A [Very] Short Story

Have you ever felt the need to justify your place? As an author, writing about a place that is not my own has definitely been a task I do not take lightly.

in my place.

Have you ever felt the need to justify your place?  Wendell Berry writes in his 2010 work, Imagination in Place, about his move from New York City, a hub of culture, to his native Kentucky.  His move was not necessary, but he wanted to move back.  For years, he wrestled with the admonitions of old New York friends who told him he was ruining his life by moving back to rural life.  He of course had no reason to give them as to why moving back was a good idea – he could not prove them wrong.  Later, he came to understand why he made the decision, after reading North Winter, a collection of poems by Hayden Carruth. Berry’s words give those of us who prize our own “place” – be it a booming metropolis or land of corn fields – a sense of consolation:

Those poems, in addition to the much else they were, clearly did not come from any great center of culture, not from New York or Boston or even Concord.  They came from Johnson, Vermont, a place not central to the culture even of Vermont, and yet a place obviously central to the consciousness and imagination of a fine poet. (Berry 57)

Have you ever felt like people who are not from your “place” tend to oversimplify your place, as if it belongs to some sort of province… as if “the South” is the same “South” in every southern state, or town? How does one politely come up against these rampant generalizations?  The answer is imagination.  I love this Wendell Berry quote:

My neighbors don’t look like Southerners or Kentuckians to me. The better I know them, the more they look like themselves.  The better I know my place, the less it looks like other places and the more it looks like itself.  It is imagination, and only imagination, that can give standing to these distinctions. (Berry 33).

As an author, writing about a place that is not my own has definitely been a task I do not take lightly.  I admit, I lack complete authority over the words I use to attempt to describe the place that is not my own.  I admit, my attempts pack less clout than those of an author who originates from the setting of my book.  I can attempt to research and gather as much contextual information as possible.  At the end of the day, I lean into humility and imagination.  Wendell Berry has helped me on this journey as a first-time author.  

You see, I have this fear that people will coin me as “fraud”.  The voices that come at me say, “How can a homeschool mom be an author of children’s books?  What about your family?  Isn’t your brain too zapped to tell the stories people want to hear?”  No matter what becomes of this, I certainly intend to read and write my entire life until I die. So, thank you Wendell Berry.  You broke the mold when you became a farmer who writes.  I am a homeschool mom who writes.  What will we hear of next – a shepherd boy who became the owner of a worldwide corporation?

The following short story follows a man named Visionary through his early years into his career as a carpenter.  The story finds its apex and quickly thereafter its resolution at the point where Visionary makes a life-altering decision.  

*Note: This short story is based on the life of Ole Kirk Christiansen, the subject of my new picture book biography I am publishing with Blue Sky Daisies and does NOT include excerpts from my book.  References are included.

A Man Called Visionary

by H.G. Lee

There was a man whose vision reached beyond the limits of his day. Visionary Man is what I’ll call him.  Visionary Man was born into an agrarian family in a Danish-speaking hamlet of white church and green field, brick cottage and wooden barn.  

Raised on the staples of home cooking and hard work, Visionary Man saw the beads of sweat on his parents’ foreheads. 

Going by “Visionary” for short, he worked out his hours in school and in the field, keeping his neighbors’ animals safe and fed.  The shepherd Visionary had bigger dreams that awaited him.  

The beads of sweat accrued from hours in his big brother’s carpentry shop led to a shaping, a forming, of Visionary’s hard work ethic.  As wood can be shaped into a masterpiece, the virtues found within Visionary’s heart were being shaped and refined.  Perhaps this apprenticeship was the beginning of the long road to excellence.  Nobody could have known what his life would be, no more than anyone can look at your life and see what might be or might have been had you chosen a different path.  

Six years of apprenticeship took Visionary from young, fourteen-year-old apprentice to twenty-year-old journeyman.  

The first cars were being mass-produced. The world had been put on wheels, and it was surely getting smaller, if you know what I mean. As Visionary proudly clutched his journeyman’s certificate, he made plans to study under the master carpenters in the land of fjords, Norway. His adult life was laid out ahead of him.  He had his training.

Carpentry work translated into many kinds of jobs.  He would go on to build churches, farm buildings, cabinets, doors and windows.  If this was all there was to his story, his life would have been considered very normal, perhaps.  It may not seem like he would go on to create a worldwide corporation whose name still elicits elated squeals from children and admiration from parents.

But Visionary’s story did not end there.

Remember, his name was Visionary.  He lived through the dawn of the twentieth century, where the airplane was the newest technology, and the Internet was introduced at dusk, long after his death.  Why did this Visionary at midlife look at his company and decide to start focusing more on toys for children than anything else?

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com


How did this man possess the resolve to make life better for children?  Was it his heart for others that led him to his own innovation? 

Some people laughed at him. His fellow townspeople knew him as Visionary, and many loved him.  But Visionary’s ideas took monetary risk.  He was a lovable man, but not always a safe man.  His ideas made him unsafe.  

Maybe you’d think this man was destined for the metropolis.

He could have moved to Copenhagen, rife with ready customers after his factory burned to the ground. He had offers to relocate.  Visionary’s loyalty got in the way.  He wanted to preserve the jobs of his friends, his workers, his “people” as he called them.  His loyalty and vision kept him in his town.  

You see, Visionary had been given a vision.  He spoke of it later as having come from God. His vision included a modern factory with assembly lines and machinery in his own town (not in a metropolis).  He loved his place.  He loved his work.  He loved the people who worked for him, refusing to call them workers, but instead, “people”.  Visionary was a special person. What would have been different had he decided to continue building household products, furniture, and churches?  A lot would have been impacted, no doubt.  Would Visionary still have had an impact in his place?  

Sometimes, it’s not what we produce that impacts people the most.  It’s who we are. 

References

Andersen, J. (2021, September 17). Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen about his grandfather: “he could gather 70-80 employees at the factory for devotion every day”.  Kristeligt Dagblad.  https://www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/kultur/kjeld-kirk-kristiansen-om-sin-farfar-han-kunne-samle-70-80-medarbejdere-til-morgenandagt-paa

Anthony, W. (2018). The LEGO story. Scandinavian Review, Spring 2018, pages 17-33. https://www.amscan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Pages-from-SR-Spring-2018.pdf

Christiansen, P.N.G. (2021, November 29).  Out on an adventure. Ud & Se. https://www.udogse.dk/ud-paa-eventyr/

The LEGO Group. (2020). The lego group history [Infographic].

Lego.com US. https://www.lego.com/en-us/aboutus/lego-group/the-lego-group-history/

GuideDanmark. (2022). Visit Billund. https://www.visit-billund.com/billund/service-information/filskov-gdk729232

National LEGO Build Day, Living Projects Are My Treat To You & Week 15 Booklist

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I might earn a small portion from the purchase of some of these LEGO books, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support.

I am so thankful to my email community.

People I personally know have shown me support and have spread the word. Thank you, dear friends!

I am also humbled in seeing how my community has grown over the past month. I cannot think that the only people interested in my content are those who know me personally. I have met kindred spirits, near and far! Thank you!

I want to invite you to join my email community. I am regularly designing exclusive, free content for my inbox buddies. I love doing this. So, if you are not already a member of our email community, please sign up.

Each Living Project includes:

  • links to engaging educational videos that serve to enrich thematic content
  • read aloud suggestions
  • narration ideas
  • family discussion questions
  • enrichment or extension projects that align with Classical Conversations content
  • LEGO trivia
SAMPLE of one page of a Living Project (Week 2)

Booklist

Another perk I have created for my email community is the booklists I make each week. Are you ready to see Week 15?

Here is the Week 15 booklist, aligned with Classical Conversations Cycle 1, Week 15. I try my best to curate quality, living books. This list has some lovely books.

Last but certainly NOT least, did you know that TOMORROW, January 28, 2022 is LEGO BUILD DAY?

Get your build on!

Check out these LEGO titles:

The Lego Ideas Book: Unlock Your Imagination by Daniel Lipkowitz

The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks you Already Have by Sarah Dees

How to Build LEGO Houses: Go on a Journey to Become a Better Builder by Jessica Farrell

7 Reasons to Use LEGO® Bricks in a Charlotte Mason Education

LEGO®  is a trademark of the LEGO® Group, which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this website.

I know many of us love Pinterest. I made a quick version of the following article. If you’re on Pinterest, please follow me and check out this idea pin! https://pin.it/11UHe5Z

Building time!

My friend, Amy Sloan, writes on her blog, Humility and Doxology. Her audience looks similar to you all. In fact, some of you might overlap! Please check her out if you “think classical education and delight-directed learning aren’t mutually-exclusive” (qtd. from her site, Humility and Doxology).

Today, Amy featured my writing on her blog. I wrote an article entitled “7 Reasons to Use LEGO® Bricks in a Charlotte Mason Education”. I pray you find it inspiring. My goal in writing is to leave homeschooling parents with more tools up their sleeves than they had before. This was my first appearance as a guest author, too!

If my blog post on Humility and Doxology resonates with you in any way, please share! I am a new author and am looking to get my content in front of an audience. Thank you for supporting me in this way!

XO,

Holly

Happy New Year! My Favorite Posts of 2021

This is my 30th post! Making it to a round number is celebratory. I wanted to share some of my favorite posts from the past year (2021) with you. I hope you find them helpful in your homeschool.

This is my 30th post! Making it to a round number is celebratory. I wanted to share some of my favorite posts from the past year (2021) with you. I hope you find them helpful in your homeschool.

My Top Posts

1. The Reason (Why We Homeschool)

This was the very first post I wrote on My Little Brick Schoolhouse. If you are curious about our reason, I think you should read it. “My family is just one tiny dot in an ocean of homeschooling families. I know we are nothing special, and there are so many wiser people who have come before. But I do have a song to sing. Can I share it with you?”

2. Resources for the First Half of Classical Conversations Cycle 1

Here is the booklist I compiled to align with the first twelve weeks of Classical Conversations Foundations Program, Cycle 1 (Ancient History). I hope it serves you in some way. Even if you are not in Classical Conversations, the list is subdivided by content areas: math, fine arts, geography, history and science. Anyone can find some titles on the list that are enjoyable to read with family!

3. Tea Time Discipleship

I love tea time. This is how we have incorporated tea time into our homeschool days.

4. My Kids Know that I like them (just because we can days!)

I am feeling a February slump coming on… fast! So, I have already put our next JBWCD on the calendar. I hope you find freedom in the fact that we can enjoy our kids for an entire day, no strings attached or agendas to fulfill!

5. A Living Story: Ole Kirk Kristiansen and LEGO®

LEGO®  is a trademark of the LEGO® Group, which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this website.

This Danish man’s legacy amazes me. Read more about the founder of the LEGO® company here.

6. How I Plan A Homeschool

I wrote this in May to give you all a glimpse into the process I take in homeschool planning for the year. I hope it helps you in some way!

7. Garnering Wisdom As Our Year Ends

Even though I wrote this from an end-of-the-school-year vantage point, I could definitely take some time to do a midyear evaluation. What am I learning now, in January? What do I need to do differently?

The Newsletter

If you’d like to keep updated on our homeschool journey, receive updates on my book, and be privy to exclusive resources that pair with the booklists I create, then please sign up for my newsletter!

A newsletter is a better way for me to connect with my special readers than social media, if I am being honest. Although I see the merits of social media, the conversation gets much more robust in the newsletter. Maybe you would like to reframe some ways of thinking and start looking at life from a different perspective. Well, that’s what I’m working on, too! I would love to share more about that with you in the newsletter, so do not miss out!

A Living Story: Ole Kirk Kristiansen and the LEGO® Company

The LEGO® Bricks We Love

LEGO®  is a trademark of the LEGO® Group, which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this website.

If you are like me and have a son or daughter who loves to build, you will be buying some LEGO® products this Christmas.  If this is not you, then I bet you already own something.  Am I correct in my assumption?

These days, nearly every big box store carries LEGO® merchandise.  They have even made multiple LEGO movies in the past couple of decades!  Globally, it is a giant of a company. 

But many giants have humble beginnings.

Humble Beginnings

Nearly a century ago, we face a young man who is staring down a decision.  The year is 1929.  The stock market in New York City crashes.  The effects, as we know, reach beyond the U.S.

A man in Denmark is staring down decision.  The prices of major Danish exports, butter and bacon, plummet.  Having known the agrarian life as a child, this grown man has marketable carpentry skills.  He had been an apprentice under his brother and loved working with birchwood.  He has his own carpentry business, but the farmers who suffered economic loss can no longer afford his carpentry work. 

A man in Denmark is staring down a decision. In 1931, Ole Kirk Kristiansen lets his last worker go.  He ventures out into the unknown.

The National Association for Danish Enterprise is there to help.  Established in 1908, the association promotes Danish manufacturing and the sale of Danish goods domestically and abroad.  Ole is a member.  As he opens up the pages of the association’s magazine and scans the advice column, he stops.  He looks more closely at the words.  Readily marketable products – step ladders, ironing boards, toys – wait.  Toys?  These products are the wave of the future, the hope for economic recovery, and Ole Kirk Kristiansen can see that future.  Hope washes over him. 

A man in Denmark is staring down a decision.  It is not made for him.  He has to step out in boldness, tuning out the critical voices of his relatives.  The din of the uncertainty does not make him relent in his march toward a new business venture.  Scary?  Of course. 

… I looked to the future with hope. But within two months my world was tumbling. There was a crisis in farming but as we owed our living to the smallholders and farmers, we were also affected. We were in a difficult time – but it was as well that we could not see what lay ahead. During the summer we were asked to make toys for Jens W. Olesen, Fredericia, and as we had no other work, we looked on it as a gift from God.”

                (from Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s 1932 memoirs)

Toys On the Horizon

The year is 1935.  Up until this point, our Danish friend had been refining his toy-making skills, but had not been focusing exclusively on toys.  Furniture and buildings were a large part of his repertoire.  (I sometimes imagine being a chair that Ole Kirk Kristiansen fashioned. If chairs had feelings, how proud I would feel!)

A man in Denmark is staring down a decision. He knows he would have to either drop his old craft, or extinguish his dream of toymaking.  He can not have both toys and his old craft.  It is an either-or decision.  And he makes that decision.  The rest is history.  Or is it? 

Ole Kirk Kristiansen would go on to make his LEGO business one of the most successful companies in the world. 

What I love about Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s story is his tenacity in the midst of adversity.  He had so much hope, but had so many reasons to give up.  His wife died when the four children were young.  He had the task of raising four boys, all the while pouring into his business.  Yet, this family’s story is deep and long.  The legacy Ole left his sons is indescribable.  Godtfred Kirk Christiansen is the son who carries on the legacy.  His innovation is undeniable.  Yet, it was his father, “Far” as the Danish would say, who modeled the standards of excellence, innovation, and hope.  He had plenty of sayings that we all could think upon, one of them being, “only the best is good enough”.  He was truly a man of principle. 

Living Ideas, Living Stories

This story is just a mere example of the kind of living ideas I want my children to feast upon.  There are plenty of good stories out there, if we dig for them.  The living ideas in these stories captivate the heart.  They fire the imagination, stoke the emotions.  They are written to convey universal truths and point to the light and truth that God has given us. 

If you are interested in learning more about the LEGO® story, watch this short film on the company’s site. 

Have you ever wondered how certain companies were founded?  On which principles did the founders build their businesses?  I challenge you to look up these stories.  They might surprise, even captivate you. 

References:

https://www.lego.com/en-us/history/articles/a-new-reality

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