city of bees, part one

From across the room I saw it.

A large manilla envelope, in the church mailbox I share with Andrew.

I held it with some wonder. I wondered how soon I could open it.

Once home, I sat at the dining room table, ready to pay proper attention.

Inside, the envelope held a large newspaper clipping and a card explaining.

Interestingly, the sender was someone I had spoken with this past autumn… and strangely, just earlier this morning I’d recalled that conversation, unbidden. It seems that perhaps as I was thinking of her, she was writing my name on that envelope.

(Sometimes I think there are ethereal electrical currents in the atmosphere, connecting us and causing patterns of behavior to emerge… atmospheric rhythms perhaps. If you said this to me, I’d respond with “nonsense.” And yet…)

So now I am looking at this clipping. It is from the Carillon News, Centennial Edition, September 7, 1967. Its title: Gruenfeld then, Kleefeld now, authored by Mrs. Elsie Kliewer. I’m excited to read it! And I will write as I read. A reading journal of sorts.

First, the honey thing should be addressed. Kleefeld is the “land of milk and honey” according to a sign just outside the village I used to see every day from the school bus window.

I read this tidbit out loud to Andrew just now: “Kleefeld has nine apiarists, five of whom answer to the name of Pete.” Later the article makes reference to a “city of bees”, and I love that.

Now it is time to read The Story of Kleefeld. At the time of writing in 1967, Kleefeld’s population was about 160. I wonder what it is now. A great many more.

Reading of the original village street reminds me of what I’ve read in the Historical Atlas of the East Reserve – and what Henry Fast has shown Andrew and I (feature photo) – “The village street followed a slight ridge which ran in a south east north westerly direction. Presently this is all cultivated land…” It was already lost in 1967.

Apparently when this was published, there were still some original buildings standing. But I am concerned. They are likely all gone by now. (Or are they?)

I found the Narrative of the Village of Gruenfeld very interesting as it contains a letter from late September 1874, written by Mennonites who stayed with friends in Gruenfeld as they were on their way to settle Steinbach: “Late in the evening we arrived at Abram Loewens in the new village of Gruenfeld. In their tent we stayed that night, mostly in a sitting position. As it rained all next day we stayed with them another night.”

I’m trying to imagine this. Two (likely large) families in small space, dirt floor, raining outside, sitting there together for two days straight. I suppose they knew each other from the old country… but how well? At any rate, they were of the same community, and thus spending time in this way, to help each other survive, was natural or at least made sense to them. (My how our sense of hospitality has changed over the years. We are so siloed now. I digress.)

I continue reading John R. Dueck’s account, describing the first dwellings, with dirt floors, and two families sharing a space that was 26 feet wide, which he declares “provided ample room.” (My eyes widened at this. I should really get the tape measure and see just how far 26 feet actually is, to boost my comprehension of this situation. Likely similar to the sod house at the Mennonite Heritage Village, where they say two families would have overwintered together!)

And here is some entirely new information for me: the settlers made their own sleighs and ploughs from roots they found in the woods! I am trying to imagine all of this. I think these are the same woods in which I wander on occasion, in an effort to summon the past.