The heat is scorching- the ground turns as hot as a bed of burning charcoal.
They are on a quest of their dream- to a land where there will be peace for them- wealth for them-happiness for them!
They are on their foot-they had to cover an average of ten to twelve miles on foot-that too carrying their own belongings in handcarts.
Every bone –every muscle-every joint in their bodies are rebelling against further movement.
It is one step forward-one step closer to their dreams.
Flies, gnats, mosquitoes- all are taking their tests. Tests of patience-tests of ability! As if the whole world has conspired against them in their will of reaching their dreamland! Their tender skins were bitten by horseflies- leaving them swollen!
Their feet son developed blisters- but they should go on!
They have to reach Zion- where the ancient city of Enoch-taken to heaven-will return to earth!
But where is Zion? Is there any Zion?
Faith is put into swords- it’s a fiery test of the belief…….
Upon Destiny’s Song by Mike Erickson and Sage Steadman is a heart touching chronicle of the immigration of the Madsen family from Denmark to the New World and thereafter their stories of struggle in the land of opportunities. As converted to Mormonism- the family participated in the migration of the pioneers. It is an appealing story of a girl who had never lost hope in the most adverse situation- who had overcame her grief, despair and pain to rise above the smallness of life!
Every beginning has a beginning. So let us start the story of the Ole Madsen-the Danish farmer. Through his matrimonial alliance he got a wheat firm and four stepchildren-and both of them contributed six more to the family. And destiny took him to the company of two Mormon preachers.
Prior to the latter day saints’ movement- Protestants were all powerful religious groups in Denmark. A quick popularity of Mormons-was the subject of attack to the new religion!
“In Denmark, it was believed that individuals were predestined to remain in the station into which they were born. Mormons preached otherwise and became quickly disliked. Their perching was banned from local churches and relegated to farmhouses that folks offered as meeting places.”
The idea of the God as visualized by Joseph smith appealed him too such an extent that he lost no time being converted. And the baptism of ole described in the book is rendezvous with the Mormon culture and religious practices- which the reader will encounter in plentiful as plunging deep into the book
“Amid the sound of sheep bleating nearby, birds chirping and the babbling of the stream, Elder Nielsen offered the prayer for Anne’s baptism. ‘in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy ghost.’ there was a splash of water as she was submerged. Ane sprang from the cold stream and wiped her face with wet hands.’
Just close your eyes and imagine the visualisation. Everywhere is silent- only the sound of the flowing water and occasional chirping of birds breaking the silence and a family is taking their first step towards uncertainty!
It is uncertain future indeed. Everywhere in Denmark and the rest of Europe – Mormonism is eyed with suspicion – as if they are companions of Lucifer himself. It is hard for their children to go to school-as taunting is everywhere- and always the situation is not as harmless as mere taunting. It is hard for the master of the house to go for everyday work-as thousands of inquisitive eyes will spearhead him every now and then. It is hard for the lady of the house to live in the community.
So Ane-the lady of the house or we may call the iron lady took the decision-to migrate to the new world- the world of new opportunities
“But there will be more of us, ”Ane countered;” thousands of people migrate to the Utah territory every year. And in Zion, President Brigham Young leads us. At least our children would be able to go to school without risk of being mocked or called names or having eggs thrown at them.”
it was a painstaking moment for them to leave their fatherland-towards a new destiny- where new hope may be beckoning- but they have no idea about the shape of that hope- only a vague silhouette- may be of hope- may be of despair.
It is a moment of separation –it was not possible for young Marie to fight with the storm within her mind to leave the land where she was born- their family was torn apart.
The way the moment has been drawn-will make your eyelids heavy in your unconsciousness. It is the fiery test of a writer- making emotional moments heart touching-and they have made the moments not only heart touching –but perhaps moments for you will shed drops of tears.
So new country…new world…new possibilities…..
New world welcomes them with a change of name-as per the customs. it was like erasing the old identity of the family. But that shock was followed by another-and by another…..
Countless waves of shock-or perhaps the ocean of shock….
They started their immigration-on foot –carrying the hand carts –drawn by no cattle-but the master and the lady of the family. Thus begun the migration of the family- unconsciously they became a part of the most disastrous migrations of the history of the United States.
In search of the mythical Zion…….
There is no work- no food for the family. They were forced to sell precious valuables for a loaf of bread. Death is following them in every step-
‘Ole lay next to his wife. There was another flash of light followed by more crackling thunder. Now the rain poured in earnest. The water infiltrated the tent and gushed around them as the wind howled. There is nothing they could do but lie huddled together, cold and wet…
There is nothing we can do but wait for it to pass. Try to sleep.’ Ole urged.
The girl attempted sleep as Ane cooed ‘sleep, little child, sleep.’ until the storm passed.’
No imagination can match the pages of life.
But how far faith can take them? To the light of life .or to the claws of death?
From the viewpoint of literary standard- this invaluable saga of pioneers reminds me the Latin American masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude or more recently of Where The Birds Sings Best.
A special place of mention is to be made about the compact disc accompanying the book. It has four songs-all depicting the journey, the hope and the aspiration of the pioneers. Listen to them and just try to imagine a bunch of helpless people crossing through the blizzard, snow and charring heat….
Their bodies are not taking them one more step away, but their minds do…….
rising above all fragility- to the eternal quest of hope……..