Art, Book Recommendations, Memories

World Letter Writing Day #2

Because today is World Letter Writing Day, it seems appropriate to share my favorite published letters. (See here)

From October 1951 to May 1952, Juan and Rie Munoz taught native children on an Alaskan Island in the Bering Sea. Their main contact with the outside world was by radio. They received one airdrop and one visit by an icebreaker. Even knowing that their letters could not be mailed until their service ended, they wrote over forty to their families.

These letters and accompanying photographs were discovered in 2005 and compiled by their son. Like the letters of my family, The King Island Journal contains the mundane: bathing, tanning hides, making clothes, gathering food, cooking, and, especially, their dogs’ and students’ antics. Also like my family, their mundane is both revealing and entertaining.

My current kitchen posters

Rie Munoz settled in Juneau and is best known for her artwork depicting native life in Alaska. I love both Alaska and art, and my search for an Alaskan artist led to what I consider an even greater treasure—letters.

Rie Munoz’s watercolors, (See here for more)

My husband enjoyed reading John and Abigail Adams’ correspondence. Any favorite published letters?


Sharing Memories Brings Clarity

Sharing memories can bring conflict and confusion. (See Unreliable Memories Here) Sharing can also bring clarity and healing.

In eighth grade—upon returning from school—I was told that my brother had run away. My father was searching.  I was worried and confused. Why was my brother so unhappy? I wondered for decades until I asked.

“I never ran away,” my brother said. “Jeff and I skipped school. We got caught because of the snow. We didn’t expect an early dismissal.”

I didn’t remember snow.

“No,” I said. “The principal called to ask if you were supposed to be at school. Daddy had been searching since morning.”

A substitute teacher had called roll and thus attention to my brother’s absence. A classmate had seen my brother and his friend on school grounds. The diligent substitute told the principal, who called my mother.

My brother never knew there was a substitute teacher and hours of combing the woods behind the school.

We exchanged numerous details. Our combined memories gave a complete story. My heart rejoiced. My brother had been hanging out with a friend—not trudging down a road and severing family ties.

Any painful memories? Would asking questions help?


Unreliable Memories

Be careful before you believe what you remember.

Jane K. Cleland

When my younger brother was a child, he sprayed the kitchen of our home with the garden hose. That is a true fact.

My memories: My brother was two or three. He opened the back door and sprayed. I was soaked. I screamed for my mother to stop him. She wouldn’t. My older sister ran through the water and wrestled the hose nozzle from my brother. He hosed the kitchen a second time that summer.

My brother’s memories:  He was four or five. My sister and I had locked him out of the house. He deserved it. He plotted revenge and decided on the hose. When the back door opened, he took action. My sister and I ran down the hall screaming. There was one incident.

My sister’s memories: None.

During a long drive to visit grandparents, there was an incident involving a doughnut box. My siblings and I agree on that fact. We agree on the box’s yucky contents—and in hindsight we laugh. However, we have varying—sometimes conflicting—memories about other details.

Along the way, I learned that memories are unreliable.

How do you reconcile conflicting memories?

Basics, Memories

Process Your Moments: Part 2

We move on and don’t process. Take in moments and don’t move on.

Deena Kastor, Bronze Medalist, 2004 Olympics

My fractured knee, meniscus tear, and Baker’s cyst made my plans to hike favorite trails in the Shenandoah National Park seem not only ambitious, but also foolish. While waiting for lunch the first day, I fell off a sidewalk and sprained my ankle. With determination, a carbon knee brace, and a makeshift ankle brace, my husband and I continued with our agenda.

What happened? An easy, one-mile hike that usually took seventeen minutes took over an hour. My husband and I sat longer than we walked. Our slow pace continued the following days.

The trail became our destination instead of an overlook or a waterfall or the completion of a trail’s loop.

We asked park rangers questions. We watched butterflies. We attempted to identify bird songs. We watched a doe chase—and then nurse—her fawn.

We studied trees and gave them suitable names.

We compared wildflowers.

Because of my injuries, we took in our moments. We processed. We savored. I declared our four days the best of our forty years of hiking

Do you have time to process?

See Here for Part 1.

Memories, Parenting, Sharing Stories

Stories Impart Value

Memories impart value. (See Here.) Recently, I pondered how stories are secondhand memories, and therefore, also impart value.

When my uncle showed me his train set, he told how he had constructed certain components—including failed attempts. Certain cars and scenes represented events in his life. The hobby also provided a distraction when he was depressed. His stories drove me to find appreciative new owners after he passed.

My uncle’s passion

Many of my uncle’s possessions, which I inherited, had neither memories nor stories. Who used the antique butter churn? What was the origin of the cast iron coffee table?  My brother recognized the cast iron cobbler’s stands and shoe forms as residing on my grandparents’ hearth before their death, but who used them?

With limited time and space, memories—both firsthand and secondhand—drove decisions. Based on my brother’s recognition, the cobbler stands made the trip to my home. Later research showed that my great-great-grandfather was a shoemaker.

Along the way, I learned I must tell others my stories about heirlooms. And ask for stories so I can make better decisions in the future. *

Are you curious about an heirloom?

*I’m perusing The Stories We Leave Behind by Laura Gilbert.