Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 6

A reply to: A letter from Dove


Dear Dove,

Are you still running almost entirely on momentum? I’m imagining your apartment with all the appliances fixed and refixed and fixed up again!

As for me, I’m finally, finally getting out of the house! I’ve found a drop-in daycare in Old Town which Jena really likes. They serve graham crackers there and they’ve got an entire shelf full of toy cats, so she fills her pockets with the graham crackers, and feeds each little toy kitten (really, sneaking the cracker into her own mouth!) and saying, “Meow-mew! Meow-meow!” She’s very funny.

So while she “feeds the cats,” I take a few hours for myself and paint plein air or visit my brother, who lives a few short blocks from the daycare, or go for a jog.

I find it inspiring that your children will choose their own names for everyday use as they grow older. I agree that it’s so important to have a name that reflects you!

I think I couldn’t choose a more fitting name for me than “Meadow.” I wonder how my parents did it. My mom says that she spent a lot of time hiking the meadows near our home when she was carrying me, and that I would always quiet down the moment she stepped onto the green fields, and that’s where my name came from. My family’s nickname for me is “Greenie” or “Little Green,” and I guess those are both fitting, too.


I think Jena might choose for herself the name Cat. She seems to love cats more than anything, and half the time, she is convinced she’s a kitten! She even purrs.


How are your babies? How is Maki?

Tell me all about your twins’ latest discoveries, and tell me all about your scientist discoveries, too!

The other day, my brother Norman mentioned that he was looking to hire some chemists. I don’t know why he would need them! I mean, I know that the energy company he runs is always doing R & D, but it’s a solar and wind energy company. What need do they have for chemists?


Norman replied that photovoltaic cells are made out of substances, and they always need chemists to help them improve upon the composition of the compounds, or something like that.

Anyway, he said that if I knew any scientists, I should let them know that Windenburg Wind and Sun is looking to hire–so, if you or your colleages want to transfer to beautiful windy, sunny Windenburg, you can find openings on the company website! And let me know if you or your friends are interested in applying, and I’ll pass on word to my brother so he can keep a special lookout for your applications.

As for me, I’m so glad to be not-really-employed. I mean, I’m painting daily, and doing a little writing each week on this folklore book I’ve been working on for ages, but mostly, my time is Jena-time.


We have more smiles by far these days than frowns.


Sometimes, if she’s gotten especially excited or if she’s been really busy learning new things, she will suddenly collapse, as if she’s run out of processing power!


But then I know that a little quiet time with a story and nap will fix her up again. I forget sometimes how much energy it takes to learn everything!

I love your mother’s story about the nine-armed fluffer bear! What an imagination your mom has!

Right now, Jena insists that I read or tell her only “true stories.” When I tell her folk or fairy tales full of magic, she gets fussy and sometimes even cries.

But when I read the counting book about groceries or the story about the little girl who bought blue shoes, she sighs contentedly.


I suppose that there is plenty of time for other-worldly magic later, and if, right now, she is busy processing this world that we live in, well, that’s a good thing to do.

Personally, I think this world is full of magic, even in a shopping list for the grocery store! Twelve onions… you can’t get much more magical than that!

Wishing you and your lovely family all the joy and happiness!

Much love,


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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 1

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin


Dear Kaitlin,

What a happy surprise it was to get your letter!

I’m so happy to hear from other moms, especially ones with two-year-olds!

Aren’t they funny little people?


Some days, it seems like I spend hours watching Jena. I’ll sit down near where she’s playing, intending to do some work or something productive, and then, before I know it, hours have passed, and what have I accomplished? Mommy time. That’s all!


When I write it like that, it makes it seem like “mommy time” isn’t important. But it is! I know it is. It’s just that I’ve got this habit in my mind of marking off my tasks: Did I finish a painting? Did I write more in my book? Did I pay bills or clean house or go for a jog or do yoga? And many days, the answer to all those questions is no. Because what did I do? I watched Jena. I played with Jena. I talked with Jena.

Oh, I sound like a terrible mom, don’t I?

I mean, I have fun doing Jena-stuff all day! I love it! It’s just that it’s fun–it’s a pleasure! So my work-ethic mind beats me up a little bit, saying things like, “You didn’t get anything productive done today. You’d better get something done tomorrow.”

Hmmm. I think maybe I need an attitude adjustment, don’t you think? Because, really, Jena-stuff is the most important thing I could do. As another mom of a toddler, do you agree?


Oh, I’m so sorry for spilling everything like that! I mean, this is my first letter!

Let me try again.

Kaitlin. Thank you so much for writing to me. I’m so impressed that you’ve got three kids and a grandbaby and you still have time for a pen pal! You must have learned some time management skills.

You’ve definitely learned parenting wisdom! I found your letter so supportive and reassuring.

I guess I should probably update my profile. I wrote it months ago, and you know how quickly kids develop at this age. By now, most of the problems I described in my profile have been solved!


It turned out that Jena was speaking Urdu, which she’d learned at the refugee camp in Turkey, and once we realized that, it didn’t take long for her to start picking up English. We talk all the time now, and most of the time, we understand each other.

I guess now, my biggest challenge is trying to discover who I am in my new role as mom. It’s so easy for “being mom” to take over who I am and I lose “being Meadow.” Do you know what I mean?

I’m sorry for sounding so selfish. Today, this is something that’s been on my mind.


You had a few questions for me. I am single. I’ve never been married, and I’m pretty inexperienced in that whole arena. I’ve been more focused on my education and simply the experience of being, really, rather than on “being in a relationship.”

My decision to adopt Jena was pretty immediate. I mean, of course I had to think about it, but it seems like my mind went into hyperdrive and I thought it through in a hundred different variations in about twelve seconds.

You see, my friend Jordan works with a refugee center here in Windenburg. My education is in folklore, so I’d stopped by the center to talk with some of the refugees to learn more about the oral culture and traditions in the camp for a paper I was writing. When I walked into Jordan’s office, there was Jena, sitting on the floor, and she looked up at me, and I felt an immediate connection.

I picked her up and held her while Jordan and I talked.

The next day, Jordan called. Long story short, he wanted to know if I was interested in adopting Jena. Of course I wasn’t. My dad was committed to sustainability, and he drilled into us that the only solution worth pursuing was the sustainable solution, and of course, adoption is not a sustainable solution for the refugee crisis.

But before Jordan could even say, “She has no one,” my mind stopped talking, and I felt rising up from the soles of my feet this big giant “YES!”

I have so much. I’m so fortunate and so privileged, and I’ve done nothing at all, whatsoever, to deserve this good fortune, and maybe, maybe this time, it was more important to do what was right for one little girl, one other human being, than to try to solve all the problems of the world in a sustainable manner.

I think I made the right decision. Even now, when I’m trying to find the balance of being me and being mom, I think it was the right decision.


I mean, all I have to do is look at Jena.

And I also think that figuring out how to be a mom is a pretty great endeavor. I mean, look at you! You’re a mom and a grandma, and I can tell you’re a really great friend, too.


I’m so sorry for dumping all my challenges on you! It’s been such a day!

Next time, you share your challenges with me, if you want, and I will do what I can to help you feel better!

You know what? Writing all this to you, and now, listening to little Jena play, I feel like it’s all going to be OK!

Thanks, Kaitlin! I can’t wait for your next letter, and I’ll try not to be such a crazy person when I reply!

Lots of love,


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Forgotten Art: Jasper – Liam 2

A reply to: A letter from Liam


Greetings, Liam!

Reading your letter brought the warmth of a cup of tea at the end of a long day.

I savored every note of every flavor, even those I couldn’t fit into this noodle-brain.

I made a decision long ago, when I was grappling with Faulkner’s “The Bear” and Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: What I can’t comprehend with the logic of the everyday, simply let be. Maybe I can understand it on a different level.

So that’s what I’m doing with all those incomprehensible autobiographical details in your letter that don’t fit into my own limited experience of existence. I’m letting them sit.

My niece also has a few correspondents in this Pen Pal Project, and while she and I have agreed to keep our individual correspondences confidential, she did share with me that one of her pen pals wrote about a life story which seemed to her, simply and literally, incredible.


“Can you let it be?” I asked her. “Rather than fit all that your pen pal shares within the scope of your own reality, can you just let it be and know that there are multiple realities?”

She said she would give it a try.

For me, a heavy burden’s lifted when I decide I don’t need to understand it all.


As I’ve grown older, I’m becoming accepting of the scope of my existence. I’ve stopped feeling guilty about my privilege, while I’ve also stopped feeling that within my own limited being I need to be able to circumscribe the full range of experience. Being myself, in this life I’ve been given, has become, finally, enough.

I look at photos of my grand-niece, which my niece loves to send me through my phone, and I feel the fullness of accepting: This is my life, and these, the people in it.


The other day, my niece brought her daughter over for me to watch while she took some time for herself in the city.

My grand-niece, Jena, was none-too-happy when she marched in the front door. I’d invited my neighbors, who are Indian and speak Urdu, so they might talk with Jena, whose first language is Urdu. She was adopted.

She would have none of it.


She cried. My neighbors left. I washed the dishes, trying to think what might soothe someone whose play had been interrupted by a trip to Gruncle’s.

She reminded me so much of my niece. Even when my niece was Jena’s age, she would become furious and frustrated if we interrupted her when she was immersed in her creative play. And little Jena had been taken from a wild game of house with the Lalaleeloos in order to hop on the rapid transit with her mom and shoot across the bay to visit me.

I’m sure to Jena it made no sense at all. Couldn’t she at least finish her playtime?


We sat together on the sofa. I found a picture book, and I made up a story about her Lalaleeloos.


My niece, Meadow, has told me all about this family of dolls that Jena loves so much. There is one mother, one dragon, one pony, and a baby.

“Baby was none-too-happy,” I began, and looking down at Jena, I could see I had a tough audience. But she was interested! And, at the moment at least, she wasn’t crying.


I fell silent and studied the picture.

“So. Baby did…” said Jena, waiting for me to continue.


“Baby did what Baby always does,” I said, “when she’s feeling mad or sad or hungry or happy or silly or nutty or crazy or wild or tired or grumpy or snoozy or woozy. She called Dragon. ‘DRAGON!'”

Jena started laughing.


I let her continue the story, and apparently Baby and Dragon ate marshmallows and chocolate and peanut butter with apples. Then they took a nap. And then they flew to clouds. And then Mommy came home and the story was over.

“Now that’s one fine story,” I told Jena.

“Higglety pop!” she replied.


We wanted to see how dragons flew, and between the two of us, we just about figured it out.


She was smiling when her mother came to fetch her, not even half-an-hour later!

“Guess it went well, then!” Meadow said. “I was worried for nothing!”

I’m hoping that the first time leaving Jena with me will be the hardest, for my niece deserves a bit of time to herself now and then.

And it’s certainly no hardship for me to spend an afternoon with a master storyteller!

I was still smiling about Baby and Dragon’s adventures when I returned to Emma. Yes, I’m reading Austen now. All that talk of our smart wives got me longing for the cadences, perception, and irony of this, my favorite Jane Austen novel.


Ah, Liam! We are two lucky old men, or, in your case, an old-in-young man.

What did we do to find ourselves surrounded by family? And how did we get so lucky to have such beautiful, smart, strong, intelligent, creative, and independent women in this family?


Do you know? I’ve discovered that gratitude adds sweetness to every sound–even the silence of an empty house, after a chattering two-year-old has gone home.


Wishing you peaceful naps and cheerful days!



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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Lenora 2

A reply to: Lenora’s letter to Meadow


Dear Lenora!

I’m sorry it’s taken me a while to reply. Of course I’ve been busy, but who isn’t? That’s not the reason it’s taken me so long to reply.

One of my other pen pals did find herself in a situation where it seemed a quick reply from me was in order–but that’s not the reason it’s taken me so long to reply to you, either.

No. The real reason it’s taken me so long to reply is because I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around what you wrote. You see, I’m a folklorist, so in my reality, werewolves, wizards, Goddesses, fairies, and witches are found in fairy tales, not in the self and family of a pen pal!

I kept thinking, and re-thinking, and researching, and re-researching, and then finally I realized that there was simply no way I could bring our two realities together.

So I’ve stopped trying. I’ve decided to accept the cognitive dissonance. I’ll live with your reality on one pole, and the reality of my world on another, and in our letters, I’ll dance happily in between!


Thank you so much for all you shared. Do you know? You brought such comfort to me through recounting all the hardships that you and your extended family have experienced.

I guess you know that my life has been sheltered. So it’s been shocking to learn more about what Jena has experienced in her short life already. Somehow, reading about all the tragedy that you and your family have moved through has given me courage. You still seem so warm, loving, and hopeful. Maybe it’s possible not to be destroyed by terrible things that happened.

I hope this is true, because I’ve learned more about the terrible things that have happened to Jena.

You were so right that Jena speaks Urdu! Isn’t that amazing? My uncle realized that when she spoke Urdu with him, and then one of my other pen pals also suggested that she was really speaking in another language! Thank you so much for confirming that.

We have been thinking it would be nice for her to be able to grow up bilingual.

So, I sought out another refugee who came over through the same program as Jena. He was in the refugee camp with her, and he lives in our town. What I learned from Karim makes me feel even more how every smile from Jena is a miracle.

Karim said that the reason Jena speaks Urdu, and not Punjabi, which was her mother’s home language, is because she was cared for by the camp volunteers, and not by her mother’s relatives. Urdu and English are the languages spoken by the volunteers.

When I asked why her family didn’t take care of her, he said because of the shame.

Jena is the result of a gang rape, and her mom died from complications after the delivery.


That’s why Jena was available for adoption: no one else wanted anything to do with her. She was shunned from birth by everyone except the volunteers and nurses.

Karim said he wouldn’t talk with her. He can’t look at her without seeing the shame.

I didn’t know what to say. Karim left soon after that. I don’t expect to see him again, unless through chance, from living in the same town.

We’ve sort of abandoned the idea of having Jena grow up bilingual. If it happens, it happens. My uncle has some friends and neighbors who speak Urdu, so it could still happen. But I’ve decided not to go out of the way to make it happen. It’s not like it was her mom’s home language or a language that’s associated with love.

So you can see how I draw strength from your stories of hardship and tragedy.

But all that, while a source of fresh sadness to me, is not even a part of Jena’s reality right now. Right now, Jena is doing so well!

She’s grown so much just since my last letter!

Once my uncle began speaking Urdu with her, it was like something clicked for her. She suddenly became interested in learning English!

She asks me to sit with her and play flash cards. I bought them at an educational toy store. Jena loves them. I always feel hesitant to use them because Jena’s such a littlie, and I don’t want her to have to do work already! But she asks me to play. Even though she concentrates so hard and seems so serious, she seems to really enjoy it. I think she likes to learn.


She’s also funny and playful a lot of the time.

The other day, I came down to get a book and I found her dancing to Beethoven’s Sixth. Well, it’s my favorite symphony, too, so no wonder she was dancing!


When the part with the timpani storm came on, she clapped her hands like thunder, and her eyes got so big!


Then she jumped up and down, laughing. “More! More roar!”

We kept playing the storm movement, and she kept dancing and laughing and clapping and jumping.


You’ll never guess what else I did! I actually dropped off Jena at my uncle’s so he could watch her while I grabbed a little grown-up time!

Wasn’t that brave of me?

Uncle Jasper is Jena’s favorite person, and he’d been suggesting that I leave her with him for a little while so I could go shopping or get a cup of coffee or just hang out in the Spice District, which is where Jasper lives.

I didn’t want to for the longest time. And then, last week, Jena and I were doing so well, and a new coffee shop was opening across the square from my uncle’s house, so I decided to go for it!

Jena was really mad when we first got there. I was so surprised! She’d been playing dolls at home when it was time to go, and she didn’t want to stop playing. The ride to the city on the rapid transit distracted her a little bit, but as soon as we got to Jasper’s house, she was angry and pouting again.

I told Jasper I’d stay there until she cheered up, but he said, “No, just go.” When he heard what had made her mad, he said I was just like that when I was little. “It’s a sign of being gifted,” he said. “You know, you get interested in something and can’t stand to be interrupted.”

Mmmm. Everyone in my family is that way! Even still!

Well, I left. And I hoped she wouldn’t have a temper tantrum–or even worse, cry.


Jasper said that she pouted for about five-point-two seconds, and then she got a mischievous look on her face and started asking about his glasses.


By the time he finished telling her they were to help him see better, she started laughing. He said she sang him a song about a pony and a star.


They had snack. They read. They sang and danced some more. And by the time I came to pick her up, twenty-five minutes later, she looked like the happiest kid I’d ever seen!


I had a great time, by the way! I did go to the new coffee shop, and I ordered a latte, and I almost drank the whole thing, and I actually read two movie reviews in the Weekly!

And then I ran all the way across the square back to Jasper’s house because I thought I’d been gone far too long. But it was not even half-an-hour!

Do you know what else I’ve noticed? The space between us is getting smaller. It used to be that when I’d read to her, I’d sit on the chair, halfway across the room, and she’d sit on her bed. Now, she snuggles into bed, and I sit beside her.


Oh, Lenora! I am so lucky! I’m lucky to have you as a pen pal, and for all the wisdom, insight, encouragement, and hope you share!

I’m lucky for my uncle Jasper, and of course my brother, Norman, whom I’ve hardly even mentioned to you! (I’ll save the Norman Chronicles for another letter.)

And I’m so very lucky for Jena.


Thank you for being my pen pal and giving so much to me!

With so much love,


P.S. I apologize for this letter being all about me! I really did take in everything that you wrote about you and your family, and I’m so interested in all your experiences and everything you have to say! And I’m not freaked out by you being a witch and by werewolves and wizards and immortal beings–not really. I’m eager already for your next letter, and I hope it’s all about you and your dreams!

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 3

A reply to: A letter from Dove


Dear Dove,

Reading your letters and writing to you has become such an indulgence for me! I have two other pen pals, and I love to read and write to them, too. The difference is that I justify writing to them because they giving me “new mom” and “adoptive mom” advice. Writing to them is part of my mom duties.

Writing to you is purely for me! I get such secret pleasure now for everything I do that’s just for me, even a bubble bath or a few stolen hours at the easel. Isn’t that wicked? I mean, every single minute, I’ve got a to-do list of at least twenty items. But I smile a devilish smile when I put my list aside and pull out my oil paints. Ah! Selfish indulgence! What joy!

Before Jena wakes up, I can steal a few more minutes for writing to you!


When talking about alien life, you wrote, “I think the proof is in the fact that we even consider the possibility!” What do you mean by this? Do you mean that everything we consider possible… is possible?

If so, I will have to ponder that. I had this idea that we could imagine as possibilities every sort of impossibility.

I’m sorry your relationship is going through a tough time.

A secret: I’ve never really had a romantic relationship. I’ve had crushes before. In fact, I seem to always be forming crushes. And I seem to have a million friends. But I’ve never been in a close romantic or sexual relationship. I don’t think I miss it!

My newest friend is from the same refugee camp that Jena is from. We found out that Jena speaks Urdu, so I’ve been asking him to stop by to speak with her. I like him, but I don’t feel that kind of spark that I read about in Jane Austen novels.


That’s so sad that you had to say unkind things to your person. Since you felt that you had to say them, I’m guessing that saying them was for higher good or for the better of you and the other person. In that light, maybe they aren’t even unkind things, do you think?

That’s so wonderful that you might be making friends with your neighbor!  It must feel so convenient and cozy to have a friendly neighbor!

I live about a mile from my closest neighbor, but this is the home I grew up in, and most of my neighbors have lived here most of my life, so we feel that we are friends, and almost even family, even if we don’t pass by each other’s house every day.

You hinted at some big things happening in your life. I won’t ask about them, since I want to respect your privacy. And at the same time, please know that anything you’d like to share, I’ll be happy to know. Think of my rose-colored glasses being worn over very sympathetic eyes! (OK, that was clumsily written, but what I mean, is I hope you think of me as a friend, too, and I’ll always be happy to lend support and encouragement whenever you need!)

So what’s new in my life?


My uncle Jasper painted a beautiful micro-landscape for Jena. I hung it in her room with the paintings I’ve done. My work is nothing compared to Jasper’s. He’s been my primary painting instructor and inspiration.

Since we discovered that Jena speaks Urdu, she’s doing so much better! She seems happy most of the time now. I’m starting to feel hope that she’ll be able to have a good life.


I spend a lot of time talking with her and playing with flash cards, which she loves–until she hates them! I’m learning about toddler-attention-span! It’s kinda like mine, actually: lasts forever for her current obsession and a micro-minute for things that bore her!


She still gets mad or upset sometimes, but I guess it’s part of being a person on this planet to wake up on the wrong side of the bed now and then.

One of my pen pals told me it was “toddler hormones!” I’m pretty sure that’s just an urban myth, but next time we visit Jena’s pediatrician, I’ll ask about it.

For now, I’m just trying to provide plenty of space for her to feel however she feels in the moment.


Like me, she changes her emotions quickly enough! So if she’s grumpy one minute, ten minutes later, she’ll catch me in a tackle-hug and be squealing for “fly-hi, Memo!”


Ah, look! My morning’s gone and the little bug will be up soon!

Dove, thanks so much for writing, and I hope everything works out well for you, with your new neighbor friend, your relationship complications, and the other happenings in your life.

Happy sciencing!



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Forgotten Art: Meadow-Dove 2

A reply to: A Letter from Dove Singer


Dear Dove,

You wrote to me! Thank you!

I was so happy to get your reply to my letter. I always feel a little self-conscious after I send letters. I forget what I’ve written, and I know that when my fingers hit the keys, I write all sorts of wild things! I often feel my mind is bypassed and the words come straight from heart and soul, just like Jena’s nonsense stories when she’s feeling happy and free.


Then, after I send the letter, my mind kicks and says, “Hey. Did you really forget to consult me when you were writing that letter? What did you write, anyway?” So, yeah. There’s all sorts of feelings of social awkwardness that kick in after I send anything I write!

But you wrote back, so I guess I didn’t mess up too terribly!

Thanks for the kind things you said about my family. I agree that they are amazing. I recognize that I come from privilege: my family is well-educated and prosperous, and any fatal flaws my family members might possess have always been well-hidden from me. I find them perfect. My brother Norman says I look at the world through rose-colored glasses, and he might be right. But I know my vision isn’t 20-20, and if my prescription calls for rose-colored glasses to correct my sight, so be it! I like the world I see through them.


My dad passed on a few years ago, and my mom a few years before that, so now it’s just me, my brother Norman, and my uncle Jasper. And Jena, of course.

You asked about basil: I don’t know if you get to Windenburg often, but I’ve seen quite a bit growing in the meadows here. In summer, when it blooms, the bees flock to it! I’ve always wanted to eat basil-honey! Do you think it would taste spicy? Or savory?


That’s so interesting that you’re intrigued by modern folklore! Many of my classmates focused on urban legends, and yes, accounts of extraterrestrial-sightings were a hot topic.

I keep an open mind. I’ve never met an extraterrestrials, as far as I know. In college, a lot of my friends claimed to be “Star People.” What they meant was, as they put it, they weren’t “from around here.” They had the feeling that they’d lived past lives on other planets in other solar systems and even other realms of being and this was their first time to incarnate here. I think they were looking for ways to account for the sense of alienation that is so common in my generation. Personally, I don’t think this has anything to do with an alien heritage and everything to do with the isolation and pervasive global fears that permeate life in the 21st Century.

I feel that alienation sometimes. And I also feel very firmly attached to this earth. I know I come from here: I belong here. Maybe it’s because I grew up roaming the meadows and fields.


I can tell that my daughter Jena feels alienation. It’s not surprising, considering what she’s experienced in her two short years. I’m hoping that by growing up here, surrounded by loving people, in a home nestled in the sun-warmed hills, she’ll come to feel that she belongs, and she’ll lose that sense that one heavy sigh of the earth will shake her off into the void.


I do have an interesting extraterrestrial story, though! My own urban legend! When I was little, my dad took me with him up to a ridge where he was installing the wind towers. There, we looked down onto crop circles in the fields below. He asked me what I thought could make them. I said it must be God, feeling bored and wanting to draw. He laughed, of course. Then he went through all the possible explanations. He refuted them all, except the extraterrestrial explanation. “Space craft,” he said.


So, who knows? My dad was ever the rationalist, and he believed what logic told him. I believe my heart, and my heart tells me that this world is vast and the universe beyond, and the universes beyond that, are even more vast!


Can you tell me more about what you’re exploring as a scientist? What do you need basil for?

Thanks for letting me ramble on to you! I can’t wait to read whatever you want to share with me about your life and your interests! What are you reading these days?

Most of my current reading comes in the form of a picture book with very thick pages!


With love,


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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Lenora 1

A reply to: A Letter from Lenora




Dear Leonora,

How happy I was to get your letter!

You’ve raised five little ones! Oh, my! The Mama-Goddesses must be looking after me to send you to me as a pen pal!

I need help! And so does my little Jena.


I’m so grateful that you’ve had experiences with orphans. How old were your children when you adopted them?

Had they come from hardship? Well, I suppose all orphans have, or they wouldn’t be orphans. Imagine–losing a parent, or two. Or a family. Or a whole tribe.

No wonder little Jena feels so sad and lost so often.

I fear that she experienced trauma at the camp in Turkey. She’s Pakistani, but the refugee camp where she was sent was in Turkey. I read online that a Pakistani refugee said he’d go “anywhere but Turkey.”

I guess it’s really terrible there–not just the living conditions, but the treatment.


I try to give Jena as much comfort as I can.

She has moments when she’s content.


When I watch her playing with her dolls, I feel hope that it’s not too late. Maybe she came to me soon enough that she’ll still be able to form healthy attachments.


Her pediatrician says she’s healthy. She was in a hospital here in Windenburg before she came to live with me, and the parasites and infectious diseases were removed. She got all her vaccinations.

But I worry. I’m a mom now, and I guess that comes with the territory.

She has nightmares. She hardly ever sleeps the night through.

Most nights, around 2 a.m., I hear her calling me, and I come downstairs to see her with a look of fear on her face.


I comfort her as best I can. I try to remember all the lullabies my mom sang to me. Usually, I’ll just sing some silly pop song.


And then, we’ll spend the rest of the night eating snacks and “talking.”

I’ll tell her anything. She listens to everything! Sometimes, she’s quiet and just listens, and sometimes she “talks” and I have no idea what she’s saying.

But it’s time together, and that counts, right?


Oh, I make it sound like it’s so hard and terrible. And sometimes it is, but then we have a golden moment and hope flames up in my chest!


Until the difficult moments return.

She rejects me sometimes. Is that normal? I wonder if that’s a trauma response. Do you think it’s a sign of something troubling that she would push me away?


I did something terrible the other day. I hope you don’t think I’m an awful person, Lenora. You seem so kind, that I know that even if I did mess up, you’ll help me figure it out and learn how to do better.

The other day when she pushed me away, I scolded her. “I was only trying to help!” I said. “How can I help if you push me away?”


I felt so badly afterwards. Who knows what she’s going through, and that’s how I responded?

I let her be for a while. I went and painted. Then, she picked up a plate of mac and cheese I’d set out for her, sat on her favorite chair, and stared at me, wearing the biggest pout.


After a few moments of silence, she said, “Ap kaisi hain. Ap kaisi hain? Kaisi hain?”

Over and over. I played along.

I sat with her and talked about the painting I was doing. I told her about space and distance and form and color. She smiled and laughed.

“Kafi weqt se ap ko dekha nehin!” she said.


She followed me into the kitchen while I ate my snack, and she danced. So I think she forgave me. Do you think so?


Oh, goodness! This whole letter has been about me and Jena, and I didn’t even get to your question about how Jena came to be with me! Well, I’ll have to save that for another day, for I can hear her waking up from her nap now. Time for snack, bath, and play time!

Lenora, thank you so much for finding my profile and for letting me bore you with all my new-mommy stories! I appreciate you so much already! Please tell me all about yourself, your life, and a typical day in the life of Lenora Landgraab in your next letter! 🙂

Lots of love–and a world of gratitude!


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