Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 4

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

doveex204

LOL, Kaitlin! And OMG! Hahaha!

Oh, I’m so relieved that you don’t think it’s your husband that my brother is writing to!

I’m really sorry for causing any worry. I guess I really over-reacted, didn’t I?

After all, there’s bound to be more than one Newt in this wide world, and my brother seems to think that his pen pal is a really nice guy.

My brother is a nerd, just like you say! He’s what he refers to as “nerd-cool.” By that he means that he’s so much of a nerd that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him, and that makes him cool!

He actually is pretty cool. He’s made the list of  “Windenburg’s Most Eligible Bachelors” for the past five years. It’s funny. I think he’s cute because he’s my brother.

He has this crazy style: like he wears this dapper suit with Oxford shoes, but then no socks.

And he’s always carrying in his pocket this little llama toy he’s got, and he pulls it out and talks to it when he thinks nobody is looking. His front is that he’s a collector, and these antique toys are highly collectible. But the truth is, he’s a kid at heart. Always will be.

So I’m sure you’re right: even though he’s a CEO, he’s really not the kind of guy that a truly cool, athletic guy like your husband would associate with.

One good thing that’s come out of my brother being so happy to be true to his own self is that he’s now with a woman who loves and appreciates him for who he is!

My friend, for it’s a good friend of mine who’s hooked up with him, already knows he’s childish, nerdy, and ironically pretentious, and she likes him anyway!

In fact, she and her daughter just moved in with him.

I met up with them at a karaoke bar in San Myshuno the other night, and they both looked so happy.

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While we were talking, I told my friend that I was surprised that she and Norm got together so quickly. They’d only met a month ago.

“Well, I’m not sure we’re together together,” she confessed. “We’re best friends. And I trust your brother. I know he’ll always be good to me.”

It turns out that she and her daughter moved in with him because they could use a more permanent place to stay. They’d been living in a transitional shelter for women and children escaping domestic abuse.

I hadn’t known that! All the time that she’d been friends with me, she’d never shared that bit about her life.

“I’ll tell you about it sometime,” she said, and we made a date for her to drop by in a few days.

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Before she came, I had a visit from someone else.

One of the employees of the refugee services center that helped bring Jena over here stopped by for a regular check-in. You asked when Jena’s birthday is–it’s in four months. She’s two years and eight months, which is one of the milestones when the social worker is scheduled to come.

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I put Jena down for her nap, and then Marissa, the social worker, arrived.

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She wanted to look in on Jena first.

“She’s gotten so big!” she said. “And she looks so healthy. So peaceful.”

She liked the way we’d set up Jena’s room. “Lots of art!” she said. “Lots of books!”

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We had a long talk.

Kaitlin, you’d asked about my concern that Jena might have PTSD and what trauma she might have experienced. I’ll tell you. It’s harsh, so cover your heart.

Jena was born in a refugee camp. I think I mentioned this in my profile. I met one of the men who was in the same camp with her. He knew her mom. Not long after Jena came to live with me, I invited him over. I’d hoped that he would speak Urdu with Jena.

His attitude was strange. He told me that Urdu wasn’t the native language of Jena’s mom, nor of anyone who’d lived at the camp. I guess it was sort of seen as the neutral language, or the language of bureaucracy. He said hardly anyone has it as their birth language and that, culturally, it meant nothing.

That saddened me, but that’s not the sad part.

The tragic part is that Jena was conceived–here’s where to cover your heart–as the result of a gang rape. Her mom died from complications of the birth, but before that, she was shunned by everyone else at the camp because of the shame of the rape.

I get so mad thinking about it–it’s one of those “blame-the-victims” things that just burns me up!

Anyway, I’ve always wondered how much of a burden from that Jena carried.

So when Marissa and I were talking, I found an opening to ask her insights into this.

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Marissa got real quiet and thoughtful for a long time. Then she closed her eyes and smiled.

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“I don’t think she carries any burden,” she told me, “not even a psychic or karmic one.”

I couldn’t believe her!

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“It’s like this,” she said. “From birth, Jena was removed to the nursery. She wasn’t with those who would feel her birth was shameful. She was surrounded with the other infants and toddlers, and she was cared for by loving physicians and care-givers. I even hear that each baby has their own wet-nurse, so they’re able to gain the nutrients and other benefits of nursing.”

“Do you think she bonded with her nurse and the people who cared for her?” I asked.

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“She may have,” replied Marissa. “I’m sure she did. But that’s a good thing. That developed the potential for secure attachments.”

Marissa explained that the first months here with me were probably hard for Jena–and they were! She was so sad and had those awful nightmares.

“But look at her now,” Marissa said. “She’s obviously a thriving, well-adjusted, happy and healthy little girl.”

I was so relieved, so grateful! Immediately, I started asking all these questions about Windenburg Rescue and the work they do, and if they needed volunteers, and if there was any way I could help out.

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Marissa said that I’d already helped in more ways than I could ever know, but if I was serious about volunteering, they could use someone who could commit to twelve hours a week.

I gave it some serious thought.

Then, my friend stopped by, the one who’s living with my brother.

And what happened next has changed my plans.

My friend began to tell me about her past, about all the emotional abuse she experienced with her husband.

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As she talked, her usual smile faded, and her face looked worn down from the bad memories.

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She told me about the other women who came there, too.

“We’ve all been beaten down,” she said. “You don’t just pick up and move with your kid for nothing. It’s when you can’t take it anymore. When it’s worse staying, and when you feel that, no matter what, you can’t let this happen to your kid. Do you know that poem by Warsan Shire, ‘no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark‘?”

I did know that poem.

“It’s like that,” she said.

And then I realized that women and children like my friend and her daughter are also refugees, for Warsan Shire wrote that poem to describe the refugee experience. It’s a poem about Jena’s mom, but it’s also a poem for every woman who’s ever had to leave an abusive situation and choose danger and the unknown in order to escape the worse danger of the known.

My friend spied one of my unused easels then.

“Enough talk,” she said. “Think I could paint?”

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So I set her up with a canvas and paints, and let her got at it.

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While I watched her work, I saw a change come over her. That weight she was carrying left her shoulders. She began to move freely. She hummed. And she painted the most beautiful, expressive painting I’ve ever seen, full of hurt, pain, doubt, but also full of joy, inspiration, hope. It looked like life.

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“This is what you should do,” she told me.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“You should teach art. To the women and kids of House for Hope.”

So, Kaitlin, I think that’s what I’m going to do!

Two afternoons a week, while my uncle babysits Jena or she goes to daycare, I’ll go to House for Hope and paint with women and children who need the confidence of feeling their own expression of their own beautiful spirits.

doveex203

I wanted to let you know that I was so touched by your story of Leroy’s thoughtfulness in setting out a new toothbrush for you the night you had to stay over. That type of gesture: that’s the thing that builds up spirit! I am so happy you have Leroy in your life.

Oh, my. This letter is tome! I only meant to write a little bit, and I’ve nearly shared everyone’s life story with you except my own!

Do take care of yourself, Kaitlin! I hope you have lots of moments of happiness with your family and with yourself. 🙂

Peace, my friend.

–Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Watergate 5

A reply to: A letter from Mr. Watergate

watergate401

Dear Chancelor,

I’m so happy to get your letter and so sad to hear the news about your mom. I’ll try to stay positive so that my thoughts and feelings can boost yours, which seem to be hopeful.

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It’s a challenge for me. I lost my own mom and aunt to cancer nearly a decade ago. Both passed within a few years of each other. It still hurts.

I looked up Joyce Brown’s story. What an inspiring woman! I think it’s wonderful that you’re going to help your mom meet her.

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I’m also happy that learning about your mom’s condition has inspired you to encourage your father to become a part of Milagros’s life. You see? Right there, that’s something positive coming out of this situation.

I’ll keep thinking good thoughts and sending them your way.

watergate402

Your letter has really inspired me, Chance.

I love what you say about bad things happening as a means of “getting people to stand up instead of sitting down.”

I suppose if that happens, then maybe the events aren’t necessarily bad! Or at least, they’re not all bad. They’re events that happen: how we respond can determine, in part, if they’re events that bring about goodness or events that defeat us.

I don’t want to be defeated by the cruel acts that others do or by those random events that cause ripples in life.

Instead, I want to stand up and make a change!

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Right now, I’m thinking about two different ways I might be able to, maybe, make a difference or at least a contribution.

Yesterday, I received a visit from one of the women who works for the refugee services group that brought Jena over here. She was doing a check-up to see what questions I might have or what assistance we might need.

As we were talking, she began describing the work they do.

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“Why, last year alone,” she told me, “we brought in 346 refugees from Syria.”

That was in addition to Pakistani refugees, like Jena and others from her camp, and from people who came from all over the world.

“Where do they live? How do they get work? How do they get settled?” I asked.

“That’s where we come in,” she said. Their organization gets them places to stay and helps find them jobs. The people who volunteer and work for Windenburg Rescue also help with language-learning, filling out paperwork, navigating the bureaucracies, and learning the culture.

“We can always use more volunteers!” she told me.

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So, that’s one thing I’m thinking.

Then, I’m also thinking about maybe possibly helping out at a transitional shelter for women and children.

You see, my friend, who’s now my brother’s best friend and new room-mate, used to live at House for Hope here in Windenburg.

It’s a place for women and their children who need to escape domestic abuse.

My friend dropped by for a visit the other day, and she was so full of enthusiasm.

“Your brother’s given me a chance!” she said.

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She went on to tell me about some of the other women living at the shelter.

“It’s mostly believing in themselves that they need,” she said. “You have no idea how emotional abuse erodes self-confidence. Year after year. It’s insidious. And I’m not even talking about domestic violence.”

My friend noticed one of my easels in the kitchen.

“I’ve always wanted to paint,” she said.

“Have at it!” I encouraged her.

I showed her where the canvases and acrylics were stored, and she got to work. I watched her paint, offering encouragement and answering her questions when she asked, and it was amazing to see her joy grow as she completed her painting.

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“You’re an amazing art teacher,” she told me. “The women and kids at House for Hope could really use someone like you.”

So, Chance, here I am, thinking of two ways that I can help others, ways that I can stand up and make a difference.

I know I’ve made a difference in Jena’s life–and she’s made a difference in my life. And now I want to take our good fortune and pass it forward. I’m only going to choose one volunteer position to start with because I want to be sure to have enough time and energy for Jena, my own painting, and my work as a folklorist. But I will be choosing one in the coming days.

And then, I’ll be out there, trying to make a difference. But I know already that the real difference will be the changes that happen in me. Doing things we call “good” is funny that way: It always helps us most of all!

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Chance, next time you hug your mom, give her an extra squeeze from me.

Sending you and yours all good thoughts!

Your pen pal and friend,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Jasper – Liam 4

A reply to: A letter from Liam

alina111

Greetings Liam!

I received the most surprising letter the other day. It was from your step-daughter Alina!

Since she wrote, I am guessing that the danger is passed, that she’s returned to the living, and that the curse has been lifted.

I certainly hope so.

I worried for her, you, and your family.

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Of course, worry is foolish. I know this!

But even still, when those we care for are in trouble, it’s hard to banish worry with a thought.

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You mentioned that magic seemed to be rubbing off on me. I hadn’t thought of it in that way. I had thought that your letters and the power of your words were opening my eyes to the magic that was always around me–that everyday magic that we’re often too busy to notice. Or maybe it’s just that we don’t conceive that it could be here, in this world, in this moment, and so we don’t see it, we only feel it as an invisible buzz around us.

But maybe it is as you say, and, in addition to opening my eyes to everyday magic, your words open the channels between our worlds and magic enters in.

Could be.

I received a most interesting phone call the other day.

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It was from my niece. Nothing unusual in that, right?

Except she had an appointment and she wanted to know if I could come babysit.

Now, I’ve volunteered to babysit my grandniece Jena many times. And now and then, Meadow will drop her off at my home while she spends a precious half-hour taking a walk or getting a cup of coffee.

But this day was different.

I’d be babysitting at Meadow and Jena’s home, and my niece would be gone all afternoon.

It may seem a small thing, but to me, it’s close to a miracle that Meadow has developed enough trust in her daughter’s safety that she’d leave her for an entire afternoon, even though she’s leaving her at her own home with her favorite (and only) uncle.

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You see, Meadow’s been fretting about Jena’s past. Jena’s birth mother died giving birth, and, because Jena was born out-of-wedlock, she was shunned by most of the people there at the refugee camp. When Meadow learned of Jena’s past, she took it hard, worrying that trauma from those years might affect Jena’s present happiness.

I’ve been trying to convince Meadow that her little girl is happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. Taking this step of letting me watch her for an entire afternoon shows me that, sure enough, Meadow is beginning to trust in her daughter’s well-being.

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I’m also smiling at the reason that Meadow needed a sitter for an afternoon. She’s considering volunteering at a shelter for women and children.

Now that’s a good thing! Meadow has so much to offer others, and she hasn’t always realized it, not because of lack of self-confidence, but due to the assumption that everyone had it as good as she did.

My niece and nephew were raised in privilege, and my brother and his wife did a good job in raising them to be good people. At the same time, they’ve lived in a bubble of good luck.

Jena and her tenuous first years at the refugee camp introduce hardship’s touch, and now both Meadow and her brother have begun to look for ways to make a difference for those suffering in this wide world.

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I thought about this while babysitting that afternoon.

My thoughts mingled with the stories you told in your letter.

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It would be so easy for those stories of loss and danger to weigh heavy and to weaken one’s faith in the goodness of life.

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But look at you! Look at the wisdom, kindness, and generosity you carry! Look at the sacrifice each member of your family and clan are eager to make for another’s benefit.

Look at how Meadow, and even my nephew Norman, are now looking for ways to help others, to make even one life easier.

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It’s one thing to be good in heart and good by nature.

It’s entirely different for hardship’s shadow to prompt us to put that goodness into action.

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That’s when caring becomes compassion: goodness plus action.

So, yes. I would say that magic is indeed rubbing off on me and on my family.

Alchemy is magic, right? And when suffering and hardship transmute to trust and compassion, that is pure alchemy.

alina112

Thank you for encouraging Alina to write me! I look forward to getting to know her.

Wishing you health!

Your friend,

Jasper

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 8

Author’s Note: The story at the end of this letter contains spoilers for the game Samorost 3. If you want to discover this fun puzzle-game for yourself, you might want to skip the story at the end!

A reply to: A letter from Dove

dove805

Dearest Dove,

So I do have a friend from “the big way out there!” And the friend is you!

Do you know what? I don’t feel surprised.

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I feel happy.

And Maki is your friend from the Twin Roses story! That is so wonderful! How on earth did the two of you manage to meet up again?

I told Jenna the story of II  TTYE, the girl, and the Twin Roses ice cream, and she loved it. It’s her favorite story.

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I went into her room the other night, and she had the most enchanted expression on her face as she was singing, “II  TTYE flies! Girl flies! All round the sun! All round the stars!”

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I asked her when I tucked her in what she liked about the story.

“Twin Roses!” she said. “And stars.”

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I wouldn’t be surprised if Jena wanted to be a space explorer when she grew up. Or maybe a physicist.

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Congratulations on your new apartment! The photos you sent of the girls are adorable. They look so happy!

Sometimes when I watch Jena, I wish I still had that joy of everything being new. That’s how your daughters look in their photos.

At least learning is still new to me–especially chess!

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Do you have new things you’re learning, and does it fill you with wonder and inspiration to learn them?

I love your time-scarf! Yes, a knitted scarf is a much better description of time! All the yarn connected up together!

Jena and I have begun to create our own story. We’re both making it up, and I’m writing it and illustrating it. My uncle knows a publisher who might be interested, but even if he doesn’t want it, we’re having so much fun inventing it!

I’ve enclosed a copy of the first chapter for you to share with your littlies!

I have no idea how long it will end up being. I think very long… like a whole scarf’s worth!

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You see, Jena keeps inventing more!

Originally, it was going to be a story about an alien–but Jena decided she wanted it to be about a space squirrel. He’s lost, but he meets lots of friends, and they all help him to become found again. But Jena says we need lots of adventures along the way. I really love the way her imagination is developing!

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Jena would love the decryption code! She’s only just making sense of letters, but I think it would be fun for her to know about codes, too. Or if she’s not ready for that, I would be! I love encryptions and decryptions!

The other night, Jena and I went outside to look at the stars. Jena began laughing as she pointed at a comet.

“What’s so funny?” I asked her.

“There’s girls!” she said, pointing out at space.

And at that moment, I felt like my heart opened up and let in all of life! To think! This universe is more vast than I ever knew… and there are so many more out there, and one who’s come from there is my friend, you!

Thank you, II  TTYE.

Love,

Meadow

dove807

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Samorost the Lost

By Jena and Meadow McCumber

If the stars are flowers,
Are we their seeds,

Made of light-dust
And cosmic giggles,
Space-bits, and weeds?

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In the Beyond beyond,
Far from the Here that’s near,

the hound looked up
at a tin ear’s cheer.

“Oh,” said the one tree,
“What brings this here?”

“Never worry,” said two tree,
“Only the silly fear!”

“Then color me goofy,”
said three tree,
“For afraid is me
As sure as can be!”

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Down from the tower
ran the little one, lost.

It is the Space Squirrel,
known as Samorost,

Cosmically tossed
through the space whirl.

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“Ahoy!” to the hound dog!
“Avast!” to the bunny-pillars!

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A strange wind blows hither,
to make a lost squirrel shiver.

“What dost thou want?
Little lost squirrel?”

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“To be unlost
In this big wide world.”

“My puff can blow magic,”
said the puff flower truly.

“Ride the wind higher,
Back towards your home, duly.”

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“Ring-ho!” said Goldie,
the gazelle with the old key.

“Jump aboard! Follow me!
I’ll take you to Old Ghoulie!”

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Down step by step
Over the lichen lip

Goldie and Squirrely
traversed the path curly.

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“What, is that you?”
said Old Ghoulie.

“The one who is lost
That they call Samorost?”

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At the end of the world
the secrets unfurled.

And the way home was told
To the Squirrel, lost yet bold.

To be continued…

Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 3

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

kaitlin308

Dear Kaitlin,

I’m sorry it’s taken me a little while to write back. You see, there was something in your last letter that I wasn’t sure how–or even if–to respond to.

Maybe it’s just coincidence and maybe there’s nothing to it.

You see, I appreciate you and our correspondence so much. And I don’t want to put it in jeopardy by bringing up something I shouldn’t. But even more, I don’t want to endanger it–or you–by not bringing up something if I should. So, I’ve decided to mention it, even if it’s awkward or uncomfortable.

I remember reading in your profile that you were trying to stay “under the radar” so your husband can’t find you.

Please know that I keep everything you write confidential. I mean, I do that with all my pen pals. My uncle and my brother know I have pen pals, but I haven’t told them any of your names or anything that has been expressed in your letters. Believe me, I honor the confidentiality of the pen-pal relationship! No one in my life knows who I’m corresponding with except the person I write to.

I felt it was important to tell you that before I go on.

My brother Norman doesn’t hold the same respect for confidentiality. When he saw how much my uncle and I were enjoying the pen pal project, he decided to join. I try to discourage him from talking about the letters he gets and writes. But if you knew my brother, you’d know that trying to keep him from talking is like trying to dissuade the Santa Ana winds from blowing in September.

He’s a big talker.

The thing is. Well, the thing is this: you wrote that your husband’s name was Newt.

Newt is the name of one of my brother’s pen pals.

It’s not a very common name, is it?

Norman says that Newt is his “relationship coach.” He’s teaching him how to “make a move” on his best friend, Ira. (Ira’s a woman–a friend of mine, actually.)

I guess it’s not all bad for Norman, since Newt’s coaching gave him enough confidence to ask Ira and her daughter to move in with him. They were living at a shelter. I guess they had some hardship, and there’s no dad in the picture right now. Ira’s got a great attitude so I’m hoping now that she and her daughter have a save place to live, they’ll bounce back.

But for you! Isn’t it a weird coincidence that your husband would be writing to my brother? If it even is your husband. Do you think it is?

If so, will you still be able to write to me? I hope so!

I can understand if you have to stop. I mean, your safety comes first. And if you were trying to keep your husband from finding you and the kids, and then it turns out that he’s in touch with your pen pal’s brother…  I’ll do whatever you need to and respect your decision.

It’s just that I hope we can keep writing. Your letters–and you–mean so much to me! I keep your letters locked up in my desk and your emails in a password protected folder. Norm’s got his own account on my computer, so when he uses it, he logs in as him. He doesn’t know my passwords.

Since I’m not sure you’ll still feel like you can write, I’ll make this a long letter and tell you everything!

I’m enclosing some pictures of Jena, just like you asked. Isn’t she a little nut?

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Her face is so expressive. I can always tell just what she’s thinking and feeling. I hope she keeps that quality all her life. I love a face that reveals all! (You know I’m bad at secrets!)

We had family day at my uncle’s on Sunday.

When we got there, Jena was in such a mood.

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Even when she’s grumpy, she tries to be polite. We sat together in the living room, and she folded her little hands in her lap.

“What’s the matter, Cat?” I asked her.

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“Stupid noisy train!” she said. We had taken the Rapid Transit into the city.

She really dislikes loud noises, and I think she dislikes crowds. Kaitlin, do you think toddlers can have PTSD? Sometimes, she seems shook up after we’ve been around lots of people, and I don’t know if this is normal over-stimulation for a sensitive child or if the trauma she experienced in the camp gets triggered.

To help her calm down, I got her a snack, put a Haydn  string quartet on my uncle’s stereo system, and gave her a little time alone.

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Half an hour later, she was happy and laughing with Norman.

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I know I tease Norman a lot, and he probably doesn’t come off that well in all my letters. It’s not fair to him! He really is an awesome guy. He’s my big brother!

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And he’s Jena’s uncle. I feel so happy that she’ll get to grow up with a cool, funny, and smart uncle, just like I did.

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Oh, Kaitlin! Norman’s got such a good heart, if he can just find his way from his head so he can feel it!

Maybe, if he is writing Newt-your-husband, some of his goodness might possibly maybe rub off on Newt, just like Newt’s confidence has rubbed off on Norman. What if? What if something good comes from this for both of them?

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I know. You probably think I’m foolishly optimistic, like my uncle. Jasper thinks every painting is a masterpiece! And I think every person has a heart of gold, if only they can find their way to it.

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Oh, I got so carried away with my letter that I forgot I hadn’t answered all your questions!  About a significant other: Your guess is right. I’m single. I’ll share a secret: I’ve never had a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend, either. I’m just not sure I think that way–or at least, not yet, anyway. I remind myself of a character in a Mary Wilkins Freeman story–very oriented towards family and home, but more content to take care of someone else’s child than to have my own, and much happier to have my rooms and my books and my thoughts to myself than to have to share them with someone who feels he’s due them, at the end of the day.

It’s not lonely for me. It’s my choice. It’s free.

Hailey’s father sounds wonderful–and I hear such love in your words when you write about him. I hope the complications in your situation find resolution. It can happen! Or at least, in novels it always does. Maybe in life, too?

I feel so bad when you write that I’m your support system because what if Norman’s Newt is your husband Newt and that comes between us? Oh, I hope nothing stops us! I hope you can still feel safe enough to keep writing! I want to be able to keep hearing about you and your beautiful children, and I want to be able to cheer when you write me that letter telling me that you and Hailey’s dad worked it all out and he’s moving in! Or whatever you decide to do. I’m sure it will be wonderful.

Oh, before I go, I just wanted to tell you to have hope. I guess that’s something I learned from Jena. I mean, to come from something as terrible as she experienced, and now to be a smart, thriving, opinionated little kid–that’s a miracle that fills me with hope. It’s love that did that. And you: your whole being is so full of love! I know only the best will happen for you and that you’ll make it through this challenge and you’ll be so strong that all the love in your heart will be super-charged with Super You Power!

I sound like my crazy brother when I write like that. He really is a good guy, even if he’s got a big mouth.

Take care, please! I hope you feel you can still write.

Be safe.

Lots and lots and lots of love,

Meadow

p.s. We don’t have any pets. We haven’t been able to find any! We tried adopting a pigeon that wandered through the field, but that didn’t work out. Maybe one day we’ll have a cat? We’re hoping!

p.p.s. Sorry I had to share that weird news. I hope you can still write! And maybe it’s not even the same Newt?

p.p.p.s. But of course I understand if you can’t keep writing.

p.p.p.p.s. Bye! Or… until next time! And thank you so much! Thinking good thoughts!

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Forgotten Art: Norman – Mel 2

A reply to: A letter from Mel

mel211

Dearest Mel,

I’ve been thinking about your question every since I got your letter:

“What are your feelings towards reincarnation?”

I’m not sure what my feelings towards it are. Like I said, I’ve been thinking about it.

In fact, I’d say, since I read your letter, reincarnation has been on my list of top-five-things-I-think-about. (The others, in no particular order are: 1) When will another vintage Llamacorn be available on e-Bay? [preferably a gold and purple one to round out my collection] 2 a) Will we ever be able to develop a bird-safe method of harvesting wind power, and 2b) if not, how long will it take us to switch Windenburg Wind and Sun to Windenburg Sun and Sun?, and 3) How can WW&S attract more innovative physicists?  and 4) Why?)

My thinking about reincarnation didn’t get me far, though, except to realize that I’d never thought about it before.

I decided to talk to people. First question: Whom did I know well enough I could ask them about their feelings or thoughts on reincarnation without them thinking I was a nut-case? Or… to reframe: who already thought I was a nut-case and wouldn’t mind talking with me about subjects esoteric and strange?

Of course, my kid sister was first on the list. I ran into her at a party at the Von Haunt Estate.

“I need your educated opinion, Meds,” I asked her. “Reincarnation: Yes or no?”

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“Yes!” she replied. “Think about it, Norm. In every culture, there are references to it in folklore! And I’m not just talking about Hindu, Janis, Sikh, or Buddhist tales. Even in folklore from Christian cultures, you can find modified versions–for example, Cinderella’s mother becomes a dove, another departed mother becomes a juniper tree. There are so many instances!”

“But those are fairy tales,” I told her.

“Sure, yes,” she said. “But fairy tales always point towards experiences so deep in our collective unconscious that they can only come out in story! And, what comes out in story always indicates truth so strong it can’t be suppressed. Not even by religion or science.”

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Then, a few nights later, I made a new acquaintance downtown. OK, so he didn’t know me well. But he seemed open to conversation. We were talking about stars. I said something about stars dying. He says, with no prompting whatsoever, “It is not death. It is the perfect cycle that goes on everywhere.”

“Kind of like reincarnation?” I asked.

“Ah, well. That is. Um, yes,” he replied. And then he had to leave suddenly.

mel210

My uncle Jasper was next on my list. Now, Jasper lives for this type of talk.

“Reincarnation. Yes or no?” I asked him.

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Of course I didn’t get the short answer. First he launched into a recitation of reincarnation in literary traditions. Then he began a dissertation on “what can be known and what can be sensed and the difference between the two.” Then he said, “Now, Bess. She had memories. And Bess’s memories are not to be doubted.”

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Turns out, my aunt had three spontaneous memories of past-life experiences. Each one hinged around a moment of decision, and each decision affected life themes for her in this life. In one, she was a peasant who avowed never to live in poverty again. In one, she was a warrior who promised to protect his family and tribe. In another, she was abandoned by a faithless husband, and she swore never to let that happen to her again.

Jasper said he believed the memories, since each had been made at what he called “a decisive moment of power.”

“The themes,” said Jasper, “these were what were ripe for her in this life: to learn to trust abundance; to protect kin and clan; to choose someone who could be faithful.”

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That got me thinking. That got me feeling. I loved my aunt Bess. She was a good person, Mel. I think you would like her. So, if this was part of what made her good, maybe there’s something to it.

My niece was there that day Jasper and I talked. I decided to ask her.

“Did you have another life before this one, Jena?”

Of course, she had. She’d been born in a refugee camp. Coming here, getting adopted by my sister–that was reincarnation in and of itself. I know it’s not the kind you’re asking about. But it’s dying to an old life and being reborn in a new one, all the same.

mel204

The last person I asked was my best friend Ira.

“I’m taking an informal poll,” I asked her. “Reincarnation: Yes or No?”

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“Oh, yes!” she said. “Most definitely!”

She pulled out Mistress Mew-Meow from her pocket. You see, Ira is also a collector of antique toys.

“Take Miss M-M,” she said. “This was once something very different! What’s plastic made of?”

“Oh, hydrocarbon. Natural gas. Coal. Minerals. Plant stuff.”

“Very different, yes?” She squeezed Mistress Mew-Meow to make her meow. “And now! Here she is, a little cat with a bright smile! If that’s not reincarnation, I’m not sure what is!”

mel206

I’m not sure that’s reincarnation. That’s more like the recycling of matter into another form. But then, that was what my new acquaintance called it. When a star dies, its matter becomes the stuff of life somewhere else in the galaxy.

I thought long and hard. Eventually, I realized what I’ve always known: what my dad taught me when I was knee high. Science only goes so far. I’m a scientist. My scientific training schooled me in the method of proposition, trial, blind-trial, repetition, quantifying, measuring.

I’m a scientist. But I’m also a human. So my feelings, my feelings are that there is so much more that lies outside of the territory of science: there’s folklore. There’s religion. There’s experience and memory and the collective unconscious. There’s feeling. My feeling, when I think of my sister’s bright eyes, when I think of Aunt Bess’s big heart, when I think of my niece’s little scowl, and when I think of Ira’s laughter–my feeling is that there’s more to us that endures and finds its way into a new form–carbon-based or otherwise–than not.

Some things, like the starlight in another’s eyes, simply can’t not exist.

I’m not making sense. But then, that’s why I usually stick to the realm of thought, rather than feeling.

And you, Mel. What are your thoughts–or rather, feelings–about reincarnation?

Is it silly for me to say that I hear your voice–or rather, a voice I imagine to be yours–when I read your letter?

I hope you keep writing.

Sincerely,

Norm

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 7

A reply to: A letter from Dove

Dear Dove,

Thank you for writing! I really enjoyed your letter. How wonderful that your littlies are up and walking! Of course, it’s been a while since I’ve written, so who knows? Maybe by now they’ve graduated from high school!

That’s interesting that you mention that you’re not sure how time flows between our two worlds. It’s something I’ve been wondering about.

It was my uncle Jasper, actually, who got me thinking about it.

kaitlin202

Jasper asked me if I thought time was more like a ball of string or more like a blanket.

I said “string,” because I know that for me, I always feel time is all wound up, and I keep circling around and around and ending right back where–and when–I started! Story of a mother of a toddler, I suppose!

I asked my brother Norman, who actually is a scientist–like you!–what his answer was.

Norman said, “Even though they call it ‘string theory,’ it would be more accurate to call it ‘fabric theory.’ Space-time is a smooth fabric that can be bent, bunched, and twisted in a variety of ways.”

And then he lost me.

lenora303

Let’s just say that I’m open–and very interested–in your explanations about space, time, and your understanding of how both affect us in our heres and our nows.

I tried your suggestion of telling a story about aliens to Jena! Actually, I don’t have a book about aliens, so I read Maximus Menagerie to Jena, but I made up an alien story to go along with it.

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Unfortunately, the only alien story I know is an old urban folk tale about this alien that somehow got inside some space explorer’s stomach and then popped out of her belly button!

“Owl story, Mommy?” Jena asked.

So, I went back to reading the owl poem in the Menagerie book.

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Jena’s new favorite toy is a squid. She says that it belongs to Mrs. Goodenough, who is her imaginary friend. Mrs. Goodenough started out being our guest for tea, but now she also comes whenever Jena needs something put right.

She pulls the squid out from the toy chest and tells me, “Mrs. Goodenough coming! Squid says!”

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“What does Mrs. Goodenough want?” I’ll ask Jena.

Usually, she wants cookies.

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But sometimes, she wants to dance! And not to kiddie music. To Tchaikovsky! Mrs. Goodenough has great taste in music!

lenora302

By the way, what do you mean that I know someone “from all the way past Mars”?

I hope all’s well with you, Maki, and your littlies (who may now be biggies!). You mentioned you might be moving. Did you?

If so, I hope the new place is lovely, and I hope all’s going well with your amazing discoveries, and I hope that life is happy and full for you and yours!

Lots of love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 2

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

kaitlin204

Dear Kaitlin,

Thanks so much for your letter! I can’t believe I couldn’t keep straight how many children you have and that you actually have four, plus the grandson! Three babies under five, plus a child and a teen! I can’t even comprehend!

You’re amazing. Seriously. Take a moment to think of what you are accomplishing. You’re an incredible person, Kaitlin!

I’d love to know more about your children and grandchild. Will you tell me more?

I’ve been thinking about identity after getting your letter. You wrote that you didn’t have a chance to become you before becoming a wife and mother. When I read your letters, I hear YOU so clearly! Somehow, along the way, you seem to have found your core identity, your sense of self. Maybe you found that through having to be strong for others.

Sometimes, it seems that we find ourselves through living our lives, with all their hard times and good times.

Up until now, I “found myself” in a different way, through daydreaming, thinking, and pondering. I’m not nearly as together as you seem to think I am! I’ve lived mostly in my thoughts and observations. I have a good understanding of folklore and of art and imagination, but I often feel I haven’t a clue about the nature of this world and the people in it.

kaitlin203

Now that I’m in a life where so much of my time is given to caring for another, I am finding myself through relating. Maybe this will teach me about people.

Jena seems oriented to relating. I have a feeling she will grow up people-smart. I don’t often see her playing, reading, or talking by herself, like I did when I was little. Instead, she likes to play near me. She loves to tell me stories. They usually involve a cat.

kaitlin201

Do you have much support, Kaitlin? I can’t imagine how taxing it is to have five kids that you’re responsible for! Your baby’s father sounds like a kind man. If you discover that you love him, then I wish you all the best!  And at the very least, it seems that Hailey will have a loving father in her life.

My brother and uncle, which is all the family I have left, have been amazing to me. My uncle is Jena’s favorite person, and he helps a lot with caring for her. My brother is really a big kid himself, so he hasn’t taken to the caretaker role like Uncle Jasper has, but he’s there for me, and I love him for that!

lenora306

Jena’s doing really well. We’ve gotten past our initial communication barrier, and with that, so many of her frustrations, fears, and sorrows have melted. I can genuinely say now that she is a happy kid! Knowing the hardship she came through and the tragedy and trauma surrounding her conception and birth, I can say that’s a miracle, and it makes me think that maybe, happiness always has a chance.

kaitlin205

Thanks so much for being my pen pal! Your letters help more than you can know, and I admire you so much!

Hope you find a way to sneak in a little fun and pleasure for yourself. You know what they say us mommies need: Extreme Self-Care! 🙂

Lots of love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 6

A reply to: A letter from Dove

dove401

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.

dove402

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.

dove404

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?

dove403

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.

dove405

We have more smiles by far these days than frowns.

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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!

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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.

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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,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 1

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

kaitlin101

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?

kaitlin102

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!

kaitlin103

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?

kaitlin105

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!

kaitlin104

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.

kaitlin106

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.

kaitlin107

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.

kaitlin108

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,

Meadow

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