The Friday after Thanksgiving and I am full –
Full of Gratitude, Full of Food, Full of Family and Friends,
Full of Satisfaction in this Past Year.
Doing the Traveling Art Journal test-class with my female relatives at our family reunion had some unexpected bonuses. This is what I love about art – you get the art, but in addition to the art you get the bonus! In this case multiple bonuses!
Making art, especially making art with others, has many outcomes and unexpected bonuses. One bonus I have come to expect is that you get to know someone on an entirely different level than you have before. This is especially wonderful when the others are sisters, cousins, sister-in-laws, nieces and you name it. I have come to expect the unexpected, but I didn’t expect what I got this time.
But first a story, mostly a story about my family.
Our mother died four years ago this month near her home in North Central Washington, a location that is damn near impossible to travel to in the winter.Her children and other family are spread far and wide around the country. So there was no family memorial service and Sister #3 was in possession of Mom’s ashes.
When we decided to have the reunion, Sister #3 and I (#4) thought that she should bring the ashes as this might be the only time all her children would be together. Surely we could sneak in a 20-minute outing for just the immediate family to send her ashes out to sea.
Some of us spent an entire week on the Island and some just spent a long weekend, but suddenly it was Sunday the last day and we hadn’t scattered any ashes. For the reunion we had a Brunch scheduled for Sunday at the same beach where our cousins had left their Mother’s (our Aunt’s) ashes in 2006. We figured that after lunch our Mom’s children would wander a ways away and let her go.
Everyone had mostly digested the Sunday brunch when, in order to honor all of our mother’s – as they seemed so present – I read the Mary Oliver poem Mindful. Remember for our generation our dad’s and uncles were mostly away on a day-to-day basis bringing in a paycheck. That generation of women in our family were the ones who raised the entire clan (almost) that was gathered on that deck. And they did it in a Mindful Manner and most of us have long memories of the beaches of Whidbey Island with our mothers and often a cousin or two.
Then we said that we, the immediate family, were going to stroll down the beach and leave our Mom’s remains where she spent the happiest years of her life, Whidbey Island. We finished up with the eating and started gathering to go. Almost everyone there – thought they were the immediate family – so imagine this quiet beach where 40 plus people are trooping along. What would you think? The few others on the beach who encountered us asked “Friends? Family? Church Group?” We reached a good spot and said what was to be said and all were at peace. All of us, from her oldest daughter and nephew to her newest great-grandchildren, Mom/Aunt Sandy/Gramma Sandy/Bram was honored and memorialized. And in doing so we also honored and remembered the other aunts and uncles who have left us.
BACK TO THE UNEXPECTED BONUS!
When I got home from the reunion I started bugging the sisters to send me pictures of their Traveling Art Journals as they finished them up at home. I had taken photos of as many pages as I could before everyone dispersed, but of course we needed to add photos and details etc. What they sent back were pages and pages of wonderful art that brought a different perspective to an already full experience.
But what I didn’t expect was that my sisters made pages of our Mom’s Memorial! This is so much more of a memorial than any service (for me anyway). My sister’s personal view of what went on at the beach that afternoon – the love that was present and who our mother was for this whole clan…This was the unexpected bonus of all bonuses!
Sister II captured the reading, Mindful by Mary Oliver.
Sister #1 made a double page spread. The left side shows the Memorial. The right side shows Mom with her favorites; her family, her career at the Forest Service; her favorite restaurant and her final home in Oroville, Washington.
Sister #1 smudged cotton fluff with charcoal to represent the ashes returning to the sea.
There are more pages and more memories, but in the interest of the length of this post and confidentiality of all of us these are all I am sharing today.
Can you find yourself here?
What bonuses have you come across with your Traveling Art Journals?
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”