True story: A woman with whom I was acquainted had reluctantly put her charming home up for sale, knowing she could no longer maintain it. But it didn't sell and she took it off the market. "Is the house not selling because I'm holding on too tightly?" she asked herself. That evening, she went to her bedroom. "I've so enjoyed this room," she said aloud. "I want to thank you for making me feel so warm and cozy here. Now I release you for someone else's enjoyment." The woman proceeded to go from room to room, thanking each one for the enjoyment she'd received, and releasing it for someone else's pleasure.
A few days later, a neighbor visited her. "I've always admired your place," he told her. "But I couldn't afford to pay the realty fee. Would you consider my offer?" His offer was indeed acceptable to the woman, and so she gratefully sold her house to someone she knew would love and cherish it.
I've had to face the selling of my home, into which I've poured my heart and soul, more than once. The story above has stayed with me and inspired me during those times. In this excerpt from my journal, I write about the time I left my beautiful home in Bend.
I plopped down in exhaustion on the living room floor, alternately gazing at our beautiful tongue and grove cedar ceiling and the mountains turned rosy by the waning sun. I said goodbye to the Elfery, my magical playhouse under the stairs. After taking one last heart-broken look around, I called my dog Tillie. We climbed into the van stuffed with houseplants and other fragile items and headed for our new life. Just before the sun went down, a brilliant full rainbow appeared ahead of us. I thanked God for giving me a sign of hope.( from my unfinished memoir, Crazymaking)
Much has happened to me before and after that move. I've had to let go of two husbands as well as houses. But I've found joy in the spaces between. I had a son. I had the chance to build my dream home. I've traveled. I found out more about myself. I developed a deeper faith, learning that I couldn't always control my circumstances. As much as I like houses and all that goes with them, I've come to understand the transitory nature of things and the enduring nature of family, friendship, and love.
From Màiri Campbell
Two children, a boy and a girl were born towards the end of the last century. Their chance, of meeting was very remote as they belonged to countries which were far apart. Each had a different way of life and family background, and they did not speak the same language. However, not only were they destined to meet but they were to remain together until death separated them.
David Campbell’s early life.
The boy was born of missionary parents in India on a dark starless night on the 29th January, 1891. His father, the Reverend William Howard Campbell, christened him David Callender after his great grandfather David Callender of Leith. The influence of his father was an important factor in the formation of the boy's character, as they were both men of strong will and high principles. They were both outstanding athletes, and born leaders of men, and they exerted a great influence among their fellow-students at Edinburgh University. They were both keen politicians, and William founded a socialist society at the University.
As a missionary in Caddapah, India, he learned the language so well that he wrote books in it, notably a Telugu Concordance on the Bible.
“Master speaks with our tongue,” is what the congregation said of him.
Davie did not remember much about his early years in India. The child of a harmonious marriage, he was spared those bewildering perplexities and nightmares that mar the childhood of the less fortunate.
The first nine years of their marriage were among the happiest in the lives of the two parents, William and Elizabeth. William was absorbed in his missionary work, Elizabeth in setting up her home and in assisting her sister-in-law, Dr. Florence Campbell, in her medical work amongst the women of India. However, when Elizabeth's babies arrived in rapid succession, she lost interest in all but her family. Life in India never attracted her. The first impressions left by that strange land, on a mind matured on the strictest Victorian principles, was disturbing in the extreme. She was shocked by the uninhibited breeding habits of the ubiquitous monkeys, the disturbing ceremonies in the dark vastness of the temples, the child marriages, and the treatment metered out to widows. So shocked, indeed, that she kept herself detached from it all, as much as possible, and concentrated her attention on her family. She did, however, take pleasure in the fact that every time she produced another 'man child', she rose to higher esteem in the eyes of her husband's congregation.
The usual tour of a member of the London Missionary Society lasted about seven years. The time for going on furlough had already been extended by several months. Elizabeth was driven frantic by the thought that she would have to leave her children behind when she returned to India at the end of their required furlough. Tom, the eldest, was seven, Boyd was five, Davie was three, and Willie was a baby. Their education had to be considered, as well as the adverse effect which an additional seven years' stay in India would have on the children’s health. She was equally unable to contemplate the only alternative - that of letting her husband return to India without her. A cruel dilemma, but it had to be faced.
At last the family set off on the journey home. A long sea voyage, with four boisterous boys, was no small matter in those days. Trouble was to be expected, and trouble there was. Crossing the Red Sea little David got convulsions. It was touch and go, but, by a miracle he survived. His baby brother, Willie, died of malaria in the Mediterranean.
The year of home leave passed all too soon. The dreaded moment for Elizabeth had arrived. She had to decide whether to stay with her children, in her beloved Ireland, or to return to India with her husband. Elizabeth showed her courage. She said a tearful farewell to her children, and to Ireland, and went with her husband back to India. The children were left in the care of their parental grandmother at Ballynagard House in Londonderry on the River Foyle. A big house, with a large garden and orchard made it possible for the children to enjoy a healthy, busy, outdoor life.
Agnes Callender Campbell of Leith (born 1834) was a truly remarkable, highly gifted woman. She had eleven children of her own and was prepared to take on the care of her grandchildren. It was due to her that the children did not feel uprooted and unhappy after being separated from their parents. They took to their new life like ducks to water. The brothers spent their days running free in the big garden, climbing the old trees, looking for birds' nests, or playing at the water's edge. From the moment they came back from school they were full of mischief. Mr. Henderson, the land steward, put up with a lot from the boys, but the following incident was the last straw. The boys took turkeys from the farmyard, climbed into the trees and left the birds there because, they said, turkeys ought to roost in trees at night as they do in India. Mr. Henderson decided at last to speak to their grandmother.
“Was their mother a heathen?” he asked.
“Oh, no,” she answered. “You know who their mother is, Elizabeth Boyd from Ballymoney.”
“Were they suckled by savages then?” he asked, scratching his ear.
The children adored their grandmother. She would tell stories, read aloud, or sing to them in her sweet voice. And she taught Davie much. She was a devote Christian by example and precept, and from her he learned consideration for others. She taught him to crochet, so that he might make garments for the children of Dr. Barnardo’s Home. They went to Church on Sundays. They enjoyed large happy Christmas dinners, but were always looking forward to their parents’ periodical visits from India.
Agnes Campbell’s influence accounts for Davie’s strong re1igious principles, his determination to preserve the liberties of the Protestant religion, and for his liberal attitude towards educational and social reforms. He was to become an elder of the Church of Scotland in Malta during the Second World War, and for some time after.
From his grandfather, Thomas Callender Campbell, David learned to play Whist. During the long winter evenings little Davie played with his grannie, grandfather, and Aunt Alice; and so laid an early foundation for his later considerable skill as a Bridge player. He got his looks from his great-grandfather William Campbell of Ballynagard who was nicknamed "Beau Campbell".
Maybe they’re coming after my pressure cookers. Maybe I need to persuade my husband to buy a gun to protect my cooking rights.
Just as my pressure cooker whistled, the doorbell rang. My neighbor, Denise, stood there with a plate of cookies. “I made them this morning.”
I welcomed her. “Come in. Let’s have these with our tea.” We sat at the kitchen table with our cups when suddenly the cooker screeched again. The sound jolted Denise, making her spill some tea.
She quickly wiped it. “Whew, it scared me. How long is it going to go on?”
“Just one more whistle.”
“Don’t you time it?” Denise asked.
“In my Indian pressure cooker, I just count the number of screams. This vegetable, legume, and rice mix is a three whistle dish.”
“That thing is noisier than the shooting range your liberal friends are protesting.” Denise frowned.
I decided not to argue with her. She is a Republican, I’m a Democrat. She listens to Rush Limbaugh, I listen to NPR. She and her husband are members of the National Rifle Association, my husband and I contribute to the Brady Campaign. But we have shared car pools, babysitting, my curry and puris, and her vegetable lasagna and cookies. We have taken care of each other during illnesses and celebrated many milestones together.
Could it be the Patriots’ Day bombing in Boston, which has created a mass fear of pressure cookers? A few gun advocates implied that pressure cookers are more dangerous than guns. But Denise wouldn’t believe that, would she?
“The terrorists used pressure cookers at the Marathon.” Denise frowned.
I nodded, remembering the tragedy in Boston.
“Can’t you cook without one of those?” Denise asked. When I shook my head she warned me, “The government will take them away some day.”
“Why?” I glanced at my pot, cheerfully bubbling.
“An airline passenger was arrested because they found a pressure cooker in his bag,” Denise said.
“They must have also found something suspicious in his luggage,” I offered.
She pointed toward the stove. “How many of those do you have?”
“Oh, about six. Why? Would you like one?”
“You always question me about the number of guns we have and ask if we need them all. Why do you have so many?”
“Well, I use different pressure cookers for different foods. I have a big one with three compartments so I can cook my legumes, rice and vegetable together in ten minutes. I have a small one for cooking any single item, and a big one for parties. And my husband has one for his lamb and chicken. I’ll take the two old ones to Goodwill soon.”
“After you donate, what if a terrorist makes bombs with them? The police will trace them to you. Are they registered?”
She was turning my arguments about weapon registrations against me. “The two we bought here are registered, the Indian ones aren’t. If the government wants to take inventory of my pressure cookers and asks me to get a license for each, I’ll gladly comply.”
“That’s what you say now. If you are continuously bombarded about the model of your pressure cookers, the purpose for possessing them, and such silly questions, you will understand how we feel when the government impinges on our privacy and our rights to own arms. Pressure cookers have more potential of being abused than guns,” Denise huffed.
Hearing the final whistle, I turned off the stove. I said, “In the last ten years how many deaths—accidents, suicides or homicides—have occurred with pressure cookers?”
Denise knotted her brows. “Owning a gun is our Second Amendment Right. We won’t let the government take that away.”
“How will background checks before buying a gun take your rights away?” I asked. “If I had a gun, I’d gladly go through the requirements so the criminals won’t spoil the reputation of responsible gun owners.”
“My friend, you will only understand my grievances when the government confiscates your pressure cookers.” Denise gulped her tea and stood. “Need to go. Do you want me to drive tomorrow to our guild meeting?”
“Sure.” I waved as she left.
Maybe they’re coming after my pressure cookers. Maybe I need to persuade my husband to buy a gun to protect my cooking rights.
Hemlata Vasavada is a freelance writer based in Mount Vernon, Washington. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies.
Visit her website
Arlene Sundquist Empie, aka Sunnie Empie, SVWL member for many years.
I recently returned from an exciting and successful book tour in Finland. Till America vi gå was released July 4th American Independence Day by publisher Scriptum Förlags, Vasa, Finland. The Legacy of Ida Lillbroända: Finnish Emigrant to America 1893 was translated to Swedish with a generous grant from the Svenska Folkskolans Vänner. The publisher arranged press coverage, radio interviews and book signings in four cities. People in Finland are hungry to hear the stories of those who left their homeland in the late 19th century, and I was delighted to meet many people who said that we are related.
The Legacy of Ida Lillbroända received eight awards including Winner Gold Medal 2011 Indie Book Award; Benjamin Franklin Silver Medal; IPPY Bronze Medal; 2010 National Best Books finalist; 2011 International Book Award Finalist. My first book Minding a Sacred Place under pen name Sunnie Empie was honored with Independent Publishers IPPY award for Architecture.
Writing conveys feeling. I am passionate about writing. I write every day because I am compelled to do so. I always carry with me a small notebook and pen—and a book to read. I panic if I don’t have those three things within reach at all times.
Why do I write? An accumulation of life experiences gives me permission; passion makes it possible. Poetic prose and poetry allow manifestation of emotion, like a spirit being appearing in visible form. My poem “Paloverdes Weep” and my first published prose originated far from my Pacific Northwest homeland while living in Arizona in the verdant upper Sonoran Desert, home to many indigenous species from the tiniest bird Phainopepla nitens, whose survival depends on mistletoe that grows on paloverde trees, to towering saguaros. The pristine desert landscape was being rapidly transformed by land-hungry developers to asphalt-covered strip malls and subdivisions with names like Terra Vita (earth and life) that mocked the desert’s former presence.
The scene that prompted me to write my first story remains vivid: Beside the road lay a huge twisted pile of freshly broken tree trunk and limbs. I stopped the car. Tears filled my eyes, but I was not alone to mourn the tree’s brutal death. Across the road, an old gray pickup pulled up alongside the mangled remains. A gray-haired man wearing gray overalls stepped from his truck. He stood beside the remains of the blue paloverde that had just been ripped apart by the scraper’s blade and with his hands to his face, he openly sobbed. The magnificent blue paloverde tree, a century old or more, was the harbinger of spring in the high desert, the first to bloom in all its splendor among other paloverdes. People came from miles around to see the trees in bloom, a sea of gold so bright your eyes would squint.
The death of the paloverde was not a natural demise of Nature’s perfect specimen; this was murder. A glaring example of human disconnect from a place to love and share with all living things. I was compelled to write about the wanton destruction of this unique desert environment, as cacti toppled under the bulldozer’s blade. Back and forth, the powerful machine would manipulate the tall anthropomorphic saguaro, its arms flailing against the sky in a human-like attempt to fend off an attack by its brothers, arms reaching upward, pleading for help. Then, that wrenching, crunching sound of separation from Mother Earth and the distinct odor of virgin earth ravaged by the penetration and breaking of the desert’s protective centuries-old microbiotic crust.
As I watched the ongoing devastation, I was gripped by intense emotion:
I can’t take this anymore! What can one person do when state and local government mentality is so fixed on land development that consideration of ecological consequences has no place in their grand plan? My answer: Write.
—From Foreword to Love Is A Place: A collection of poetry by Arlene Sundquist Empie. "Winner" Poetry: General category, The 2012 USA Best Book Awards.
I do not fail to honor my dear departed friend and mentor Jean Lipman, who published 29 books. I am indebted to her encouragement decades ago to write, to write poetry, and to publish my stories. Jean had a wonderful sense of humor. She foresaw that I would publish, and she said, “Get your picture taken now.” Actually, she commanded:
I mean—Now,” as she emphasized the last word. “You know . . . ” she added with a twinkle. Sage advice from my 90 year-old friend: if it requires an author photo, don’t wait until you are older. And indeed, that prompted one of my first award-winning essays: “The Hand that Holds the Pen.”
I am puzzled when I hear talk of ‘writers block.’ A simple remedy is to pick up a well-written book or essay in your genre, and you cannot fail to find inspiration. Often when I least expect it, I read a passage that sparks a paragraph or page of writing. My advice to people longing to write, but don’t know where to start, is to pick up a pen and pad of paper and write something—anything. Consider then the magic of the pen and brain to hand connection - thoughts appearing as words on paper in flowing cursive. I pondered this before I read Juhani Pallasmaa’s book Thinking Hand.
Read, read, read. Juhani Pallasmaa, distinguished Finnish architect and phenomonologist is top of the list of authors who have most inspired my writing. I echo his thoughts that we need a firm foundation in classical literature: Know the literary classics, the philosophers, so that we can have discourse, discussions between people or groups, with language as our “common currency” based on knowledge and wisdom. His writings and citations have encouraged me to read Marcel Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke and work by other European writers.
Important to my life is The Well of Remembrance: Rediscovering the Earth Wisdom, Myths of Northern Europe by Ralph Metzner with a foreword by Marija Gimbutas, whose book The Language of the Goddess introduced me to the feminine divine. I can feel the presence of the deep past in the vast expansiveness of time and space that one can still enjoy in Finnish Lapland, parts of Ostrobothnia and Hopi mesas in the American Southwest.
I began writing knowing little about the craft of writing. I attended workshops at Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. I returned to the University of Washington for certificate courses in nonfiction narrative writing and “Writing the nonfiction book” with Professor Nick O’Connell, author of On Sacred Ground: The Spirit of Place in Pacific Northwest Literature. I continue to attend his workshops as well as with other Northwest writers and educators. There is much to learn, and there are wonderful resources available in the Pacific Northwest.
I am presently completing a biography subtitled From Immigrant’s Daughter to Professor Emeritus. I look into the future as a writer comfortable in my niche of nonfiction historical narrative writing and will continue in that genre. And I can call myself a poet.
I have an innate need for space, space around me, space beyond me. After years
in Arizona looking over the vast Sonoran desert, I returned to the magic Skagit, the place where I was born and raised. This Pacific Northwest native began writing with passion while in the Southwest; then, circling back along a familiar path to the blues and greens of sea and sky, forest and ferns, I continue to write from my studio beside the Salish Sea where thought and memory meld into twilight moments.
I bow to Nature and give thanks.
—Arlene Sundquist Empie 2013