Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Finding the Heart of the Story

Over a year ago, I received a small grant from 4Culture, a King County organization, to work on a writing project about an old friend and neighbor of mine—and the story of how I inherited his cabin. On Sunday, November 21, from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m., at the Northeast Branch of the Seattle Public Library, I will read excerpts from this project, discuss its evolution, and offer a free writing workshop to those who would like to stay on and participate.

I’ve written on this blog about Els, Frank, and the cabin before in posts titled The Gift and Love Letters, but here I will give you the gist of the story. I grew up in the house next door to Frank and Els until I was ten, when my family moved a mile to the north. Frank was a sailor, a merchant marine, a loner, an avid fan of literature, and a generous soul. Els was a writer, a philosopher, a baker, a painter, a community activist, and a lover of children. Their marriage was not always the happiest, especially since Frank was often at sea for half the year, but together they lived in a small cabin on a wooded double lot in Northeast Seattle for over forty years. They never had children of their own.

Els died in 1999, and Frank died in 2006. That spring I would learn that he had left me their house. We had become good friends over the years, but Frank had never hinted that he was considering leaving me such a huge gift. Over the next couple years I would proceed to clean and sort through decades worth of treasures that Els and Frank had collected at sea, along with boxes full of letters that they’d exchanged during their many years apart. In 2008, my husband and I were finally able to move into the cabin, and since then I have continued to sift through Els and Frank’s vast collection of slides, log books, letters, and artifacts left behind, absorbing countless intimate details from their lives.

When I applied for the grant from 4Culture, I imagined that the heart of the story would be focused on the process of inheriting their cabin and things; the strained dealings with Frank’s relatives; and the legacy and weight of the possessions that we each collect and pass on. But as I’ve continued to dig deeper into the artifacts and letters. I’ve begun to realize that what I once thought was the heart of the story is perhaps only the back story, and that the true trajectory of this story is still being lived out as my husband and I and our seven-month-old son begin to imprint our own roots in this cabin, and as I continue to read Els and Frank’s letters which prompt me to reflect on the myriad dimensions of these things that we call family, home, work, longing, and purpose.

I devoted much time during my pregnancy to this project, especially to reading the letters. Now, the time has come for me to present to the public what I have accomplished during the year and a half that has passed since receiving the grant, and to thank 4Culture for the role that they have played in helping me giving birth to this book-in-progress.

I invite you to join me on Sunday, November 21, from 2:30 - 4:30 p.m., at the Northeast Branch of the Seattle Public Library, where I will first give a reading, and then, around 3:30 p.m., offer an informal writing workshop for those who would like to stay and write. I will offer prompts for you to free-write from—focusing on the themes of our loved ones, homes, and possessions—as well as an open space for us to share.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Friends and Readers,

    I don't know why the links I provided (to the library, to 4Culture, and to the past posts on this topic) are not showing up in this post. I've tried to fix it to no avail, and as a time-deprived mama, I now throw up my hands in the air and say, I give up. But if you are interested in reading the other posts on this project, you can go to the 'inheritance' tag on the right.

    The NE Library is located at 6801 35th Ave NE, in the Wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle.

    And go to for more information on this organization.

    Thanks, and I hope to see you on Sunday!



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