Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Keeping Our Selves Warm

Multiple Passages, ©2010, H. Hunter, Multimedia
At this time of the year in most parts of our country, the task is to stay warm, but even more that that, to keep our souls warm. As it becomes darker and colder outside, it's easy to find ourselves in similar inner spaces.

Instead, I'm seeking to turn up my inner heat and discover more of what lies within. With that in mind and my early morning warm-up shower behind me, I wanted to share a few things that have warmed my soul lately...

Multiple Passages was created in memory of a vibrant young woman with whom I worked; she was Fijian, by way of India and she had a spark in her soul that could heat up any room she found herself in during her time at our hospital.

In particular, I appreciated her fierce love of Bob Marley and the Jamaican flag which decorated her room. One day near the end of her life, I entered to find her choosing just the right shade of magenta that she and her nurse planned to dye her hair that weekend. Although she died a year and a few months ago, her presence continues to permeate my work.

Grandma Caroline, ©2006 H. Hunter, SoulCollage®
This morning, in honor of Thanksgiving, I decided to excavate my bedside reading collection. In the pile, I found a sheaf of typewritten letters from my grandmother Caroline. She died at the age of 33 in 1938, years before I was born. I happened to turn to a letter I hadn't yet read, dated a few weeks before the Thanksgiving of 1937. At that time, she was for the most part, confined to her bed with the cancer that took her life. In this letter, she shares with her sister Leah her delight and humor over a Friday night Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) dinner:

Friday night we had such dandy broiled white bass for supper how I wished you could share it with broccoli with drawn butter and lemon sauce. As if that were'nt enough fish in came Maurice with a jar of Gafilta fish. Of course I raved and raved about it, but it was so white and flat tasting. Maurice said see it was made with frozen haddock and you could'nt tell the difference. But I did'nt say so but just raved about it. Your really need fresh fish to make a jelly like stock to cook the balls in. You can't tamper with that good old fashioned gafilta recipe. (The underlinings are all hers.)

I love her exuberance and her kindness. And, while I have never liked gefilte fish, her excitement over good food helps me understand my own global enthusiasm for food and I am grateful that she lives on in me through our shared devotion to food, words and family.

Last, but not least, to see a video clip from an interview NBC Today show host, Matt Lauer did at St. Jude's Hospital this Monday, click here

You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words...


  1. How lucky you are to have those letters from your grandmother. My grandmother was from Syria, so the Jewish cuisine I grew up with was middle eastern. I remember my 'sito' in her kitchen, always making delicious meals.
    "Multiple Passages" is a beautiful piece, a wonderful tribute.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Thanks Hannah for the grandma memories...I remember my grandfather chopping up the white fish for making giflite fish in their kitchen, the smell...
    Thanks too for the tears (sad and happy) for the kids and work of St. Jude hospital. What a good clip to see today.

    Wishing you and your family the happiest of holidays. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

    PS I love seeing your art (again) inside this post.

  3. Hannah: Thanks for the inspirational post.

    Is multiple passages one of the ones you brought to my house?

    Happy Thanksgiving. Diana

  4. excellent post and I love your grandmothers genteel manners.
    and multiple passages... really amazing!

  5. What a treasure to have your grandma's letters! Your post reminds me of an experience I had just this morning.

    We are having snow here in the Puget Sound area which is an occasion for hysteria and whining usually. I don't mean that I whine hysterically--I mean that everyone does. You can probably hear us clear down in California. Plus the dogs don't like it.

    So I'm coercing my corgie into a walk up the frozen ice covered road, shivering in the subzero temps,wanting to just get it over with and I hear this strange scraping sound...

    It's my neighhbor. He's in his seventies and has a bad knee. He is sliding down the street on a sled.

    Not sliding very fast, but all red faced and cheerful anyway. He dragged his feet to stop himself and we chatted for a bit.

    Turns out his sled is an orignal flyer circa whenever it was that those sleds were first produced. He got it for his kids back in the day. The sled carried all those memories of his children and the fun they had together in the winter. But the sled carried even more than that: turns out he went to a Quaker school in Philadelphia when he was a child and one of his classmates was the offspring of the guy who first started marketing Flyers.

    So it was a beautiful sled full of meaning and he was enjoying the ice that allowed him to slide on it one more time.

    So I tried to have a better attitude on the rest of our walk. My corgie stayed grumpy, however.

    Have a lovely holiday!

    PS I enjoy reading your blog.

  6. Thank you Altoon, your grandmother's cooking sounds exciting to my American ears. I always enjoy meals at my cousin's whose husband is an Iraqi Jew--their twist on the old favorites adds color and flavor and always, something to talk about.

    Wow Lynn, that is a memory to treasure. I wish I had had the opportunity to meet Caroline, but I like to pretend I know her anyway.

    Diana, Thanks! Yes it is. Hope your Thanksgiving is a great one too.

    Laura, your story reminded me of growing up in the midwest and sliding, tummy down on the old flexible flyers. I love that notion of enjoying the ride one more time.

  7. Such a beautiful post Hannah, thank you so much for sharing. I have this wonderful little journal from my Great Aunt of a trip she took across the US from Philadelphia, Pa to CA...she was so young then in her early twenties...I love reading through it and imagining her youth, her courage, her desire for adventure as a single young woman back in nineteen thirty...I feel her presence when I hold the small purple diary. She was one of my first spiritual teachers. Remembering is a wonderful gift to ourselves during holidays!

  8. Laura: That's so true--I find the older I get, the more I understand the value of looking back and taking in the experience of those of who came before me. Can you imagine what it must have been like for your aunt, crossing America in the 20's? Wow!

  9. A sweet and truly real memory of another time and place...I love the way you tell the story...and yes indeed...time to stay warm and go deep.

  10. Indeed Donna! Time to bring on the inner light!

  11. I love this piece of artwork you have posted it is beautiful and its facets are like a human spirit, multiple and multiplying. The grandmother piece is so sweet, my grandma traveled from Virginia to Phoenix as a young woman with a baby, alone. She shared making noodles with us when we were kids. The draping of them over the linen tablecloth so they could dry just right. My other grandmother shared the sweetest heart with us. Her sister was like a grandmother to us in New Orleans, her heart couldn't have been kinder. Thanks for the memories.