Way Back


This week I decided to try something different in my journal. I noticed on Dawn Sokol’s wonderful blog that she had a great Art Journal Fridays prompt (scroll down to the bottom). I know I’m a little late and I actually combined 2 of her prompts, but better late than never. I combined the Earliest Memory journal prompt with the Leap Day prompt. The idea is that you include a photo of yourself and journal one of your earliest memories which I combined with the Leap Day idea of using something you haven’t used before. I decided to experiment with a lovely set of Dr. Martin’s Bombay India Inks that I have never used. Any other art supply junkies out there? You know who you are.

I was telling my daughter about this journal page and we started talking about our earliest memories. It’s strange, but her earliest memories are vivid for me as well, just from another perspective. Her earliest memories are my mid-life memories. They are clearly her memories, but I remember the events too, just from a really different perspective. Anyway, it got me really thinking about my earliest memories and now old memories are new again, returning to me.

When I was working on this page I used the words “way back”, because at 51, 3 years old is way back. Sometimes I can’t remember what I did last weekend, so going back 48 years is a huge stretch. But I have memories from then that still touch me today. My tender heart remembers dear, sweet things that still resonate with me.


My Grandmother, Frances Whitney.

Most of them center around my grandmother’s house. We lived with her for a while when we moved from Brazil back to Colorado. It’s a long story, but my father had a posting in Bahia and after a couple of years and internal, Brazillian political troubles, we moved back to the states. My grandmother was tough as nails (we called her Grandmother) and a great nature lover, she helped raise me. She was a gardener and birder and to this day I still love both of these things. She would be 115 today, if she was still alive. She died one week after her 100th birthday, the year my daughter was born. I have one precious picture of her, my mom, myself and my 3 month old daughter. Four generations all together – from 100 years to 3 months old. It’s remarkable. For me at least. But I digress.

This journal page is me making my 3rd birthday cake. While I don’t remember this exact day, I remember things from this time. The background of the page is the very, what’s now called “mid-century”, 1959 curtain pattern from my grandmother’s living room. I remember cavorting around the yard with my cousin at this house and the amazingly terrifying rural fire siren that would ring out unexpectedly and spring and summer mornings laying in bed, the scents of the garden wafting through the window.


Western meadowlark.

I had another moment of way back the other morning when I ventured out to get the newspaper. My yard backs up to a bit of open space. What’s known in Colorado as “high plains.” The best thing about it, besides the nightly coyote serenade, is that it is truly “open space”. Not great for recreation – it’s a hill and it’s covered with yucca and prickly grasses that stick to your shoe laces and socks when you try going out for a ramble – just “unused”, glorious, open space. Big slabs of rock dot the hillside and some old farm implements hide, tucked behind a little rise. But this is the perfect habitat for one of my favorite birds and one that takes me back to my earliest memories. The western meadowlark. And on this late winter morning (just a bit of spring in the air), I heard my first meadowlark of the season. This, for me, is my harbinger of spring, the soundscape of hope and renewal. Hearing the meadowlark’s song takes me straight back to my grandmother’s house, waking as a young child listening to this marvelous song. Have a listen here.

I think we carry these earliest memories with us always. And as I’ve thought about it this week, I realize how much and how often I use them as touchstones.

Thank you Dawn for this memory invoking journal prompt. It took me way back and brought me right into the present moment. What could be better?

3 Responses to Way Back

  1. Dawn says:

    Awesome, Fran! Aren’t memories wonderful?!

  2. Leah Kahn says:

    I find it so bizarrer that your bird memories are so tender, and mine are, well, let’s just say, at the other end of the spectrum. Earliest memories – you’ve almost inspired me with this piece to commit to paper my own. Almost.

  3. Gwen says:

    What a lovely post! I spent every summer in Colorado when I was growing up, or I should say, two weeks of it, at my grandparent’s house in Granby. I could smell the sage on the hill behind my grandmother’s house while reading about the open space behind your house. I haven’t had a memory where I could smell that place I loved for a very long time, so thanks for your post!


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