Amish Grace

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Amish Grace

Postby sylviasdaughtersays » Tue Aug 03, 2010 5:33 am

So I've been reading this book, Amish Grace, for a few days, and it's let me to ponder the distinctive rituals of grief that the Amish practice --- one of which is the ritual of "circle letters." Amish people in different states who share a common experience contribute to a letter that is mailed from family to family. The writers in the circle often keep in contact for many years. I'm thinking that I could start such a letter, maybe write a letter to David (daywhite here) about our friend Susan, who died after a long struggle on and off with cancer, and he could send that letter on with his notes to Susan's son or her husband, Andy, and so on until we have circulated the letter to other poets, artists, and people who were touched by Susan's life.

Something to think about. I like the idea.
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Re: Amish Grace

Postby Sabina » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:36 pm


It is a lovely idea, I agree.

I wonder if the importance and the meaning of it would diminish if it were to be an e-mail instead.
If yes, then how much and why?
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Re: Amish Grace

Postby Daywhite » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:32 pm

I think it's a very interesting idea. My initial thought was would the others involved in writing the letter know before hand? Would all involved be contacted before hand to say, "We're performing a circle letter ritual about ________ and want you to be included." I was wondering because some may not like to share their memories or be too grieved to share. I do think, all agreeing, it is a wonderful idea and a beautiful way to keep the memory and shared loved of the person alive and present rather than simply a distant memory.

As for a distinction between email or a hand written letter or the meaning being diminished by email, I don't think the feelings shared would be diminished however they are shared. But, I do think there would be more of the person who is sharing memories contained within the written word, or if typed and printed, at least something the person has physically touched. I think the memories shared are a shared energy, and when the memories are of one particular individual then something of that person's energy is shared in the touching of the page, the physical connection with a piece of paper that others will touch with the same intent, sharing a part of themselves and their overall connection to the shared experience or person who connects them all.

I would prefer something as physically connected to the person sharing as possible, meaning something hand written instead of typed or email. I told a friend once that email could just as well be called c-mail, meaning condom mail. The act may be the same, but there is not near as much shared feeling. I don't mean that in strictly a humorous way. Yes, it was meant with some humor, but things hand written are very important to me; to know someone took the time to not just throw off a quick message but to touch the paper, to share a bit of themselves through connecting pencil or pen to paper, making mistakes, scribbles, maybe even erasing, but it's all there to be shared.

I wonder about handwriting in the future, maybe ten years, maybe less; who knows? Everyone texts and emails, everything electronically, to the point that I wonder how much longer handwriting will even be taught or seen as needed. There seems little need to learn to spell because everything has spell check and no need to learn to write because of texting and email. Personally, there are few gifts I value more than a hand written letter found in the mail box. The more personal and the more shared, the better, but even a simple note, knowing the person touched the paper, took the time to write and mail something, that, to me, is a very valuable thing.

I love the Circle Letter idea even for things not involving grief. People with a shared experience, any shared experience, could write in this way, starting with something as simple as, "Remember when we were in high school and got lost on the way to ______ house?...." Whatever the case may be, and then each share what they remember of that night, that time. I think it would be a wonderful way to maintain a connection with one's history and people who may be forgotten in today's busy world.

Great post, T. Made me think a little bit. Don't forget how dangerous that can be for me, though 80S
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Re: Amish Grace

Postby sylviasdaughtersays » Wed Aug 04, 2010 5:09 pm

David and Sabina,

Your observations are insightful and helpful to me as I plan the circle letter, which I have decided to start. I will need your physical addresses (yes, David, again), since I'd like to respond to David's plea for the handwritten version... (by the way, I love getting letters, too, as you know). Cat Brendel and I write long handwritten letters back and forth (I received two from her this week), exchanging recipes, poems, art, herbs and flowers, cut-outs from magazines, and all, and I send postcards a lot to Jilli and Cat as well. Occasionally I send them to other people. Sabina, it would be fun to get postcards from where you are. My address is as follows:

Tamara Miles Gantt
102 Brookfield Circle
West Columbia, SC 29172

I have more to say on the difference between e-mail and handwriting, both of which are freeing, unique, and legitimate in their own ways, but right now I need to get to a friend's house with a lawnmower. LOL.

So, since I can't wait for anything very well, I'm starting a circle letter with you two by ... is this e-mail? Or something else? by e-post, shall we say? Okay...

Dear Sabina and David,

I find the world fragrant today, with freshly mowed grass at my home and a glass of home-brewed peppermint tea and that vague fresh scent that ice has. I find the world fragrant with sound, also, the soft whirring of my ceiling fan in the living room, the startling pop and crack from that same ice I've described as it warms with the tea in my glass... the snores of cat and husband. My thoughts too, are distant sounds and memories. There it is, yes, Susan's laugh, but I can only hold it for a second... and the sound of her lifting her body from the couch to make tea for me, the crisp, ironed white of her buttoned blouse makes a sound of concrete existence, there in time. The opening of her wooden kitchen cabinet, was there an ice machine? I think so. Spoons were involved, the ding of spoons, the rushing water from tap, pan boiling, or microwave humming. Did the honey make a sound as it fell in slow drops into our cups, and did we season that tea with poetry and stories? It seems we did, it seems I taste that seasoning as if it were a priest's blessing at communion, with Susan's long-haired sexy Jesus transfiguring by the stove, oh, and there it is, at last, the living grief that brings the wished-for relief of momentary tears in the eyes. It's so brief, sadness that is years old... it won't stay long, it doesn't like to be caged. Grief has to move; it has to escape us and go from heart to heart. Restless grief, I hear that sound you are making, absent as you are, absent like the drained tea cup and the finished tarot reading, absent like Susan's golden hair. Come back, grief, sit a while and I'll give you a poem to make you real, to put skin on you again.

I offer this poem to grief,
on the occasion of its visit,
(is Susan rolling her eyes?),
pour le corps de memoire,
I dip this poem in almond
and honey, I stir it up like tea.
On the ballot of this poem, I cast
Susan's vote in abstentia, her election
of the saints, Sabina,the Saint Who
Watches and Listens,
Saint David of the Wounded,
and I who wanted at one time to be
a saint but now gladly accept my
role as fool or mad Ophelia,
here's rosemary, Susan,
that's for remembrance, oh, pray,
remember those afternoons
in tea cups, those words like
manna, spilled around your couch.
Susan, Saint of Amazon Poets,
I hear the flute, I will follow.
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Re: Amish Grace

Postby sylviasdaughtersays » Wed Aug 04, 2010 5:11 pm

I leave the letter unfinished and turn to you, friends.
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