(sample page focusing on yard rabbit)
Every year my sister-in-law passes on two scrapbooks for the previous year to my wife, me, and our grown-up kids. One is a record of her yard’s flowers and plants the previous year; the other is more of an annual herstory for her personal life, her husband’s, and our family’s.
The first album reveals the process of pot, bed, and garden flowers from winter bulbing to spring planting, summer blooming, and fall along with added information about edible plants. She separates her flowers and plants into different areas and adds comments to the photos.
The herstory album is comprehensive and covers all the months of the year as well as many extended family pictures. There are more medical details these daze as we all age and even information about her pet cat. Family birthdays, weddings, occasions, and passings are all noted along with an obituary page of the famous who have died in the previous year. There are also sections on yard critters, both birds and animals, as well as news about neighbors, weather events, her husband’s wooden art projects, and any family news or trips.
Writing the scrapbooks is a labor of love to begin with and it requires much organization, collection of visuals, and explanatory or descriptive write-ups. There are many choices to be made and selections for each page in terms of images, coverage of events, and reader interest. But overall, these annual projects reflect who my sister-in-law is: what her values and feelings are about various people, nature, and things. The album is unique to her and perfectly illustrates what her bliss is and how she follows it.
There is much value to these sorts of personal and family projects. First, there is the historical record value way beyond mere photo albums. She records much detail on each photo to contextualize what happened or what is going on: always a great help for ephemeral memories. Second, the album is very much her art and artistic expression. She expresses what she values and treasures from the otherwise transitory moments of passing years. She helps others to remember and, thirdly, she points out details and brings them to readers’ attentions. When you read one of her albums, you are being given models and ‘lessons’ in how to pay attention to others and, especially, nature, which most people take for granted.
Apart from the communication, detail, perspectives, and shared reflections, this annual creative activity is primarily a spiritual exercise with a lot of soul. It is quite immersive and expansive, and adds depth to one’s sense of the recent past and the extent to which nature unfolds annually in different settings at different times of year.
My sister-in-law’s creative and personal sharings are and continue to be a special part of our family’s lives and consciousness. They are warmly received and looked forward to always. The artistic talents and creative expressions of family members make life more interesting, more special, and significantly connective.