making memorials

In the olden days, people called Memorial Day Decoration Day. Families visited graves and memorials, paid their respects to the war dead and adorned these sites with flowers. We believe the date was chosen as so much of our country is in bloom in late May.

In the modern age (that's us), we also mark the official start of summer, we approve the wearing of whites and we fly the American flag at half mast from dawn until noon.
my maternal grandfather, floyd e. johnson, 1909-1999, charlottesville, virginia

I've come to think of the holiday as a time to recall our personal and national history.  I use the day to tell the children about their extended and distant family. I tell them the basics, the legends and the lies (let's don't let the truth get in the way of a good story!)  As a child, my father amused and taught with stories whose characters came straight out of Big Fish or The World's Largest Man; that's entertainment. And to pull all these sentiments together, last year, my sister sent me this New York Times article that suggests that families that tell family stories stick together longer and better.

In the last ten years, my husband and I start one selected project on or about Mother's Day. We garden, plant trees or flowers, build something.  Sometimes we finish in a day, but we often finish on or about Memorial Day. Then we go fishing as a family.

Of course, all the fish take our sorry, undersized bait as soon as it hits the water. We spend all day and half the night passing the pole between our muscle fatigued arms. The monster won't tire!  The sand gnats swarm in island sized clouds. We land the beast on deck just in time before the tidal waters disappear. We've narrowly escaped being beached and with a hearty supper that will feed all of Vernonburg! True story!
2010: springhouse roof redux, 2013, spring house "porch", 2014 springhouse vertical garden, 2015 potting bench, sink (wip)
Also true, it strikes me as I write this post that I am making memorials to my family, passed (in service to our country or simply in service to our family) and present. I pay homage to Savannah and to the life that I am carving out. I'm also creating a standing memorial that refers to the past, present and future. Our projects are informed by and honors those around us, some dear, some strangers. Both the making and the associated story helps us to create our own traditions and to recall some part of our past.

I'm looking forward to torturing my children with history and projects this entire month, but especially on Memorial Day. Whose story will you tell? Who will you honor and what form will that endeavor take?
plant in vertical garden adopted from lynn serualla + adam kuehl in turtle shell found by family in the georgia woods 

Blogging this week for The Paris Market, artist and collaborative designer katherine sandoz makes abstract paintings, fiber arts, illustration, portraits and collaborative works of art in a barn behind her home in Savannah, Georgia. The flora and fauna of the low-country serve as fodder for her imagery. Sandoz, a former service member herself, is moved and inspired by soldiers and warriors of all kinds and times.  


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