Story: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

A huge hero of mine has taken the day off from all this electric rectangular bright and chaotic mumbo jumbo. In fact, he is taking the year off. That is an interesting idea. To me anyway.

I remember thinking as he was sharing his thoughts about leaving, how remarkable it has been these past several years to disciver digital introductions to people and then have those turn out to be something more. At first Jabiz was just some guy playing along with #ds106 and we somehow survived that. He is an artist in every definition of the word. He inspired me. He still does. He says of himself:

Jabiz Bio

The relationship went from tweets about #ds106 to having him talk via Skype to a class I was teaching on educational technology. He was brilliant. The students in my class were inspired. I was inspired.

In fact, I am hoping to wind the most recent inspiration from him into this networked narratives course. More on that later, but I am excited and thankful for the inspiration. I need that stuff and I know there is more out there. It is likely, that you are it. You know that? It is what you are here for, you know…

For this day I will share a recent addition to a story that has been told before. It is about a book and about a kid and about an old lady and a Rumi quote turned into art. On an island.

I will call it “Yes.”

It begins with Alex. Alex began his junior year at a small boarding school where I taught English. I took a lot of trips outdoors and he ended up backpacking with me to Yosemite, the Redwoods, the Grand Canyon many times, and into the beautiful West Fork of Oak Creek. He walked out there in the wilderness and loved it. He wrote about it.

Alex was killed a month after he stood beside me as I “gave him away” at his high school graduation. I was teaching summer school when that happened and many of his friends from the year before were there with me. It was awful.

I had a hundred pictures of Alex in really beautiful places and video of him walking in the Grand Canyon. And I had words he had written in those places about his experiences.

I made a DVD for his mom that included images, video of him, and some of his writing spoken by his friends. We added some of his favorite music to the video. It was the best I could do at the time and it helped me to make it. His mom sent me a card and an offer to fly my wife and I anywhere we wanted. It took me nearly two years to accept the offer, but we did.

It was 2003, and I only knew a little about computers and stuff. Here is a low res version of some of the video.

His mom flew us from arid Arizona to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington. We stayed at a bed and breakfast there and ended up going back most every summer for over 10 years. It changed our family. One trip, in a small art store called Olga Artworks, I bought a card with a painting of kids flying through the air with balloons. On it was a quote from Rumi.

I put the card on my desk at work and I looked at the card for two years. Everyday. I finally gave it to my daughter on her 16th birthday.

On a trip to Orcas after that, I purchased several more of the same card. On the back was an email address. I sent the person an email asking if they might enlarge the print for me. I was willing to pay. The person send me back an email saying they would send me the original. In 2013 I wrote this part of the story here.


This is the new part of the story.

This is the part that has some soft hugs and a walk outside in a light rain. It is the part that has hearing the laughter of an 80 year old. This is the part of the story I can touch.

I never met the artist of the painting above on the island. By the time I actually got around to contacting her and hoping for a short visit, she had become ill and was not interested in meeting new people. Through the Olga Artworks I learned she had to be sent to an assisted living facility in Anacortes on the mainland. I called her there when we moved to Washington eight months ago to be closer to Orcas Island.

I have visited her three times now with our family and bring her pastries. She is beautiful. Through her generosity she has made me hopeful. And inspired. We are headed up there again soon. She will be happy to see us.

I am trying to say “Yes” more. I am saying “Yes” more.

Those are some words for this day.

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4 Responses to Story: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

  1. Thatcher says:

    I’m inspired, again.

  2. Inspiration works two ways. Thanks for being part of my network in whatever form it might take and any given time.

    Hope the new year has been going well for you. Keep me posted on your new course.

  3. And good words, at that.
    Kevin