I’ve been a history buff since high school. That’s when I became more aware of the world around me. Like most kids, I think, I was in an insular, isolated place that is typical of anyone that age.
But in 1989, my freshman year in high school, that began to change. I started asking questions. I began wondering about the family story.
Who were these people, my ancestors? Where were they born? Where and when did they live? What did they experience?
Later, this ingrained curiosity helped when I accidentally fell into journalism, beginning my sophomore year when I desperately needed an elective and the only option available was working on the student newspaper. It was a stroke of luck because I loved it instantly. And by my senior year I had been named editor.
I remember asking so many questions, doggedly but politely, of my grandmother that she said in exasperation, “Enough questions!” I’d never seen her get angry before. So I backed off.
But she learned there’s no way of getting out of talking to me. I’ve had a few sit-down interviews with her since, where I learned a lot. Thank God she is still around.
I also interviewed her older brother, my great uncle, multiple times before he died this year at the age of 101. He lived in Seattle from 1939 to 1941, when his father’s death prompted his return to the family farm in South Dakota, where he took up farming until 1953, when he moved to Oregon.
Enter my father, who visited the berry farm in Oregon and understandably fell in love with the place. The mountains and the forests are much different than the wind swept plains of eastern South Dakota. In the winter, those are bitterly cold, snow swept plains. And the farmhouse had no insulation.
That’s what I wanted to know: how did I get here? Why Oregon? Why Seattle?
History, particularly the personal kind, is in my bones. It is part of my very being. And thus it reaches into other parts of my life, other areas of my personality.
I began doing art as part of my job as editor of a statewide association’s tabloid. It was printed monthly. It was basically a one-man operation. I was editor, reporter, photographer. The only thing I didn’t do was write a column. That was up to others.
Eventually I was asked to create graphics for various in house projects. I poured my heart and soul into the job. But after a little more than a year, I was burned out and had little to show for it.
So I returned to school. I figured since I’d already been doing it based on my limited knowledge and experience, I should study graphic design. So I enrolled in a vigorous program at the community college, where I learned a lot and which would have come in handy at my previous positions.
I began taking classes because of my interest in art, in creating art. I took a drawing class, a prerequisite for the design degree, despite a serious lack of skills. I took many illustration electives, using old school techniques like oils and revolutionary ones on computers, which were amazingly fun. And I was introduced to printmaking, perhaps my favorite medium now.
I became sick while continuing my studies at Portland State, which have since been discovered to be autoimmune disorders, and had to drop out. This combined with a childhood of abuse and domestic violence began my spiral downward.
Thankfully, art classes provided by the nonprofit Path with Art have helped me continue my pursuit of art. I’ve taken so many for so long that I can’t remember my first class. It was probably printmaking.
I enjoy learning the stories and keeping the memories of anecstors, relatives, and heros alive.
If I don’t do it, if I don’t remember these people and tell their stories, who will?