Captured and preserved

Cherry blossoms carefully cultivated to bloom when needed most. Washington DC, March 2013

Cherry blossoms carefully cultivated to bloom when needed most.
The Sackler Gallery, Washington DC, March 2013

“But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved…”

John Tobias, from his lovely poem

The beautiful cherry blossoms pictured above were on display inside the Sackler Gallery weeks before the local trees were in bloom.  I asked staff there “are they real?” and on being assured that they were, I asked where they had come from.  Apparently they were cultivated in a greenhouse and arranged for display as a sort of complement to the profusely blooming trees that showed up much later than people had hoped for in 2013.  Thus visitors to the Sackler did not have to leave DC without seeing a single cherry blossom!

As this blog nears its first anniversary, I am thinking of all the unexpected blessings I have received from my impulsive Saturday-morning decision to start it as a means of staying positive in the face of seemingly relentless bad news.  I feel so fortunate to have enjoyed the online company of people I know and love in “real life” as well as those I have never met in person.

A side, benefit, though, is that I’ve documented here, in both posts and comments, many memories that are otherwise not recorded.  Even if I ended this blog tomorrow (which I don’t plan to do) I would still have quite a voluminous compendium of photos, thoughts and ideas from me and from many others.  Perhaps this is my own version of the pickled watermelon Tobias wrote about in his beautiful poem, which has long been a favorite of mine.

As a librarian, I’m an archivist at heart, and this tends to work against me in some ways, leaving my home cluttered with annoying piles of papers, cards and memorabilia that I never seem to get around to sorting.  Despite the tendency to save far more than I should, I still believe there is something valuable in cultivating, capturing and preserving the happy and good and beautiful aspects of our lives.  As with the cherry blossoms above, which provided a hint of beauty that cheered disappointed visitors who found the famed cherry trees still bare after they had traveled long distances to see them, our carefully preserved memories can brighten the days of waiting for anticipated blessings that often seem agonizingly long in arriving.

What can you do today, to capture and preserve something beautiful from your past or present as a gift to your future self and others?  Maybe it’s something as simple as a shared memory in a personal note or card sent to a loved one far away.  Maybe it’s taking (or revisiting) a photo of something fun or wonderful.  Maybe it will be a journal entry, or an exquisitely crafted scrapbook page, or a blog entry.  However you capture or preserve something beautiful, the time you spend will be worthwhile, as it carries a double blessing: cheering you today, and bringing reminders of hope, joy or love to yourself and others in the days and years to come.


  1. Before freezing vegetables became popular, our grandmother was a prolific “canner”. Not that I would try to eat the contents, I saved a Mason Jar of green beans she had lovingly “put up”, as a memory of her. Yep – more than thirty years after she passed from this life!

    • WOW, does it still look the same? I remember her green beans! I spent many hours clipping “bonus gift” coupons for her which she saved to augment her trading stamps from the grocery store, which she spent (not surprisingly) on gifts for her large family. I wrote a post about Granny the other day. It’s very personal, but perhaps in time I will be able to share it. Its theme is “the unintentional gift” and seems appropriate for December, her birth month.

  2. I agree, I write my blog for myself, for others and hopefully for my sons who some day may be interested in our journey.

    • I wonder a lot about what future generations may think of all our online archives, assuming they ever take the time to explore there. I know I would love to “get lost” in a similar archive from generations past, if one existed! I suppose the closest we can come today are the diaries, journals and interviews from the past, many of which can be accessed online.

      • How true! As a librarian, I am sure you have found many great archival diaries! I am just hoping that my family may want to read mine one day. 🙂

        • I have often asked myself if ANYONE is ever going to read the things I write– my family seems to run mostly to males who are typically not as interested in female journals– but in the end, I guess I do it for my own benefit. AND perhaps we both will have a grand or great-great-great granddaughter who may one day find them FASCINATING, if only for their “antique” appeal! I know I wish I had diaries from each and every one of my great-aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers etc.!

  3. Raynard

    Your Picture looks like one I took previously at the Philadelphia Flower show. As a LIbrarian, ” do you still”shoosh people”? lol Yes I remember those index cards..I told this story once before. My mom use to had a certificate of mine from 2nd grade for a high mark on a test of mine. Next to it was a thank you card that she received. It wasnt till she died that I knew where it came from. It was from the late Martin Luther King’s wife Coretta Scott King. My mom had sent her a condolence card right after his death. Sadly, it go “thrown away with the rest of her things when my late sister who lived with her got evicted from the apartment. Time for “Oatmeal.. Thank you for your spirit of compassion, friendly, caring, and sensitivity towards others.( I got into this conversation last night). I told several people a few times( food for thought) the line for heaven “isnt going to have 3 signs one saying”be back later, take a number and “listen to the elavator/ Kenny G music(it’s all the same lol). be blessed and encouraged and have a great say.( almost said”Hump Day I dont like that stupid commerical with that camel .. I digress lol.

    • Raynard, I’m thankful that by the time I went to library school (1994-96) “shoosh” was permanently banned from the roster of librarian duties! In fact, we were taught that libraries were properly busy, active places where quiet was confined to certain areas or rooms for individual study, with others allocated to group activities such as story hours for kids, book clubs for adults, and many other happy pastimes. Wow, I wish you had somehow managed to save the letter from Mrs. King. Perhaps you can describe it in writing so that your family members will be able to look back and know about it. I have had a few times when famous people have taken the time to send me a very personal (sometimes handwritten) answer to the rare letter I would write to someone I admired from afar. I cherish each and every one of these letters (still have one from Fred Rogers that he sent me when Matt and Drew were toddlers). The gift of time is truly something remarkable from people who are bombarded with all sorts of communication from the general public as well as media, reporters, etc. I don’t know what commercial you are referring to but “stupid commercials” are the main reason I don’t watch TV. Although I must admit that some of the ones I see online now are quite clever, and I do remember some very funny ones from 60’s and 70’s TV (I CAN’T BELIEVE I ATE THE WHOLE THING!) 🙂 I digress all the time.

  4. Ann

    Hi Julia, as always you’ve given me much to ponder today.
    My mother was also a librarian; I’ve inherited that gene and have become our family archivist…in a very informal way. I’ll accept your challenge for today but I need more coffee before I think of anything!

    • Good luck Ann, you have started here by remembering your mother! BTW, I seem to like coffee better all the time. I’m glad I “saved” the effects of it by not drinking it until I became a senior citizen!

  5. Monday is Veteran’s Day. Our elementary students are brining in photos of family and friends who have served. I have one of a man who fought at Fort Donalson. I want to create a time line. I don’t think I have a WWI but I have WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Operation Freedom Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a glorious clutter of memories displayed on my wall in the hall. Monday, I have items donated for display which I will place on display tables in the front hall. The past is exciting!

    • Alice, what a great idea! I hope the many teachers who read this blog will use it as inspiration. It will be a much-remembered lesson, I’m sure. If you take photos of it, send them along, post them on Facebook or Pinterest. Wow, Fort Donalson! How remarkable. I hope you are able to come up with a representative from “the Great War” – maybe an archivist at the town newspaper or library could give your students some clues? The past IS exciting, and it lives on in ways that those who do not study it will never recognize.

  6. Carolyn

    Today I’m just going to enjoy turning a year older and sharing it with my best friend Terry. No plans just let the day take it’s course. I do think that at the end of the day, I will need some ice cream. My oncologist would say no,no but I say yes, yes. The past few days I have been reading beautiful cards that have been sent to me and what a blessing it is to have friends. Hugs and love to all.

    • Carolyn, YES YES on the yes, yes! Ice cream has been one of the few consolations for Jeff in many months of not being able to enjoy eating. I agree that it’s best to maximize the nutrition in one’s diet, especially when fighting cancer, but the soul and spirit also need treats! 🙂 So happy that Terry is still your best friend after all these years. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY – each one from here on in will be cause for great celebration indeed, even if only spent quietly as you say, the celebration can be great. Wish I had gotten you a card, but just know that I am celebrating with you in spirit! Thanks for making us part of your special day!

      • Carolyn

        Thanks Julia, I have had a very good day.

        • 🙂 🙂 🙂

  7. MaryAnn

    Mission Solano in Fairfield, CA has built a home for veterans as part of their beautiful complex. Last week, I delivered a red, white & blue quilt with a USA map in the center. It was a pleasure to make. The executive who received it from me said he had the right vet in mind to give it to on Veteran’s Day. So, today, you have inspired me to begin the measuring & cutting process, as I design my next vets quilt! Thank you, Julia, for your wonderful thoughts & ideas coming to us through this blog!

    • Mary Ann, what a wonderful way to observe Veteran’s Day! Thanks for your steadfast support of our troops! (and us!)

  8. Jenelle

    I began a journal about each one of my boys since they were babies. I’ve tracked everything from their physical growth to funny one liners to personality traits to my husband and mine favorite stories. Whenever one of our kids shock us in someway with their uniqueness, we look at one another and say “put it in the journal!” They are now 7 & 5. The pages are numerous and I plan on putting it in a book form someday. I haven’t decided when I will give it to them. College or wedding? It’s so fun because my kids know about the journal and can’t wait to read it. I give them some lines from it and they laugh at the memories. What great fun! P.S– someday I want to dance in an orchard of cherry blossoms.

    • Jenelle, you will be even happier about saving those memories when you have too many to keep up with otherwise. When I read back over the “baby books” and scrapbooks I kept for our sons, I can’t believe how many seemingly unforgettable moments I’ve forgotten, until I read about them again. I made cassette tapes of their voices and when I hear them now I don’t remember how they sounded at some points in their lives until I hear it. People are lucky today to have videos so readily available to take and share, but as with all such wealth, it may seem so ubiquitous that it becomes disregarded. I think the recording of what kids say is a double treasure to them as they grow, because each line is full of love and the time you took to remember. As for dancing in orchards of cherry blossoms, you should come to DC if you can possibly time it to be here during the peak bloom time. It’s like a giant party under the trees, just as Issa said. Laughter, photo-snapping, exclamations and somewhere in all the celebration, surely someone was dancing! Such overwhelming beauty fills everyone with joy.

  9. Ann

    I scanned two pictures of g-g-grandparents and emailed them to two cousins who had named children after the two ancestors. I’ve been meaning to do this..thanks for the gentle nudge.

    • Ann, I feel so happy to think how excited they will be to receive those photos! My cousin Judy sent me some old family photos a few years ago and I have enjoyed them so many times since then. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  10. Sheila

    Julia, when I count my blessings I count YOU twice! Our circumstances (similar yet different) brought us together. But what has transpired across the miles, between two southern girls, one smart and one understanding, 🙂 has been incredible to me. The many words that you have shared will linger, long after the pages have yellowed! With love, Sheila

    • Sheila, it warms my heart to know you think of me as understanding! 🙂 Seriously, the GRITS sisterhood is truly unique. It’s what made the TV show “Designing Women” so popular. I never watched even one full episode as far as I can remember, but Jeff used to love it, and I’m sure it wasn’t just because all those southern belles were so cute. I got your sweet package in the mail today and will enjoy reading through the journals – also will get a kick out of sending my Mom the photo of the saying. Thanks so much for your kind blog birthday wishes! I hope to see “all y’all” at the online party tomorrow! 🙂

      • Sheila

        Julia, I enjoyed putting the little package together and I’m so glad it arrived promptly. I hadn’t thought of GRITS lately, but I even had a Girls Raised In The South sweatshirt. Loved your clever reply! 😍

        • GRITS are (almost) always clever, aren’t we? Hmmm, maybe I should say “often clever” or “somtimes clever.” Oh well, “I’ll think about that tomorrow…” 🙂

  11. Michael

    As per Garrison Keillor, “Writers Almanac” today is anniversary of first library by Benjamin .Franklin and others in Philadelphia, 1731. It was “Community of like minded friends” who in order to have access to more books formed a communal exchange of same.

    • A truly great day in history! I used to wake up each morning to the lovely piano theme that introduced the Writer’s Almanac – it came on at 6:00 a.m, the time my alarm was set for (Jeff rises an hour earlier each day) and it was a great way to start the day. Somewhere along the line they switched the time and I lost track of it, but Matt still tries to catch it whenever he can. Sometimes I go online and play the poems or dates on the podcast.

  12. Well isn’t that poem a slice of nostalgia (pun intended). Thanks for providing a link, I really enjoyed it. I often miss those lazy summer days when watermelon had seeds, ha. I do remember ‘trying’ to spit them far like my brothers without too much success. I guess that wasn’t very lady-like 😀 It was fun to open a home-made jar of fruit mid-winter, and taste all the goodness of summer when it was -20 and snowing outside. Is it a lost art?

    I do find myself ‘collecting’ little pieces of this and that on trips or walks and stashing them all over our home. A bowl of brick-brac here a pile of old cards there. I like to think of a home as a little nest, always adding bits too it and never quite finished. I think you referred to it as Archiving and that sounded perfect to me.

    I totally know how you feel about the moments, memories and photographs in your blog. The reason I started a Blog was to have a place to document projects, events, family stories and have a place to put all the photo’s I love to take, but Ka-Pow! Then it turned into so much more.

    It really is like a sweet little jar of preserves, love that analogy 😀

    BTW, what interesting events coming up at the Sackler Gallery. It reminds me of many of the fantastic photo’s shared at The Retire Diary. He could have his very own showing.

    • Is Michael Lai’s blog not the most consistently amazing thing you have ever seen? WOW I wish I could tag along on his travels. He could have not only his own gallery, but also his own travel company and maybe even cruise lines :-). I just fell in love with his blog on first sight. He is so good to visit and support other blogs, too. He has been a real source of encouragement and support to me over the past year.

      I love the “pickled watermelon” poem and I do think the blogosphere is like a giant canning factory in that sense! I find that reading other people’s blogs (especially the nostalgic ones) I see so many familiar threads and it sounds corny to say it, but it makes me realize how truly universal are most of our human joys, sorrows and yearnings. I love the idea of a home as a nest made up of bits and pieces! When we prune our shrubs, I always hate to discard the abandoned bird nests; they are such masterpieces of assembling this and that (and yes, I know the gross details about what the “cement” is made of, for those who might be wondering :-)) I hope that actual home-based canning and preserving is not a lost art, but if it is, I’m glad I’m old enough to remember it!


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