Daily Archives: May 29, 2008

Weekly Geeks #5 – Storytelling

This week’s theme was suggested by Renay. She says, “I thought it would be cool to ask people to talk about other forms of story-telling.” This week’s theme is once again one you could approach several ways. You might want to tell about the forms of storytelling (aside from books) you love.


The art of stitching dates back many, many years to Egyptian times – embroidered cloth was preserved well in a desert environment. The earliest needlework can be traced back to about the 6th Century AD. Beginning in the 18th century, young girls and women began making samplers.

The Metropolitan Museum’s website writes this about the art of sampler making:

As part of her preparation for the responsibility of sewing clothes and linens for her future family, most girls completed at least two samplers. The first, which might be undertaken when a girl was as young as five or six, was called a marking sampler (1993.100; 1984.331.6; L.2001.53.4). Marking samplers served a dual purpose: they taught a child basic embroidery techniques and the alphabet and numbers. The letters and numbers learned while embroidering a marking sampler were especially useful, since it was important that any homemaker keep track of her linens, some of her most valuable household goods. This was accomplished by marking them, usually in a cross stitch, with her initials and a number.

The site goes on to note that samplers reflected not only the values of the stitcher, but also may have been all that survived to represent these young women’s lives. Signed and dated, a sampler tells its own unique story.

I have long been fascinated with this art. I started stitching as a young girl, and have continued to enjoy it as I’ve grown into a middle-aged woman. I especially love making patterns which represent who I am. Several years ago I completed a New England sampler – special to me because I grew up in New Hampshire and still hold New England close to my heart. Here is the finished piece:

I love browsing antique shops for antique samplers – and as I gaze at the imperfect stitches and trace the name of the stitcher, I wonder about her life – who was this young woman? Where did she live? What was her life like? Often the stitched piece gives me hints…a wintry New England scene, or the star of Texas.

In writing up my post for this week’s Weekly Geeks, I browsed Amazon and found some great books about antique samplers and needlework:

  • Sampler View of Colonial Life, by Mary Cobb “describes the samplers stitched by girls in colonial America and explains what these samplers tell about the lives of their makers.”

I hope this post will inspire readers to look at this beautiful, yet simple art as a way of telling a story. I’ll leave you with a link to a wonderful site where you can browse antique samplers on line and read about their history and the stories of the women who made them: Antique Samplers.

Songs For The Missing – Book Review

July, 2005. It was the summer of her Chevette, of J.P. and letting her hair grow. The last summer, the best summer, the summer they’d dreamed of since eighth grade, the high and pride of being seniors lingering , an extension of their best year. She and Nina and Elise, the Three Amigos. In the fall they were gone, off to college, where she hoped, a long and steady effort, she might become someone else, a private, independent person, someone not from Kingsville at all. -From Songs for the Missing, page 1-

In the summer of her 18th year, Kim Larsen disappears without a trace – leaving behind friends and family who are bewildered and hurting. This is not an unusual story. It is a story we see every day in America – the young women filled with potential disappearing into the darkness of uncertainty. Many are never found. Many are found murdered or raped. It is an old story. Stewart O’Nan, with his refined and elegant prose, takes this story and makes it unforgettable.

Songs for the Missing is about those left behind. It is about relationships and expectations and faith and the very human need to know why and where. The characters in this beautifully written novel include Kim’s mother Fran, her sister Lindsey (only 15 when Kim goes missing), her father Ed, and friends – J.P., Elise and Nina. Each character deals with Kim’s disappearance differently, and as the months rolls into years they each come to terms with it in their own unique way. My heart felt broken by Ed – the father who searches relentlessly for the daughter he could not keep safe and who wishes for her to come to him in his dreams.

One reason he didn’t take the pill was that he longed for a dream of Kim. He didn’t expect her to tell him what had happened, he just wanted to see her again, to be in her presence as if she were alive and none of this had happened. Every night he went to bed hoping she’d come to him. Every morning he was disappointed. -From Songs for the Missing-

This novel touched my heart, especially because of my own involvement with Search and Rescue. O’Nan got it perfectly when he describes the searches, the role of law enforcement and the nearly unbearable hope of the lost one’s family which permeates every search. As the novel unfolds, I found myself immersed in the emotions of the characters, hoping they would find Kim and come to a resolution.

O’Nan has written a tender, sensitive and all too real novel about what happens when a loved one disappears. Highly recommended.

Other readers who have reviewed this book: