Thursday, November 17, 2011

Simple Pleasures

"That man is the richest 
whose pleasures are the cheapest"
~ Henry David Thoreau ~

Wading Pool, built in 1910
Volunteer Park, Seattle, Washington

Some people just have a way about them.

I did NOT expect the emotions that overwhelmed me as soon as I started focusing on Edna Skarr, Hans Peder Rasmussen Skarr's 4th and youngest child, born in 1891. I had barely looked at her name and the tears started to flow.

There was a sweetness and a peace about her that made me cry. I'd been wanting to skip her sister, Tillie, and learn more about Edna earlier in the week, but I'd committed myself to a pattern and a schedule of writing, and for ONCE I was going to stay focused.

Edna was the only child in the family who was born in Washington after they emigrated from Hawaii. All the others were born on Maui. She was 4 years younger than Tillie, seven years younger than Ralph, and eleven years younger than Agnes.

Her mom died in 1905 when she was just 11-yrs-old. She was buried in The Old Pioneer Cemetery in Olalla, Washington. Edna would be laid to rest next to her mom after dying from pneumonia 10 years later. She would be just 24-yrs-old. (I often return to edit posts. Today I'm thinking, "What the heck? Don't I know how to do basic math? LOL! Edna was 14 when her mom died. She herself died 10 years later in 1915. Feel free to leave corrections in the comments! Esp. math ones!)

I can feel what Edna would have me say. But it's so hard to grasp and to express in words. Maybe that's because there aren't a lot of accomplishments to list that can tell us much about her. I don't know.

What I do know is where my mind goes when I look at the map of Seattle and see where she and her sister Tillie were living in 1910. They were both "servants", and lived on streets that abutted Volunteer Park. Tillie was on 16th Ave. and Enda was on Federal Way. (And by the way, their future distant relative, Bridget Earles was on 15th Ave.)

Edna was so young in 1910. Just 19-years-old. She didn't know that she had only five years left to live. Maybe she spent her time off from service at the Butterworth's home meandering around the city with her sister, looking for adventures. I imagine her taking a walk through the park to meet Tillie. Two sisters enjoying the beautiful park designed by the famous Olmstead brothers. 

What a treat to go to the new Wading Pool! Well it would have been for me! And of course they'd go inside the Conservatory every once in a while. Wouldn't you?

Volunteer Park Conservatory

It was just over two weeks ago (?) when we were house-hunting on Cape Cod and had about 1/2 an hour to kill when we approached a garden center that I'd always loved to visit when we lived there, especially in the wintertime.

 I'll do anything to smell flowers and begged to stop in to indulge in the sights and smells of the perpetual Spring that was calling through the glass windows. There was even a goldfish pond and a waterfall!  
No one else wanted to come inside. So I walked around by myself, shaking the leaves of the herbs, releasing the perfume of basil and mint into the air. The air was heavy and tropical. And they were decorating for Christmas! 
I was in Heaven. 
In the midst of my dreaming I was whisked away when someone decided that there were important things to do.
What's more important than flowers?

Edna may have longed for the Conservatory and its fragrant serenity as winter and sickness closed in upon her in Seattle. She may have gone home for the Holidays to be with her father in Olalla, about an hour away. Her place of death is listed as Seattle. But I'm not sure where she was when she died.

She died five days before Christmas. Can you imagine? I'm sure some of you can relate to how a holiday never feels the same when the anniversary of a tragedy occurs near it.

She died  on a Tuesday. Christmas was on a Sunday. 

This year Christmas falls on a Sunday, too.

Two of her cousins, Howard and Kenneth (my grandfather) were just 9 and 10 when Edna died. They'd been neighbors in Seattle in 1900. Her sisters Tillie and Agnes were 27 and 32. Her brother Ralph was 31. Her father was only 57. So many people were affected. Death doesn't occur in a vacuum.

But life is like that. Isn't it?
 It decides when it's time to go.

And you're left with the memories you made. Hopefully you made them with people you love. I feel like Edna lived her life right. I feel like she really cared about the simple beauties and pleasures around her.

I hope so.

November reminds us to be grateful. To count our blessings. And December begs us to share who we are with others.

How did Edna's loved ones' Christmas wishes change when she was gone? Did they wish for one more memory with her? Of course. 

What were her dying wishes? Was it to have mattered? To have made a difference? Probably.

Edna matters to me now. 

My love for her blossomed today as I studied her short life. The greatest gift that Edna gave to me as I studied her life was her joyful, peaceful spirit that reminds me to focus on the simple pleasures whose memories can be experienced every day or in my mind as I daydream during the cold, grey days of winter waiting for Spring.

The smell of carnations, sand between my toes, walks in the rain, cocoa, butterfly kisses, mounds of spaghetti. Greasy pizza, a good book, an afternoon with friends, and line-dried bed sheets.

These are a few of my favorite things.

Life is good. Let's enjoy it...


  1. Beautiful post, Betsy! It's difficult to imagine a time when so many died young. That definitely shows the importance of being grateful and appreciating each day. Deb @

  2. Hi Deb!
    Dying of something like pneumonia..seems crazy! But I for one was touched by her even though her life was cut short! Maybe that's how long she needed to complete her "mission"?

  3. Betsy,
    Even though I'm not actively involved in Family History, I can't help but read your posts and feel moved by them. I don't know how or in what form it would take, but you've GOT to think about writing a book at some point! You bring these characters to life, so hauntingly, so poignantly!
    My maternal grandmother died of pneumonia at the age of 24 as well. In those days, just to GO to the hospital spelled death. She had two young children (my mom and my uncle) and was expecting her third. She has haunted me in the same way Edna haunts you.
    Have a great weekend!

  4. How strange that we have similar histories! Thanks for building me up. It feels so good. You're a good friend, Lori.
    A book? I'll print this blog out and compile it for my kids to work from as they search to complete the stories I've started.
    Kelley has already said that she thought she'd carry on where I leave off.

  5. That's so cool! Kelley is your daughter, I presume? Wow.

  6. Betsy, aloha. That's terrific news about Kelley. How exciting for you that must be.

    Love the picture of Volunteer Park Conservatory.

    Flowers gives us their beauty and their messages if we but listen and observe.

    Best wishes for a terrific week ahead. Aloha. Janet

  7. Hi Janet,

    Kelley AND Brody have been my greatest supporters and seem naturally drawn to family history.
    I can't imagine the smells in Hawaii! I went to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands every Winter vacation to visit my grandparents when I was young.
    That's when I got hooked! There's nothing like the tropics or islands. You are very blessed to enjoy that everyday.
    Thanks for coming by Janet!


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