Jun 16, 2024

Land, Sea and Sky: There is Love

June 17, 1972

This year on June 17, 2024 my husband, Larry Bilyeu and I celebrate our 52nd Wedding Anniversary.

Larry growing up in the small town of Mehama, Oregon and myself in the small town of Douglas on Douglas Island in Alaska. Larry and I were married at the "Shrine of St. Therese"a tiny forested island, past Auke Bay, about 25 miles north of Juneau.

This beautiful little Shrine was originally built by visiting Jesuit priests who came to the Diocese of Juneau to serve in territorial Alaska.

They found such beauty and so great the need for their services that several stayed and with the help of volunteers they completely built the tiny shrine out of the local beach stones on this tiny bit of land now known as "Shrine Island".

The Shrine is lovely, inside and out.

When the tide is in, the entire island is surrounded by beautiful blue water, except for the narrow 'walking-only' causeway.

We walked out from our wedding ceremony to the sight of eagles soaring above, whales spouting, and sea lions barking their congratulations. It was incredibly beautiful.

Now, there is this labyrinth walk etched in the sand where we once walked to the log cabin rectory on the mainland to sign our marriage certificate. And yes, we've been back and it's still lovely and weddings are still held there.

During our ceremony "The Wedding Song" by Peter, Paul, and Mary was sung and played on a folk guitar by a high school friend and at our reception a lot of Simon and Garfield and similar songs from that era. Somehow those beautiful songs filled hearts and souls as they were after all, new to many back then!

And yes, I made my own wedding dress! And each of my bridesmaids made theirs from fabric I bought and sent each of them in three different states as I gathered best friends from High School and College and included my youngest cousin who was so happy to be a bridesmaid!

Our dresses were all in different colors and were beautiful laces over satin, I even made my veil, covered my Bible with the same fabrics and carried a hand carved rose wood rosary.

Ah, the memories of a time, a place, the sounds, and the people. So many have passed on now, most of our guests, many of my own family even several who are younger than I am now.

You never know what paths and causeways you may walk in your life time. Who you will love and who you will remember.

I have since lost both of my parents, a sister in law who was there, and my dearest uncle who died a few months after he attended our wedding. Uncle Bobby's two sons were teenagers and his 12 year old daughter was my Junior Bridesmaid.

Love and pride filled his face and his heart that day. His one and only chance to see her all grown up in a long bridesmaid dress. It was a glorious day and a memorable wedding. And that day, that date, has only grown with memories ever since that beautiful day 50 years ago.

I rejoice in the wonderful memories of so many from that day, just as I grieve the loss of those who have since passed on.
For sadly, two of our best friends, mine and my youngest daughter's, passed away on this day, 25 years later in 1997. Terri Oldham was only 46. 

We met in college in 1969 as next door dorm mates and later shared acreage to each build our homes on and raise our children together. Terri and Greg's daughter Kelsy was only 12 when their family  was in a car accident en route to the 1997 summer Jr. Olympics where Kelsy was a cross country runner expected to win top honors in her division. Terri and Kelsy didn't survive though Greg and their two teen sons did. It was an unbearable loss for all of us.

Kelsy and my daughter were born 6 months apart. I was with Terri the night before Kelsy's birth and we saw her almost every day of her life as our girls were almost inseparable. Our other two children were closely bonded as well. This devastating loss broke our hearts and changed our lives and those of Greg and their sons forever.

While it also changed the memories of June 17th from our 25th anniversary on, it didn't change the love we felt for all who have been parts of our lives for whatever time we had with them. We treasured this family and all of our many shared adventures and experiences.

And now, it's not even surprising to me, that on this day, June 17, 2022 our dear friend, Daryl Stroschine is having his final big send off into the land, sea and sky with a memorial service in the tiny community church of Mehama, Oregon.

Larry and Daryl were best friends from Elementary School in Mehama, on through High School in Stayton, then off to separate colleges. 

Larry at Oregon State where we met and Daryl to Warner Pacific on a full athletic "wild and wonderful ride' of an adventure. Larry and Daryl would get together over the summers and as Larry's letters to me in Alaska can attest, he and Daryl got right back into their hiking, fishing and other adventures.

We continued to keep in touch through life's many challenges and Larry and Daryl never forgot phone calls on their shared birthday in November and in these many final years one to as many as three times a day phone calls!

Larry and Daryl shared a deep love of nature, and the outdoors. They hiked, camped, hunted and fished together throughout their younger years with lots of swimming up the North Fork River, or visiting their favorite spot at Shelburg Falls.

We sheltered Daryl (and Doobie his tiny lap dog) during the Santiam Canyon Fires, along with our own Mehama Kids/grandkids/dog/cat and even chickens.

It was a challenging time. The fires came within a 1/4 of a mile or less of their homes. Larry and I did all we could think of to keep spirits lifted and bodies well fed but the fear of losing not only their own homes in Mehama along with almost everything they owned was intense.

Daryl and I had deep talks over coffee about life, loss, and death. We shared a similar innate sense of natural spirituality, a love of the natural world, a love of arts and creativity, family and most of all love and pride in our grandchildren.

Daryl and Larry remembered decades of stories from their shared childhoods. What one had forgotten, the other remembered.

But in the end all was well, just like this rewritten, reused, and now rewritten with inclusions of Daryl's passing and connection to this anniversary post for Larry and I.

For in the end, the lovely and positive sounds, sights, and memories remain above all else and I am filled with gratitude for the good times and the lessons and treasures from even the saddest times.

Somethings never die. Beauty, art, music and love can fill up our our lives and our hearts forever.

Click below to hear this lovely song that was titled 'The Wedding Song' as it was often performed by "Peter, Paul and Mary" and this version by its writer/also solo performer on the folk group's own 25th anniversary.

The same song that Larry and I had sung by a friend, Geoff Rogers, as he played on his quitar during our wedding 50 years ago during our Catholic Mass Wedding service. Our service was performed by a traveling Jesuit priest in this beautiful place, special time, and never ending symbol of the timelessness of memories.

The song is just as meaningful and beautiful as ever.
The songs of that era are all etched forever in my heart.

Our professional and recessional songs played on his guitar by Geoff Roger's of Juneau Alaska was:

The beautiful chords and melodies that make up the songs of our lifetimes.

50 years later!

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands sharing an imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon and back again.

 Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting, "from my heart and with my hands."


Tribute Obituary/Memorial
Daryl Gene Stroschine 
 1949 - 2022
Rest in Peace
We love you and will never forget you.


Paul Toews of KYAC, a public supported small community radio station) in Mill City Oregon
"Honors the Life of Daryl Stroschine:

(And yes, that's my husband Larry who ended up at last possible moment being a call in radio guest)

Replayed from original broadcasting using mixcloud.

"Paul Toews asks why do we sing and play music/Daryl Stroschine responds." 
(Paul Toews and Ken Cartwright of KYAC Public Radio, Mill City, Oregon) 

Replayed from the original broadcast using Mixcloud.

May 26, 2024

Memorial Day: In History, Memory, and Deed

Memorial Day in the U.S. is a federal holiday, formerly known as "Decoration Day" a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. We set out flags and flowers, we visit cemeteries, and we remember all of those who served our country.

The first memorial day was observed in 1865 by liberated slaves at a race track in Charleston, South Carolina. The site was a former Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died while captive. A parade with thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers was followed by patriotic singing and a picnic.

The origins of Memorial Day most likely lie with General John A Logan, a northerner of the Union Army, who was so impressed by the way that the South honored their fallen soldiers that he decided the northern states needed a similar day. Reportedly, Logan said that it was most fitting, since the Greeks, had honored their heroes with laurel and flowers, that the grave of every soldier in this land be decorated on a special day and, if he could, he would have made it a holiday.On May 5, 1868 in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans' organization, Logan issued a proclamation that "Decoration Day" be observed nationwide. It was observed for the first time on May 30 of the same year.

Due to lingering hostility after the Civil War, many southern states did not recognize Memorial Day until after World War I although the name Memorial Day" was first used in 1882.Given its origins in the American Civil War, Memorial Day is not a holiday outside the United States. Countries of the Commonwealth, as well as France and Belgium, honor members of the military who died in war on or around Remembrance Day(November 11.) The United States uses that date as Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day) and honors all veterans, living and dead. 

Memorial Day is currently a national holiday celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May. A law passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act, P.L. 90, 363, in 1971 to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays. In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Moina Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women.

This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.

In 1948 the US Post Office honored Moina Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.

 Since the late 1950's, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.

Today, many Americans use Memorial Day weekend to also honor family members who have passed away. Church services on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day may include a reading of the names of members who have died during the previous 12 months.

The southeastern United States continues to celebrate Decoration Day as a day to decorate the graves of all family members, and it is not reserved for those who served in the military and this is usually celebrated the week before the official Memorial Day Weekend.

This year, my husband and his brother continued their yearly tradition of bringing flowers to visit the cemeteries where their veteran brother is laid to rest, having died of cancer many, many years ago at the age of 53. They often visit cemeteries in three cities -- Stayton, Albany and a small pioneer cemetery, named after my husband's family, Bilyeu Den, near Scio, Oregon. My husband and brother in law who visited this Memorial Day weekend, were able to see all of the flags out. Always such a beautiful sight!

All of our family, Larry and I and our three children and their spouses/partners and our 3 grandchildren visit cemeteries on the Federal holiday for Menorial Day each year as well. Our young grandchildren are quite amazed at all of it and somehow understand the deep significance as we also visit all of their multitudes of Bilyeu ancestors including their great grandparents and great aunts and uncles and remember them as we do those lost in war.

When we visit all 5 cemeteries in 4 towns where all of the members of the Bilyeu family, dating back to pioneer times lie, what struck all of us the most was the sheer number of babies and young children dying at birth or in their infancy. But now, of course, it is the sheer number of American flags at so many of the graves from years gone by.

We all cut whatever flowers and flowering branches we might have in our yards, each year to place on the graves, a lifelong tradition in our family.

And I always, always remember my own father and his four brothers. Members of a five star family. Five brothers all went to war in branches of the military. But only 4 returned home once again when WWII ended.

My own proud veteran father has been gone since 2010 now, but I think of him and bless him for all that he gave to our country, to our family, and to me. And I think of his brothers all gone now, as well. And my heart aches for so many losses. 

But the loss of my uncle who died in war, shot down at sea, at age 21 so very, very sad.

Memorial Day: In History, Memory, Quilting, and Deed

My father served as a Warrant Officer on a ship in the Aleutian Islands. He and his fellow officers patrolled the frozen waters off Alaska and transported goods to different bases. He served with great pride and sees it as an important chapter in his life. My dad is one the right in this photo, an uncle on the left, a friend from Douglas in the center.

My dad met and married his Louisianan pen pal, my Cajun French mother, Nell Grace Pelletier (Peltier), years after the end of the war and by traveling the more than five thousand miles, by car, to meet her, fall in love, and marry her.

The whole decade of the 1940's changed his life in many ways, forever. It set a course in destiny for him and for our family, than cannot be over emphasized.

The memory quilt that I made for my dad in 2008 was a WWII  patriotic one, very simply designed, bold but with softened colors, and with large photo transfers of himself, his family and my mother. The photos are super sized because my mother was legally blind for the last 10 years of her life and could only see things when they are enlarged with high contrast, and then with a magnifying glass for the details. Several of the photos are of her, as WWII was when they first met, fell in love, and got married.

I used a variation I worked out from the idea of a 'Turning Twenty' pattern. Instead of 20 blocks, I used a repeating pattern of nine (wasn't up to piecing 90!) But they are turned and twisted to be an original version. The turning and the twisting is symbolic, I think, of conflict of any kind, but especially conflict that leads to change. Life and death are major aspects of such change, but in a way birthdays are as well, so this quilt was a birthday gift a few years before he passed away.
                                        Early Douglas Island Alaska across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau 

 *** In Memory ***

My father, Bernhart (Ben) Savikko and my uncles, are all gone now. I know my own loss of my father and my uncles. But just imagine their mother and father's loss of their son, Albert, during WWII, at only 21 years of age.

Five sons went to war, but only four sons were to return. They lived with worry when all five boys were away, but when that fate filled telegraph was received and delivered by hand at their doortstep that one son, was lost at sea and presumed drowned.

  *** In Memory ***

My youngest uncle, Albert, died during battle in the Pacific Theater (meaning during WWII in that area of the world). He was the co-captain of a plane that was shot down at sea. His captain was so severely injured that my Uncle Albert, though himself wounded,  took control of the plane and safely
landed it in the Pacific Ocean, saving the lives of the crew who survived and were later rescued. Albert H. Savikko died at 21 years of age.

   *** In Memory ***

My Uncle  Robert (Bobby) Savikko , of Douglas, Alaska,  survived the war as did the other 3 brothers, but then died in 1972, drowned while returning from a moose hunting trip to Taku Harbor. He and another young man were in one boat leaving earlier than my father and others in another boat.
When my father's boat returned to Douglas, it was to learn that my uncle Bobby, and their young hunting companion had most likely taken on water with so much moose meat on board, during ocean swells, and drowned. That's my beloved uncle on the far left as a young man growing up in a pioneer family in Alaska and that's Mendenall Glacier in the background along with my dad, another uncle and my Alaskan grandparents.

20 years later, a beach comber walking our beloved Sandy Beach on Savikko Park, named in honor of my uncle Robert Savikko, discovered his wallet. Washed ashore with ID intact, they contacted the local authorities who returned it decades later to my Aunt and their 3 children who lost their father as young teens. 

I had only been married a few months, with my aunt and uncle at the wedding, in Alaska, and their young daughter, my 11 year old cousin as one of my bridesmaids. Oh, my uncle Bobby was so very proud to see her walk down the aisle as a bridesmaid. He died just a few months later, another uncle lost as sea. This uncle was a talented artist, commercially fished with my dad and their brothers, and worked for a freight company the rest of the time. He was a smart, funny, witty, caring man and I miss him, still.

*** In Memory **

My Father Ben, with his brother Hjalmer Savikko during WWII
My Uncle Hjalmer visited our home in Douglas from his home in North Douglas (now called West Juneau which is very silly to me as it is on Douglas Island just north of Douglas!) every single weekend, bring us fresh fish as he was a life long commercial fisherman. He never had children of his own but loved all of his brother's children, as if they were his own. I miss him, still, along with my father and all of my uncles, now all long gone.That is Hjal on the right, my father on the left, and below, my grandparents with my dad and another uncle, Elmer..below.  That is their first home on Douglas Island behind them.

*** In Memory ***

Whether we celebrate Memorial Day, Decoration Day, or just a day of remembrance., I simply remember the loss of all who have died in service to our country and thank them all for all of their places in our own lives.

And I almost always take a few hours to work on patriotic quilts, utility bags for use in our veteran's hospital by bedsides or on wheelchairs, , neck rolls for positioning them in their beds, and sometimes a red or gold star flag for families who have served and families who have lost a loved one.

While my free spirited heart strings quilted quilts shown in this post need no patterns just one of those purchased fabric panels that come with four medallions and lots of scraps, my Free Patriotic Quilt Patterns sites both on my primary blog, here and my Free Quilt and Quilt Blocks Blog found by clicking there, have all of the free patterns for making the bags, neckrolls, and banners.

And for string quilting: 

Happy Memorial Day, and many thanks and blessings to those families who have served our country as veterans and as patriots.

Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands sharing a quilting journey through from Douglas, Alaska to Salem, Oregon and back again.

Apr 29, 2024

Light, Love, and Healing for Our World

The writer and activist Joanna Macy says: "Work with your passion. Work with your pain. Work with what is at hand." And to that, my own heart responds.

For now, more than ever, spiritual warriors are needed to feel the light and love within them and radiate that love to the darkest corners of hearts and souls everywhere.

There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

Chinese philosopher
6th century bce

Still your hearts from anger, fear, or hatred. Fill them up with love and peace. Our spirits know who we are, why we chose to be here during these incredibly challenging times.

With life's many challenges ever increasing, how do we find peace in this horribly troubled world, this universal psyche that chooses the negative over the positive, the masculine over the feminine, the warring over the peace making and bridge building? 

It must be personal as well as national, universal as well as international. We must care, and care deeply about one another in any and all life forms and we must use our hearts, our energies, and our time to do good, say good, and be good to the best of each moment's ability.

"There are those who give little of the much which they have and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.

~On Giving by Kahlil Gibran from The Prophet~

The fires, the floods, the earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, and tornadoes are not only the change and transition that Mother Earth, herself is expressing--as hard for us as it might be to understand.

They can be seen as our planet's release buttons for survival. If there is too much pressure within the Earth, it erupts in volcanoes or crack opens in earthquakes.

If there is too much pressure within us, we may erupt as well. And the damage we may do to others may be just as great emotionally as volcanoes and earthquakes are physically.

If we see Mother Earth as Gaia--a living breathing entity with her trees and plants as her lungs, her incredible beauty as her heart--then Gaia is losing her breath, her natural sustainable growth and energetic flow from decay just as so many of us are losing ours.

Natural connections of mind, body, and spirit through the destructive energies of anxiety, fear, anger, hatred and dis-ease have caused cracks and many of us are stuck in the unhealthy patterns of those cracks. Everything makes us fearful or angry or hating the other.

We are all connected and when we hate the other we increase our own weaknesses of self judgment, low self esteem or low energies of illness, pain, or depression.

But in this process of death and destruction there is still an opening up in our world and our world view. The chance to learn and grow and to transition our world and our hearts and spirits into unity once again.

We are all connected. We are all part of one another. My microscopic atoms are merged with yours like stars in the cosmos. The pain that i feel is my pain, your pain, all pain. The fouled air that I am breathing will become the fouled air and the foul breathing of yours.

When we set off a bomb in one country, its repercussions and loss of awareness and love are felt by all of ours. We are perpetrators and we are victims. The winds of time and change merge into
one and so do we.

There is a purpose onto heaven for all of this. It doesn't have to be ours to understand but there it is. And part of that is the destruction of the old to make space for the new. As challenging and as awful even unbelievable as this may seem.

As someone who is old, this gives me pause. But, I am more than willing to go through whatever I have to in hopes that someday, a heaven on earth can become possible and a newer kinder, more caring and loving world might exist.

"Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. 

Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. 

The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

L. R. Knost

To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it,a little more poetry to it,a little more dance to it.


How do we choose to feel peace, make peace, be peace in our own hearts? It starts with each of us as individuals, each moment of every single day.

Life is truly challenging for many, many people in this world now.
My own beloved oldest daughter was diagnosed with an already advanced, very aggressive, and unusually challenging form of cancer.

She is a remarkable and fierce spiritual warrior and she has withstood non-stop treatments without respite for a year and a half since diagnosis. She fills up my heart with her steadfast determination and fortitude amidst unbelievably challenging conditions.

I hold her always in my highest heart and spirit and I pray for deep inner and outer healing and strength, with all the love and light and healing powers of all of the highest angels of the most divine powers of God by any holy name.

"Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day
the blueprint of your life would begin to glow on earth,
illuminating all the faces and voices
that would arrive to invite your soul to growth.

Praised be your father and mother,who loved you before you were,
and trusted to call you here with no idea who you would be.

Blessed be those who have loved you into becoming who you were meant to be,
blessed be those who have crossed your life
with dark gifts of hurt and loss that have helped to school your mind in the art of disappointment.

When desolation surrounded you,
blessed be those who looked for you
and found you, their kind hands urgent to open a blue window
in the gray wall formed around you.

Blessed be the gifts you never notice,
your health, eyes to behold the world,
thoughts to counte-nance the unknown,
memory to harvest vanished days, your heart to feel the world’s waves,your breath to breathe the nourishment of distance made intimate by earth.

On this echoing-day of your birth,
may you open the gift of solitude in order to receive your soul;
enter the generosity of silence to hear your hidden heart; know the serenity of  still-ness to be enfolded anew by the miracle of your being.'

John O'Donohue,
To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

I am active in my own unique ways of trying to work with this incredibly challenging time in our lives, our changing country, nation, and world.

I focus on doing all I can to make it through them with spiritual thoughts, prayers, and deeds to create a place where we can not only survive turbulent times but prepare ourselves for the many challenging days and years ahead.

I focus on staying centered, filling my heart with gratitude for the gift of every day with my family--my three children, their partners, and my five beloved grandchildren.

I know in my heart of hearts that I have been waiting for this time to come.

We Were Made For These Times

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

"Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.

If you cannot refuse to stay down
lift your heart toward heaven
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
and it will be filled.

You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you
from lifting your heart
toward heaven —
only you.

It is in the midst of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.
refuse to fall down"

~Clarissa Pinkola EstΓ©s~
Excerpted from The Faithful Gardener: A
Wise Tale About That Which Can Never Die

Peace in our hearts creates peace in our world. And that is our soul's purpose..to create this peace by doing and being what we are called to do, and to be.

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about."


Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting from my heart and with my hands.