Jun 25, 2024

Summer Days

I have watched in absolute and utter awe at the ever present and yet ever changing beauty of our summer days. Day after day a new surprise, a new yard guest or sweet visitor or two. 

The absolute enchantment of my five little grandchildren delighting in the arrival of a beautiful peacock friend or the amazing gentle presence of a pair of bonded deer, a precious little doe and a handsome little buck with emerging velvety softness of his spike horns. 

They grazed in our yard and fields and even all went into our chickens coop to check out their hanging feeder. 

Precious earth beings and such blessings that the joy of home and yard work came to a total stop/pause as we sat in our back yard chairs and just delighted in the watching for hours each and every day!

The peacock was probably about 2 years old not yet sporting his soon to be even more fabulous colors of a fancy "eyeful" tail fan at age 3 and with some signs of predator attack in that back under tail area by most likely a hawk. 

Feathers all over on our back property line separating us from the singing of the nursery workers in the neighboring property. Their marachi music took turns with  soulful ballads filling the summer air with a happy unity of sounds.

Our oldest grand-daughter age 9 named "our" peacock "Razzle Dazzle" because he was "bejeweled" with shimmery colors and a crown befitting the royalty of his already iridescent peacock blue,turquoise and green head ‐ a totally magnificent presence and gift of a surprise present in all ways.

Dazzle was just learning his beginning peacock fan dance, a kind of shimmy of his tail- end accompanied by his first hooting-honk sounds. His peacock mate calling honk sounded like a birthday party blow out horn and he made us laugh. He slept on the sloped roof of our house at night and explored our acreage during the day. I set out the suggested cat kibble. bird grains with sunflower seeds, salad greens, bits of tomato and his favorite treat - bits of bread! 

Then apparently healed enough to continue his journey and feeling well fed and loved he flew off in the early morning light after a full 7 days with us. From a very social species he needed another of his kind.

We miss him, but we thanked him for the blessings of his visit and wished him god speed and protection.

The little deer have returned seven days in a row so far and are so trusting of the peacefulness to rest so close to us and our movements. They are so deeply sweet and precious.

It is truly all feeling like summer now and a changing of the energies of the planetary and celestial heavens with "as above and so below"  and the power and beauty of summer solstice mesh and are moving forward as are all else into greater times of trans-formation.

I feel so surrounded and enmeshed in the full energies of Mary Oliver poetry and bright summer beauty in all ways. I am filled up and so sun and nature  blessed. 😊

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her 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

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.