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YourThoughts July 2012
Claire Frances Baker collected over 20,000 pairs of shoes in her latest three-month-long campaign completed in May 2012. The shoes were shipped to Soles4Souls, a charity that distributes shoes to those in need. www.soles4souls.org/
Photo courtesy of Claire Frances Baker


Each month in the Minnesota Women's Press we ask for your thoughts on a topic. For July we asked: What do you collect? Why? What does it mean to you. Here are some thoughts from MWP readers.


Garden books
I collect first-edition books written by Gertrude Jekyll. I call it "Gathering to Give," because my dream is to acquire all her books and give the collection to the Minnesota Arboretum library. Jekyll was a famous gardener and she saw garden making as a fine art. Her handling of color and local plant forms made the gardens she created works of art. "The size of a garden has very little to do with its merit. It is the size of the owner's heart and brain and goodwill that will make his garden either delightful or dull," Jekyll would say.

Never married, Jekyll overcame social and professional obstacles with a resounding success, while at the same time, leaving behind a gardening legacy that still exists today. When you read her books, you feel like she is talking to you personally. At 89 she was out in her wheelchair grumbling because she could not do the work herself. What she wrote in her gardening books is still good advice today for gardeners.

I still have three more books of hers to locate to add to my collection; her books give me a lot of personal pleasure. I hope donating my book collection will give future gardeners the same pleasure her books have given me.
Elizabeth Dorsey Hatle, Minneapolis

A pod of whales
"Oh, how silly," I think when I glance at all my whales around the house. After a few whale-watching trips, my passion and attraction to the oceans' gentle giants has never wavered. I have about 20 wood, glass and metal figurines. I have a clock, a pencil holder, a coat rack, a stamp holder, napkin rings, films, posters, pendants, bracelets, earrings and rings.

Many of my whales were given to me by my oldest sister. That adds to my delight.

What the whale means to me is grandeur, mystery, gentleness, survivor, world traveler, protector of family and something bigger than life itself. Are these all qualities I would also like for myself? They must be. The representation of these positive characteristics sits around me in my home. I could not part with them, except when I explain the meaning to my grandchildren, with the promise my whales will be theirs in the future. The meaning in my message is we must make sure they live on, in all their majesty and with all their songs.
Rita Speltz, Minneapolis



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Colored glass
Colored glass bottles sit on my windowsill, waiting for the sun to bring them to life. Colors dance across the room, showing themselves on the dull, grey walls, brightening my world, giving me hope.

Almost 30 years ago I was diagnosed with severe depression. Depression has been a constant, chronic part of my life. Often a dark cloud hangs over my head so I see only black and grey, my hope lost. In my collection of colored glass bottles, I have found three pieces, with lots of room for more. Each bottle is special, a unique shape, size and color. My violet bottle is textured and is the shape of a volcano. It means courage, change, a free spirit. My olive green bottle stands tall, squared. It means life, strength and a new beginning. My purple bottle is slender and smooth. It means sensitivity, creativity and hope.

My collection brings color, beauty and hope to my life. For a little while my depression lifts and my dark cloud blows away.
Mary Cowette, St. Paul

Basketmakers honored
I collect baskets. By collecting baskets, I honor a tradition that is mostly derived from women's hands, and, in the process, validates traditional "women's work." I learn about culture, art and environment through the basketmaker's perspective, values and intimate knowledge of her own specific botanical environment, which all goes into the materials, representations and forms of the basket. I honor the time that it takes for the maker to construct a basket, frequently while tending to children, the garden, food preparation and the home. By valuing the basket through purchase, I support the continuation of the art, craft and culture represented by basketry, as well as contributing to the livelihood of the basketmakers working today. And, in the collecting, I surround myself with beautiful handmade objects.
Sherri West, Shorewood

Sun collector
It may have started with my grandpa singing "You Are My Sunshine." Maybe it was wearing the yellow crepe paper costume as a sunbeam in the third-grade pageant. Or the burlap and yarn sun face wall hanging I made for my first apartment. Whatever, the sun has always been a presence, a source of joy and energy in my life.

So I surround myself with sun faces, ranging from a tiny silver pinkie ring and dangly golden sun earrings to a 30-inch diameter clay pottery sun smiling up at me from among the daisies and yarrow in my hillside garden. Suns hang on the walls in every room of my house, the screened porch and on tree trunks in the yard. Sun faces on spikes shine from among plants and shrubs. And, to avoid overdoing it, a few suns are even packed away waiting for another turn.

The sun, in its natural splendor or in decorative replicas, reminds me of an ever-present higher power in my life.

Many of my suns are traditional, natural, Mexican pottery and many are colorful ceramic. Many are gifts. It's fun to have traveling friends think of me from as far away as Turkey or as close as an area garden store. Each sun holds memories of times and places.

Have you ever noticed how many songs mention the sun? I think I love them all! As I go about my days, no matter my mood or the weather, I am reminded to "sing in the sunshine" and "keep on the sunny side!"
Gloria Olson, Faribault, Minn.

Soles4Souls
My passion to collect shoes was ignited after the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, destroying many of the orphanages in Port-au-Prince. What began as a small community service project in my seventh-grade classroom, has now blossomed into speaking to thousands of Catholic high-school students and encouraging them to give shoes from the back of their closets. While my heart feels for the needs of the children, I collect all types of footwear: new, used, flip flops, sandals, stilettos, tennis shoes, boots, cleats, etc.

There are over 300 million children around the world without a pair of shoes. Without shoes, people are at risk for acquiring deadly infection in their feet. Children are unable to attend school, where for many, this is the only place where they would receive a meal.

Because of this collection I am humbled to share that there are 32,347 people who now have something as simple as a pair of shoes. While that seems like a large number, there are still 299,967,653 children around the world without shoes. So the collection continues.
Claire Frances Baker, Maple Grove

Editors' note: Visit www.clairefrancesshoecollector.blogspot.com for more information.


Send us your thoughts!
In August it's all about the numbers. "When was a time when 1 + 1 = 3 for you?" Tell us about it. Send a paragraph or two (up to 150 words) by July 10, 2012 to editor@womenspress.com

"What does "women mean business" mean to you?" In September we'll be exploring this theme. Send a paragraph or two (up to 150 words) by August 10, 2012 to editor@womenspress.com





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