I took a break from blogging over the last few months for no reason other than it was time for a break. The last time I wrote I was planting seeds in my garden and musing over my next writing project. Five months later, my garden is in overdrive giving me daily baskets of tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, squash, and bouquets of flowers, and I have chosen my next writing project. Life moves on….

Most recently, I’ve been practicing letting go. It seems to be the work of my mid-70s. By nature, I’m a saver – just ask my husband about my shelves of uniquely-shaped boxes, glass jars, seed packets, vases, old jewelry, and family memorabilia. Some things will be easy for my family to toss when I’m gone, but I should pass on other things now while I can do so with care.

A vase for everything, and everything in it’s vase

I recently opened my jewelry boxes and invited my teenage granddaughters to select anything they’d like (with a few exceptions). There were a few pieces I had to take a deep breath and let go of but knowing how much I love having my great-grandmother’s amethyst broach, I gave the jewelry my blessing and passed them on.

It took the threat of fire for me to let go of other things. Wildfires are an almost year-round threat here in the Northern California Sierra (and in a scary way, for more and more of the world). We have “Go-Bags” packed by the door with valuable papers, clothing, food, and water.  But my drawer of family history artifacts? No room. That’s when I decided to start giving them away for posterity’s safe keeping.

The first to go was my Great-Grandmother Emily Hoppin’s personal scrapbook from 1870s-1915. If you followed my blogs and website, you know how much I loved using it for my novel Heart Wood. Before leaving on vacation this June, I presented her fragile scrapbook to the Yolo County Historical Archives. It was a fair trade because they had digitalized the entire scrapbook for me earlier, so I have it on my computer for continued research of my next book and they have it in their database.

The personal scrapbook of Emily Anna Bacon Hoppin 1854-1915

The second album was the history of my Grandfather Charles Jensen’s Botanical Garden in Carmichael, near Sacramento, CA. After retiring in 1958, he and grandma converted three acres of blackberries into a park-like garden. After their death, the Carmichael Park District bought it in 1976 and created The Jensen Botanical Garden, lovingly tending it as a public park known as “The Jewel of Carmichael.” I recently gave them my family scrapbook of historic news clippings for their records.

My grandfather, Charles Jensen in his garden, 1974

And last, after a recent fall and broken bones in my left foot, I’ve had more than enough time to practice letting go. It’s humbling not to be able to get up and do what needs to be done, but to have to sit back and ask for help. I’m learning to let go of having a tidy house, of zipping up and down flights of stairs, of walking up the hill to my garden. In exchange, I’m learning patience and gratitude for my husband’s endless generosity (and his cooking!)

I’ll write about my next writing project in the near future. In the meantime, Heart Wood can now be purchased in Sierra County at the Sierra County Art’s Council Gallery in Downieville, the Kentucky Mine Historic Park and Museum, and the Sierra Mercantile in Sierra City, as well as ordered from your local bookstore or on Amazon.


  1. I enjoyed reading your blog! The theme of “letting go” got me thinking. I like the idea of giving some of my jewelry to my granddaughters. I’ve been realizing that I don’t wear much jewelry anymore! I have a few favorites that I wear a lot and that’s about it.

    I also recently thought about making a book that is a catalog of my artwork. For the kids. And for myself just to see it all in one place.

    Nick recently said he might be interested in playing guitar so I told him I have one, and a ukulele too, so I’m going to give them to him. We’ll see what happens!

    I hope you are making good progress with your recovery! Thanks for posting this- it was fun to read. 📖 😊


    Sent from my iPhone


    1. I just saw this! And second the vote for a catalog of all your wonderful artwork. Your family can’t save or have them all, but they can
      enjoy the art book with your lifetime of work. Happy unloading!

  2. Oh boy, Shirley, does this hit home. Right there with you on trying to pass things on that could be enjoyed by others now, rather than being packed away where we don’t even see them, let alone use them. Like you, we have collected so much cool “stuff” over the years—family history, antiques, lots of art work (much of it Lauren’s mom) and a garage full of tools and shop equipment from both of our fathers—some the kids want, but much they don’t. It’s more difficult for Lauren than it is for me—he is the saver and I am the “use it or lose it” person, but he’s working on it.

    As for myself, I am the one who is working on “letting go” of the house being tidy and the dishes washed (or at least in the dishwasher) before bedtime. I am the one who worries about how we would ever be able to downsize and someday move closer to family if need be. In this department, Lauren is definitely the “it will all work out” person and I am the “need to be organized” person. But minus the lack of broken bones and any major health issues, I am getting better about taking each day as it comes and not worrying so much about what only “might” be around the corner.

    And yes, to go bags are packed with essentials, trees removed and/or trimmed for fire insurance, new roof planned for next year, and hopefully no reopened gold mine below us. Right now, we are finishing a master bath remodel, very cool. We will be in Newport Beach the first of October for my 60th high school reunion and we are looking forward to a rescheduled trip to Cancun with Jarrett and his family mid February. Sorry about your foot—hope it heals quickly. Take care and give my best to your caregiver.

    Sent from my iPad

    1. HI Mary,
      I just saw this! I loved your commentary about your own process of letting go and how we each have our unique styles. Good to hear from you. Hope you’re having a wonderful 60th HS reunion. 60! Wow. Take care,

      1. Thank you, Shirley. Yes , I am having fun at my 60th—we have a reunion every five years. Spending time with good friends I don’t see often enough. Glad you are enjoying your research. Hello to Dr. DicKard.

  3. Shirley… you buried the lead… and “the event” that had a very significant influence on your “letting go.” As you started: “I took a break from blogging,”   was not revealed until the last paragraph: …”after a recent fall and broken bones in my left foot, I’ve had more than enough time to practice letting go.” Being a “senior” I am challenged by how easily my life could change by accident. The threat of being injured just in doing my everyday routine is always there; it affects my choices constantly.  It got me to thinking about what my process of “letting go” might be if I took a “break” …  what would I choose to hand down and to whom and what would the rationale for those choices be. In my Byal family, this process has been left to the survivors. The only ones I can think of who made an effort were my mother’s sister Charlotte and her husband Bud. My father held on to everything, including my mother’s ashes and who also failed to write a will, probably out of spite. How we “let go” reveals much about our willingness pass on the tangible symbols (things) of our life and relationships before we entrust them to others. It is what bonds us to the future after we are gone. That alone is what makes letting go worth the effort. … thank you… for very thought provoking essay. tch

    1. As you said:
      “How we let go is what bonds us to the future after we are gone.” Yes, these are thought-provoking times for us “seniors.” (although I hardly feel like a senior!). But I have to admit that most all of my friends who had accidents were just doing normal things. Hah! Life will get you one way or the other. So I agree, thinking about what and how to pass on meaningful things for future generations is our work now. It does no one any good to hold on. Thanks for your thoughts!

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