‘A Nest in My Heart’

Elaine Klaassen


When I was in my 20s I often talked about how important it was for people to write about their lives and their thoughts, and how much it would expand one’s consciousness to read about the inner life, observations and experiences of others. It seems that more and more people are writing about their lives now. And whether or not a person is a Dostoevsky or a Stephen King, there is so much value in seeing the innermost, authentic interior of a person made visible on paper.
A wonderful example is a project undertaken by the Southeast Seniors (Helping Seniors Live Well at Home) in southeast Minneapolis, under the direction and guidance of Anne Sawyer, a puppeteer, arts educator and author from Prospect Park. The result is a book written by seniors, most of whom had never even thought about writing. It’s very lovely. I read it in one evening and was seriously moved, delighted, amused, grief-struck and awed. The title is “A Nest in My Heart” and it’s divided into seven sections with headings like “Elbow Grease,” “I Walk Towards the Light,” and “Just an Ordinary Day.” Altogether there are 23 pieces by nine different writers.
The seniors who agreed to participate worked with writing prompts to get used to writing, which then generated material. But although one of the writers, Roxanne Markoff, enjoyed the process, she didn’t plan for it to go further. She seemed a little surprised at what she had accomplished. I asked her if she felt panicked, or empty, when the prompt was given, but she said, no, it always opened a door for her.
The bravery and spunk of many of these writers will inspire you and remind you again of this difficult path we traverse as humans.
Patricia Lee-Woods dreams of unspeakable joy, that which will be found in heaven, after this life on earth. Her picture of it is so powerful that it carries her through the most heartbreaking losses and impossible circumstances.
Jim Hasse, in his first piece, has a standup comedian’s incisive, humorous way of looking at the human foibles and blindness that surround us. We see the same flawed humans in his second piece, but less humor and more heartbreak.
Some people have comical ways of wording things, like Jane Baron discussing her name.
Karen Steele Sorenson talks about all the times she’s sure she did things imperfectly, but the adults in her life treated her mistakes and imperfections as though they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. A ragged hand-me-down coat makes her look so “nice.” Her first homemade cookies are “wonderful.” Karen describes a rare, joyful ambience in which the men play violins and grandma plays softball in her clumpy shoes.
Southeast Seniors has been together now for 35 years and shows no signs of slowing down. They get together on First Fridays for pickleball, square dancing, card games and other games. They also have programs open to the entire community (I went there once to a free class on how to use the metro transit system, for example) although to be a member and receive certain services, such as medical, dental and transportation, one has to live in the designated area.
The group was founded by nurses in a neighborhood where many nurses and many seniors live. The nurses saw an opportunity to help make it possible for seniors to stay in their homes. So they started the organization. Some of them are senior citizens now and benefit from the group they started.
To acquire a book, or to learn more about Southeast Seniors, go to seseniors.org, email [email protected], or call 612-331-2302.


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