We are the ones: Letters from Orcas Island

  • Fri May 1st, 2020 10:28am
  • Life

By Suzanne Olson

How are you getting along during this historic shut down of society? Curious (and caring) minds want to know—and not just your current island friends and neighbors, but also the generations to come. There is a weekly broadcast, Letters from Orcas Island, that is sharing our stories and creating a permanent record in collaboration with the Orcas Island Historical Museum.

Program host Suzanne Olson got the idea for Letters from Orcas Island in early March, while standing in line at the pharmacy and noticing how intently people were wanting to chat and share their stories—and how lonely it seemed to have to keep to ourselves. “It’s our island way to stop and say hello – do a quick catch up,” said Olson. “In the Post Office, in the shops and sometimes while leaning into an open car window in the middle of the road.” Letters from Orcas gives islanders a chance to keep sharing the stories that weave our community together.

Letters from Orcas Island airs on Facebook Live (@lettersfromorcas) on Sundays at 3 p.m. and videos are posted on the Facebook page for viewing anytime. Olson gives a weekly update and then reads the letters that have come in. Some letters are handwritten works of art; some are brief email dispatches and poetry. All are welcome and Olson has a short list of questions for letter writers to consider:

Name (first name okay) and age

What you are doing for work, school and entertainment – or just to get by

What you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday

What challenges are you facing? how does it feel?

Who you are worried about (if you are)

What you are grateful for

Olson is also interested in hearing from the younger generation: the ones whose lives will be most shaped by this moment in history. While students are schooling at home, please consider a letter for the history books as a creative assignment. Kids can consider these questions:

Name and age

What is the best part of staying at home?

What or who do you miss?

What is one new thing you’ve learned at home?

Do you have any advice for other kids?

Letters of all kinds—as well as artwork and photography—are welcome. Letters can be sent to Suzanne Olson, PO Box 1574, Eastsound WA 98245 or by email at storysmith8@gmail.com.

Olson promises to write back to each person who sends a letter.

Letters from Orcas Island is collaborating with the Orcas Island Historical Museum to create a permanent record of these letters: we are the ones who will tell this story.

Letters from Orcas Island is a homegrown project to keep islanders connected through storytelling and to create a lasting record of this important moment in island history. Follow Letters from Orcas Island on Facebook at @lettersfromorcas.