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The Tree House Chronicles: Outside, an Internal Exploration of Solitude, Part Three

“The Tree House Chronicles: Outside, an Internal Exploration of Solitude” is a series created in self isolation in a tree house in the woods. “The Tree House Chronicles: Outside, an Internal Exploration of Solitude” explores my experiences with solitude. Beginning in childhood’s quiet moments, growing roots in my teens as I read the stories of lonely artists(1) and a solitary family(2), and solidifying as I confront a world altered by COVID-19.


…continued from Week 21, Week 23
Stamps Interweaving Solitude

COVID-19 has taken the ability to travel away from us, so I invite you travel to the past for a moment. Imagine you are artist Ruth Asawa. Imagine you are 16 as the U.S. government separates your family and forces you —along with tens of thousands of fellow Japanese Americans — into internment camps during World War II. Imagine your internment beginning in a dank, pungent stall in a former horse racetrack, imagine waiting six years to reunite with your family. And in this time of isolation and uncertainty, imagine turning to art (3).

Now, become your self again and return to the present: seven years after Asawa’s death, as millions of people experience the COVID-19 pandemic’s forced isolation, a set of Forever Stamps honors Ruth Asawa’s art (4). Stamps with the quiet ability to interweave one person’s solitude to another’s, just as a line interweaves Asawa’s work, “I realized that if I was going to make these forms, which interlock and interweave, it can only be done with a line because a line can go anywhere.” (5)

Ruth Asawa forever stamps, image from the USPS website.
Together, Miles Apart

In the solitary days following the summer solstice and my 16th birthday, I discovered how a stamp and a bit of curiosity can bond solitudes to each other when I sent a letter to a woman named Lynn — my mother’s 8th grade English teacher who impacted the Detroit school system and hundreds of students for decades. I wrote looking for an English advisor but what I found within the words waiting in my mailbox a week later, was a friend.

That first letter arrived to Lynn at a time when she craved direction and purpose just as I did: a woman in her late 80’s and a 16-year-old girl experiencing similar circumstances side by side, miles apart. Each subsequent letter creating space to communicate our truths: through stories, shared love of nature, and, most of all, poetry.

Continued on Week 27…

*Endnotes and Resources

1. Laing, Olivia. “The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone”. 2016.
2. García Márquez, Gabriel. “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. 1967.
3. “Internment”. Published on ruthasawa.com. Accessed April 2020.
4.”USPS Announces 2020 Ruth Asawa Stamp“. Published on ruthasawa.com. Accessed April 2020. Which references “Philatelic” or “philately” defined here.
6. D’Souza, Aruna. “Ruth Asawa: Life’s Work”. 2019. Page 46.

People, Works, Terms Mentioned:

Ruth Asawa / Japanese Interment in the U.S. / WWII / Solitude / COVID-19 pandemic / Detroit

*All references and resources have been thoroughly researched prior to use.