Flowers of the Heart Eighteen January 28, 2018
For Arja Holm
She delivered the mail when I lived four
months on the island of Maxmo, Finland,
in 1996. It was often bitterly cold, well
below zero. The birch branches would
turn pink in the heavy frost. I tried to be
awake by eleven when she usually brought
the post to our Gistskatavagen Street.
I read late into the night. It wasn’t light
in January until nine, but the sun was
steadily taking over more of the dark.
My island neighbors were Swedish, but
Arja was Finnish, married to a Swedish
fisherman. She spoke Swedish and
English, was pleased to have an American
on her route. Over time we became
friends. She invited me to her home
for a meal, and I met Roger and her
two young sons, Henryk and Petrie.
In 2004 she visited me here. She was
enthusiastic about everything. We
picked sugar snap peas in my garden.
I was secretary of the Chatham Coalition,
trying to elect better county commissioners.
For our party, my neighbor Robert roasted
a hog. He and Tuddy stayed up all night
to cook the hog. Then they pulled the
roaster to the farm where we gathered.
Another neighbor, Bertha Thomas, took
Arja to her Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist
Church for a Sunday service. Bertha was
one of the ministers.. Jeanette, one of our
Moncure mail carriers, let Arja ride
along when she did her rural route. Arja
was eager to do everything, and we had
long talks about our life here and hers
at home. In 2016 her husband died of
cancer. Years before that, she had
written to me about his treatments.
Cancer is a hard road, and it was hard
on her, but she saw him through it all
the way. I send her interesting American
and Russian stamps. Her boys have
outgrown collecting them, but she still
enjoys the stamps. The Finnish ones are
the most Beautiful, but she already has
those. We keep track of each other’s
lives and have for twenty-two years. She
no longer carries the mail, but her delight
in communication hasn’t changed.