“Living Inside a Reflection” is a collection artwork by Twisp artist, Tori Karpenko, on display at Seattle’s Traver Gallery until December 18th. I’ve been friends with Tori since the early 2000s, and I’ve watched his work progress from fantastical mysticism, mixed media satire, to a refined body of beautiful places that brings the viewer into a reverent and holy space. In each piece the viewer can’t help but be drawn in, yearning to be there and never leave. If you find yourself in the city over the holidays, make a point of visiting Tori’s breath-taking landscapes inspired by the wild nature of the North Cascades. You’ll find gratitude in these wild places, safe from the elements.
Being grateful for the tangible, material things during Thanksgiving can be humbling as we count our blessings. But appreciation for the intangible assets that build true spiritual and emotional wealth, such as friendships, takes reflection. Reflecting on friendships old and new by recalling old times and shared memories is a practice in gratitude.
This holiday, many Twisp residents and loved ones of Lulu Belle Ames will be reflecting on the loss of a big heart following her passing in October. Lulu Belle held a smidge of local celebrity status as a well-known fixture in Twisp life. Born and raised in the valley as a disabled person, she lived a simple life and found pure happiness in the presence of others. She embodied loving kindness, doted on babies and children, volunteered, and prayed each night for everyone she knew.
In her earlier years, she was known for riding her bicycle with a basket out front around town. Lulu Belle would make a daily phone call to life-long friend Ann Henry who misses those daily check-ins. She loved sending and receiving holiday cards. Always joyful and friendly, she’s remembered as being completely selfless.
Twenty years ago, Lulu Belle’s family sought a temporary caregiver to help with daily life. Greta Oosterhof took the job under the pretense of a temporary position, but the two worked so well together it turned into a life-long friendship spanning twenty years.
Lulu Belle’s friends reflect that she had an uncanny memory for remembering dates. Cindy Button noted that if they ever forgot a birthday, they’d joke they could call Lulu Belle. When Greta would arrive in the morning, Lulu would wake up and say, “today is so and so’s birthday”. The two friends would sit together, write birthday cards, and then venture out together on outings to the post office, library, senior center, or Hank’s and visit galleries or the fish hatchery for fun. They enjoyed puzzles together, playing along with The Price is Right and reading books out loud. They laughed often and bonded over a shared dislike of mushrooms.
Greta’s dedication and loyalty to their friendship is praiseworthy. In twenty years, Greta, amidst raising her own family, only took two vacations and spent six to seven days a week with Lulu Belle. Because it was originally supposed to be a temporary gig, Greta would often reassure Lulu Belle, “we’re in this to the end, either I’ll go, or you’ll go first.” Greta shared that’s she’s thankful to Lulu Belle for teaching her patience and showing her what selfless love looks like.
Greta described her first few years with Lulu Belle as dedicated to building up her self-esteem. Through encouragement and empowerment, she helped unravel the emotional damage from a world that was sometimes unkind to people with disabilities. Lulu Belle’s childhood was at times met with cruelty from children who didn’t know how to see beyond the disability. But those who did were rewarded and are grateful to have been blessed with a friendship with a remarkable woman with a “heart of gold.” Close friends and family laid Lulu Belle to rest at Beaver Creek Cemetery on November 13, where she continues to smile down from heaven.