She Grows Up (and I Write Her a Letter)

erikagradMy sister was born in the beginning of summer and named after the feminine form of the god of war. She lived up to her fiery namesake and was a fierce little wildcat in her younger years.

Later, she poured her passionate dreams into her artwork. I’ve watched her blow glass fearlessly, sculpt clay into dramatic forms, sketch a story in paint across a canvas and, more than all of these, I’ve watched her stick to her work with a determination and dedication that matches her old toddler ferocity. (You really should have heard the growl she used in imitation of a mountain lion’s roar. She liked showing it to strangers).

She has the most wonderful, organic handwriting. It looks like tropical vines from a rain forest.

Love has always been her strong suit. Love for her friends, her family, her little nephew (my son). She loves people to the point of tears. She loves in the way that she lives.

Yesterday my little fish entered the big sea. I stood high above and blew her kisses from the sun-baked bleacher seats of Husky Stadium as she graduated with the Class of 2015.

She caught the kisses from me and from my parents and pressed them to her heart.

I remember when I walked through this same stadium, wearing my own cap and gown. I had hopes for a brilliant career in writing. I had a summer internship with a UW professor. I thought that getting a job would not be much of a challenge for someone with my skill set.

The ceremony of Commencement is filled with high hopes and soaring expectations. It’s also shadowed with the fear of the unknown.

My dear sister,

If I could tell you anything about graduating, it’s to keep your community close to you. They will become your precious lifeboat and first aid supply as you learn the new set of rules that we like to chuckle and call “the real world.” 

Ask for help with anything that confuses you. Find ways to continue learning, whether that is books or classes or people who agree to mentor you. 

Take those cries for fear and the desperate dreams of your heart and share them with God. He hears you and he desires wonderful things for you. He gave you your talents and he has already made many plans for how they’ll be used.

You’ll be tempted, somewhere along this post-college road, to bottle up your dreams of art and to just find that “real job” that makes you money so that you can “be an adult” and do responsible things like renting your own place and paying the electric bill. Those things are good to do, but don’t let any tell you those are the most important.

My future course was changed when I was a college senior, just like you, and a writing professor told me to work as little as possible so that I had time to do what I loved, When you find a job, you’ll have to forge creative ways to work in time for your art. If this art is a deep part of you, you have to keep doing it, even if that means picking up your tools only once a week at time. You must keep nourishing your creative soul. Start that habit now, when you still have the freedom to form your schedule and commitments.

I love you, Sister. I am so proud to see that you’ve found a place where you excel. You have already brought such beauty to the world. I await with joy to see what you will make in the years to come.




For those of you interested in looking closer at her incredible art, she can be found at



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