Conversations with Kids · Education · Family life · Local

Keeping the Cairns Close

My dear friend and local artist, Kristin Loukes, makes these beautiful earrings out of stones from our mountain rivers. They are a kind of cairn, stacks of stones which guide our way through the mountains, especially when inclement weather hides the actual path beneath our feet. We find the safest route by following the stacks. When our view is obscured by driving snow or fog, we often lose our perspective, our point of view, our judgement. Even on a day like today in late April. Traveling across the the Franconia Ridge in today’s spring snowstorm would be impossible without taking care in the cairns.

Kristin is amazing; she is the mom to three of my students, current and former; wife to my friend and colleague Aaron; and bartender to the world, or at least at Loon Mountain, even in the pandemic. When she started creating jewelry years ago and showing interested friends how she does it in her basement studio, also known as the magic of River Rock Jewelry, I was amazed by her talent. She showed us the tumbler which smooths the jagged surfaces of even the roundest river stones. She showed us her tools, her dremels, her beads, her wires, her metals, and just one trail to her vision. I love all of the work she does, and I try to buy local and support her work as an artist when needing a gift for a friend or in this case, my niece Ella.

Ella is turning 13, today, April 29, and I just can’t believe it. She is smart and kind and funny and beautiful and a jewelry artist herself. I was lucky enough to become her aunt! Then 18 months later, when Carver was born, she, still a baby herself, claimed this baby as her own, squeezing him and holding him and touching his chubby toes with her gentle fingers. My brother Greg and sister in law Holly and baby Ella came to the hospital and she “helped” to install him in his carseat for the ride home. She started holding his hand that day, and they have been friends ever since.

And now that she is older in maturity by far more than 18 months, she still has tremendous patience for her often irritating, active, boy cousin. The time she spends with him, along with her sister, Hazel, and cousin Greta, both nine at this writing illustrates love and humor and memory making with each visit. Yet, she is 13. She has a phone. She has opinions which may differ from her family and others who love her dearly. She is coming of age in a pandemic, has already started making harder choices, and witnessed the frustration of modern day political conflict and social injustice. She will one day have to make more challenging decisions and choices about friends and college and love and life, but for now, she gets to experience all that is awesome and amazing about being 13– on the cusp of true adolescence and inspiration and hope.

Everyone has their unique kinds of mile markers, cairns that help them along the journey. I for one am grateful to Kristin for creating them in the form of earrings– perhaps the most versatile pair I will ever own, perfect for the runway of real life, of working moms and sporty women, a pair to match femininity with mother nature, the dirt and mud of the trail. Kristin’s daughter gifted me a pair upon her graduation from high school, another kind of milestone. They are also perfect for the newly turned 13 year old young woman, a reminder that she has everything within her own power to continue to grow, strong and brave, and in whatever direction she chooses.

Thank you Kristin Loukes for having just the right gift! And Happy 13th Birthday to Ella Ehrman!

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