For Christmas of 2001, Alene was given a calligraphy starter set. Not by me, of course — by someone else. Neither one of us could fathom this choice of present — but we were both excited at the prospect of a new project.  A few days after Christmas, Alene bought some calligraphy paper and gave it a try.  Within a week, she had found a whole new groove.

This was definitely one of our happiest periods together. We were both living near the Junction in West Seattle. Neither of us was working. And we had both left much of our respective lives behind us. January 2002 was wonderfully dreary and dismal — ideal weather for an indoor project. Alene spent many happy hours of those winter afternoons standing at her kitchen counter working the ink.

About a year before arriving in Seattle, we had both had a vision of some rather strange calligraphy — and then forgotten it. But as Alene worked with pen and ink, the shapes started manifesting on her worksheets. Before long, Alene was producing articles such as this:


Over the next three months, we fancied that we understood what she was writing — and the following summer, she actually compiled a “dictionary” of the symbols — but the notebook it was written in was accidentally thrown away. It’s disheartening, because we no longer can translate these pieces. However, they do look pretty — and Alene has this one framed on her living-room wall.

The story of Zanda was inspired by those happy winter afternoons putting pen and ink to paper — and it’s so, so wonderful to be sharing it at last.