(The following is an excerpt from Snapshot of a Soul Place in the land of special needs, an illustrated memoir written and illustrated by Kari Burk celebrating 25 years with her daughter Mielle who has Down syndrome. The book is a labour of love edited and curated by Mielle’s grandmother, Valerie Hennell, aka Gra’ma Valley.

Kari says:

Valley is Mielle’s grandmother by marriage and by choice. Her interest in my life as an artist and the mother of a person with Down syndrome is the foundation for Snapshot of a Soul Place.

When we feel support and encouragement from someone who recognizes what can be grown in the fertile ground of our person, we can begin to get down to the soulful work that is beneficial to both self and others.

Valley’s confident awareness that we would travel both the deep dark and bright light places kept our book project on wheels and rolling.

Gra’ma Valley says:

“My connection with Mielle did not come quickly or easily. At first I was startled by her honesty and unfettered laughter. It took years for me to find a comfortable place with this guileless being who welcomes me despite my awkwardness.

Then one day she invited me into her room – her sanctuary – and we began communicating in a way that wasn’t about words as much as intuition and trust. That’s when I started to understand that my clanking self-protective defensiveness is a kind of disability.

Mielle always has new insights to teach me. One day walking along the beach she looked up at me and howled ‘Valley, RELAX!’

Words to live by, Mielle!”

Writer, producer, publisher and poet, Valerie Hennell conjures projects for page, stage, CD and media. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia where she launched a career that has spanned fifty years and ten countries. Her lyrics are sung by many; her recordings have been honoured with four Juno nominations, Parents’ Choice, NAPPA Gold and Canadian Folk Music Awards. Enthusiastic grandmother, kayaker and composter, Valley lives on Protection Island in the Salish Sea with her husband and long-time partner in life and art, musician Rick Scott.

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