Ship Of Stars


We are cleaning out the attic. It is beautiful outside, hardly the kind of day in which anyone would want to tackle a spider-webbed, over-stuffed-with-boxes, hot and dark place such as this. Still, when it’s time, it’s time… so here we are.

“What do you want to do with this?” we ask each other as box after box is opened. Sometimes the answer is easy, and the entire box goes on the ‘give away’ pile. Other times, we sift through items we have long forgotten and debate whether to keep, give away, or send to the land fill. Clothes of fashion long out of date, mismatched glasses, incomplete sets of dishes, and here… look, a shoe box filled with little baby shoes and teething rings that are at least forty five years old.

Was it long ago

            That they wore these tiny shoes

            And the world was new?

What does one do with treasures that were collected so lovingly? What should be done with the whale which small fingers once carved out of soap and this little handprint in plaster? And what of the souvenirs we collected in a dozen different countries? It is hard to part with even one of these away for they bring back memories of a day spent strolling through an exotic bazaar in Jaffa or the night when we walked through Disney’s Magic Kingdom and saw fireworks burst against the stars.

“Even if we get rid of this stuff we will still have the memories,” my practical husband says.

I don’t answer him because I am still rummaging through the shoe-box and have come up with a little water globe. It is dark blue, and when I shake it, it sparkles as if lit by starlight.  It reminds me of space.

I sit on my heels and watch the twinkle of make-believe stars and think of a program on the Science Channel where experts spoke of a ship that would someday sail the universe. It’s not a new concept—powering a spaceship with solar energy has been around since the 17th century courtesy of visionary astronomer Johannes Kepler and Russian space pioneer Friederich Tsander —but only in this age of technology will NASA actually send a spacecraft propelled by sunlight into space. The hope is that it will orbit the earth.

And the coming years will bring more marvels. Great sails of the lightest material known to man will one day billow into a great sail. Attached to a space ship, that sail will propel its vessel through the uncharted seas of space using the push of ions and the energy of starlight! It’s amazing. It’s science fiction stuff. And how I wish I could sail on that ship of stars to embark on voyages that Columbus never dreamed of.

Looking at the stars

Wondering what worlds there be

That I’ll never know.

But here’s the rub– when those pioneers of the future set sail, what will they take with them to remind them of Earth? What can they keep, what will they need to leave behind? They’ll take practical things, of course, and some far-in-the-future cousin of kindle, and some holograms and images… but would there be room for a whale carved out of soap? A handprint set in plaster?

I cradle the little whale, trace the fingers of the small, plaster hand. Memories are the real starships, for they take us swiftly and surely to days long gone. Bathed in their gentle radiance, we can close our eyes at any time and  relive a wondrous day or speak with a person we loved or hold a small hand now grown large and strong.

Before getting back to work, I slip the star globe back into the shoe box and place the box carefully back on the shelf.

Sorting through treasures

in a hot, dusty attic

full of memories.

“Moonrise On the Dark Planet”



About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

15 responses »

  1. Maureen,
    I’m dealing with something similar with my mom. She’s about to remodel and turn her formal dining room into a kitchen/dining area and must decide whether to remove the wide molding at the ceiling made of multiple boards by my father’s loving hands (now deceased) or keep it. Whether to keep the elegant gold textured wallpaper from the 1970s or buy all new. The list goes on and on. Some will stay and some will go. Tough decisions. Thank goodness memories last a lifetime and hopefully beyond. I’ve enjoyed that part of the experience most of all.

  2. Oh, Linda, I understand completely what your mother is going through! I tend to be a ‘keeper’ and my poor family collectively shake heads and sigh. Do you think writers and artists NEED prompts around them? Perhaps that’s what stirs MY imagination….

  3. I really think those little objects that remind us of days long ago– those children’s creations and souvenirs of trips and special occasions draw us back as if in time warps or alternative dimensions, and we experience that time reality as if it were the present all over again. But, how to differentiate between those valuable remnants of that time long ago and just plain junk?

    • I think that if the objects tug at your heart they are valuable… to you. Too many things tug at MY heart! Oh, well. Let them stay– and someday the kids can have the dilemma of tossing them or keeping!:) Love you, Fran.

  4. Maureen.
    Your quilt, your haiku and all the treasures are appreciated. Disneyland fireworks was an unexpected memory. Was it Audre Lourde who said, “The things we keep, keeps us?” Or basically we are defined by what we keep. Thanks for a great post.

    • Thank you, Joy– what an interesting comment about things that we keep… truly,. I believe I am kept by so many strings and threads to the past! Perhaps it’s age that makes us remember the past in glowing terms? Or perhaps memories are starships after all!

  5. Yes, this is going to be a struggle for me as well in the coming weeks since we just closed on our new condo. I can’t bear the thought of throwing all those things in a landfill, but we can’t take it all with us either. We have been in our house for 40 years so we have accumulated a lifetime of memorabilia. We will have to make some difficult choices! Maybe I should take pictures!

    • Maureen, I have found that the minimalists I have known have never appealed to me as close friends. They don’t tend to value mementos and people over time. Their environments may be pristine, but often they rid themselves of older relationships as well. What do you think?

  6. I admire their mental discipline, something I never had! My brain is too cluttered with ideas, images, colors… much trivia and some substance. Minimalists know what they like, they are precise in their ideas. It takes all kinds, doesn’t it? Anyway, I will never be a minimalist…

  7. Maureen, we are just beginning to fill our attic 🙂 We moved so much during my childhood, that any little thing I tried to save had to be given away. I cried over my stones, feather and leaf collections. When I met my husband, I marveled at all the things his mother saved. So many memories. Mine come blasting through at the oddest moments … and oddly enough, living in SC has brought back many. I suppose I should try to practice non-attachment …

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