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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Quilts as Tangible Memories and Bequeathed Love

by Jean Anderson Dunham, guest contributor

QuiltRose triangle bead quilt (photo: Carson Too)

If there is one tangible object that represents my mother, it would be a quilt. She spent my childhood making beautiful patterns: lone stars, flying geese, double wedding rings. Each stitch was exactly even and the corners of the fabric joined together just right.

She was a perfectionist, my mother, and at times was a little too hard on us. I tried to be the daughter she thought I should be. And I never smiled right in pictures. But to my mother, if things were perfect, she could love.

I now know this fear was a sign of deeper hurt and that she longed for love in ways her own mother couldn’t provide. But I have these quilts, these beautiful transitional objects, and they remind me of her.


Jean Dunham is a child psychiatrist living in Austin, Texas. She curates articles and images she finds interesting on her Tumblr at roots and wings.

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Calling Up the Elephant Lady

Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer

As the newest member of the Speaking of Faith staff (I’ve been working for the show for almost 3 months now), I’m still navigating the somewhat awkward transition from fan to employee. This week’s upcoming show really brought that into relief.

Before I got this job, Whale Songs and Elephant Loves was perhaps my favorite show in the history of SOF. I remember listening to it more than a year ago, in my car, and there was that amazing moment when Krista points out how hard it is for people to really understand that their lives affect the survival of animals half-way around the globe. And Katy Payne gets very quiet and almost whispers, “Here we are on the radio; our task is to make this real. This planet, this planet is the only place where we have this kind of life. Let’s not blow it.” That just knocked me out. It seems so obvious, but when she states it that way I can’t help but marvel at the idea. This planet is the only place where we have this kind of life.

Flash forward about a year, and it’s now my job to get in contact with Katy Payne to find out if we need to update anything for the rebroadcast of the show. I dial her number, listen to it ring, and then suddenly that distinctive voice, somehow fragile and strong at the same time, is coming through my telephone. I tell her who I am and why I’m calling and she answers my questions, and I’m aware the whole time of how strangely small the world is, that a year ago I was marveling at the words over the radio of this woman who’s spent her life listening to whales and elephants, and now I’ve called her up and she’s listening to me. I’m almost surprised to find out she’s real. I thank her and say goodbye and she says, “Well, thank you. I loved that show. I think I’ll celebrate by listening to it again myself.”

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