jump to navigation

Shocks: Aligning Stars, Colliding Plates March 12, 2011

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Last weekend, while I was enjoying a getaway with my guy, I got an e-mail from my friend Sioux—an e-mail with the story of a startling coincidence.

September through June, Sioux is a high school art teacher in Pennsylvania. Late June through Labor Day, she summers two miles down the road in a house attached to THE happy-hour porch and with land that accesses THE swimming hole.

We work-all-year types are envious of anyone who can regularly use summer as a verb. That said, we love Sioux, so we are glad that she and her family summer here.

I didn’t meet Paul until after I met Sioux and Duke, soon after they bought their house. I met them at a neighborhood potluck—they’d been invited when they met Rik, the guy who ran the dump when there still was a dump in Parts West. I must have met Paul later at Sioux and Duke’s place, most likely on THE happy-hour porch, but I can’t seem to remember the very first time.

The first time they met Paul, he knocked on their door to welcome them. He had known the previous owners. They became fast friends.

You know Paul. As noted previously, Paul’s the guy who sold his house to my sister, but still lives close by in a house with a perfect screened-in porch. He’s the guy born in Japan to missionary parents (in Sendai, in fact, hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami yesterday). He’s the crazy barefoot croquet player. He’s the guy we feared dead one night when our mutual friend couldn’t reach him. He’s the one who turned seventy last year, whose birthday dinner party was my excuse to keep my Christmas tree around a little while longer. He’s that guy on a camel in that photo in my living room. He’s the friend with whom I share an annual inaugural gin-and-tonic toast to summer—although it’s possible that sometimes this happens in April.

Paul’s a great guy.

So I get this e-mail from Sioux, now safely ensconced in Pennsylvania for the winter. She has a friend (nicknamed “Richard Gere”) who’s a contractor. Richard Gere often runs into people trying to get rid of stuff. Sioux uses lots of stuff in her art, so Richard Gere checks in with her to see if she’d want this or that. The two of them are thinking of collaborating on some furniture pieces and birdhouses made out of old stuff, and one of Richard Gere’s friends had this harp case hanging around, a harp case known as “the albatross” (it being huge and taking up a lot of space). Did Sioux want to see it? She did.

Sioux described the case as old and dingy and covered in green canvas. Stenciled in black on the canvas was the name Ruth Barber.

She wrote: “In an attempt to derive something, I stripped away the cloth and it did reveal a cool painted logo I thought could be salvaged. More cloth stripping, and it revealed a name: Ruth Sip . . . (the other letters covered by a plank of wood). I said to myself, it would be funny if the name was Sipple [Paul’s last name]. So we took off the wood plank with said crowbar and it did say Sipple!”



“So I call Paul and I tell him, ‘We have a harp case with the name Ruth Barber on the outside,’ and he says, ‘You have my aunt’s harp case?’”

It turns out that Paul’s father’s father had a parish in Allentown, and his father’s sister played the harp locally for sixty years. And now the harp case has fallen into the hands of a Pennsylvanian three hundred miles away who summers in Parts West a couple of miles away from the harpist’s nephew.

Paul, who lives life computer-free, stopped by my place yesterday to take a look at the photos. The whole thing is giving us shivers.

He left a photo with me to be scanned and sent to Sioux. It is Christmas 1947. Aunt Ruth the harpist is on the left with a baby on her lap; Paul, just shy of his eighth birthday, is the boy on the right, in front of his grandparents (click on the photo [and on any harp-case photo] for a better view). His dad, sister, and mom stand in the back, closest to the tree.The back of the photo gives the date as Christmas 1948, but Paul has corrected it to 1947, because by 1948 they were back in Sendai, he says, after the war.

A piece of family history discovered. A birthplace devastated. It has been a most unusual week for Paul.



1. Craig Smith - March 12, 2011

I totally love synchronicity.

2. Lali - March 12, 2011

As you and I well know, all things converge in Parts West. Amazing story.

indigobunting - March 12, 2011

Lali: ‘Deed they do.

3. Susan - March 12, 2011

Ah, connectedness. I love it. I usually take coincidences to mean we are where we’re supposed to be–in this case literally. Recently I’ve been either gifted with or assaulted by a flood of coincidences, mostly not as dramatic as this one, but impressive nonetheless, at least to me. Now I’ll have to write about them. 🙂

But your story reminds me of something that happened in 1975, when my in-laws, playing golf in Arizona, said to a golfing couple they’d just met, “Our son and daughter-in-law are buying an old farm in Pennsylvania,” and the other couple replied, “Our son and daughter-in-law are selling an old farm in Pennsylvania.” Yup, it was the same farm, the one that is still my home.

indigobunting - March 12, 2011

OK, Susan. THAT is another shivery story.

4. Dona - March 12, 2011

Oh wow. Coincidences are cool. What a neat story, IB!

5. Adam - March 12, 2011

Wonderful. I love circles.

6. Susan - March 12, 2011

PS: Great picture of Paul’s lovely family. I can imagine Aunt Ruth with her hands running over harp strings. She looks the part.

7. Judy - March 13, 2011

Hearing all the horrific news about Sendai, Japan, reminded me that I knew a guy at Berea College who was from Sendai–missionary parents. When I googled that bit of info, your blog came up. I believe your Paul must be Paul Martin Sipple who was a senior in 1961 at Berea, KY. Another coincidence?

indigobunting - March 14, 2011

Judy, see comments below.

8. Mali - March 13, 2011

Shivers indeed. Lovely lovely lovely.

9. indigobunting - March 14, 2011

Judy: I do believe you’re right, but I will make a phone call and report back. It would seem I posted this story at just the right time for you…

10. indigobunting - March 14, 2011

Judy: Yep, that’s him…can you send your last name? (If you’d rather, should I email you for that info?)

Great fun! The world is smaller all the time…

Judy - March 18, 2011

Judy Downs (in 1961)– now Henline

11. helen - March 14, 2011

Wow, an almost unbelievable story.

12. browngray - March 20, 2011

shivers shivers shivers!

13. indigo bunting - March 22, 2011

Judy: Paul was over Sunday night at a gathering I had here, and he brought the 1961 yearbook! He does remember you, now that he has a photo (wow! gorgeous!). He was surprised a freshman remembered him, though!

14. LisaS - March 28, 2011

that is awesome.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: