My Heart Belongs To

October 3, 2016   Dear Erika,


At the close of our telephone conversation I wondered how much you were aware of the impact of some of your earlier activities and decisions on your relations with your family.

Southeast Alaska, August 2016

Southeast Alaska, August 2016

If you feel alienated and sidelined it might be helpful for you to review and reconsider some of your past history and its relationship to family values and your parents and your apparent disregard for both.



Let us start with your high school years. Your mother and I both thought that you would receive a better education at O’Connell than at the public high school. You were apparently not happy about it but agreed to try O’Connell for a year. While you were there you became a cheerleader and evidently enjoyed some of the environment.

4-seals-on-floatBut you also associated with students who used drugs and and subsequently were expelled for using them. (Editor’s note: Marijuana.)

So from your parents’ viewpoint you did not give Catholic school a fair try as you promised.

5-seal-getting-expelledYou then attended the public high school and did not like your classmates or the teachers.

6-crazy-chickenBut instead of focusing on learning as much as you could in that environment you got involved again with students who took drugs.

Alaska State Ferry

Alaska State Ferry

This time such activity led to an investigation by local police and and you narrowly missed getting a jail sentence.

Anan Bear Observatory

Anan Bear Observatory

I talked to the judge involved and convinced him to give you another chance.

9-bears-on-rocksIf you had received a jail sentence it would have seriously affected your employment opportunities for the rest of your life.

10-bear-in-waterI think that this near miss convinced you to renounce your involvement with drugs.

11-alaska-bear-ass-2If I recall correctly, you then had a teacher friend who got you interested in photography. After you graduated you wanted to study photography in college. So with that in mind you went off to college.


This was a great eye-opening experience and you apparently enjoyed your time there as well as the courses you took at Brown.

13-icebergs-1In retrospect, i wonder what your life would have been like if you took English as your major and photography a minor but important subject. I think your job opportunities would have been much better. You might have ended up as an editor for some publishing house.

14-blue-icebergsOne sad outcome of your college years was that you gave up your Catholic religion. This is not an uncommon thing for people of all religious persuasions.



But after they graduate and are working, the more thoughtful people explore other religions and some pursue advanced scholarship in order to better understand Christianity and its teachings.

16-glacier-and-wakeAs a result some  Catholics emerge with a better appreciation of their religion, and some Protestants become Catholics. We used to see a lot of that at St. Stephen’s and its association with students from George Washington University. Apparently you never had any desire to do any research on Catholicism.


I believe that it was during a summer vacation from college that you talked to some of the people in the photography division of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and were surprised that none or few of them did anything with photography outside of their employment.

18-landscape-and-raindropsIt would have been interesting to see how widespread this attitude was among other trained photographers. It might have made you think about a fall back vocation.

19-mossy-alaska-treeWell after working for an Army newspaper and one of the suburban papers you decided to take a job with a newspaper in Seattle. But as things turned out the job was filled when you got there.

20-space-needle-seattleThere were friends from college on the local scene and you decided to try to make your career in Seattle.

21-seattle-pike-place-marketLater, apparently out of desperation, you got involved in an establishment that catered to males that wanted to view naked females behind glass.

22-mannequin-and-flowersAs I recall you were also involved in some exotic paintings that were on display in a local museum. One of your mother’s friends saw this exhibit when she was in Seattle and told her about it. (Editor’s note: my Lusty Lady photographs were exhibited at Seattle Art Museum).

23-magnoliaIt was all very embarrassing for both of us. Where were the family values in such involvements?

24-torso-logHow did we go so wrong that you did not know such activities were morally wrong?

Morally Wrong.

Morally Wrong.

Of course for us the longest and most painful interlude in your life was your living with a man who was not your husband. 26-todd-alaskaAll this came to an end because HE had a change of heart and eventually rejected you.

27-trees-near-missMeanwhile you had lost opportunities to meet and marry someone more suited to you and to lead a normal life.

Alaska State Ferry

Alaska State Ferry

So it has seemed to me that in rejecting family values you also devalued the things that were important to us and governed our life styles.

Seal skull, Washaway

Seal skull, Washaway

Naturally this weakened family ties.

30-weakened-ties-crowYour long involvement with Seattle made it difficult to visit us or to play an active role in our life. But you did respond heroically and with great dedication when your Mother needed you during her treatment at Johns Hopkins.

32-alaska-e-and-moose-2So there are still some family values in place, but we don’t see them reflected very much in your later life.

33-road-alaskaI hope that the above reminiscences help you to better appreciate the factors that eroded your ties with the rest of the family.



It is now time to try to restore them. I hope that you agree.




About washybeach

Washaway Beach This Week is a blog by photojournalist Erika Langley. See more work at
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to My Heart Belongs To

  1. D. Brown says:

    That’s a heartbreaking read. It’s sad that someone could put so much disappointment into words, never seeing the good in who you have become. They dwell on the past revealing their own narrow-mindedness, having expected you to become their perfect image rather than the unique individual, flaws and all, that is what being human is all about. What’s done is done, and accepting who you are rather than trying to remold you back into someone else’s idea of a perfect person is a step toward reconciliation, not a letter of admonishment.

  2. Bruce Knutson says:

    I am a son. I am a father. I am a grand father. I am a great grand father. I would never write that letter, I might, and have, felt many of those feeling. I would, and have, just let them fester in my soul and smile on. I feel no need to pass those feeling on. To what end? To make someone that I love feel bad? I will not fight the tide. The tide just doesn’t give a shit what I do. The tide has to make sure to meet, the date, the time, and the elevation the little book sold at the local store has set for it. Little time for much else. Such a burden the tide has. I will not fuck with, the tide, the moon, or the rotation of things with large mass.

  3. nationdesignllc says:

    You’re amazing, Erica. Just saying!

  4. Resha Sabre says:

    Time to restore ties to a bitter, disappointed, judgmental, mean, pain-filled, embarrassed, thoughtless, self righteous, domineering family member? Let me think about that one.

  5. Janet Matheny says:

    I am sad that you received such a letter from someone who feels this is his showing of love. You may be across the country for good reason. I have followed your washway beach blog for years and have so enjoyed the photos, the art, the love of life. Thank you for sharing your life with us, no filter needed. Enjoy each day and make the most of what you enjoy.

  6. Eve Cohen says:

    Wow Erika – this is SO strange knowing the person you are! You have beautifully illustrated this letter with your photos. XOXO

  7. Vivian Dahlin says:

    Gee, with that resounding endorsement of one’s life choices, who wouldn’t go running back into his arms?

  8. Linda Cannon says:

    This letter is a perfect example of how the Roman Catholic Church is bigoted, misogynistic, controlling, judgmental, outdated and pharisaical. Cut all ties with this toxic man, change your phone number and return any future letters unopened. Don’t give this sad excuse for a father even one more second of your life. He is utterly undeserving and will only continue to hurt you. Like the Church, he will not change, ever. You can instead consider volunteering for ElderFriends and find a lonely daughterless gentleman you could visit who would be honored and thrilled to have you as a surrogate daughter.

  9. M says:

    This was painful to read. 😦

  10. Jill Sattler says:

    Wow…. First of all, I love you. *hugs* Your photography is beautiful and I love the intermingling of the photos with the words. I would like to say, thank you for sharing this with the world. My daughter has been battling drug addiction (meth/heroine) for the past 2 years. We have decided to take the approach of love and support but with boundaries. However, I have never shamed her for her decisions, I have tried to be a source of light and non-judgement… we have tried to be there in times of crisis but other times we just had to love her from afar. She has had to flee the state for her safety and I have been wondering if I did things wrong in her life. Should I have guilted her more, made her more obedient or fearful…. I guess we always want what is best for our kids… but in reading these words and knowing what an amazing and life breathing human YOU are, I am on the right track here. You are giving me hope that my daughter can turn away from the dark and find hope, love and belief. I am not Catholic, but I have an affinity towards Saint Brigid who was first a pagan deity and later became a saint. She assists in healing, is a female warrior/teacher and tended a flame that burned for over 1,500 years in Kildare Ireland. What she has taught me the most is that it is not important to label what we hold dear, but just to hold onto something of light in this world. I see that in you every day!! *HUGS* Thank you my friend!!! 🙂 I love you even more!!!

  11. Dianna says:

    I agree with the “toxic” remarks; we have enough to worry about without sacrificing our own humanity…take Trump for example…be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished. He’s a sad man who needs to accept you as you are or get out of your life….IMHO.

  12. Tell your dad I will be praying for him.

  13. Howlin' Houndog says:

    Have you read “A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor)” by Aksel Sandemose?

    Do you know about Janteloven (The Law of Jante)? (Until that novel) it was the unspoken/unwritten Law (Shield of Jante) for ALL Scandinavians and the source of much of their melancholy. Here it is;

    The ten rules state:

    You’re not to think you are anything special.
    You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
    You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
    You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
    You’re not to think you know more than we do.
    You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
    You’re not to think you are good at anything.
    You’re not to laugh at us.
    You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
    You’re not to think you can teach us anything.
    (PLUS a secret extra rule about the stuff we all know about each other)
    Perhaps you don’t think we know a few things about you?

    These are sad Rules of (societal) Conformity, designed to break Individualists. The Japanese also have a saying like this too, “The Nail that Stands Above the Rest, Will be Hammered Down.”

    I cannot agree with any of these. People are who they are and need to be allowed to find their own paths in life whatever they may be (and wherever they might lead). It is not up to anyone else. Each of us has our own Way to find in this world.

    Much of what you have posted in your latest post reminds me of what my Family has done to me in my artistic pursuits. Until recently, I could not understand why anyone would do this to another person, then I found out about Janteloven and Aksel Sandemose’s novel and it all clicked into place. I did some research and this revelation helped me understand WHY my Family used such awful things against me. They didn’t know any better. It was generational going back to before written history. Once I knew what it was, I vowed to break the cycle. Bringing these things to light for others helps me accept who/where/what I am right now. I hope my post here helps you in your Journey. Be Well and Keepa Rockin’!

    • washybeach says:

      I learn a lot from you. Thanks!

      • Howlin' Houndog says:

        We learn a lot from each other. That is how Life works. Sometimes it is not easy though. It takes an open mind to keep absorbing new things, even when it thinks it might be full. I REALLY enjoy your posts. They keep me going when times get hard for me. Keep up the Good Work!

  14. Felicia G. Mullins says:

    Dear Erika: Over the year I’ve been following your blog and website about Washaway Beach (I live on the coast). This morning I checked in to do some research on a novel using certain places on the coast, including the North Cove. Anyhow, the work is about a few unique souls who find themselves “washed up” on a beach town after some life experiences that led to shame and humiliation. Thus, it’s quite fitting that I read October 9th’s blog entry; a letter from your Father.

    How you intersperse his critical judgement and indictment with non-judgemental pictures of honest life and art is absolutely BRILLIANT! In fact, your blog post is one of the most compelling pieces of art I’ve seen in awhile. It is in a sense “live” as people view and comment on the letter and photos. It’s a living testimony to what it is to be human and conscious of being human; of family and individuals; of conformity and freedom; of nature and society (institutions, Catholic Church). I am not sure if you’re intentions were self-healing, rebellion or revolution, or presenting a darkly comedic epistemology in the face of religion. . . .whatever your intention, I love it (and loathe it, the letter I mean)!

    I agree with many commenters that you are a wonderfully gifted woman who is courageous and honest in sharing her life and gifts with the world. You are an inspiration to us all. Especially those who’ve endured shame and humiliation for our life choices, for living, for testing ourselves or making do with what’s presented to us in our journey around the Sun.

    I love you Erika! Thank you for sharing your life and art with the world!

    A Fellow Coastee and a Definitively Proud Heathen,

    Felicia G. Mullins

  15. My goodness… I am so sorry you have had the misfortune to receive this letter and to have had the parents you have had, that is the first thing I want to say.

    I’m also so glad that you decided to publish it on your blog with the addition of your beautiful art.

    Some parents shouldn’t have children.

  16. daggywaggy says:

    he only sees out of one eye…and it’s the wrong one.

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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